Thanks to my sister Helen for taking all of the pictures for this post! Check out her blog here!
For my very first vegetable garden, Andy and I gathered a bunch of sticks from around the yard and used them to make a crudely-hewn 12 inch high "fence." In my head, the stick-fence was going to be completely adorable, with a Boxcar Children-esque whimsiness, In reality, it was a minor irritation for our two dogs as they tore mad-dash through the garden in their quest for squirrel meat. Needless to say, it didn't last long. We, by which I mean Andy, built this real fence a few years ago, and it has protected my little plants stoically ever since.
This season has been my most productive ever, so I wanted to document some of the things I actually managed to harvest and eat! The act of pulling edible food out of the garden still feels novel and thrilling to me- I'm not a great gardener and it's taken me a while to figure out the process.
First up: cucumbers! I have one cucumber plant that has gone absolutely crazy. I attribute the success completely to a few fortunately-timed rain storms. I've used the cucumbers for panzanella, a cucumber salad with smashed garlic and ginger, and pickles, which we'll get to try on Memorial Day. For the pickles, I opted to go the easy route with refrigerator pickles, and used the brine from this recipe and tips from this post.
This is my rhubarb plant, and I love it so much. It's hard to tell from the picture, but the leaves are the size of three human heads- they are so fun. And also toxic. Don't eat them! It is continuously putting out new stalks, and you just peel off the outer ones as you're ready to use them. I made a lovely old fashioned rhubarb cake with my first harvest, and tomorrow I'm going to make a crisp with some more, probably using an adaptation of this recipe. Also, I was alarmed at first that the stalks weren't turning pink. Some very lazy googling (in which you read only the text provided on the search page without actually opening any links) taught me that this is just a plant from the green-stalked variety of rhubarb. Not quite as pretty, but just as tart and delicious.
This is a very very young butternut squash. I harvested my first full-grown one last week and used it to make the most amazing recipe from Plenty, the current darling of my cookbook shelf. It's a dish of roasted butternut squash wedges with sweet spices, lime, and green chile. You can get the recipe here. If you've got a butternut squash and don't know what to do with it, I think this recipe is one of the most delicious things I've eaten this spring.
Ok- about tomatoes- do you guys actually let your tomatoes turn red on the vine? Am I losing a lot of flavor by picking them green and letting them ripen on a window sill? All my prior attempts at sun-ripening have ended with the tomato being stolen by squirrels or pecked apart by birds :/ But aren't these pretty? I've done really badly with tomatoes in the past (leaf-footed stinkbugs, hornworms, drought+heat+lazy watering) so it feels great to actually harvest some. Helen used the red ones to make a delicious tomato and mango salsa.
Here are a few things on my harvesting horizon:
Chard. I planted this in March and it's only just starting to look like a full-grown plant.
Eggplant! I have a Japanese variety and a small heirloom variety. I'll most likely use the Japanese variety to make my favorite miso-glazed eggplants, and the traditional variety to top some grilled pizzas (this is my favorite dough recipe).
San Marzano tomatoes.
Purple Cherokee tomatoes.
The newcomers- corn, pumpkin, and rattlesnake beans. Together these three crops are known as the three sisters because they benefit from being planted together. The corn serves as a post for the beans to climb, the beans stabilize the corn and add nitrogen to the soil for the pumpkins, and the pumpkins' big spiny leaves act as a living mulch and protect the corn and beans from ground-level invaders. Pretty fun stuff!