Sunday, June 15, 2014

Late Spring Harvest

June is a great time in the food garden. We have potatoes, peas, and tarragon in abundance, so all we need is a protein, and dinner is done. Parsley and mint are both thriving right now, too, as the oregano prepares to bloom and its flavor becomes harsh and unpleasant. We have also permitted ourselves to pluck a few sprigs of basil, although the plants remain small. Fresh basil is just too good to resist. Although we have been pulling a few for the kitchen, our sweet red onions are not yet ready to harvest. Some of them are already as large as softballs. We have plenty of green onions from our late March planting of Evergreen White Bunching seeds from Mayo Seed Company, Knoxville.

Straw Bale Update
All the bales are planted, and everything looks really good. We had a couple of bales that collapsed, but the plants in them are still looking healthy. It is too early to tell about harvest amounts or quality, but so far the plants in the bales are behaving much like plants elsewhere in the garden. We will have more to say on straw bale gardening as summer progresses.

Elsewhere in the Garden
From the appearance of our Lazy Wife Greasy beans, we will soon be canning them to enjoy later in the year. The vigorous vines are hanging full of beautiful beans. Greasy beans are Southern heirlooms that lack hairs on the pods, giving them an oiled appearance. The "lazy wife" part of the name is because the beans are stringless. They can be cooked whole or simply broken in pieces without stringing, a boon to any lazy wife (or husband) who finds stringing beans a chore.

The Tromboncino summer squash vines threaten the entire neighborhood, they are so vigorous! This is the only summer squash cultivar that is ignored by squash vine borers, a pest that in some areas makes squash production nearly impossible without extraordinary measures to prevent the insects's gaining access to the plants. We have ours confined to a trellis, but this is not really a plant for a small space garden.

We grew Irish Cobbler potatoes this year, and despite them being attacked repeatedly by flea beetles, we are going to have a decent harvest. This old fashioned cultivar, said to have been developed in New England in the Nineteenth Century by Irish immigrants, bears both red and white tubers on the same plant. The potatoes have rather deep eyes, making them a little trouble to peel. However, this is their only drawback. The flavor is superb, and they are good keepers. They also have the perfect texture for potato salad, a required side dish at every summer barbecue and picnic. At the end of this post I have included a recipe for Southern Style Potato Salad. Mine is based on a recipe from the restaurant at the Soul Food Museum in Atlanta. I have changed a few things to reflect the way potato salad was made in my family. It is important for the eggs and vegetables to be chopped into dice about 1/4 inch or a little smaller. This must be done by hand. Using a food processor will produce a mushy texture.

Southern Style Potato Salad

1 pound Irish Cobbler potatoes
3 eggs
2 tablespoons yellow mustard
1 teaspoon apple cider vinegar
1 teaspoon sugar
1/4 cup mayonnaise
1/2 cup finely diced onion
1/2 cup finely diced celery
1/2 cup finely diced sweet pickles (not sweet pickle relish)
1 teaspoon paprika
1 teaspoon finely minced fresh parsley
Salt and pepper to taste

Cook potatoes until they offer only slight resistance when pierced with the point of a knife. Drain in a colander, and when cool enough to handle peel and cut them into small dice. Reserve the potatoes in a large bowl.

Place the eggs in a saucepan and add cold water to cover them by one inch. Bring slowly to a boil, remove from the heat, cover the pan, and let stand 20 minutes. Drain, fill the pan with cold water, and let stand until the eggs are cool. This may require two changes of cold water. Peel the eggs, and cut them into small dice like the potatoes. Add to the bowl with the reserved potatoes. Stir gently to combine.

To the bowl add the mustard, vinegar, sugar, mayonnaise, onion, celery and sweet pickle. Add salt and pepper to taste. Add more mustard and/or mayonnaise, if desired, for a creamier salad. Chill overnight to blend the flavors. Garnish with paprika and parsley just before serving.

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