Adventures in Gardening

We're back with another edition of "Hey, we used to be bloggers." I am not so sure who reads blogs much anymore (hi Moms!) but hell, if e-newsletters are in again and the '90s "flatform" shoe is making a comeback, maybe we have a shot.

As I nurse a gin and tonic made of nothing but the finest (here's to you, cheap Chek tonic cans from the Mount Pleasant, SC Bi-Lo - sometimes you just buy things to get the job done, especially when you're en route to Vacation Weekend after a slight detour to fix a flat tire on I-26...), I'm mulling over what's happening so far in our garden plots. 

We went Tomato Crazy this year, planting 6+ mixed varieties in our raised beds that kinda-sorta get sufficient sunlight in our backyard, and 8 seedlings in one of our two Winterfield Community Garden plots. Hopefully we'll soon pick beautiful Red Delicious, San Marzano, Black Krim, Blue Gold Cherry, Brandywine, and a few "mystery" tomatoes, and I can soon start canning them as salsa, marinara, crushed tomatoes and -- most thrillingly -- Bloody Mary Mix (you'll want Cathy Barrow's recipe for that). Right now we have 15-20 very green full-size tomatoes and a few slightly-larger-than-your-big-toe San Marzanos. If you have any sway over ripening tomatoes, send over good vibes. 

Apparently it hasn't been warm enough for our three okra plants, as they're still puny at about two feet high. Our two rows of bush Provider Green Beans grew rapidly and early -- the first picking yielded six pounds but that's only because we were lazy and stopped. The second gave us eight pounds, which we eagerly shared with friends at the beach recently. 

Yes, it's the true mark of a gardener when you're pushing produce on friends, loved ones or anyone who will stand still long enough for you to desperately shove bundles of squash, beans or other green things at them. Just take the damn things, y'all. 

Cucumbers are starting to come in, and I canned one and a half pounds of them last weekend. I need to find a better recipe for small batch pickles, as my fuzzy math splitting tablespoon and cup measurements while in a hurry could probably lead to botulism. Or just really sucky pickles. 

Eggplant are starting to show up, and I look forward to stir fry, Babaghanoush and... well, that's all I can think of for eggplant right now. I enjoy it until I don't.

We planted two varieties of zucchini, with the romanesco dying out due to a fungus among us or something (I'm so scientific) and now we just have yellow zucchini, which tastes and looks much like traditional yellow summer squash. Scott used the yellow zucchini in pasta last night and it was delicious. I also used it for some summer rolls, spiralizing it in place of vermicelli noodles. 

One thing I need to do more research on: the shishito pepper. 

I first ate these small, slender and sweet peppers last year at the ramen spot Futo Buta here in Charlotte, and was intrigued when I saw seedlings this spring at Renfrow Hardware, and we purchased three. My BFF recommended I grill and dress the peppers with Ponzu sauce, which was tasty. But I need more recipes/ideas  as I just picked three pounds tonight, in between slapping mosquitoes away and retrieving our dog Loretta, who decided a lone wild rabbit was worth chasing around the community garden and school grounds on a humid evening. Any shishito aficionados out there?  (Fun fact: one out of every 10-20 peppers is spicy.)  

So basically all this to say -- gardening for us is still very much a learning process. And that's pretty cool.

A closing aside: Many thanks to family, friends and neighbors who recently returned Mason jars, months after receiving them full of jam, pickles and whatnots. You've aced the etiquette of the Canning Code. Well done!