By Chandra L. Mattingly
Which is better, to bite into an ear of sweet corn that went straight from the garden into the boiling water, or to slice and devour a sun-ripened red tomato?
Ah, summertime, when the garden is in full swing and the eating is good.
This week we're eating our first homegrown Silver Queen corn, though a Rising Sun friend had mature corn over a month ago! He managed to plant in just the right early window and got corn up despite the cool spring weather.
We got our first Early Girl tomato July 3, and are absolutely inundated with round red – and a few orange – globes. There's nothing like a plateful of ripe tomatoes with cottage cheese – or slices of an Orange Jubilee with chicken, swiss or mozzarella cheese, salad dressing and homegrown oregano on sandwich bread.
I started more varieties of tomatoes this year than usual, though Early Girls are my husband's favorite. The Tigerellas are a smaller, slightly striped variety, which cracked consistently while we were getting frequent rains. Now that the rains are more spaced out, they're staying whole – and they do have a good flavor. I'm still weighing in on my favorites, but the Big Boy and Abe Lincoln are way ahead of the Super Tasty and Supersteak – though the latter has decent flavor in its huge tomatoes should you want to grow them for bragging rights. They're great for jumbo hamburgers, but a little large for eating out of hand.
Sungold and my own saved-seed red cherry tomatoes are probably what I eat most, simply because they're so productive. And a cherry tomato is easy to pop into my mouth as a quick snack!
With all the rains, the green beans have produced like gangbusters, finally slowing for this last picking. A second planting is up and almost ready to bloom, but this first planting suddenly has loads of buds and blooms coming so may not get pulled up after all. And for once, the bean beetles have not overloaded the older plants.
We did lift onions and shallots this week, and I pondered how appropriate is that verb as I gently tugged the round and elongated globes from the ground. They'll lay out under the carport roof for about a month to cure, though some will be sauteed and eaten much sooner. I've taken to growing Utah Spanish and Red Long of Tropea onions, the latter growing into tall red ovals. I start both those and the Ambition red shallots from seed in early February.
In the emptied area we planted two varieties of broccoli seedlings, Windsor and Nutribud, plus Snow Crown cauliflower and savoy cabbage. And lettuce seeds. The brassica were started indoors July 8 and should have time to mature, depending, always, on weather.
As usual, by the time I got done I was grubby and slick with sweat. That's part of summertime, too, I guess, and as sensual in its way as all the gustatory sensations!
Soon I'll plant beet, spinach, kale, collard and carrot seeds for fall and overwintering crops, as well as garlic cloves for next summer's harvest. This year's garlic, on trays in the garage, has dried about long enough to be stored for winter. Maybe I'll get some braided this year!
Meanwhile, the spring broccoli continues to send out side shoots, the most recent of which got blanched for broccoli, bacon, and raisin salad. We got our first large head of Gypsy broccoli June 29 from seeds planted in late March, and our first cabbage head a few days earlier from the same planting date.
This year and last I got a cabbage mix from Pineseed which provides a variety of red and green cabbages, including early and larger, later maturing plants. One of the heads that's ready now is absolutely HUGE, though it doesn't look quite as big wearing the cowboy hat my daughter suggested. I'd guess it weighs about 10 lb., though.
Sunflowers line three sides of our big garden, and the chatter of goldfinches is constant now. The seeds have no chance to mature for winter birdseed! But the birds and the flowers are a delight, and I take some of the heavy stalks indoors to enjoy. I make sure I grow the kind that DO have pollen so they also are good for honeybees and other pollinators.
Other flower varieties make a walk through the backyard a scentsational trip. The oriental lilies are done for the year, but the moonflowers have started with their overwhelming fragrance, the tea roses provide a lovely scent from time to time, and the slightly-dusty scented phlox and sweet pink resurrection lilies are blooming as well.
Black-eyed Susan, gaillardia and purple coneflowers vibrate with color, and salvia, balloon flower and dragonhead provide shades of blue and purple. And at the very back of the yard, the apiary is abuzz as honeybees wing their way in and out of their hives with loads of nectar and pollen.
Ah, summertime. A sensual experience in so many ways.