While some mothers have cookie monsters, this one has a tomato monster.
Which makes sense when you consider the Korean love of all things made of tomatoes: like, say, tomato and local almond crullers. True story. These fried and glazed gems were spotted (and sampled and rejected) a couple of years ago in a Dunkin’ Donuts in Seoul.
So naturally, when the little blue deck got cleared off back in late-October, this gardener and Amma had a hard time tossing the hard, green tomato runts into the compost.
And here we are, a month later, serving brown-bag-ripened tomatoes to a three-year-old for breakfast.
Thanks, dear Endurer, for sticking to your guns and demanding that plants be planted. Deck optional. Not a banner year for Plants on Deck, but we had a year. And we’ll take it.
This fresh tomato sauce, courtesy of Smitten Kitten, wiped out the two pounds of less-than-optimal tomatoes that had emerged from the world’s saddest tomato plants. It also takes care of the teeny carrots and the last orange bell pepper of the year. You may note that the recipe doesn’t call for peppers; but you know, there it was, so there it went.
See you next year, friends.
Plants on Deck’s bane is back. Like clockwork the pesky sap-sucker, this time we’re looking at melon aphids, has made a mess out of POD’s cucumber patch.
With a little discouragement from UMass Amherst and Clemson, identification is hovering around 99.9%. Even more depressingly, POD never realized what a wide array of life-sucking aphids existed.
Adding insult to injury, these beasts can transmit the sooty mold (yup, POD’s got that, too) virus within 15 seconds — let’s repeat that: 15 SECONDS — of piercing the leaf with their nasty little slurping mouthparts.
And their fertile too, naturally, “…winged females colonize crops in early summer, and wingless females produce live young for about 15 days (70-80 offspring per female) resulting in multiple generations. The time from birth to reproductive adult can be one week.” Yup, we’re doomed.
Prevention is the best medicine, but needless to say, despite ample experience with the boogers, reflective mulching was not employed in this year’s slack-bottomed garden. One of the benefits to plants out front, though, is that daily hosing of the undersides of the leaves is (more or less) keeping things in check (more or less) for now. Long enough, the Hurricane hopes, to harvest a just a few more delicious cucumbers.
Yup, up from the grave she arose. This brave, and now tardy, Early Girl managed to survive early planting (the poor dear was delivered in early April — way too early in POD’s experience to be planting tomatoes in Philly), crap soil (which, after a full refund was augmented with a good deal of organic fertilizer), and Hitchcockian bird attacks.
You’re looking at the one, and only, plant on deck. Sheer laziness (and good deep-soil planting technique, thank you very much) was its savior, as this gardener was far too despondent about the prospect of the total failure of Plants on Deck to bother removing it. And it’s a good thing, too, as the three sizable and just ripening tomatoes out front were stolen away in the dark of night by one of South Philly’s charming pedestrians.
I’m bringin’ home my baby bumblebee,
won’t my Mama be so proud of me?
I’m bringin’ home my baby bumble bee,
Ouch! It stung me.
The Hurricane, loves, loves, loves, the bumblebee song. If you aren’t familiar with the masterpiece, count your blessing. It’s an earworm. She also spent the better part of a year as a Bumblebee at school. Which means she’s kinda’ fascinated (AKA obsessed) by them.
You know, like other gardeners in POD-land. It was a relief to see this fuzzy guy, as bees have been a little scarce this summer and hand pollination can be a drag. While there are only a couple female blossoms on the poor cucumber, at least they’ll get some attention.
A recent diagnosis involving the words “lactose” and “intolerance” struck fear into the hearts of the eaters and cookers here at POD.
And the gardeners.
See all this lovely basil? Ordinarily it would get chopped into a luscious Parmesan-rich pesto. But Parmesan-rich isn’t the greatest thing right now, even with its relatively modest lactose count. (And we’re trying to save those handy pills for things like, you know, ice cream. And cheese dinners.) ‘Cause ya’ know what? It’s kinda’ nice not to be tooty and stuff all time. Seriously.
Before traipsing too far down that unpleasant path, let’s get back to the basil in question. Thanks to an enterprising and totally amazing Endurer, vegan pesto has entered the world of POD.
Never thought the day would come.
And while something so appetizingly named “nutritional yeast” hammered that fear in good and deep, this recipe, adapted from Food 52, actually worked pretty well. Yeah, you’ll notice that it’s dairy free, despite the recipe’s promise, but you’ll still enjoy it. POD promises.
Makes 1 generous cup
- 2 cups tightly packed fresh basil
- 1/2 cup pine nuts
- 2-3 cloves garlic, roughly chopped (to taste)
- 1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
- Sea salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste (you’ll need more of both than your instincts would have you add)
- 1 tablespoon lemon juice
- 3 tablespoons nutritional yeast
- Use a mezzaluna to coarsely chop the basil, garlic, and pine nuts.
- Put the chopped basil, garlic, pine nuts, and the remaining ingredients into a bowl and use an immersion blender until you’ve achieved your desired consistency. (Nope, it’s not a terribly traditional recipe, but whatevs, it works.)
C’mon, admit it, you’ve spent collective hours staring at cucumber tendrils too, right? Coiling and uncoiling them? Trying to unkink that weird reverse loop that appears in the middle of each tendril? Spring/sproinging them gently between your fingers, mouth hung open in slack-jawed amazement? Staring, unblinkingly, because you’re sure if you watch hard enough you’ll be able to see the sucker move? Or, more likely, apologizing to the ambitious cucurbit when, in your clumsy haste to redirect the tenacious tendrils, you snap the surprisingly strong springs in two?
Anyhoo, if any of the aforementioned scenarios strike a chord, then this delightful clip (seriously, follow the link, it’s worth it — POD’s too cheap to spring for the video upgrade and too pressed for time to muck around with it any longer) from Science Friday should make you bounce in your seat and clap your hands in geeky joy, too. If that’s not enough, there’s always Harvard research dollars at work…
Even with several consecutive days boasting a heat index of 100+, POD finds it hard to hate summer.
It helps that the first real container-grown harvests are coming in. A handful of bright green leaves (and orange- and red-stems) added an extra shot of color and a bit of something in one of the Endurer’s already perfect veggie meals.
Catalan Chickpeas with Tomatoes and Almonds
Source: adapted from The Traveler’s Lunchbox and The Essential Mediterranean by Nancy Harmon Jenkins
2 (14oz/400g) cans chickpeas, drained
1/4 cup (60ml) extra-virgin olive oil
1 large onion, peeled and grated or finely minced
1 can (28oz/800g) plum tomatoes in juice, preferably Italian, drained and chopped
generous pinch saffron threads
3 large cloves garlic, peeled and coarsely chopped
1/3 cup (50g) lightly toasted almonds
small handful flat-leaf parsley, chopped
1 bunch (6-8 oz) Swiss Chard, sliced into slender ribbons
2 cups (350ml) chicken or vegetable stock
juice of 1/2 lemon, or to taste
In a heavy frying pan, heat the oil over medium/medium-high heat and sauté the onion until it is golden brown and very soft, about 25 minutes. Add the chopped tomatoes and sugar, letting them fry until they melt into the onions and form a paste, about another 10-15 minutes. Remove the pan from the heat.
In a large mortar, combine the saffron, garlic, almonds and parsley and pound to a thick paste (add a little water if necessary to keep things moving). Add the paste to the onion mixture along with the stock and the chickpeas, bring to a boil over medium-high heat and simmer until the liquid has reduced to a thick sauce, about 10-15 minutes. Season with salt and lemon juice to taste. Serve hot or at room temperature; you’ll find that this dish keeps developing in flavor the longer it sits.
Like kudzu, this cucumber decided the Mystery Tomato’s and the Early Girl’s cages looked more welcoming. After spending about a half an hour unwinding tendrils in 90+ degree heat and carefully applying water to the soil, everyone seems happy. Except the Endurer, who’s actually doing something useful, like cleaning, entertaining a newly-minted 3-year-old, cooking, and shopping.