A few weeks ago, POD’s minder was busy trying not to contract skin cancer on the shores of Delaware’s beaches. A few hours north of those repeated SPF 50 applications, POD’s cucurbits were busy acquiring an impressive collection of aphids.
While the diluted soapy solution and aggressive pruning killed off hundreds of the little you-know-whaters, it was too late. The damage had been done. It doesn’t help that these suckers can produce live offspring without mating.
When aphids take over, their little needle noses suck the life juice right outta’ a plant. When they’re really well-fed, which these were, they produce honeydew, a sweet secretion that ants love. Fun, fun. Here’s hoping that the three ladybugs that have taken up house on the lemon cucumber eat well.
May POD’s Boothby Blonde and Minnesota Midget rest in peace. They’ve been yanked. Fortunately, the Boothby had produced vigorously and three Midgets were rescued before meeting their maker met its end.
This bread salad (featuring POD’s own cilantro, parsley, Boothby Blonde, and True Lemon cucumbers) arrives courtesy of the amazing Casa Moro cookbook.
Of course, each bread salad is adapted to fit whatever ingredients happen to be on deck, but the spirit belongs to Moro.
1 pepper, roasted and peeled
3 c. bread, cut or ripped into small pieces
3 cucumbers, peeled and cubed
2 tbs parsley, chopped
2 tbs cilantro, chopped
1 tbs capers, chopped
1 garlic clove, crushed to a paste with salt (a mortar and pestle work great here)
1 tsp pan-roasted cumin seeds, roughly ground
1 1/2 tbs sweet, excellent quality balsamic vinegar
4 oz tomatoes (canned are okay, but fresh would probably be better), pureed into a juice.
3 tbs olive oil
2 tbs argan oil (you can substitute some extra olive oil, but if you have a highly flavorful nutty oil, use it. This stuff ain’t cheap, but it’s oh-so-good.)
Toss the bread onto a baking sheet and stick it in the oven (heated to 425) for 5-10 minutes. Keep an eye on it until it’s lightly toasted.
Slice the roasted red peppers into strips
Mix the garlic paste with the cumin, vinegar, tomato puree. Whisk in the olive oil and argan oil. Whisk well. Taste for salt and pepper
When your bread is toasty, transfer it to a large bowl and pour most of the dressing over it. Stir. Let it sit for a couple of seconds before adding the peppers, cucumbers, cilantro, parsley, and capers. Stir. Pour on the rest of the dressing, if desired.
It was a decent idea, one supposes, to attempt to use tomato cages to support the Boothby Blonde’s and True Lemon’s growth. Unfortunately, there may be a reason they’re called “tomato cages” and not well, cucumber trellises.
Apparently, the slick metal rods don’t provide the inviting support that the cucumbers’ curly tentacles require. So, once again, yards of jute twine have been introduced.
These Boothby Blondes have been lifted and separated and her arms are already grabbing on to their new supports.
Last week we had lows dipping into the 30s and this week we hit 91 degrees. The farmer’s tan has commenced.
This afternoon the remaining pots were prepped (emptied of old dirt, cleaned, sprayed with foul-smelling organic anti-fungal, lined with a couple inches of evil styrofoam, filled with organic dirt, pre-watered, and topped with a tomato cage) and planted.
Very happy Boothby Blonde and True Lemon cucumbers from Happy Cat Organics have taken up residence on the little blue deck and have been surrounded with one orange cosmo each (to help attract bees), Swiss chard, and lettuce. Rather than using the horribly ugly jury-rigged bamboo trellis that was employed last year, POD sprang for a few more tomato cages to enclose the cucumbers and melons. One suspects it’ll be easier to train the climbers with the additional support.
For those of you who started your cucumbers or melons from seed, you’ll want to carefully transplant them, disturbing the roots as little as possible. (Peat pots can be planted directly, but alas, they generally suck.)
Last year two plants per 5-gallon bucket were given the go-ahead but this year, once the seedlings have survived the transplant, only one will be allowed to continue. (When last year’s plants were removed from the buckets they were pretty rootbound. And, since fungi and mildew always seem to attack them, the extra air circulation may come in handy as well). Because the root systems of cucurbits are pretty touchy, resist yanking the doomed seedling from the dirt — just nip it off at the soil line.
As POD had run out of space (and energy) indoor seed-starting, the melons were direct seeded this afternoon. Happy summer.