Friday, April 15, 2016

Planning Ahead for the Summer Harvest

Once again Spring Fever has caught our house unaware!

The earliest symptoms begin with small children waking at the crack of dawn and birds chirping furiously outside of windows that have been locked tight for months. I wonder, are they secretly competing in a contest, trying to out-do each other? The winner of course being the first to rouse us from our unfinished dreams...

Not long after this my own symptoms begin. I race through housework and dinner preparations so that the rest of the day is my own to let April's sparkling sunshine bring the color back to the pasty remains of last summer's tan!

Even on rainy days (without which it certainly wouldn't be spring) I find my fever still climbing. For now I'll spend hours, April through June, reading seed books, sketching plans and most importantly, combing pages of old cookbooks, all in the scheme of planting the ultimate garden.

My cookbooks are truly the best tool for this job. Recipes for Ratatouille with Lemon and Basil and Eggplant with Herbs were responsible for inspiring last years' very abundant eggplant and basil crops.

Do you know how many eggplants grow from eight plants? By late August we were humming "The Eggplant That Ate Chicago"!

Our tomatoes never seem to make it into a recipe. They are usually taste-tested by that day's lucky picker en route to the kitchen. When a few do make it to the dinner table they hesitate only long enough to be sprinkled with salt and pepper and then vanish. By summer's end we do occasionally have a tomato surplus.  

These select orbs sit at attention on my window sill, their flavors concentrating and colors deepening until I can find a new way to exploit them.

A simple Layered Mozzerella Tomato Salad truly enhances their splendor, making a wonderful side dish for any dinner guests.

If you have begun planning your garden as you read then now is the time to mention squash! Every year my husband asks, "Honey, just how much squash are we planting this year?" He knows how much one plant will yield and when four or five hills are planted he breaks a sweat. Thanks to a dear neighbor of mine, Pat Kirwin, I have gotten a recipe that can handle almost all of this squash. It really never had a name, we just called it Everybody's Favorite Squash. When time is short a quick stir fry of thinly sliced zucchini with a splash of olive oil, minced garlic and chopped fresh herbs can be easy and impressive.

This year I'm also trying some new choices in my garden Yellow peppers, garlic, pea pods, and some new herbs. I chose yellow peppers for two reasons. First, because they are priced way out of my food budget and second, for a recipe that I've come across this spring for a Yellow Pepper Puree. Be sure to follow their suggestion and serve this in a clear glass bowl.

When my lists are complete I'll take my lists with me to the garden center and buy what I need. But, every year I have the same problem, it's always June before I get around to shopping and planting.

Not this year. I'll vow to start my gardening in May and give you some advice.
Let's compare notes then?

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