It really could have been the best garden ever, but alas, I have fallen short again. The biggest disappointment was that the potatoes in the PVC containers didn’t form, that experiment failed. So did the onions in containers. I think I planted too many in the same pot, so they stayed small. The leaves have wilted to nothing, so I am harvesting “pearl” sized onions, which are cute but a pain to peel. I was way too late planting the tomatoes, and with temperatures over 100 degrees starting in late May, the poor things didn’t stand a chance. It irks me to no end since many of my gardening friends are having what they consider the best tomato season. I have harvested a few from the two plants that my friend Carla, from Austin Urban Gardens, gave me, which she thought were ‘Celebrity’ and ‘Valley Girl’. The ‘Costuloto’ is growing fine, producing some cool-looking lobed tomatoes; had I known I would have planted more of them, but that’s how experimenting in the garden goes.
My much anticipated Black Krim has not set a single fruit, but the ‘Purple Calabash’ has a few waiting to ripen. In a classic mislabeling accident, I planted the ‘Peacevine’ cherry in the ground instead of the ‘Persimmon’, which is not doing anything in the Topsy Turvy thing. Worst of all, the mockingbirds are beating me to the fruit (dogs are slacking on the job!), and now I am having to harvest as soon as they start blushing, letting them ripen in the kitchen. But it’s not all bad news, thankfully.
We have done great with carrots. These were the last of the rainbows, which we protected from the sun -and the dogs- with one of Will’s metal contraptions covered in shade cloth. We are thrilled with the tomatillos, both varieties are producing loads of fruit despite the heat. If I miss picking them when green, they will ripen on the plant to a pale yellow and turn sweet, so I just slice them, sprinkle them with salt, and eat them like that. We are also up to our eyeballs in cucumbers, which is so welcome as we LOVE them. Last year the plant got sick and died after only one cucumber, but not this time. The Persian one is producing non-stop, and as much as I try to pick them when they are small, they grow so quick that they are huge before I know it. The pickling one is not doing so hot, it got invaded by aphids and is just now recovering, so it has produced little. Despite that, it seems that we have eaten cucumber in one form or another everyday for the last two weeks. One dish that we particularly enjoyed was a salad of equal proportion of diced cukes and watermelon, tossed with a handful of fresh verdolagas -growing wild as a ground cover on the tomato bed- the juice of one lime, a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil, and a sprinkling of sea salt and pepper. It was refreshing and spectacularly delicious. I will be making a batch of refrigerator pickles this weekend to keep up with the harvest.
We are also drowning in chiles. The ‘Holy Mole’ pasilla is fantastic, indeed a big producer, as is the tried-and-true Hungarian wax, which we have been enjoying our favorite way: stuffed with tuna and cream cheese spread. The ‘Mariachi’ is just now in full force, but the serrano and jalapeño are loaded. I think I’ll make some escabeche this week. The eggplant are starting to set fruit, I have already harvested a clump from the white ‘Gretel’, which were tender and tasty, just sliced in half and quickly sauteed in olive oil. Can’t wait to try the Brazilian Oval Orange!
After a slow start, I am happy that the ‘Israeli’ melon is doing fantastic, we have four melons on the vines in different growth stages! The watermelon, which looked like it was not going to make it, has rebounded nicely and is growing well in its large container, although it has yet to bloom. The squash is also looking better, making flowers but not setting fruit yet. Before I even had a chance to move them, the celery roots I planted in containers wilted and died. The ones in the ground, shaded by the cucumber vine, are doing fine. The ‘Scarlett Runner’ beans all died, but the ‘Rattlesnake’ are still growing, although slowly. Too hot too soon! Will and I are considering building another contraption with shade cloth to help the plants a little. Stay tuned to see what he comes up with, it could be a gardening breakthrough!