… summer’s finally in full bloom and glory. With a couple of mountainous personal tasks out of the way, I’m happily settling back into the hum of the mediocre and quotidian. I never thought I’d say this, but “how *blissful!*”
I have been, amidst my hurrying about, eating out quite a lot in the Kansas City area. Among the spots I’ve hit are Joe D’s Wine Bar (a first visit, and based on the service and food, probably the last for a while), Room 39, and the new Michael Smith in the former zin (which closed on my birthday this year) space at 19th and Main. I’ve enjoyed sushi at Domo, a relatively new Japanese restaurant in Brookside, and a few meals at Webster House, in the historic Webster House School House at 17th and Wyandotte, where I’ve decided the occasional evening event food is not as satisfying as its daily lunch menu.
On the home front, My Edible Garden has been taking off. Mother nature has been hard at work…
My garden is like a sub-culture to me. Each plant, or group of plants, is a unique member; each with strengths, weaknesses, and even personalities – and quirks.
My heirloom aubergines have begun to bear fruit. The squat, and almost matronly plants, with lush broad leaves of this nightshade plant is actually quite an elegant addition to my garden. This year, I planted a striking heirloom varietal called “Listada di Gandia” from Italy. The oval-shaped specimen is the size of an extra large potato and has a gorgeous purple and white zebra-striped smooth skin. It’s a quick two and a half weeks from blossom to harvest.
The tomotoes, on the other hand, have been a motley but loyal crew this year – a loose confederacy of guerilla warriors amidst the *weed jungles.* I especially give them credit for holding their ground against attacks by the nomadic Evil Deer Empire.
Their patchy tempermental growth is maturingly slowly, but surely. Chocolate Cherokees (a.k.a Cherokee Purples), Cosentino Fiorentinos, German Johnson, and the San Marzanos have been my champions this year, coming out of the starting gate strong and holding a considerable lead over stragglers like the Missouri Love Apple, Paul Robersons, Green Zebras, and the yet-to-bloom Kellogg’s Breakfast. The unseasonably wet season is evident in the scarring on a lot of my early harvests. Regardless, the tomatoes taste just as great. I’ve been eating them freshly sliced with tomato vinaigrette and fresh basil.
Cucumbers have been producing at a steady pace – the black sheep in the family, it weaves itself on the vine at it’s own, almost alternative beat and pace with little attention needed. But, the cucumbers aren’t alone in the world of the “other.” I’ve got a curious new addition to my garden this year; a foreign exchange student, if you will. It’s a climbing vine plant with small yellow blossoms, similar to those of a cucumber. It is not native to this continent. The leaves are small and heavily lobed. I won’t tell you what it is; see if anyone can figure it out before I post the harvest pictures. I’ll give you a clue: the vegetable produced by this plant is used and treated in some cultures as a medicinal food.
Did you know that okra blossoms? I didn’t until this year when I planted three rows of the pod-producing plants. Okra are the statesmen of my garden – tall, smart and charming. Proud and tall, and always at attention, they’re at once eager to please with their elegant and beguiling milky-white blossoms with a crimson heart, yet quick to defend with upward jutting spikey pods poised as if ready to battle wit and policy wonks. They’re hearty too – the most resilient members of my garden next to the zucchini and yellow squash, which are more like the militia. With their tank-like girth and agreessive bull-dozer appearance, these powerhouses have been firing out their torpedoes rapidly after quick bursts of bright orange blossoms. I see lots of zucchini bread in the near future.
Lastly, the harvest has long-passed for my spring lettuces, which I’ve let gone wild… and boy did they. Like humans and dogs, they’ve outgrown their angelic infancy (See “gems of the dirt…“) and into the unruly ugliness of unadulterated adulthood. Spindly shoots topped with dots of yellow, pink, and white (the only redeeming part of this process) skewer and sputter about every which way in undisciplined obscenity (imagine it: new exposé on GardenTV: “Baby Lettuces Gone Wild!”) high above a dense fern-like growth. I’ll have to till it up and start seeding the late season lettuces and chards soon. I don’t know that my garden society will put up with these tabloid disasters much longer.
That’s all for now from My Edible Garden reporter. Check back soon. I hope to post a couple of recipes and perhaps a restaurant write up in the near future.