Less Noise, More Green: It's time for the annual preserving pep talk

Thursday, July 2, 2015

It's time for the annual preserving pep talk

Caraflex cabbage
Caraflex cabbage
It happens every year around this time. My hard work in the garden is paying off and the beds are exploding with edibles. In a few weeks, I will be struggling to keep up with all the fruit and vegetables that need harvesting every day. Now is when I start to feel it - a tiny knot of panic in my stomach.

Fragoo Deep Rose strawberry
The pace so far has been manageable with a steady stream of broccoli, lettuce, radishes, peas and strawberries arriving in the kitchen. Kale and chard can be picked at will for now but the chard is ready to take off.

Savoy Cabbage
Savoy Cabbage

This may turn out to be the year of the cabbage. I have eight Caraflex cabbages, all on the cusp of being ready. These are such a showy variety and have done very well in my edible landscape. I'm hoping the outer leaves are not too thick to be cooked or I wont be getting a lot of edible cabbage for such a large plant. Ball head, red, and savoy cabbages are developing their heads as well.

Bolting Little Gem lettuces, Edible Landscaping
Bolting Little Gem lettuces
All the lettuce I planted for the Master Gardener Tour held it together until a couple of days later when the romaine started to bolt. I salvaged what I could and put lots of salads on the menu! Radishes are the size of pears and are screaming for mercy at this point. As I pull the lettuce and radishes, I plant new seeds but fewer this time as I no longer have the pressure of maintaining Tour perfection.

Next to take center stage will be the beans. All my bush and pole beans are in flower, with the bush varieties already sporting tiny 'baby beanies'. I noticed the zucchini plants are fruiting but I'm trying not to think about last summer's squash tsunami.

If my potatoes are doing as well underground as they are above ground I will have a bumper crop. Right now I'm questioning my logic in planting two early varieties.

Kennebec and Adirondack Blue potatoes
Kennebec and Adirondack Blue potatoes
What do I do when I start to feel the panic rising?  I plan. I pull out my preserving binder and my summer recipes and formulate a plan of attack.

Peas in the pod
Once the deluge begins, formal menu planning goes out the window. Instead, I decide on seven types of meals - stir fry, frittata, salad, etc., then choose one each night using whatever ingredients I have on hand. Flexibility is the name of the game.

As the harvests get bigger, the strategy moves to eating half and preserving half. This can mean cooking and freezing a dish, or blanching, dehydrating or canning the extras. I need time in the kitchen beyond making the meals of the day and I schedule that, too.

Balls Head Cabbage
As the panic forms, I remind myself that I know how to do this and I am up for the task. I focus on the satisfaction of a full freezer and pantry going into the winter and the ease of just having to defrost a meal for dinner in January.

Tuscany and Dwarf Curly Blue Kale, edible landscaping
Tuscany and Dwarf Curly Blue Kale amongst the sage, sunflowers and Batchelor's Buttons.

As a New England vegetable gardener, I am entering the months where only the strong survive. It's the big leagues and this lump of nervous anticipation is nothing more than a healthy respect for what lies ahead.

Alexandria Alpine Strawberry
Alexandria Alpine Strawberry

So bring it on, summer! I'm waiting at the starting line with a garden trowel in one hand and a wooden spoon in the other. I'll see you victorious on the other side.


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