Head For the Hills (Or the River)

Did anyone read Liz Douville’s column in the Bulletin this week? It was about the veggie contests at the county fair – apparently there were few or no entries in many categories (zucchini, tomatoes, and cabbage, to name a few), due to the cool spring. We’re experiencing some of the same effects here at the farm.  Tomatoes, peppers, cucumbers and corn are behind where they should be, because for the first few weeks they were in the ground, it was so cool that they barely grew. The “all-blue” potatoes – the ones we planted for new potatoes – look fine now, but in some of the late freezes about half the bed was killed, which is why there are so few of them in the box this week. There’s a heat wave coming up this weekend that should push along the fruiting plants in the garden, we’re hoping. The beans are in flower right now, purple and white, so we should have them soon.

Our beans are a bit behind others’ because this spring we had a problem with something called “seedcorn maggot,” which bored into the seed beans and seed corn in the soil before they could germinate. We think the seed was vulnerable to these pests because the soil was cool, due to the chilly spring, and seed germinates more quickly at higher temperatures (to a point). Before the seed germinates it is dormant and unable to recover from injury, and the longer it is in the soil before it comes to life through germination, the more opportunity there is for bacteria or larger pests to attack it.

There are these things called beneficial or predatory nematodes which live in the soil and kill soft-bodied insects (including seedcorn maggot) in order to use their carcasses as a breeding ground. They are present in all healthy soil, but they dive deep in the earth to overwinter, and don’t come back up until the soil warms to a certain point.  The cold soil may have contributed to the pest problem in that sense, as well. When we realized we had a problem with seedcorn maggot, we bought a packet of predatory nematodes and applied it through a sprayer to the entire garden, two times a week apart.  Then we re-sowed corn and beans. Evidently, the nematodes killed the maggots, as this time the corn and beans germinated and now they’re growing along just fine.  But behind where we might expect in another year, like so many other things. Anyhow, now everything is growing right along and the heat wave we’re expecting this weekend should help with that.

An important thing you should know about the new potatoes is that they will not store for long, like fall potatoes will. You should eat them as soon as you can.

This is what we had for dinner last night:

  • About 4 c. cauliflower, cut into florets and steamed until tender, about 5 min.
  • 1/2 # penne pasta, cooked
  • 1 c. light cream, or 1/2 c. heavy cream and 1/2 c. milk, or milk and butter, or whatever
  • 1 1/4 c. tomato sauce
  • 1 clove garlic, minced or pressed
  • 1/4 tsp. salt
  • 1/2 c. finely chopped parsley or basil (or both)
  • Several grinds of pepper
  • 1/4 c. grated parmesan
  • 1/2 c. bread crumbs
  • 1 T. olive oil

Preheat oven to 400 ° F.

Combine the pasta and cauliflower in a large bowl.

In a smaller bowl, combine the remaining ingredients, except the bread crumbs and the oil.

Pour over the pasta and cauliflower, and toss.

Pour into a 1 1/2 quart casserole.

Mix olive oil and bread crumbs in a small bowl. Toss until oil is covering all crumbs (a small plastic food storage container with a lid is good for this).

Spread crumbs evenly over top of casserole. Bake 20-25 min. or until golden and bubbly. Yum. (From Simple Vegetarian Pleasures by Jeanne Lemlin).

The tah tsai, which is a mustard green, would be good in that. It’s just baby greens, so it would be good fresh in salad or on a sandwich.

I’ve heard (but never yet tried) that you can make mashed cauliflower, just like you would make mashed potatoes (cut, boil, mash, salt, pepper, butter/milk/buttermilk).

Summer savory is known for being good with beans (not green beans, but dried beans). I think you could make an excellent scramble with onion, pattypan squash, mushrooms,  garlic, savory, tah tsai, and eggs.  Just put the veggies in a medium-hot, lightly oiled pan in more or less the order listed, and when they’re all softened almost to the point that you like them, add the eggs (lightly beaten),  salt and pepper. Push around the pan until the eggs are as done as you want. You could add cream or parmesan at the same time as the eggs but it would be good without that. Maybe it would be good mixed with rice. OR, over the new potatoes, which had been previously boiled in very salty water.

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