Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Herb 'n' Sprawl

After picking up this week's CSA produce, My Dear Papa drove me by the garden to check on things. We had stopped briefly on Sunday, and I could see then that it needed attention, but I knew I'd have to wait to get much of anything done.

Granted, I didn't have a whole lot of time this evening to much, either, but I did have the opportunity to take a closer look at everything.

The amaranth, grown tall and lush, is now blooming, with fuzzy fuschia flowers crowning the stalks. While this particular variety of amaranth may not be as useful for grain (though it apparently makes an excellent red dye), I'll be collecting those flowers as they dry and set seeds.

I'm finally starting to see some action on the rest of the beans. While the Tiger Eye beans were setting pods before I left on vacation and the others were blooming, I was starting to get a little worried that the cannellini and the garbanzo flowers hadn't been pollinated.

Ah, but fret no more, for the cannellini beans (left) now have several small and slender seed pods, and the garbanzo plants (right) have
developed soft, puffy pods for their beans. I don't know yet just how prolific the plants are in either case, but it's a start. After not being able to find local dried beans and finally hitting upon a way to get my own, I'm so excited to know that my pantry will include a little extra protein this year, thanks to my garden.

The tomatoes continue to produce plenty of fruit, though after last week's heat wave, the nights have grown cool again and kept the tomatoes from turning red. My Dear Papa picked three last week, and I picked one upon my return home, but otherwise, we'll still have to wait.

The melons, after a sluggish start, have decided to allow their imperialist streak to reign triumphant, and they have not only taken over their entire bed, but they have annexed the next as well. (I hope the kale I planted there a couple weeks ago survives...)

A careful look under the leaves of the watermelon plants revealed several small melons forming, from the just barely swollen size to this beauty:

This melon is currently about 6" or 7" in diameter and fairly weighty for its size. It's not quite ripe, and I don't know how large this particular variety gets, but I am definitely starting to salivate.

Amidst all the melons, the nasturtiums continue to thrive, so one of these days I'll need to harvest some blossoms for herbed vinegar and some more leaves for salads. (I also hope to try harvesting some of the buds or seeds to make a substitute for capers... I've never tried that before!)

The main harvest of the night, though -- aside from a few scallions -- was a grocery bag full of basil stalks and leaves. That's right, it's time for pesto!

My Dear Papa loaned me his small food processor, so once he dropped me (and my produce) at home, I got busy. I chopped garlic from my CSA share and pureed it with pine nuts, pepper, olive oil, and the basil leaves, stopping occasionally to scrape down the bowl and to add more of everything.

As is my usual routine, I spooned the finished pesto into ice cube trays for freezing -- and ended up filling one and a half trays with about 3 cups of pesto. I've found in the past that one cube is usually sufficient for a two-serving batch of pasta, so this will last a while.

I do so enjoy eating from the garden!

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