Beyond "Knee High by the 4th of July"

An experiment in vegetable gardening

Black Beauty

June 30th, 2012

My Black Beauty Zucchini plant is huge and full of flowers but as far as I could tell, had yet to yield any fruit!  So yesterday morning, I set out to have a really good look and see if I could at least find some baby zucchini.  I parted the leaves and stuck my face into the center of the plant in search of any sign.  Lo and behold, in the midst of the flowers and stems, I discovered two very large Black Beauties!

The zucchinis were so tangled up in the stems I had a hard time with the harvest!  I finally wrestled them both out of the jungle and WOW! What beauties indeed!

What to do with two huge zucchini!?

“To the Internet!” I cried!

After a good bit of surfing, I determined that I would try my hand at baking with shredded zucchini.  I decided on Frosted Zucchini Brownies and Zucchini Gingerbread.

I had no clue how to properly shred zucchini so I found an eHow video online and let professional chef Jeff Robinson show me how.

Boy, it sure looked tasty.  I considered, albeit briefly, putting it on a salad or sandwich instead!

The brownies turned out pretty well although I had my doubts about the dry and crumbly “batter”.  Fortunately, the frosting was a cure all!  The gingerbread, true to its name,  had a texture that was very gingerbready.  I had hoped it would be more like banana or pumpkin bread but Bruce, a big fan of anything with “ginger” in the title, said he liked it just fine.

This morning, I was surprised to find another Black Beauty and a summer squash ripe for the picking!

After yesterday’s baking spree, I thought I’d try to do something a little more healthy with them this time.  So I shredded them as previously instructed, squeezed as much moisture out of them as I could, put a tortilla on the griddle,  topped it with the zucchini/squash mixture, black beans, corn, and cheese and presto chango:  I had a delicious vegetarian quesadilla for my lunch!

Now for one of those brownies…

Take That, Sucker!

June 29th, 2012

My friend Margaret came by this morning to see my garden and lucky for me, gave me a lesson in “suckering” my tomatoes while she was here.  She showed me how to pinch out the sucker that grows in the base of the “V” that is formed by the stem and a branch.  This bit of pruning diverts the energy and nutrients that would have gone to the suckers to the formation of the fruit.  My “Better Boy” and “Juliet” had gotten a bit unruly of late so a little suckering will hopefully make them a little more manageable and encourage them to produce bigger, better and more beautiful tomatoes.  Thanks, Margaret!!

Lunch Plans

June 23rd, 2012

When I went out to check on my garden this morning, I saw that I had 3 summer squash ready for the picking.

I also noticed that my basil had really appreciated the half inch of rain we got last evening and would definitely benefit from a little trimming.  Although I had just had breakfast, I was already starting to think about lunch and how I could  combine the summer squash and (lots!) of basil.

“To the Internet!” I cried!

I soon found a recipe for “Grilled Zucchini and Summer Squash Salad with Basil-Parmesan Dressing” and couldn’t imagine how that could be anything but wonderful.  I don’t have any zucchini (yet!) but figured the squash could go it alone this time and if it was good, I’d be ready when I did have some.  Lunch couldn’t come soon enough.

When it finally did, I harvested the three squash.  I love the thought that I am harvesting something!  I am a harvester!  :)  They looked so shiny and delicious.  I couldn’t get them on the grill fast enough!

While they were grilling, I chopped the fresh basil and put the dressing together.

I spooned the dressing on the hot grilled squash and did my best to let it cool a bit before digging in.  WOW!  It was wonderful indeed!  Happily, there was enough for John’s lunch, too.

Now I’m looking very forward to trying it with zucchini, too.  Grow, Black Beauty Zucchini! Grow!

Fortunately, there’s some dressing left over and I already have plans for it!  I’m meeting a friend at La Farm Bakery tomorrow morning for breakfast and slices of their hand rolled baguette would be the perfect Basil-Parmesan dressing delivery vehicle.  Now I’m thinking about lunch before breakfast!

Fresh Herbs

June 21st, 2012

As soon as I saw that Bruce had designed the garden with the front bed turned on the diagonal, I knew I wanted to fill it with herbs.  Although I know pretty much next to nothing about cooking with fresh herbs, I figured I’d be more likely to learn if I planted some.  So I put in Greek and golden oregano, lime green thyme, Italian flat and curled parsley, sweet basil, purple sage and chives.  I did allow myself a spot for some French variegated lavender, bien sûr!

Since I’ve had some experience growing herbs in my flower garden, I wasn’t surprised when they grew like gangbusters.  They grew so well in fact that it was time to start thinking about making something with them!  So, this morning I found a recipe for a fresh herb bread machine bread and decided there was no time like the present.

Happily, the recipe called for basil, thyme, oregano AND sage so I had a blast with the kitchen shears.  I used my new manual mini food processor to chop everything up and ended up with enough for two loaves!

The house smelled glorious as the bread was baking.  After it cooled a bit, I sliced it up, brushed it with butter, toasted it in the oven and served it with spaghetti for dinner.

It was fabulous. All the more so for having learned something.


Summer Squash is #1

June 19th, 2012

When thinking about what vegetables I wanted to plant during my rookie season, summer squash was near the top of the list.  Now it was a matter of sorting out which variety would do best in North Carolina.  THE book pointed me to the varieties with the designation “AAS” – All American Selections – “awarded to varieties that have given outstanding performance in trial gardens throughout the country.” In other words, I needed to draft some veterans to help make my rookie season a success!

So I chose “Straightneck Squash” from Bonnie Plants.  I decided to only put in one plant because I wasn’t sure how much squash it would produce and how much squash I could eat!  On May 28, I planted it, along with some Cosmos to attract pollinators, and the game was on!

After just a little over a week, I was thrilled to see male flowers develop and bloom. Thanks to THE book, I wasn’t a bit concerned when the male flowers fell off the plant because I had learned that that was normal and that it was the female flowers that produced the squash.  Amazingly, I was now able to tell the difference!!  A baby step up the learning curve!

And today, just a day over 3 weeks since I planted it, I harvested my first summer squash!  I felt like the proverbial kid in a candy store!  Although my first summer squash was a bit deformed and actually looked more like a “Crookneck Squash“, I could not have cared less!  I lovingly washed it, sliced it up, tossed it in a little olive oil, grilled it, drizzled it with some balsamic vinegar and enjoyed every bit of it with my lunch!

My first harvest.  Summer squash is #1!





My Rookie Season

June 19th, 2012

I find being a rookie at anything exhausting!  I had so much to learn about vegetable gardening that just thinking about where to start made my head feel like it was going to blow off my shoulders.  “To the Internet!” I cried.  Unfortunately, googling “vegetable gardening for beginners” only left me feeling more overwhelmed.  It was information overload – way too many opinions, approaches, “must dos”, and “Top 10 Tips”!  So I decided to go “old school” and get a book.  And I made up my mind that once I found THE book, I was going to follow it to the letter, hopefully have a little success, gain some experience and kiss my rookie status good-bye! And so I have my guide, my bible, my lifeline:  Guide to North Carolina Vegetable Gardening by Walter Reeves & Felder Rushing.

The Learning Curve is Steep!

June 19th, 2012

I have always wanted to try my hand at growing vegetables.

And as if by magic, but in truth thanks to the Herculean efforts of my family, a beautiful raised bed vegetable garden appeared in my backyard while I was off celebrating my 50th birthday with a friend!

So now to become a vegetable gardener!  Yikes!  No easy feat considering that  previous to this, the sum total of my knowledge of agriculture resided in the very Midwestern saying about growing corn:  “Knee High by the 4th of July”

Since I no longer live in the Midwest and I hope to grow more than corn, I’ve set my sights on moving Beyond “Knee High by the 4th of July”!  So time to start climbing the learning curve.  And how very steep I found it to be!

This blog will chronicle what I’m determined to think of as an experiment in vegetable gardening.



Beyond "Knee High by the 4th of July"

An experiment in vegetable gardening