Category Archives: Garden

Waiting For The World To Change

It’s always been like this but, more than ever, the garden becomes a retreat from watching the daily dismantling of our country’s reputation, stature and dignity. It’s always something.

This year, whatever it is in Washington, it’s eggplants here.

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I’ve grown this vegetable before, several times. A strange semi-thorny little plant with alien, lovely light purple flowers and slow-growing fruit of a wide range of colors. If the Texas heat and the flea beetles didn’t suck them dry, we’d have a few tasty dinners in mid-summer. All that, I believe, has changed.

I bought this heirloom variety, Aswad. From the deserts of Iraq. Heat tolerant, incredibly prolific, with fruit the approximate size of your head, round and very dark purple. And the kicker: They taste great. The production is so high that you’d think these were hybrids instead of open-pollinated, but no. I will be saving their seeds for the foreseeable future.

So when I could only count on a harvest of eight or nine eggplants, I usually stuffed them in the Italian manner, and they were always good. But when the harvest is more likely to involve 30 or more 2- or 3-pounders, you find a need to broaden your repertoire. Thus have I learned the wonders of baba ganoush, among other things. This is a Mideastern dip with similarities to hummus, consisting mostly of grilled or roasted eggplant, lemon juice, minced garlic and a concoction of roasted sesame seeds and olive oil called tahini. At this point I’m really not sure how I got along without baba ganoush in my life before now.

A year ago, almost to the day, our entire yard was underwater, the Brazos River was washing over the entire neighborhood and the street was navigable only by boat. This year, the river is running at about 13 feet deep, instead of 55 feet, which is a relief. Nonetheless, we’ve had lots of rain, and “cooler” than usual temperatures, which in Texas means it hasn’t hit 100 degrees yet. That’s caused most of the garden to take off, including my home-developed Brazos Beefsteak tomatoes, the aforementioned eggplants, summer squash, zucchini, the ever-popular cucuzza, and various hot or hottish peppers.

Among that latter group is one I’d never heard of before this year: the Leutschauer Pepper, a somewhat-hot paprika pepper grown in Hungary since sometime in the 1800s, when the Hungarians brought the pepper back from neighboring Slovakia. Well. I’ve always wanted to try making paprika, and it turns out this plant grows easily in our weather, on big plants with lots and lots of peppers.

However, in order to make paprika, it’s pretty essential that you either have a food dehydrator or live in a climate dry enough to hang and dry stuff outside. That latter won’t work here, as humidity is kind of our state motto. So after some study, I bought us an Excalibur food dehydrator, the exact model of which you can see here if you wish. (I don’t do affiliate product advertising or any other kind of for-pay product placement from this blog, but Lord knows the Excalibur people should thank their lucky stars for the free plug. Actually, I don’t mind at all because I really like this gizmo so far and expect to preserve a lot of fruit and vegetables in it this year.)

For some of the best semi-hot paprika I have ever had, I take about six of the bright-red ripe Leutschauer peppers, cut them into four or so semi-flat pieces each, remove the seeds and membranes and spread them across one of my food dryer trays. Then I remove the rest of the trays, set the dryer on 125 degrees Fahrenheit and set the time for about 5 hours. Then I take the dried pepper chips from the dryer and put them in a cleaned-out coffee grinder. I press the button for a few second and then put the resulting powder into a jar. Yeah, buddy.

At 135 degrees, my new drying toy turns wet slices of fresh figs into sweet, dry fig leathers, which can further be preserved in the freezer. Good news, because it’s looking like we may have a bumper fig crop for a change.

Trump and the Republicans may still find a way to screw me out of my health insurance, but the good news is that they haven’t (yet) figured out how to cut off my food supply.

Happy Trails

Also posted in Food, Food Preservation, Vegetables

Any Particular Month

If any particular month is better than the others, it probably has something to do with the presence of garden tomatoes.

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Also posted in Country Life, Food, Vegetables

Citrus Desparado

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This is a story about a man whose son supplemented his day-job income by working as kind of a jack-of-all-trades for a company that produced concerts and other shows at large entertainment venues in a particular mid-sized southern city.

One day Don Henley came to town. Former co-leader of the Eagles rock group, the singer-song writer-guitarist tours with his own band now, and was preparing for a local show.

It’s somewhat customary for well-known entertainers to request and be provided various foods and other comfort items for consumption before and after their shows. In this case, so the story goes, the owners of the concert venue required such items be obtained from a hotel attached to said venue and being operated by a national hotel chain.

But after an ominous breakfast, which included a salad containing metalic foreign objects, it became clear the hotel was not capable of providing this particular group’s needs.

For instance, the lemons were inadequate. “I hate small lemons,” Henley was quoted as saying, approximately, to the people producing the show. “Don Henley hates small lemons,” the production company officials said to the son mentioned above. “Go out and find us the largest lemons available.”

“You’re not going to believe this,” the son replied. “But it turns out that my father grows the biggest lemons in the world.” Then he drove to his home and retrieved a half-dozen lemons given to him by the man who is the subject of this story.

It turns out that man is me. While it is an exaggeration to call them the biggest in the world, it is true that I grow Meyer lemons, which are considerably larger than Lisbon lemons – the type almost always seen in grocery stores. Meyer lemons, more importantly, are incredibly flavorful and fragrant.

And while I have not been directly informed by any of his people, I have heard no complaints whatsoever about the lemons my son provided to Don Henley, and it is my belief that he probably found them of outstanding size and flavor, and may even recall them with fondness in the future in the likely event he is presented with some inferior lemon.

Which just goes to show you, anything can happen. I forget that sometimes.

As kind of a postscript, I have to say that my lemon tree was seriously damaged in our recent and uncommon freezing weather. I have hopes that the tree will survive, although nothing is guaranteed. I have decided that if the tree manages to live and produce fruit, I will heretofore refer to them as Desparado Lemons, just for fun.

Also posted in Fruit, Kids, Metaphysics

Adam & Eve, Party Of Two – Your Table Is Ready

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Unexpected consequences from the Great Flood of ‘016 include a ruined fig and pecan crop – pretty disappointing to those of us who look forward to those gastronomic treats. However, the pain has been eased by a great load of Hachiya persimmons from what looks like the Tree of Life out back, several large bunches of bananas with more ripening, and a promising crop of Satsuma oranges and Meyer lemons. You win some, you lose some.

Our house took on not a drop of water from the raging Brazos River, which crested at nearly 55 feet just four months ago. However, our five figs and all the towering native pecan trees in the neighborhood stood in three or more feet of water for several days, and apparently that was traumatic enough to ruin the crops. The usually delicious dark figs in back ripened up and looked fine, but when you bit into them, they contained almost no sugar. As for the pecans, most of our trees have almost none. Usually they have many hundreds.

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So you eat what you have. Stop by this fall for a banana-persimmon smoothy.

Also posted in Brazos River, Food, Fruit, Nobody Gets It Like They Want It To Be