Category Archives: Vegetables

Here Comes The Sun

This is the time I would preserve in a big canning jar, when waters finally recede and the sun commands the world to morph.

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And the world complies, pulling shaggy green over everything, reclaiming the flotsam left to rot everywhere by the humans and their ridiculously temporary antics.

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I’d open the jar and spread This Time across the windowsills after the gardens submit to the cracklingly inevitable steam-heat of summer: Fresh salsa and caprese all around for another two weeks, a month, until the jar runs out.

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Yeah I sure would.

Also posted in Food, Garden, Metaphysics, Nature

No. 9

These are ninth-generation open-pollinated tomato plants humming along nicely under a 900-watt halogen bulb, awaiting spring transplant time in the garden (which could be any day now given our lack of winter this year).

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The plants were developed mostly from an heirloom beefsteak variety called German Johnson, crossed with another called Belgium Giant, and suffused with the DNA essence of maybe four other heirloom varieties. After the first two years, no further crossing was made, and plant selection for the coming year’s seeds depended on tomato flavor and size, early ripening and the ability to withstand the extreme heat of South Texas summers.

Yum!I call these Brazos Beefsteaks, after the river running a couple hundred yards south of our gardens. The fruit ripen as soon as 65 days from planting, which is pretty quick for a beefsteak type, and they typically range in size from 10 to 16 oz. They’re meaty, with small seed cavities and (OK I’m bragging, but it’s true) really terrific old-time tomato flavor the likes of which can never be had in any grocery store.

Open-source tomatoes are in my opinion superior to hybrids if one has at least three years to devote to selective breeding. It’s amazing how adaptable they are to various climates. With hybrids, selective breeding isn’t possible, because the seeds produce plants that are genetically different from each other and almost always inferior to the parent hybrid plant from which they came.

That’s it for the winter garden report. So remember kids, don’t buy that which you can better grow yourselves.

Also posted in Brazos River, Country Life, Food, Garden

Slapstick Gardening

The Sicilian squash known as cucuzza reigns as jokester king of the vegetable world. Here’s how it works: You had more of these 3-foot-plus squash than you could possibly eat or give away last time, and so a couple of falls ago you just dumped a couple of the drying gourd-like bodies at the end of a garden bed, figuring if the seeds inside took root they would quickly die in the ensuing winter.

That was 2013. The seeds didn’t take root. That year.

This august a couple of them did. By this time prickly pear cactus was growing over the top of the new squash seedlings, a condition they quickly reversed. By the time I spotted them, they were about 8 feet high, jumping (in the vegetative sense) from the cactus to the lower branches of a pecan tree.

Seven or so weeks later, the cucuzza vines stretch about 35 feet up into the 45-foot pecan tree. It became really noticeable when the underside of the tree canopy started sporting fat green baseball bats.

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Cucuzza is tasty, served up in a variety of ways you aren’t allowed to experience unless you marry a Sicilian. I could tell you, but you can imagine what would happen to me if I did.

This year’s big cucuzza joke is that the vines are loaded with delicious fruit, almost all of which are so high in the tree that they cannot be harvested, even with a ladder. It’s true that I have been able to find a way to nab a very few of the elusive squash. Just this morning I climbed atop my longest ladder and used a long-handled fruit-picking gizmo to separate two cucuzzas from their stems. Whereupon they promptly fell out of reach and onto the ground, each cracking in half.

You could sense mirth emanating from the nearby cucuzza tendrils. Pretty sophomoric, really.

Also posted in Food, Garden

Salsa di Pomidoro

About that tomato sauce recipe I alluded to a couple of posts back but never produced. We traveled north on vacation for awhile but, upon our recent return, I found the garden had yielded several big tomatoes despite our absence, and lack of water and the extreme steam heat. It jogged my memory. The recipe is good, and it’s here:

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This recipe requires fresh, ripe tomatoes, and the results are lighter than the more typical Italian past gravy, but very tasty nonetheless. I much prefer using a food mill to remove the skin and seeds from the tomatoes, as it simultaneously pulverizes all the good stuff into a thick, sauce-like consistency. If you don’t have one, you can drop the tomatoes into a large pan of boiling water for a couple of minutes until the skins loosen, them drop them into a sink full of cold water, then drain the water, cut out the cores with a paring knife and squeeze out the seeds at your option.

INGREDIENTS:

– 4 to 5 pounds of fresh, ripe garden tomatoes
– 1 large sweet onion, such as Vidalia
– 1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh oregano
– 1 tablespoon chopped fresh basil
– 2 tablespoons olive oil
– salt and pepper to taste

METHOD:

– Cut the tomatoes into quarters and run them through the food mill, or follow the procedure above if you’re processing them by hand
– Pour the resulting tomato mash into a large, heavy pan. Add half of the onion, sliced thin. Bring the mixture to a boil, reduce heat and simmer for about 25 minutes, stirring occasionally. Allow to cool to near room temperature.
– Pour the sauce into a blender (you may have to do this in two or three batches). Blend until smooth.
– Finely chop the remaining half onion. Add the olive oil to a large, heavy pan, heat and then add the onion. Stir and cook until it turns golden yellow. Add the oregano, basil, salt and pepper and stir for another minute or two, then add the blended tomato sauce.
– Bring to a boil, lower the heat and simmer, stirring occasionally, for another 15 to 25 minutes.

I think this sauce is great over pasta just as it is. It’s also easily converted to pasta gravy, by adding a little cinnamon, allspice and brown sugar.

That’s our program for today, boys and girls. Happy trails!

Also posted in Food, Food Preservation, Garden