As we embark upon our fall season for organic gardening, we’re implementing new strategies based upon past experiences and knowledge we’ve recently gained. Starting mid-summer, we have been solarizing our beds for the first time, using (almost) clear plastic and creating a “greenhouse effect” by tucking it in at the edges. This has minimized our weekly weeding and more importantly, has provided the heat needed to kill off the weeds and any unwanted microorganisms/pests lingering in the soil. We are especially hopeful that it will help to eliminate or at least reduce our nematode population in the soil, as discussed below.
Well, it’s summer, so you just gotta expect to find some mention of okra on a South Florida gardening blog! There are a lot of crops we’ve tried growing in the heat of summer over the years, from long beans to loofah (for real!), to bitter melon and cowpeas and various summer “spinaches,” among others. None of those are particular favorites, so we don’t put much effort into them any more. Or with certain crops that we do like, such as cowpeas and sweet potatoes, the insects they’ve attracted in our hot summers (i.e. aphids and whiteflies) make them just not worth growing.
It might seem odd to be writing about making a salad out of the garden with kale and cherry tomatoes at this time of the year in South Florida. But we just happen to have both of these lovely organic vegetables still growing. And what better time of year to make a cold or room temperature pasta salad with a fresh tasting lemony vinaigrette than when the heat of summer is rolling in?
Well, it is that time of year again in our organic vegetable garden, when the crops are beginning to wither, the harvest is thinning out, and the heat is rolling in – yes, it’s May in South Florida! We are also having an extra-heavy rainfall bout, like two weeks solid of rain on a daily basis. We’ve had to say goodbye to some of our favorite crops (til next season!) – heirloom tomatoes, Chinese and regular cabbages, escarole, broccoli, dill, most of our lettuces and our delicate greens like mizuna and arugula, and our nasturtiums. The good news is that there are still many things growing in May, and a few we can still plant at this time of the year.
I was never particularly a fan of steamed vegetables, until I went on a special diet to improve my health a year and a half ago – which was basically eating mostly steamed organic veggies along with certain types of protein. I stuck to this diet pretty religiously as I was facing some surgeries and wanted to be in tip-top shape. Well, it worked! Within a month, I felt much stronger, had more energy and as a side effect I had lost 10 pounds! I did not set out to lose that weight, but it was a welcome bonus.
Several weeks ago I wrote about our bountiful Spring harvest in South Florida – it’s prime time! for vegetable gardeners here. That post described several of the organic crops we grow. Well, here’s some more – this is a continuation, describing more of our mid-Spring harvest, if you will.
So much of what I cook has to do with the fresh ingredients that happen to be on hand, as of course is true of most cooks. Right now our garden is bursting with organic veggies to harvest, which presented me with the challenge of what to do with some green pole beans, a big beautiful carrot, two kinds of kale and some very ripe tomatoes. I’ve been pining for some minestrone soup lately, and I was excited to have these fresh ingredients along with garden herbs and a good sized Parmesan rind stored in the freezer. I was all set!
I keep talking about “the most exciting time” in our organic garden, from ordering seeds for the new season, to planting our fall crops and seeing those first seedlings sprout up, to the beginning of our harvest – but NOW, it’s just beyond exciting – when our crops are flourishing and there is so much to harvest and cook with that we can barely keep up! So I think I will have to concede – Spring harvest tops them all!
Green beans are one of the easiest and most successful crops that we grow – they even typically give us two harvests, and plenty at a time so we can have enough to feed a family of four. Please see our post Growing Green Beans – All Season Long! for more information on growing this great veggie in South Florida.
I can’t think of a better way to eat bok choy than to saute it with garlic and ginger, add a little salt and heat, and finish it off with toasted sesame oil. It absorbs the aromatics well, and the contrast between the crunchy stems and the tender leaves makes it all the more pleasurable. Garlic and ginger bok choy is an excellent addition to any protein-based Asian dish, e.g., tofu, fish, beef, etc. It provides a “kick” as well as a nutritious boost to any meal.