Friday, July 20, 2012

Favas, Celery, and Eleanor Roosevelt

I have read rhapsodic blog entries about fava beans over the years.  This might not be the best year for me to experiment with a new crop, but I figured the nitrogen value alone would make the experiment worth it.  So when I returned to two rows of bulging pods and fallen plants, I dutifully took them from the vine and brought them in to try them.

I was guided in my culinary questions by Nigel Slater in his book, Tender: A cook and his vegetable patch. Slater devotes a chapter to the mystery bean.  I settled into the rocker on the back deck and eagerly read about stunning flowers (which I missed) and autumn plantings (which I assumed was a UK anomaly).  I decided that my beans were past the "cook them in their pods" stage, so I opted for a shelled bean recipe.

I had about a pound of pods.  A good pod yielded three beans.  But wait ... the uncovering continues.  You have to now peel the outer shell off of the bean.  Boiling salted water for 5 minutes followed by an ice bath.  Now the beans are both tender and easily removed from their jackets.  In the end I had about 4 ounces of edible bean.   Hmmmm.

But Slater proposed this lovely pairing of the beans in a sherry vinegar vinaigrette on thin slices of Spanish ham.  Prosciutto would have to do with a side offering of cheddar and fresh feta it made a perfect lunch.

So having relied on Slater's Fava Bean chapter, I turned now to the chapter on Celery.  You have to love a Table of Contents that reads like a seed catalog.  I knew celery was challenging so I was hoping to enjoy special tips on how to have a successful crop.  Once again, iced tea in hand, I settled into my outdoor perch and opened to CELERY.  Under the heading celery in the garden I read.  "I have never grown celery, and what is more I probably never will.  Celery is a crop only for the most committed of gardeners."

I was crestfallen.  Not that I have a prayer of getting a crop in THIS year, but I was hoping for some measure of encouragement.  I ate fresh celery once.  It was at a Farmer's Market in Pennsylvania and the experience was like eating a new vegetable for the first time.  It was sweet, crisp and bursting with flavor.  I think it was Eleanor Roosevelt who said "You must do the thing you think you cannot do."

Saturday, July 14, 2012

The Lessons of Necessity

I returned to the garden on Thursday evening to find that good friends had tended faithfully to the watering chores and saved me from this very dry late spring and early summer.  I am deeply grateful for what they did.
I had made an executive decision to stop watering the garlic beds after the scapes had come and gone.  All the literature says to avoid watering after then to keep bulbs from splitting.  But normally I would harvest the garlic when the bottom 4-6 leaves had turned brown.  Given the early season, that date might have been July 1.  This crop was brown as toast from top to bottom when I returned, and I worried if maybe I had made a mistake.

One of the reasons you want to harvest earlier rather than later is to avoid THIS:

Only 3 head out of 200 harvested had this problem.

The truth is the bulbs were bigger than ever.  They had actually been curing underground in the dry soil and what ever moisture they might have needed, was provided by their very deep roots.   It is an EXCELLENT crop.

So if there is a lesson here it is that you CAN leave garlic in the ground longer than I thought, and as long as Mother Nature does not interfere with soaking rains, there is little risk to your crop.