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The Pleasures of Vegetables

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

On a menu in Port of Spain, Trinidad recently, we saw an entrée called The Pleasures of Vegetables. I didn’t order it, but probably should have. It’s always hard to leave home in spring and summer, but it’s especially hard when the sugar snap peas and green beans and tomatoes are in. Mid June is murder. We’re always on the plane to North Dakota then, and usually with a few quart Ziplocs of our own snap peas to pass around between rows. I have to say they beat dry-roasted pilot pellets or those darn pretzel things as an airline snack.

It was the best sugar snap pea year I can ever remember. The vines grew well above my head for the first time ever. We gorged. I almost got to the point of freezing some, but we managed to eat them all fresh. By the end of the season I was shelling them and even serving some in cream sauce.

Durn good lettuce year too, but we weren't here for most of lettuce season. I bought seed labeled Buttercrunch and got oakleaf, grrr. I haven't found good Buttercrunch seed in years. I get this lame stuff that looks like Buttercrunch on the package, but lacks the buttery, convoluted texture and grows straight up like romaine. This year, oakleaf. Double grrrr.

I brought a big bag of our Sungold cherry tomatoes on the flight to Trinidad. This was the first year I ever had a tomato ripen in June! They taste best warmed by the sun, right out of the garden, but they tasted mighty fine thousands of feet up over the Caribbean, too.

I’m all for slow local food, the kind you grow yourself. Chet Baker loves green beans, but he much prefers them steamed and buttered, or sautéed with garlic. Like us, however, he prefers his sugar snap peas raw.

Here, I’m wallowing in the fruits of our garden (and the neighboring you-pick blueberry farm).

photo by Bill of the Birds

Snapping beans is one of my favorite activities—it’s contemplative, productive, and mindless all at once.
Photo by Bill of the Birds.

The old Wear Ever pot I’m using belonged to my mom. She used it to make popcorn, and I still do. The sound of the first kernels being dropped into it, of its wiggly-handled lid clapping on, will bring the kids and dog at a dead run, just like it did 40 years ago in a kitchen in Virginia. Different kids, different dog, same feeling of surprise and delight. Mom’s making popcorn! My mom used to make enough to fill a turkey roasting pan half up, and then she’d sit on the couch with it on her lap and we’d all dive in. Sweet memories.

Here, you can cue the first soft piano notes of “A Summer Place.”


We had the pleasure of vegetables last night -- a saute of what was ready in our little garden: red, yellow and orange swiss chard, some russian kale, tiny purple carrots, a couple of handfuls of peas, and beans (green and purple). With a little garlic (also from the garden), chili, and olive oil, it was magic!

Well, I'm pretty jealous, as our garden isn't doing so well this year. Our part of NC is so dry and we're not able to water like should. But I am also appreciating dogs who like produce (ours like string beans and lettuce) and who come running when they hear the popcorn popping. Have not tried fruit cobblers, yet, And after your last post, we may hold off ;-)

Photos are gorgeous!

What was I THINKING, not planting Trionfo Violetto beans this year? *face palm*
When you start getting tired of steamed or sauteed beans, roast 'em and tell the kids they're green french fries. Yummy.
(425 oven, splash of olive oil, sea salt and pepper, about 15-20 minutes)

It's no wonder you have so many computer problems JZ... it's mere justice, 'cuz everything ELSE in your life seems so dang perfect!!

Interesting about the oak leaf...the picture on the package we bought was Radicchio, and the label said it too...but up came romaine! Ah well, the yellow beans are fantastic and so are the baby carrots. Gotta love summer!

The best of everything--homegrown veggies, getting high on shared veggies, using Mom's cookware, feeding kids and dog. It can't get any better.

I always look forward to Wednesday, which is when I pick up my CSA share. Last week it included beets, summer squash, taters, sweet and hot peppers, the last of the lettuce mix, and green beans. I love snapping them, too -- and so does my cat Moxie, who's a bean begger. He doesn't eat 'em; he tosses them around till they're good and dead. The haricot verts are barely worth bothering with, while the romas put up an admirable fight.

Well, yuuuummm! Your little garden surely did produce this year. It all looks so fresh and yummy. :c)

Yummmmmm! Add me to the jealous column. For the first time ever I have experienced the frustration of critters that eat things in bloom. We have the fattest groundhog I have ever seen in our new yard and he has eaten all the blooms off my petunias as well as my Kirby cucumbers right down to the ground. At least, I'm assuming it was him. My garden was shaping up so nicely and now it just looks sad. Wahhhh. I know the tomatoes that keep falling to the ground are the victims of errant wiffle balls. At least I have my herbs! Maybe this weekend I'll plant up some new veggies in pots I can elevate. I'll have to check into what I can start in August! And I also have to find a farmer's market reasonably close to our new neighborhood. Gotta get some snap peas after reading this. Couldn't agree more about tomatoes tasting best right out of the sunshine with the smell of those leaves still in your nose. Summer indeed.

What are the purple beans?

I am envious of your gardening prowess. My yard is nothing but beach sand, deposited during the Pleistocene. Sterile. I'd have to bring in truckloads of horse manure for twenty years to even get weeds to grow!

Boneman, it's good to see you've found a way to work around the Google gates and leave comments. I'll welcome your insights and corrections. I buy my beans in bulk at the local farmer's co-op. I buy equal amounts of Tendergreen, Brittle Wax and Royal Burgundy snap beans (the purple ones), and ask the woman to put them all in the same bag. Then, while she's watching, I shake the bag to mix them all up. She says, "I've never seen anybody do that. But it seems like a good idea." Which it is, if only because you can bring in a particolored basket of beans that's so pretty. Royal Burgundy cooks up dark green, by the way.
As to sand--you might be surprised how well it would grow vegetables given a dressing of manure and compost. This year I gave the garden a thick layer of goopy compost and all the ashes from a year's burning of poopy macaw cage newspapers, stray paper trash, and cardboard boxes. Add many inches of rain and stand back! 14 tuberose spikes and counting, a personal best.

Jen, remember...woodchucks climb nearly as well as squirrelts. I have an enormous woodchuck who feeds on clover right outside my garden and I'm praying he doesn't take a notion. He's so fat, though, that he'd buckle the deer netting in trying to climb it and fall off. Hoping hoping he doesn't realize he can climb the 4' metal stock fencing and chew right through the deer netting...but if he does, I have a large Meyer trap and some pineapple waiting for him.

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