Friday, July 17, 2015

Dispatches from the Dirt: Random thoughts from the garden (plus a bonus squash ball recipe)

It's that time of year when my neighbors pretend not to see me. Uh oh, here she comes, is what they are thinking. She's going to give us another bushel of green beans. Run away!! 

It's true. I have a lot of freaking green beans these days. Also, an overabundance of kale. Soon I will be up to my eyeballs in yellow squash, tomatoes, and green peppers. 

(Overabundance of kale)
Let's just say I have a tendency to over plant. It's a combination of not being able to imagine green stuff growing when I do my planting back in the cold crappy gray days of April and my inability to thin the little plants out when they do start to come in. 

It just feels wrong, you know? To kill them. 

Which is why I have more than forty green bean plants. 

Green beans are not easy to pick. They are hard to see. And hard to grasp. When the plants are all bunched up together, it's even harder. I MUST remember this next year and be brutal with the thinning. 

(Helpful green bean tip: Plant purple green beans.
They are much easier to see)

Other stuff I've learned from this year's garden. In no particular order:

It's good to have a plan. This spring I was bored with my usual throw a bunch of stuff in the ground and see what comes up. 

I saw a garden pattern in my Cooking Light magazine and decided to try it. 

Because I tend to go overboard in all things, I doubled the plan and planted four gardens instead of two. 
(Zooey can't imagine these patches of dirt
turning into anything green either)
But BOO YAH. They did:

The garden is lovely but it's had a few problems. Some obnoxious stealth critter ate all of my sunflowers and I had to replant them. The borage (not sure what this is exactly. A pretty flowery thing) grew much bigger than I realized it would and flopped all over the cucumbers. My eggplant got eaten alive by a weird yellow bug. 

A volunteer zucchini plant crowded out one corner of the garden and is now heading into the yard. 

(zucchini plant on steroids)

 A word here about "volunteers." Okay, I never knew what a volunteer was until my expert gardener mother-in-law told me. Volunteers are plants that sprout up from seeds you didn't plant. Maybe a squirrel dropped the seeds. Or they're left over from a plant from last year's garden. Every time I see a volunteer anything growing in my garden (or somewhere else in the yard), I am excited. Like a little surprise gift. Ooh, look, watermelon!! over here... by the gutter downspout. 

Real gardeners snap these suckers out as soon as they find them, but I can't bear to do that. (see above: Issues with Killing. I mean, thinning.) 

This damn zucchini volunteer though. So far, all it's caused me is trouble. Taking up space. And still no zucchinis.

But I digress. 

Let's chat about slugs for a moment, shall we? Because of the crazy amount of rain we've had this year in Ohio, my lovely garden is being besieged by slugs. My neighbor told me to spray pesticide, but I dunno, this seems to go against my whole point of having a garden in the first place. 

A more organic yet gruesome way to combat slugs is, apparently, beer. What you do is pour beer into shallow dishes and place at various points around the garden. The slugs are attracted to the sugar? The alcohol? The grain? Whatever. And they slither up to the dishes, fall into the beer, and... um, die. 

So, I tried this, and I am here to tell you that it works. I want to think that the slugs died happy. 

On that appetizing note, here's a recipe! 

Squash Balls (from

(Squash balls. Also, fried green tomatoes because
have I mentioned we have a crazy number of green tomatoes?)

5 medium-sized yellow squash **
¾ cup yellow cornmeal
¼ cup all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon sugar
⅛ teaspoon cayenne pepper
½ a medium sweet onion, minced
½ a jalapeno
½ cup buttermilk
1 egg, lightly beaten
Vegetable oil
Chop squash. Steam for 12-15 minutes until tender. Mash. Add onion, jalapeno, buttermilk, and egg. Mix well. 
Combine cornmeal, flour, sugar, salt, pepper, and cayenne pepper. 
Add squash mixture to cornmeal mixture and stir until blended.
Heat oil in a cast iron skillet.
Drop rounded tablespoonfuls into skillet and fry until golden brown on each side. (3 minutes per side) Drain on paper towels.

**(Be sure to pick all slugs from the squash before cooking.) 

Drink a glass of cold beer. 

No comments:

Post a Comment