Because we thought opening the door to take these photos outside might frighten the deer, Jim took these from our window, so the quality was somewhat compromised. The fawns were playful, darting in and out of the thicket just behind them.
Yes, it's time for the garden report, now that we've had a couple of harvests.
I'd like to urge everyone who can to put in one or more early crops, edibles that are ready early in the season. It's so gratifying to eat something fresh from your own garden after a long winter. In our case, asparagus and strawberries fill that niche, and we've planted rhubarb to add yet another to the list next year. And if we ever get those cold frames built, we'd have fresh salad greens earlier yet.
Our asparagus crop was good this year. We enjoyed it for weeks and were able to give some away as well. Most of it we ate fresh, but I did make a few jars of pickled asparagus as well as three and a half quarts of asparagus soup base. Of these I froze two (after thawing and heating, I add cream and seasonings), using the rest at our final book group meeting, where the hostess, Wendy, and I served food from local sources--after all, the book we were discussing was Barbara Kingsolver's Animal, Vegetable, Miracle. We love asparagus and never tired of it all season, bidding it goodbye sadly as the asparagus beetles took over after 6 or 7 weeks. Now the plants have shot up and are sending out their branches, soon to transform themselves into a ferny-looking hedge waving over neighboring plants.
As the asparagus crop came to an end, the strawberries ripened, and we've had a good haul of those delightful fruits. Strawberries are my favorite berry, but for years Jim didn't want to deal with them. They do take a bit of care--mulching in the winter, keeping the runners reined in, fertilizing at the end of the season, and so on. But to my surprise, last year he suggested putting in strawberries, and I couldn't have been more pleased. We never got around to mulching the berries against the cold and were apprehensive about them, but they've done beautifully. We chose this variety (Sparkle) because it does well in our climate and was said to have terrific taste. The berries are not mammoth, but they are wonderfully sweet and flavorful. I've given away a few quarts of berries and have hopes of making jam yet. I'd also like to dry some for my home-made granola, and this morning we decided it was time to dust off our ice-cream maker and make good use of our surfeit of berries. It feels like an incredible luxury to me to be able to eat all the strawberries I want!
In addition to cutting asparagus and picking berries, I've been harvesting beet greens, and amaranth and lettuce thinnings. Young thinnings are delicious in salads, of course, while more mature beet and amaranth leaves make a lovely dish of cooked greens. And I don't neglect edible weeds, like lamb's-quarters, which we have by the bushel. I saved a plastic grocery bag full while weeding recently and cooked the greens up last night (sauteed in butter until wilted). To my tongue, their taste, cooked, is superior to that of spinach. If you have a patch of the stuff, try cooking it. The tender young leaves are good in salads. I'm also picking purslane now for salads; its lemony taste adds a note of variety. If, as some people suggest, food scarcity becomes a reality even for Americans (Peak OIl, economic distress, climate change), we would do well to stop scorning these gifts of wild foods growing right in our own yards, gardens, and roadsides. But you don't need an excuse to eat purslane and lamb's-quarters: they taste great and should be made the most of for that reason alone. I'm hoping to freeze some lamb's-quarters this year ... we'll see. (Note: if you do harvest edible weeds, make sure they haven't been sprayed with pesticides or exposed to car exhaust fumes.)
As for herbs, I've dried lovage leaves twice, and it's high time I harvested and dried oregano, thyme, tarragon, sage, and mint. Some of the herbs will be infused into vinegar, either alone or in combination. We've been enjoying chives for some time, but somehow I didn't get around to making chive vinegar when the flowers were at their peak and would have tinted white wine vinegar a lovely color. The herb garden has some serious problems with encroaching grasses, and I'll have to deal with that somehow or another; the grass has almost killed off the lemon thyme and is an eyesore among the lavender.
Already we've seen a groundhog inside the veggie garden, and we've got live traps set out. Yes, there's a way to fence the garden that would prevent groundhogs from getting in, but Jim has so much to do already that the thought of constructing that fence is a bit much. For now we're keeping a vigilant eye for breaches of the fence and sticking with our method of trapping the little pests. We've got insect pests, too, but as my daughter pointed out to me last weekend--and much to our granddaughter's delight--we've got lots of ladybugs, who, it turns out, love thistle plants (I believe Anya collected around ten of them when she was here last weekend). Hmm. Thistles are good for something after all ... While ladybugs can't help with big beetles, they do eat small soft-bodied insects.
By next week I should have some Swiss chard and baby beets to harvest, along with mature lettuces and radishes (our first radishes grew during some unseasonably hot weather and were rendered pretty much inedible). Before you know it, we'll have beans and cherry tomatoes and cucumbers and all the rest.
And so the cycle continues as we watch a few seeds metamorphose into an incredible abundance of food. I never tire of it.