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NATURE’S TURN: Eat the summer sun’s glitter–to sparkle

Halfway between the summer solstice – the longest day of the year – and the autumnal equinox -- the time of equal day and night –this gardener is feeling swept up in the incoming high tide of growth, maturation and ripening.

July 31 – August 13, 2017

“Farm-to-table – whose enthusiasts are called artisanal eaters or locavores – took root as the new food movement’s answer to the conventional food system. It was also, undeniably, a reaction against a global food economy that erodes cultures and cuisines. It’s about seasonality, locality, and direct relationships with your farmer. It’s also about better tasting food…… In [Wendell] Berry’s words we understand that eating ‘is inescapably an agricultural act, and that how we eat determines, to a considerable extent, how the world is used.’ ” — Dan Barber, “The Third Plate”

Painted Mountain corn. July 26, 2017. Photo: Judy Isacoff
Painted Mountain corn. July 26, 2017. Photo: Judy Isacoff

Mount Washington — In my garden, Painted Mountain, a wonderful Native American corn, is growing from purple, red, orange, yellow, white and gold kernels that I chose from last year’s crop. Taller than it was yesterday, it is the quintessential expression of exponential growth evident all around us. Corn is the flag and flag bearer that stands above its companion squashes and melons as they snake along the ground, extending the leading tips of their ropey vines in all directions, climbing up and over anything they encounter, grasping and clutching with sticky tendrils.

Painted Mountain cornbread baked with flour ground from 2016 harvest. Monterey Chèvre, top right; zucchini-red pepper relish, left. May 2017. Photo: Mackenzie Waggaman
Painted Mountain cornbread baked with flour ground from 2016 harvest. Monterey Chèvre, top right; zucchini-red pepper relish, left. May 2017. Photo: Mackenzie Waggaman

Halfway between the summer solstice–the longest day of the year–and the autumnal equinox–the time of equal day and night–this gardener is feeling swept up in the incoming high tide of growth, maturation and ripening. There’s an urgency to pick and prepare every currant, gooseberry and blueberry; each snap and snow pea; and all the full-grown Asian greens and lettuces for presentation at the daily table and for freezing, to be enjoyed beyond the growing season. Meanwhile, billowy potato plants extend their vines into garden paths, requiring more leaf and hay mulch to press them back, while dying pea vines must be removed from the trellis where Rattlesnake, Painted Lady and Scarlet Runner beans are poised to climb after them. Oh, and the garlic is approaching maturity. Refer to Nature’s Turn, July-August 2015, for more information.

Mature Asian greens in basket, above. Bush bean, left, succession planting. Kale to be harvested. July 26, 2017. Photo: Judy Isacoff
Mature Asian greens in basket, above. Bush bean, left, succession planting. Kale to be harvested. July 26, 2017. Photo: Judy Isacoff

We are prompted, also, to look to the weather and count the days until killing frost, then read the “days to maturity” on seed packets and in catalogues. Midget carrots, Three-Root Grex beets, purple top turnips may still be worth sowing for October harvest. Plant radishes, lettuces, Asian greens, collards, kale, cilantro and dill. Keep all seedbeds watered and, during hot spells, cover lettuce beds with shade cloth. Weed and mulch.

Pea vines, top left. Carrots, bottom left, followed by potatoes; garlic beyond. Potatoes, right; corn beyond. July 26, 2017. Photo: Judy Isacoff
Pea vines, top left. Carrots, bottom left, followed by potatoes; garlic beyond. Potatoes, right; corn beyond. July 26, 2017. Photo: Judy Isacoff

Gardeners and farmers are allied in our sense of responsibility to and the intimacy of our relationship with the earth we cultivate and the watersheds we share. Gardeners of edible landscapes are living the garden-to-table season. We celebrate the diversity of food plants we grow thanks to seed sharing and the work of enlightened seedsmen. As compelling as it is to stay at home to perfect our craft, summer learning and networking opportunities, noted below, beckon.

Resources

Dan Barber, “The Third Plate, Field Notes on the Future of Food,” the Penguin Press, NY, 2014, pages 10 and 11

Painted Mountain Corn https://www.fedcoseeds.com/seeds/?item=680

https://www.goodfoodworld.com/2013/02/citizen-scientist/

Garlic harvest https://theberkshireedge.com/natures-turn-the-garden-flourishes-ripens-brims-over/

Opportunities to Participate

August 11–13, Northeast Organic Farming Association Summer Conference – https://nofasummerconference.org/

August 26, Seed Saving Workshop at Turtle Tree Seed – https://turtletreeseed.org/ and for tickets: https://www.eventbrite.com/e/seed-saving-workshop-with-turtle-tree-seed-tickets-36314565844

August 27, Berkshire Grown benefit – “On Food, Farming, and Our Future – A Conversation with Dan Barber and Paul Krugman.” Tickets: buylocal@berkshiregrown.org or (413) 528-0041 https://berkshiregrown.org/

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