Transition dish: Painted Mountain corn, summer squashes, collard greens, snow and sugar snap peas. String of Matt’s Wild Cherry tomatoes. Photo by Judy Isacoff, August 11, 2016

NATURE’S TURN: An August garden — a magic kingdom

Now’s the time to be delirious with just-picked, all-you-can-eat garden fare and the promise of produce for the seasons ahead.

August 15 – 28, 2016

In August we wander through a magic kingdom, marveling at how full the garden has grown and imagining only with difficulty that it will soon be past. August is a time of abundance, and it causes us to know, for a time, what we have been working so hard to achieve. But abundance in any garden is not just for the eye, or at least ought not to be. It is also for the palate. We are convinced that any garden, however small, ought to offer something good for the table, to remind us that the art of cultivation, so powerfully aesthetic, is also still a residual necessity of our animal existence, motivated by the hope of being well fed. — Joe Eck and Wayne Winterrow*

Native vervain, August 11, 2016. Photo: Judy Isacoff.
Native vervain, August 11, 2016. Photo: Judy Isacoff.

Mt. Washington — I stroll where spires of purple vervain and soft, white Culver’s root blossoms sway next to pink-flowering bean vines that are spiraling up and over the tops of their cornstalk supports, reaching into the air above. Still looking up, my eyes meet purple velvet morning glories whose ropey stems are twirling around the cylinder that holds deep red-fruiting tomato plants; together the companions have reached the top and are casting about for something to hold onto.

Below, creeping along the ground, large-leaved winter squash vines have advanced, their forward-moving bud end tilted up like a snake’s head sensing where to go. The vines lift themselves by tenacious tendrils and seem to gallop over whatever plants are in their way. I pull them away, having to break their tendrils’ strong grip, then clear a path for them to travel. I weave the Kabochas and delicatas, planted at the base of a trellis, into the wire mesh to start them on an upward trajectory. Heavier Hidatsu and butternut plants are guided into just-cleared ground where lettuce, onions or garlic grew.

Schoolhouse Garden: an all-in-one vegetable, herb and flower garden, August 10, 2016. Photo: Judy Isacoff.
Schoolhouse Garden: An all-in-one vegetable, herb and flower garden, August 10, 2016. Photo: Judy Isacoff.

Garlic, shallots and some of the storage onions are finishing their curing time under cover in the dark. Other onions are still in the ground, their tops recently fallen over but their roots holding strongly enough to the earth to resist pulling; when these yield to uprooting with ease, they are left on the ground to cure for about two weeks if the weather is sunny and dry. Some growers field-cure onions with their tops on and others cut the tops an inch or more above the neck. I’ve found that the crop keeps just as well with tops on or off. Handle all storage produce with care to avoid damage that will diminish its keeping quality.

We are more than halfway beyond the time of the summer solstice, the longest days of the year, and five weeks until the autumn equinox when day length will be equal to night. So much more growing and many transformations are still to come. Now’s the time to be delirious with just-picked, all-you-can-eat garden fare and the promise of produce for the seasons ahead.

Resources:

*Joe Eck and Wayne Winterrowd, A Year at North Hill, Four Seasons in a Vermont Garden. Little, Brown and Company, Boston, 1995.

https://www.motherearthnews.com/organic-gardening/onion-harvest-zbcz1507.aspx

https://ag.umass.edu/fact-sheets/onions-harvest-curing-tips-for-best-quality

https://www.eatwild.com/eating_on_the_wild_side.html

https://www.seedweneed.com/index-1.html