Gardening, such as it is, 2011 version

Ah, gardening. I still haven't adjusted to making it work in clay-soil, semi-arid conditions. We do keep trying.

This year we ended up with LOTS of tomato plants and we managed to keep them from being shredded by hail, which is a major accomplishment. The plants are happy in the raised beds. (They get water; the grass hasn't gotten much, and the summer has set records for heat.)

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Both of the square beds are full of tomatoes. This was just a few days ago. I've planted a few herbs in the small bed, including some perennials, in the hope that we will have some continuity from one year to the next. The abundance of tomato plants, though, was unexpected, and I know we're not supposed to plant tomatoes in the same place two years in a row. So next year may be a puzzle.

Here is our tomato crop so far, picked and photographed on Monday the 5th:

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That's my daughter's handwriting. We did share it. Even our tiny bites had more flavor than several pounds of store-bought tomatoes.

We do have some bounty this year, though. We are participating in a new CSA (community-supported agriculture) farm. We have a mini-share, which means that we don't get a lot of produce, but because of the way this CSA is organized we get to choose from a "menu" of options each week. Because of work and other commitments, for several weeks I arrived very late in the pick-up hours, and the number of the menu items still available was limited. However, each time there has been basil, and it's been abundant and gorgeous. So for a several weeks I have taken our whole allotment in basil. We are also growing a bit of basil.

Here's what happened after last week's pickup:

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Isn't it BEAUTIFUL?

Then came this:

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And then this:

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I ran out of pesto-sized (half-cup) containers, so we had to eat the leftover amount in the big bowl in the middle. Somebody needed to be responsible for taking care of the extra. It was a tough assignment, but we managed. ("HEY! How come there's only a tablespoon left? I haven't had my share yet!" – ("(oops) um, i guess i ate it . . . "))

Shortly after the packaged bits went into the freezer (alongside two previous batches), I asked the rest of the family, "Do you think we have enough pesto?" . . . wondering if I was nuts to be considering a whole mini-share of basil again the following week. Their response? "I think we need more."

These are the sorts of relatives it makes sense to live with.

They also are the sort who tend to say, "I hope you doubled the garlic."

Yesterday was the pickup. I got more pesto-size containers, more almonds, more asiago. We already have the garlic and the olive oil. This winter we may not need to ration the pesto supply. Last year's total pesto stash consisted of 8 containers. The photo above includes 10, and that was the third batch, with another about to be made.

We do love pesto.

So despite the garden's less-than-stellar performance, I'm feeling really happy about our harvest.

Plus we might still get a few tomatoes.

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P.S. I riff off Susan Tweit's recipe. We read the garlic quantities as "at least this much." We minimize the olive oil (using half to two-thirds the amount called for), figuring that if we want a more fluid pesto we can add oil later, and the way we prepare the stuff reduces our need for both containers and freezer space.

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14 Responses

  1. L.M. Cunningham

    LOL — heck, you might even make it to New Year’s with all that pesto!

    My gardening this year consisted of harvesting the volunteer tarragon that emerged. I’ve been doing a fair job of that: I think I fertilized it once and watered it twice. 😉

  2. Deborah Robson

    We have volunteer oregano, and it’s ecstatically happy, but our neighbor on that side sprays weedkiller. His house is up for sale. Maybe the next folks won’t.

  3. Susan J. Tweit

    Congrats on having happy tomato plants this year. I hope they produce more than that one tiny tomato… And it’s not “ripping off” my recipe when you use it! Enjoy the bounty of CSA basil and the pesto for winter. :~)

  4. Valerie

    Yum! Hope there are more tomatoes to come.

    Basil….I freeze pesto in ice cube trays. Each cube is 2 T., so 4 cubes = 1/4c., etc. However, I leave out the garlic when freezing so it can be added fresh when serving. (and it doesn’t leave a garlic flavor in the ice cube trays.)

    When it’s frozen I dump the cubes out on wax paper, twist them up and fill up gallon freezer bags.

    You’d be surprised how fast those cubes melt when tossed in with the pasta as it drains.

    BTW..just finished reading Woven Into the Earth. http://www.oxbowbooks.com/bookinfo.cfm/ID/35260//Location/DBBC
    I didn’t see it in the Fleece & Fiber biblio….so if you’re not aware of it, I think you’d really like it. I got it through inter-library loan.

  5. Deb Robson

    Valerie, you are DANGEROUS, telling me about books like that! You're right, I haven't read it, although when I went to the publisher's description I have heard of it (just no time to check it out). David Brown (publisher) also has a number of other books that sound unavoidable. They sell damaged books. I have written to ask if they have any so damaged that I can afford them {grin}–although I didn't quite put it that way.

    I'll also try that ice-cube trick. I rationalize the little pesto containers because we do use them (and use them, and use them), but I'd rather have fewer around, and quick melting of pesto is really good!

  6. Valerie

    Yeah, I’d like to lay my hands on some of those other books too. The one I borrowed came from Wayne State University….so maybe they own some of the other ones too. But I sure would like to own Woven Into the Earth after having a 3 week “honeymoon” with it.

  7. Sarah Jane

    I can second the pesto trick with the ice cube trays!

    Deb, your pesto looks yummy! Basil doesn’t grow very well here because we don’t get a lot of heat. When it does grow, it tends to be sort-of bland tasting because of the amount of water we get. You’re really making me look forward to getting back to a place where I can actually grow both tomatoes and basil again!

  8. Deborah Robson

    Sarah Jane, I’m really glad there are tomatoes and basil to look forward to in your near future.

    You’ll also have dirt (excuse me, soil–my mother insists {grin}) where you are going.

    And likely more water. Here we are semi-arid climate (Köppen BSk), average annual precip 15.9 inches (400 mm). (Which is more than where Susan lives, average annual precip just over 10 inches (250 mm). You should get about 35 inches (900 mm), which sounds like basil and tomatoes to me!

  9. Diana Troldahl

    We love pesto too but Oscar is allergic to casein, so no cheese.
    I have yet to find a true substitute, although some Greek olives add zest. (sort of a combo pesto/tapenade?)

    Perhaps I’ll buy a horde of basil at the farmer’s market Tuesday. The Amish vendor always brings an armful.

  10. Cathy

    The trick to planting tomatoes in the same bed is to add lots of dried compost to it. We plant tomatoes in the neighbor’s raised bed annually and the crop just keeps getting better.

    Good thing – we have tiny lots so no room/good light to change tomato locations.

    That Valerie is DANGEROUS!!!

  11. Deb Robson

    Thanks, Cathy! We have LOTS of dried compost. SO glad to hear that we can supplement the beds and keep going. Tomatoes are one of our "must have" plants, and I'm not up to building more beds until we get better at using the ones we have. . . .

    Valerie is very, very dangerous. Nice, though {grin}.

  12. Kathryn | Alpacamundo

    I didn’t realize you could freeze pesto. Will definately have to try it.

    I do have plenty of alpaca poo. You’re welcome to some whenever you want. I think it made a big difference in our 1st year clay garden this year.

  13. Kris

    Experiencing pesto envy, and tomato envy. As far as compost, aka llama bean tea, you can’t beat it to make the plants grow. Add a bit of nitrogen in whatever form, and the flowers will be incredible!

    Still experiencing pesto envy….

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