Sunday, December 12, 2010

October 31, 2010 – Fun in October

October 31, 2010 – Fun in October
Last day of October to get the entry of the month. As the time passes, year after year, the cycle is permanently over. Summer savings time is on again, the much expected rain has fallen, hot and humid days announce a few more months of lush green landscape around.
Today I picked the first lychee fruit and shared with my daughter. It still carries that sour taste like thin lemonade, nevertheless, delicious.
“From now on, nothing can be harvested from the veggie garden”, so said many people. They meant, no more leafy greens on our table. Specially if the garden is not protected with a sunscreen net and sprinkled with effective irrigation system.
We were not able to buy the net yet, but after fixing a three thousand litter tank in the middle of our orchard for water supply, my father brought home some kind of soft hose with small holes that allow water to sprinkle. For the first time, my garden could be watered as if it was rain. But rain started right after. Now, I am secure that I am going to get water one way or another.
In spite of the announcing hot weather, I am harvesting crispy lettuce with plenty of flavor. I don’t want to bad mouth my friends who give me their commercially produced greens with lab seeds, but my small heads of lettuce from cheap seeds has much more color, it’s vibrant and even when cut, its juice exhale the slightly bitter taste very particular of the kind. My snack has been lettuce salad.
The regular tomatoes got struck down by viruses carried by thrips, causing them to drop their tops, shrink, and yield bad fruits. But the rustic eggplants I ignored after learning that I was going to get the hybrid type are giving me a whole bucket of shiny purple, firm to touch, but soft to eat. That’s a delicacy to me. The only advice is to salt it first and let it drip for 30 minutes, so all the dark bitter juice runs away. The also ignored cucumber vine allows me to have one or another fruit once in a while. It has been so badly treated that I didn’t put back up the the wigwam of bamboos that have fallen with the wind. The Summer carrots I sow three times is now yielding some timid roots. My helpers, so eager to clean up, end up hoeing the weeds on the carrot plot (with carrot seedlings altogether). That happened a few times. I have to remember to put up a sign or tell them every time that what seems to be an empty plot is actually sowed and something may be growing there besides the weeds…
My biggest failure cropwise besides brocolli rabe was cauliflower. I suspect of poorly fed soil, besides lack of water and care. They never grew properly and the cauliflower had strange purple stain on it. I picked them down completely yesterday to make room for coming seedlings.
Where tomatoes failed to thrive while young, I sowed pole beans. Only two plants are giving me a handful everyday.
Some veggies are not of my favorite, so I have planted only a few, like prickly lemon cucumbers (it looks like a cucumber shaped like lemon, but cooks like zucchini – much appreciated by country folks) and Thai eggplant (again, lemon shaped dark green fruit with firm eggplant meat inside with bitter taste. As anything with lots of personality – this one is bitter – some hate it. I don’t particularly, but I prefer eggplants.
Romaine lettuce, I ate cut into strips, but never got around to make that famous Caesar Salad. The heart was never formed and therefore, not blanched. But it was crispy and somewhat tough. It replaced regular lettuce well while I had none.
Swiss chard, even though small in comparison to American standards, I can cut some leaves regularly and feed my parents (I don’t appreciated much. Too watery. I ‘d prefer collard greens). I have used to make Quiche Lorraine just once, and can’t imagine how Europeans love it so much. Yes, collard greens had yield a lot, but after being attacked by aphids, they are yielding less. And I am also sick of eating it, so I have forgotten to add to my meals, even though it is considered on of the best greens on the face of earth.
I have a whole plot with scallions and Italian parsley. The green onions are chopped finaly and present on my plate every meal. I love it. Like last year, it’s green onion festival! It has 5000 times more vitamin A then the bulb counterpart.
My Godness, sometimes I think I don’t have much, but I still got leeks and celery. For not remembering that they were biannuals, I cut them down when I didn’t want to water them anymore. A few leeks that survived, showed to be thick and good for soups. This year, I provided them with shade and plenty of water. My daughter ate the first celery today.
The New Zealand spinach is another green that I often ignore. I sell them though.
Of the “spontaneous” kind, the self-sowed or the plants remaining from last year such as squash are yielding first fruits. I have two kinds, the watery one, and the other darker skin and drier meat.
Again, I have plenty of food to eat. I have made gazpacho. Today I added raw eggplant instead of bread. For a touch of originality, I mixed some okara, collard greens and soy cream, which was leftover from a dessert made with collard greens, soy cream and lemon jelly. I saw it on TV. The nutritionist actually used grape juice, sugar and unflavored gelatin. For lack of grape juice, I used lemon flavored gelatin for a uncommon dessert. My daughter said she was not going to eat that weird thing. Let’s see.
Last year I resumed working on the veggie garden when Summer started. I plan to continue with lettuce and other greens, just to see what happens.
Another good news: I have concluded my Organic Horticulture Program. The last day we had a bbq party on a rented space, I fixed eggplant salad, inspired on a Moroccan dish, ommiting spices but adding fresh garlic and mint. It was successful. The young squash salad was not as successful, but everyone tried. (Squash is not a noble veggie down in Brazil. A farmer told me that he plants squash on the farther plot otherwise there is squash everyday for dinner. My father also runs away from it. I don’t know why. It’s so good. I breaded and deep fried some. It was so good and reminded me of America. For dessert, I fixed some kind of coconut pudding using condensed milk, coconut flavored gelatin, milk and cream. Velvety. Sensuous. Delicious.
I gave a bottle of Chilean Chardonnay to my instructor. He was nice from the beginning and always helpful. To finish up the party, I had brought all the veggie sampler from the farm. I drew lots and everyone went home carrying something organic. My October was fun. Oh, yeah, I was forgetting. I went to the annual church fair in my neighborhood. I had to go. I had bought a roasted chicken in advance along with donation I had to give. My all times favorite neighbor dona Rosa came to fundraise. I couldn’t say no. Also, my other friend who rides with me and buys and sells my produce invited me in a way that I couldn’t say no. That’s country living. Better, community living.

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