When the Garden Gets Ahead of You

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Cauliflower Bigger Than Your HeadSooner or later something growing in the garden gets away from me. The lettuce plants go to seed one hot afternoon, the peas fatten up way beyond sweetness, that nice round cabbage turns oblong and splits. But how I managed to miss this monster in development, I will never know.

Just the other day I made a video of the back garden calling this plant collard greens. I almost cooked the leaves! Wonder what that would have tasted like? As it was, I caught this cauliflower at the perfect moment and sent it straight into the curry pot. I simmered it with some newly dug fresh potatoes, onions, green garlic (my new favorite food) and peas.  It took no time at all and will be delicious for days.

When the arugula went nuts this winter and sprouted up faster than we could eat, even with friends pitching in, I cut big batches of it to process into pesto. I simply washed the leaves and stuffed the food processor full of them, drizzled in olive oil, a pinch of salt and a squeeze of lemon juice. Then I tossed this sauce with crushed up walnuts or good Parmesan, or both, and served it over pasta, crackers, spaghetti squash or bruschetta. As the plants got closer to flowering the peppery taste got intense so I added balsamic vinegar to the pesto to cut the spiciness. Delicious!

Onion growing in the groundLast winter there were way more onion plants that there was room, so many of them got tucked into odd spaces in bunches to be scallions or green onions this spring. When those got thick and bushy, I cut the stems, sliced them into rounds on the thin side and put them in the dehydrator. Not too long though! The first batch didn’t hold color and flavor as well as I wanted because I must have dried them too hot or too long. The rest came out a beautiful green, with good onion flavor that will keep the rest of the year.

When I don’t pick the peas as regularly as I should, I let the pods that are now too big to eat fatten on the plant until they dry. The best ones I save for seed. The rest I store like my dried beans and toss them into soups over the winter. I do essentially the same with hot peppers. Grinding up the whole peppers once they are thoroughly dried. Though this year I plan to ferment many of them into homemade Tabasco sauce.

Any fava beans and ready-to-bolt cold weather crops I didn’t keep up with are about to become compost, which is also a worthy goal. If your vegetable plant gets past you as food this time, you can always turn it into something delicious next season by thinking of the plant as much-needed biomass and adding it to the compost pile. Toss it in there with the coffee grounds and dried leaves and fertilize next season’s dinners with whatever gets ahead of you now.

4 thoughts on “When the Garden Gets Ahead of You

  1. It truly is remarkable how fast things can get ahead of you. The worst plant for me?

    Squash.

    Every year I end up discovering a huge squash or zucchini that was overlooked. By the time I find the forgotten squash it looks like a caveman club.

    I had one last year that weighed over 8 pounds!

    It’s difficult to see them under those big leaves… until it’s too late.

    I really like your quick pesto recipe. I wish there was something I could do with lettuce like that. I end up giving a bunch to a local food pantry.

    • I love the idea of giving excess produce to the food pantry, Tee! I forgot to talk about that. Here’s a link to a local Bay Area Food Bank which will be happy to have your backyard (or front yard!) produce. Second Harvest Food Bank. Or search the Internet for a food bank or pantry near you.

    • One of the neighbors told me yesterday that she used to make ‘apple’ crisp out of her enormous zucchini and the family scarfed it down. Might be worth a try once you’ve completed your caveman club collection. ;-)

  2. Pingback: Five Best Gardening Blogs This Week

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