G. will likely be shocked to read this, but the sadness I feel about the mediocrity of our garden this year is tinged with relief. Last year, we had so much food — literally hundreds of pounds — that I essentially spent my entire summer in the kitchen, canning, pickling and freezing. So far this year, I’ve canned one tiny batch of strawberry-orange compote and an even smaller batch of strawberry jam for G.’s mom. I froze two containers of chopped rhubarb. That’s it. We’ve eaten the rest of the strawberries (there weren’t that many), and lately, we’ve been eating lettuce and raspberries. Nothing else is ready yet.
On the one hand, I feel a bitter sense of disappointment. We had a poor germination rate, and the plants that did come up, along with the ones we bought, are growing very slowly. Last year at this time, I was swimming in a sea of beets. This week, I might be able to pull up three or four of them.
On the other hand, I’ve actually been able to spend time out in the garden this year. I spend my mornings in Wisconsin watering and weeding before it gets too hot. Last year, G. did all the gardening because I was up at 7 a.m. and canning until 5 or 6 p.m. He’s still shouldering the biggest burden, but I suspect he’s grateful for a break in watering when I do it on my days off. And, I like being able to spend some time outside since I’m cooped up in high-rises when I’m in Chicago.
I’m also cooking a bigger variety since I’m supplementing what I get from our garden with vegetables from farmers markets. Last week, I made corn and peach salsa, which is really a side dish and not the type of salsa you’d eat with a chip. I never bought corn last year because I was waiting to harvest ours. But then it failed miserably and began to rot, and I never ate any corn at all. When I bought the little bag with three ears at the farmers market, I felt a little bit of relief in being able to just have corn and not fight Mother Nature for it.
At this point, G. (who is a wonderful, faithful reader) is probably freaking out. So, G., I’m not saying I don’t want to garden anymore. I do. I love gardening, and I love gardening with you. But there is some relief in not having so much to harvest. Maybe we should go smaller? Or, what I’m thinking more and more, is that I should plant smaller quantities of each thing. Then, if one vegetable fails, we’ll (hopefully) have others we can eat instead. And, (hopefully) everything won’t ripen at once, so I’ll be able to do a little preserving and a little gardening instead of spending all my time preserving, for example, more cauliflower than any couple could eat.
Corn and Peach Salsa
3 ears of corn
¼ teaspoon baking soda
2 tablespoons lime juice
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
½ teaspoon honey
1 peach, peeled and chopped
4 radishes, sliced
¼ cup fresh basil, chopped
Salt and pepper
Bring a pot of water to boil on the stove. Add baking soda, ¼ teaspoon salt and corn and boil until the corn is done, about 8 minutes. Cool the cobs and cut off the kernels. (Cook’s Illustrated cuts off the kernels first and then cooks them. I, obviously, don’t.)
Whisk lime juice, oil, honey and 1/8 teaspoon salt in a bowl. Add corn, peach, radish and basil. Toss. Let stand 10 minutes for flavors to blend. Add salt and pepper to taste.