zucchini

Bursting with Zucchini

I do love a plant that grows without effort. And when I say grow, I mean REALLY grow–producing big, beautiful and abundant zucchini. Aren’t they beautiful?

first zucchini

Sure, they might look oddly shaped, but they taste the same as perfectly shaped zucchini. I’m sensing this happened due to a burst of water–repeated days dropping tons of rain–then, nothing. Well, not nothing, but the spray misters in my garden are no comparison to the inches of rain we had, proving just how important water is to your garden. Note to self: water more during fruit production for huge produce. More

Zucchini Tomato Sauce

When it comes to my garden, my motto is “eat what’s blooming.”  So, with my zucchini in full bloom, I came up with a little comfort sauce for my pasta.  Now I prefer roasted zucchini, but since I’ve already had that three times this month, I decided to try something new.  While making pasta and red sauce for the family, I decided to have mine with zucchini.  Mind you, I’m the only one in the family who cares for zucchini, but we have an entire bed of the stuff because I am the head gardener which means I get a say in what grows where.  Leadership has its privileges.

Anyhoo, this sauce is easy and delicious and can be expounded upon exponentially (can you tell my daughter is learning algebra?).  The ingredients are zucchini, garlic, tomatoes, basil and parsley.

Olive oil and butter, too, but I can’t grow those in the garden.  The basil I used is cinnamon basil, but plain old sweet basil is also delicious (yes, I’ve made this twice, now). More

Nothing like Harvest to pull you from the Doldrums

Rain, rain, rain–a beautiful thing right about now in Central Florida, but absolutely no good for photography.  Not mine, anyway. Can you imagine what my husband would say if I went out into the rain with the lovely digital camera he bought me for my birthday?

Yes, well, it’s not anything to be repeated here, I assure you.  I mean, we’re all sunshine and candy in these parts and have no interest in “What the heck were you thinking?” or “You did what?”

No siree-bob we have NO interest in that kind of heresy at BloominThyme.  What we do have an interest in is harvest, big time.

Would you look at that zucchini? For starters, it’s enormous, chock full with a heck-of-a-lot-of-fun factor.  Did you hear?  We have zucchini! Ring the cow bell and call the neighbors, it’s harvest time!

Rainy days are no match for harvest days.  When you pull that incredible bounty from your garden–trust me–you’re in for a thrill. 

Thrill of your lifetime!

Okay, that could be an exaggeration.  (I’ve had some fun in my lifetime and it wasn’t harvesting…).  But it’s certainly the thrill of your springtime.  Harvest makes all the effort worthwhile.  All the bug squashing, leaf clipping, weed pulling, garlic spritzing, fungus snipping, cricket chasing, fly swatting, watering and feeding effort is made right–come harvest time.

In fact, we were lucky to get this picture of Julie’s zucchini.  She’s a grade-A chef and this baby was on the stove in no time.  Why Ashley was so excited by her harvest she near ran the boys down on her way to the kitchen to whip her zucchini into an absolute delicacy!  Her cucumbers are next, followed by her squash, conch peas…

These women are on a roll, riding high on a thrill!  Which reminds me.  “Have you started your garden, yet?”

Stake Those Tomatoes

They’re heavy and need the support.  One look at Julie’s prize reds and it’s easy to understand why they must be staked.  There are so many!  (Yay, Julie!)

 

You can also use a trellis for support and attaching the vines with soft green tape (this avoids injury which can be an invitation to disease/bacteria).  I’ve gone with a modified version for my tomatoes, running a type of garden wire through posts, accentuating the support system with bamboo. 

 

I used to rely solely on bamboo until I realized my plants were too heavy and the wind too strong.  Add a little rain and my stakes were sagging. 

You don’t want sagging stakes.  Not only do they look pitiful, they provide no support.  And for anyone considering the use of pantyhose in lieu of ties because of its soft texture—think twice.  I tried that last year and it only led to mildew and ick. 

Then, when it was time to clear the stakes for next season’s crop, I couldn’t get the darn things off my bamboo!  They don’t cut well with scissors.  Best to avoid it altogether if you ask me.  Now, meandering further into Julie’s garden, I noticed this contraption. 

Yes, that’s a watermelon housed within a tomato cage.  On the one hand, this is smart logic.  Watermelons are vines that will climb if given the opportunity, and their fruit is heavy…

 But this is a “no-no!” :)  A wire cage will do nothing (but get in her way!) for her watermelons.  Perhaps one of the children snuck into the garden on a whim of helpful elf-like behavior and mistook it for a tomato?

 Never know.  What I do know, is that placing her squash, zucchini and watermelon near the edge of her planter box is SO smart.  Talk about best use of space, this is it! 

  

With limited dirt area, she’s allowing her vines to sprawl out onto the grass where they will blossom and grow; a feat that does not require dirt.  Ashley has done much the same with her zucchini.  As you can see, this one is quite content hanging out on the ground outside its planter box.

 

She’s added some lovely wooden trellis support for her cucumber and beans.  Though I have some doubts as to the identity of this particular fellow.  What is that thing?

Reminds me of the zucchini I grew last fall that dwarfed into a pumpkin.  Must have been another case of “seed escapees,” or in my case, amending my soil with “not quite ripe” compost.  Hmph.  Sometimes you simply cannot overcome the excitement factor.

 

Keep up the green growing, girls—you’re on a roll!

It’s official. We’ve got a pumpkin.

So much for my freak-of-nature expertise in the garden.  Remember that enormous, magnificent zucchini I grew? 

Well, apparently, it’s not a zucchini.  It’s a pumpkin.  I guess.  I really don’t know.  I’m assuming because it looks like a pumpkin, it’s a pumpkin (but you know the old wives tale about how to spell assume, don’t you?).  I do, too, and I don’t prefer to do either

Maybe a pumpkin seed slipped into the zucchini seed packet at the “packaging plant.”  It’s possible, though I don’t remember seeing anything that “stood out from the crowd” as I was dropping seeds into the dirt.  Not that I’d notice.  I’m very intent on my business when I’m planting.  Have it down to a real system

Could be a zucchini-pumpkin hybrid.  Is there such a thing?  Could even be a stray seed from the compost dirt.  I did buy pumpkins last fall…to carve Jack-o-lanterns and make pumpkin pie.  It’s possible one survived, though rather unlikely it would have conveniently ended up in the exact row for its specific family of plants — in the exact spot I planted the zucchini! 

It’s a good theory, now that I think about it.  Spotting “stray” sprouts across my garden, I transplanted several of these accidental compost “thrivers”  (I’m a sucker for a plant with the will to fight for survival).  While I don’t recall this particular one, it could have made its way there.  Happens.  

At this point, it doesn’t matter, does it?  I have a pumpkin.  I’m accepting it as a pumpkin and while not thoroughly overjoyed, I am still proud to call it my own.  After all, I grew it myself.

Check back in October and see if I’m as good growing pumpkins I mean to grow as I am with those I don’t!

Zucchini and Squash a plenty!

 

Nothing says summer like zucchini and squash.   Warm weather, plenty of water and you’ll have more zucchini and squash than you know what to do with!   My son and I went out to harvest last evening and boy did we find some doozies.  Always eager to rummage through the plants, he was eager to pull and pick and beam with pleasure over a job well done.  When he found this fat boy he could barely contain himself.  “Look at this one, mom!  It’s a monster!”

While I don’t like to equate my beautiful produce with monsters, I had to agree with him.  

Apparently I missed this one on my evening stroll the evening before, otherwise I would have grabbed it.  Something tells me you’re not supposed to let them grow this large — might toughen the taste — but since I’m no expert and don’t know for sure, I oohed and aahed like any good mother would.   “Wow.   See what you grew?”  Any encouragement while he’s in the garden is a good idea, as it helps overcome the protests to weeding.  “How awesome!” 

Pleased with himself, he continued his harvest and filled his basket.  Note of caution: when harvesting zucchini, be careful of sharp objects, namely fingernails.  Adjusting my zucchini and squash in the basket for photos, I must have scarred my harvest a dozen times.   (Who knew?)

Now, YOU do.  Go easy on the squash family.  You’ll be glad you did. 

“One more thing,” I told him.  “We need more peppers for Daddy.”

Taking the corner with skill and speed (the kind that makes me nervous when zipping down garden aisles),  he was distracted by a ripe cucumber.  “Hey Mom, the cucumbers are ready!”  Without hesitation, he yanked it from the vine and held it out for my inspection. 

“You’re getting pretty good at this harvest thing, aren’t  you?”

Of course he was, and with an added boost to his measure, he pulled out another one.  When  I saw him heading for a large cucumber still half ripe, I warned him off.  “That one’s not ready, yet.”

He turned and looked at me queerly.  “I know that.  It’s still yellow.”

I smiled.  Of course.  I should have known.  When a child spends a lot of time in the garden, they come to understand these things.  My kids can even recognize plants by their leaves.  Some plants are easy, like corn and watermelon, but while tomatoes and potatoes resemble one another, they are different and my two can tell the difference.  It makes a momma proud.

Collecting the last of our wax peppers, we headed into the house, specifically the kitchen.  Tonight would be busy.  My daughter was making homemade chocolate frosting; a recipe she found while perusing a magazine at the dentist’s office.  When the hygienist called her back, I was given the assignment to copy down the recipe and NOT miss a word.  “I want to make that tonight!” 

Of course you do, I thought, praying she wouldn’t come back with a cavity report, dutifully following my instructions.  And what do you know, half hour later, recipe securely copied into my iphone, both children came back cavity-free.   Do the ironies ever cease?

So she made her frosting, I tried a new recipe from my Cuisine at Home magazine for Onions au Gratin (which was fabulous), and we sautéed our fresh zucchini alongside the chicken strips.  Does it get any better?

Spring is in the air

I don’t know which I like better, harvest time or planting time.   I mean, don’t get me wrong, I love harvest time!   Reaping the reward for all my hard work?  That’s about as good as it gets when it comes to the garden.

Until you venture out after months of cold.  Okay, this is an exaggeration, but darned if it hasn’t felt like months of cold in Florida this past winter.  Locked up indoors all this time, you wander out to the garden and notice the buds sprouting anew.  Actually, it was the bird swooping down upon my largest blueberry plant that caught my attention, but what a lift to the spirit!   Especially after losing those gorgeous tomatoes to the freeze.   And the potatoes, the beans…   My peas are still touch and go, but let me tell you, when I first caught glimpse of my blueberry buds, followed by the emergence of their pink little blossoms… 

I went light-headed.   They survived!   Sound the alarms!   My blueberries made it through the winter.

Yes, I know.   They grow wild in North Carolina where the mercury dips a tad lower than Central Florida, but the exhilaration is the same, I assure you.   These sweet bushes had me convinced they were dead and gone–until these buds appeared.   And blossomed!  Yes ma’am, these pups will prosper, of that I’ll make certain.  I’ve already purchased my anti-bird netting having learned my lesson after those hungry varmints, er, I mean, beautiful winged neighbors of mine feasted on the sumptuous berries last summer.   Sure, I like to share, but not give away the farm!  There are limits! 

Limits these kids pay no mind to whatsoever.   As though it were open season on wild fruit.   Grrrr…   Even the kids shoo the beasts off!

Eh, hem.   Back to my original point.   I love springtime!   I’m back in the garden, tilling in my first batch of compost, affectionately referred to as black gold, something I’d sell, in kind, if I were able, but that’s another post.   For now, I’m eagerly anticipating the boost in growth I am certain to witness.   Once my seeds get a taste of black gold they will race for the skies, grow twice as big as before, three times –  maybe four!   My compost is so potent, I have sproutlings rising out of nowhere!  I’m no expert, but I’m pretty sure this little jewel is not the Lima bean I planted yesterday.   After confusing this gem with the pole beans, I can IDENTIFY a Lima bean leaf when I see one.

The biggest reason to celebrate spring?   I can eat all the Girl Scout cookies I want.   Well, maybe once I’m able to fit into my jeans, again, but at this rate, with all the exercise I’m getting in the garden, it will happen in no time! 

You see?   Yet another reason to revel in spring!   Warm sun on your skin (not your face — you don’t want any more carving than absolutely necessary), the pump of your heart, the flow of blood tingling down through your tippy-toes…   Spring is the time to get active and I for one am whole-heartedly filled with the gusto.  Already planned for crop rotation.   A tricky endeavor for me, since I realized there was not quite the rhyme and reason to my fall planting I thought there was–but I’m good, nonetheless.  So what if I extend my garden a few feet to accommodate the corn and watermelon, the sweet potatoes and pumpkins.   I have the space, why not give em some elbow room?

And the sproutlings are too cute.   Nearly as cute as newborns and a whole host easier to care for, they are gobs of fun.  Kinda like a puppy.   So long as it’s not me chasing the sweet pea through the house, slipping on splatters of excitement as my heart races with each near miss of the china cabinet.   Oh, yes, those days are OVER.  These days are HERE!  Not that we parents don’t love every hair-raising minute, but I’m getting too old for that kind of thrill.  Remember, I’m on schedule to achieve centenarian status.   A bone fracture could take me out of the running.

As it stands, I plan to enjoy the moment.  Line my rows with fresh hay, tend to my babies while keeping a steadfast eye on their elders — the garlic should be nearing maturity, along with my sweet onions –  and focus on my aggressive planting schedule.   Do you know how many bean bushes you have to plant to produce a serving for four?  For one night? 

More than I believed.   Whew.   Tons more.  But this time, I’m ready.  

And excited!

P.S.  My cabbage have offspring!  Look at these kids.  Aren’t they darling?  Not only did their mama provide me with a bowl full of cole slaw, but the kids promise more of the same.  These are the result of scoring the base of the cabbage plant after cutting the mature head for consumption.  Yum.