The August garden ~ Ham Pie Sandwiches

12 August 2013

The August garden

August garden 2013

Gardening in California is a little surreal when you compare it to anywhere else. This is especially the case when you're gardening in a bed that lay fallow & covered with compost for who knows how many years before we moved into the house. This is the third year I've gardened here, and the results are still this crazy.

The top fence is eight feet tall. Yes, that does mean those tomato plants are ten feet tall.

Garden contents are as follows:
- 1 Caspian Pink tomato plant (main left body)
- 1 Boxcar Willie tomato plant (main right body)
- 1 jalapeno pepper plant (middle)
- 2 basil plants (left front)
- 3 scallions that have been in the ground for over a year at this point (middle front)
- 2 volunteer tomato plants from those that fell to the ground last year: Cherokee Purple and Sungold Cherry (indistinguishable from the rest of the tomato vines)
- 1 volunteer potato vine (invisible in the back left corner)

Boxcar Willie tomato with squirrel damage

This is the first year the squirrels have realized our tomatoes are edible, so occasionally I go out to water the plants and find THIS. I've started heading them off by picking not-quite-ripe fruit and finishing the ripening on my kitchen windowsill.

They definitely won't touch the jalapenos, though. These guys have been ultra productive and delicious: super spicy and shiny and firm and perfect.

jalapeno pepper plant

It's the best thing ever to go break off a jalapeno on a weekend morning to make a batch of migas. OH MAN.

The basil has been bolting practically since I put it in the ground, which isn't such a surprise when you consider that June was the hottest month of our summer. I've been pinching off blossoms for two full months, but now I'm starting to just let it go. Hey, why not get this corner of the bed self-seeded with fresh basil while also attracting pollinators? That sounds pretty good to me.

basil plants bolting

In the meantime, I've definitely been harvesting big handfuls of basil, chopping them up, and tossing them with homegrown tomato.

Of the two intentional tomatoes, I like Caspian Pink by far the best. It's a shade-tolerant heirloom pink medium-to-large beefsteak, and the flavor is just amazing: sweet and floral and fragrant. Boxcar Willie is good too, but it's a lot more ordinary-looking. If you picture the typical tomato, you'll get a Boxcar Willie: also an heirloom, but medium, round, and orangey-red. I like to cook with Boxcar Willie and eat Caspian Pink raw. The split works pretty well, but I think I may want to go for a serious paste Roma for cooking next year.

Caspian Pink tomatoes

The volunteer tomatoes haven't yet produced any ripe fruit, but I'm not too concerned there. The Sungolds pretty much took over the yard last year, so it's good that they're getting dominated by bigger plants this time around. And Purple Cherokee is close enough to Caspian Pink in size and taste that I'll be fine if I only get a few late-season fruits there.

In the meantime, I get to go foraging for ripe and near-ripe heirlooms nearly every day. The plants are huge and viney, so the greens look dominant from afar, but if you explore you will find big clusters like this:

Caspian Pink tomatoes ripening on the vine

Do you have a garden? How's your harvest coming so far?


Catherine said...

Our garden has been hugely productive in the greens department - chard, collards, kale, lettuce, turnips, beets. Tomatoes are late to ripen, as we had a late, cold spring, a month of intense heat, and are now enjoying endless days with highs in the 70s. Just this week our zukes and cukes took off, and our three sisters are so completely overgrown we can barely pick the beans!

management said...

Yesterday I went to the garden and pronounced this summer a minor success, which in this means that not much died. The okra has started to churn out lots of pods. The black-eyed peas have been plentiful. And the collards and dinosaur kale have withstood the heat. All of this puts me in a good position for fall. Not sure how long the beans and okra will last, but I'm ready to begin my fall garden. I'm planning on making a hugelkultur bed, which will either be a resounding success, or a laughable embarrassment, but we'll see!

The big innovation of the summer was in allowing the weeds to run rampant as a defense against the heat. You see, I can't water everyday. My garden is two miles from my apartment, and it is just not practical. So the water I use has to count, and it's easier to shade the ground with weeds. So the plants and weeds are living in symbiosis. I'll have to show you a photo, but it looks like a jungle.

GlutenFreeHappyTummy said...

darn squirrels! what gorgeous tomatoes, though!

management said...

Regarding the basil, I have had improved luck this year with more aggressive pruning. Rather than pinching off the new buds, I cut up to two leaves below the bud. This method has changed the growth drastically. Rather than spindly, weak basil I have strong, bush-shaped plants. Seemingly, each time I prune the plant responds with added hardiness and more leaves.

And now I am ready to harvest the basil and start making pesto. I'll be looking on your blog for good recipes!

Monet said...

Your garden looks just beautiful. We have one, yes one, tomato plant growing. We've been too busy with the baby to do much else! But we're already planning for next season. It will be a good one I think! You are certainly inspiring!

Joanne said...

I have no garden but love living vicariously through others who do!! Heirloom tomatoes are my favorite part of summer! So this post made me quite happy.

Jes said...

Look at those tomatoes!! Oh man, incredible!

Mine have gone nuts this year too--growing wise, not really ripening-wise. I don't have an 10'ers yet though!

Helene Dsouza said...

I have a small batch for veggies in our garden but mine have all died in the last month. The monsoon was too early and heavy I am so jealous, I want your garden (10 feet tall tomato plants!!). I have seen the volunteer tomatoes in France or at least I think they are the same type. Would you mind sending me some of your amazing harvest? =D

Nami | Just One Cookbook said...

I so wish to have my own garden but we get visors from the canyon right next to us, so nothing grows in our backyard. Either I put up a ugly fence or net... still tempted to get my own tomatoes and herbs! I'm so jealous of your garden!

nancy at good food matters said...

Love seeing your garden, and I'm sorry that the squirrels discovered the goodness of those heirloom tomatoes.