Two steps forward, one step back. One step forward, two steps back. Another step forward, a great big hopeful leap forward, a tiny stumble. This song, New Soul, by Yael Naim brings me a gentle hopefulness and though sometimes it may be sad, a smile to my face.
There are plenty of flowers and now, even though my Lemon Boy tomatoes are ripening painstakingly slow, there are vegetables and herbs. Not as many as I'd like but each year I slip a seed or a plant into the ground teaches me a little bit more about the best way to grow food where I can in my extremely shady city yard.
The sage is even more abundant than past years and Maia asks often for pasta with browned butter and sage. I've even whirred up packed cupfuls of leaves in the food processor to make sage pesto and used it to top grilled porkchops. I haven't tried tossing it with pasta yet but I plan to and soon. There's plenty of basil and I often chiffonade handfuls of it to toss on salads, pastas, and other dishes. The thyme has doubled in size as has the rosemary and even if the oregano withered it was the only thing that didn't make it. The flat leaf parsley happily reseeds itself wherever it will and I never give it a thought except to note where it has gotten itself to this time.
I have four tomato plants in pots and two of them are happily giving me fresh tomatoes every day. Several times a day I urge the other two plants to catch up...but not too fast lest I be inundated with tomatoes faster than they can be eaten. All four pepper plants have peppers dangling from their leaves and I've already helped myself to a jalapeno. Unfortunately, my part of the world decided it wanted to have a monsoon season and the pepper plants got a little waterlogged before I moved them to a drier location. The leaves aren't as deep of a green as I'd like and I can't help but think that might mean less peppers than I'd like. Peppers in pots do best on the porch tucked under the roof. Lesson learned.
My cat scratched up ALL of my spinach, butter lettuce, and spinach seedlings but left the arugula alone. I think the arugula felt sorry for me and grew extra well because I seem to have twice as much as I planted. The zucchini plant I've been giving a few sideways looks because I've seen plenty of flowers on it but no appearance of wee baby zucchinis yet. The cucumber plants are threatening to take over the entire garden bed and are studded with bright sun-gold flowers to the point that I'm feeling a little alarmed at the thought of all of those little blossoms turning into cucumbers and having to eat them all!
Inexplicably, there appears to be a broccoli plant growing out of the pot my lemon tree is in. It's a scraggly looking thing and I don't expect much from it, if anything, but I don't have the heart to yank it out and instead I let it be. 'Benevolent Neglect' seems to be the style of gardening that works best with the little bit of earth I own as evidenced by my strawberry patch being past the berrying stage and in the Take Over the Entire Yard stage.
I've noticed a funny habit in myself now that I've managed to get so many tasty things growing. I find myself wanting to save the food--as in not pick it!--for some 'perfect' date but of course that can't be done because it will eventually begin to rot and then I'd be very sad. I have to remind myself that the perfect date to harvest a fruit or vegetable is when it is ripe and that the next day another one will be ripe and the day after that and so on until its season is over. I think it's because of two things that I do this: One, I've grown this perfect little bit of food that doesn't get any more local or organic than several dozen feet from where I sleep and I can't bear the idea of destroying it. (I'm a plant softie. What can I say?) And two, I don't have nearly enough plants of each thing I'm growing to have all that I could want of it and that makes me miserly. This second was made clear to me when I realized that when one has a strawberry patch bigger than a queen sized bed, one has no compunctions about picking strawberries as fast as one can that are only washed by the sun and greedily gobbling them down.
If you don't count the strawberries, the habit is easily broken once I've made something with the first tiny harvest of the season. I broke the habit with a salad that incorporates many of the 'big' summer vegetables and now I'm outside glaring at my plants every day trying to intimidate them into stepping up production. I'm sorry to report that I must not be too intimidating becuase it hasn't worked yet.
This salad is easily tweeked if you have more or less of a particular ingredient and can be made a few hours ahead of time and kept in the refrigerator. However, I suggest gently folding in the arugula leaves right before serving to keep them pretty and crisp.
Arugula & Avocado Salad
2 cups of loosely packed arugula
1 avocado, diced
3 ears of corn steamed or grilled
1-2 cups cherry tomatoes, sliced in half
1/2 jalapeno, seeded and finely chopped
handful of chopped flat leaf parsley
extra virgin olive oil, approximately a tablespoon or so
lime juice, approximately a tablespoon or so
red wine vinegar, approximately a tablespoon or so
salt and pepper
1. Use a serrated knife and slice the corn off the cobs into your serving bowl. Drizzle the lime juice over the avocado and toss gently to coat. This will help prevent unsightly browning. Mix the avocado, tomatoes, jalapeno, parsley, and arugula into the bowl with the corn.
2. Drizzle the salad with the olive oil and vinegar and gently toss the vegetables to thoroughly coat them. Salt and pepper to taste.