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Dallying In The Dirt, Issue #348 - An amazing feast of delicious vegetables.
September 02, 2019

There are a few benefits that go with being a board member of GardenComm, our garden communicator’s association and last week was certainly one of them. You have seen me mention All America Selections several times and seen the results of their winners in my garden. Last week a select group of people, about 10, were invited to the University of Guelph for an amazing day. We had a tour of the trial gardens for All America vegetables led by Rodger the trial’s manager and Vijay, The University’s executive chef. Then came the real treat. Vijay and a few of his top chefs prepared a lunch for us using the All America vegatables. Five courses that would take this whole issue of Dallying to tell you about and then you would be so hungry you would have to run to the garden or kitchen. The picture is the first course of Watermelon rounds and feta cheese. These chefs who normally oversee the creation of about 20,000 meals per day on the campus, obviously delighted in the opportunity to work on a small scale and be creative. The watermelon had some of its juice extracted and then reduced to increase the flavour and sweetness. Then small circles were cut and compressed and injected with the reduced juice, which was also used, along with Strawberry, for the dressing. Watermelon radishes were added and the little clumps of black, were clusters of tiny balls of Balsamic vinegar. All of this just exploded in your mouth and then four more courses followed, leaving us all spellbound and clamoring for the recipes. Here is a list of the All America vegetables that graced our plates that day. Kale Prizm F1, Corn Sweet American Dream, Tomato Patio Choice Yellow F1, Tomato Valentine F1, Tomato Chef’s Choice Pink F1, Pepper Hot Sunset F1, Pepper Aji Rico F1, Watermelon Cal Sweet, Squash Butterscotch F1, Pumpkin Supermoon F1, Okra Candle Fire F1. I’ll leave you to imagine what other delights, such as deep fried Zucchini blossoms stuffed with ratatouille, were created from this list.

This is the time of year when the hardy perennial Hibiscus really struts its stuff making amazing displays in the garden. With blooms that can reach 20cm in diameter on semi-woody stems that stand a metre tall they dominate the beds. I had three of them. The oldest one is still glorious and two of them did not make it through the winter. One was new last fall but the other had been reliable in the garden for several years so I don’t know what was so harsh about this past winter that it didn’t survive. The garden centres are filled with them at this time of year so I may have to wander down and maybe?? look for a replacement or two. They are very late to emerge in the spring but make up for it with this dazzling display now.

I know that autumn is approaching and so does he/she. If I was an inveterate birder I would know which one. I looked out the solarium the other morning and there she was sitting on the garage roof eyeing my goldfish as a source of energy for her long flight south. I really don’t mind providing a few fish for them as they are majestic creatures to welcome into our yard for a short period of time. The ponds are stocked, most years, with small feeder fish worth about 35 cents and that’s a small investment to watch these big birds. The top pond is too deep for them to feed successfully and there those small fish grow over the years into some reasonable sizes that delight the grandchildren who invariably ask to feed them. The garden and yard is a place where the whole circle of life, plant, animal and human, plays out over the years making all of the time invested in it worth every moment.

This is Cucumber Green Fingers from Renee’s Garden seed company. I figured that since it was making small Cucumbers it might grow small vines. I really should read the seed packages. This group of three plants has provided a couple of small Cucumbers, for the Assistant Gardener’s appetizer, every day for a few weeks now. They are amazingly productive but they are not small plants. The wire frame is over a metre tall and they have grown to the top, back down and to the top again. That creates another problem. That much growth requires water on an almost daily basis but it is sitting just outside the kitchen door and beside the rain barrel. It, of course, has some soluble fertilizer in that water almost every time. Even looking as beat up and old as it does now there are still several fruit developing on it. Its greatest feature is its ability to make the Assistant Gardener smile each evening.

You will have noticed Okra Candle Fire on the list of vegetables that we munched on last week. It is also a very attractive plant, being member of the Hibiscus family. It has these lovely large pink/white blooms that develop into the deep pink pods of Okra. It’s a vegetable that is usually growing in my garden every year. I chop it into stir frys and use it to thicken soups and sauces. It can grow quite tall but it is narrow, allowing several plants to be grown without taking up too much space. I did notice a Japanese Beetle or two inside the blooms. If you are new to Okra, learn to pick the pods when they are small, about 10 cm, or they will quickly get quite large and very woody and unappetizing. I do remember recognizing it in one of the dishes but now cannot remember which one.

Now it’s time to answer a few of my reader’s questions. To ask a question just “reply” to this ezine. Don’t forget to check the front page of the Website for frequent short ideas for current gardening activities.

Let me thank all of the readers who identified my giant weed as Horse weed Erigeron canadensis or Conyza canadensis, it appears to have two scientific names.

Heather Asks? Help! this year something is eating my cucumbers, not nibbling, eating the entire cucumber . I have sprinkled hot powders around them even on the leaves but they keep eating them. Again this year the squirrels are at my tomatoes help any suggestions for me? Oh yes the bunny ate all my beans l replanted 3 times this year. Next year I will be putting chicken wire around the garden but unfortunately I have a fence behind the garden so that will not stop the squirrels. I hope you have some suggestions for me.

Ken Answers! Animal invasions are some of the biggest challenges we vegetable gardeners face. Most of my vegetable garden has a green wire fence around it and after I discovered that baby bunnies could fit through the 5 cm squares, I covered the bottom half of it with black plastic fencing with 1 cm squares and that seems to work both for bunnies, (that’s way too cute a term for these rapacious rabbits,) and the squirrels. Each of my Earthbox containers now has a circle of chicken wire around it to keep the rabbits out. The squirrels still get to some of my Tomatoes but since I grow them up a rope they only seem to get the few on the bottom. The Cucumbers grow up a trellis that seems to prevent the Squirrels from dining there.

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