In this week’s share:
- Green beans
- Red, orange and green bell peppers
- Summer squash
- Cherry tomatoes
- Basil, cilantro and parsley
The Watermelon that Almost Wasn’t
Every once in a while, I get a bright idea — or what seems like a bright idea at the time — to outsmart the weeds in the garden. This year, the bright idea was to liberally sprinkle clover seed around my newly transplanted melon seedlings. In theory, the clover would sprout into a lush, but low carpet of weedless green upon which my watermelons would stretch out and mature.
The week I transplanted the watermelon coincided with the first of many unseasonably cold streaks this summer. To protect my heat-loving melons, I covered them with “floating row cover,” a breathable fabric that lets in light and rain, but maintains a steamy greenhouse-like atmosphere underneath. I turned my back on the watermelon patch for a week, and when I pulled up the row cover I saw what looked like the Amazon rainforest in miniature. I could barely make out the struggling watermelon seedlings through the thick stand of weeds, and nary a clover in sight.
I spent a long afternoon hand-weeding the 150-foot watermelon row, gingerly lifting the spindly watermelon vines to rip up the invaders that threatened to smother them whole. Long story short, I could never seem to stay ahead of the weeds in the watermelon patch all season. It was as if they detected my “brilliant” clover plan and decided to punish me for my hubris. The plants didn’t send out nearly as many flowers as I had hoped, which meant far fewer fruit than I had planned.
The good news is that everyone will get a watermelon tomorrow. And the brilliant idea for next year’s watermelon patch? Black plastic mulch. I’ll keep you updated on how that works out…
When watermelon is this fresh and juicy, I can’t see why you would eat it any way other than sliced into triangles. But if you’re looking for a twist, I could get behind this recipe for watermelon, feta and chile pepper salad.
That’s what Mandy used to call edamame when she first started giving it to the kids for a snack. Must be the sprinkle of salt, because there’s not much of a resemblance. Either way, it worked, and our kids are still crazy about these Japanese-style fresh soybeans. Soybeans are packed with protein, vitamins A and C, plus iron and calcium, which explains why tofu (made from soybeans) is such an effective replacement for meat. But the greatest thing about edamame is that it’s nearly impossible to mess up.
- Boil a pot of water
- Drop in the edamame pods
- Simmer for 5 minutes
- Drain and cool in a colander
- Sprinkle with salt and serve!
DON’T EAT THE PODS. Not that they’ll kill you or anything, but the beans inside are the tasty part. Use your thumb and forefinger to gently pop them out. Ah, maybe that’s where the popcorn reference comes from!
We are excited to report that our shiitake mushroom logs are producing some fat and tasty fungi. Unfortunately, we don’t have nearly enough to give everyone a usable portion, so we’re offering a nice double-handful of shiitakes to the first 6 CSA members who respond to the newsletter. Hopefully we’ll have more next week to give everyone a taste of these delectable treats.
In case you haven’t heard about growing mushrooms from mushroom logs, here’s the scoop. Shiitake mushrooms are the easiest to grow at home. First, you need to find a live oak tree to cut down. You want one that’s no more than 4 to 8 inches in diameter. Steve and Joe from Manchester-Farms were nice enough to cut down one for me. The tree should be chopped down during the winter, before the sap starts to run in the early spring thaw. Then you need to saw it into manageable sections around 4 feet long each.
The next step is to need to buy some shiitake mushroom “spawn,” another word for the dust-like spores of the fungus. You will use the spores to inoculate the logs, meaning the spores will grow a shiitake fungus inside the tissue of the oak logs.
The best type of shiitake spawn to buy is the kind that come in “plugs.” They look like one-inch wooden dowels. Google mushroom plugs and you’ll see what I mean. If you buy mushroom plugs, I suggest that you also buy the custom drill bit that allows you to drill the perfect-size holes in your logs. The process is simple. You drill shallow holes all around the exterior of the logs, leaving 6 inches between each hole. Plug each hole with a shiitake plug. To improve the chances of a good inoculation, most people cover each plug hole with a cap of melted wax. Again, it’s not that hard. And what other garden chores do you have in February?
The next step is the hardest… waiting. It takes a full year for the logs to be fully inoculated with the shiitake fungus. You need to stack the logs in a shadow spot where they can still get wet with the rain. The nearly invisible shiitake fungus will feed on the heartwood of the logs and spread its intricate web throughout the wood. By the next spring, you can start harvesting mushrooms. The trick is to mimic a hard rainfall by dunking the logs overnight in water. We’re lucky enough to have a nearby watering trough for the Manchester-Farms cows. After a 24-hour soak, you remove the logs and let them sit in the shade. After 2-3 days, the “fruit” of the fungus begins to sprout in the form of mushrooms.
We inoculated these logs in February 2012. I meant to do more this winter, but we missed the window to cut down another oak. I’ve been negligent in my log-dunking, because so many other garden tasks have taken precedent, but I hope to pump a few more harvests out of the logs before the season is through. Again, the first 6 emails will get shiitakes this week… so hurry up!