Produce Fresh From The Garden

Cucumbers grow in spring or autumn.

Plants notice it before people do. They respond accordingly. Vegetative growth slows or stops completely. Most remaining bloom does likewise. Fruit and seed finish developing. Less fresh produce is available from the garden. Boston ivy and Japanese maples might already be changing color. They all know that the days are shorter and nights are cooler.

Warm season produce gets less abundant as summer ends because most is fruit, which contain seed. Most plants naturally finish with seed production prior to autumn. Most cool season produce is truly vegetative and lacking seed. It naturally grows during autumn or winter, with the (‘fruitless’) intention of blooming and fruiting during the following season.

It seems as if warm season vegetables were replacing cool season vegetables from last winter only a few months ago. Perhaps they were. That process began about half a year ago, but never completely stops. Various phases of various vegetables start and finish at various times. Now, some warm season vegetables might continue to produce until frost. 

Corn is of those warm season vegetables that remain productive. Seed for the last phase would not have been too late if it got into the garden two weeks ago, but will take time to produce. Broccoli seed sown at the about same time could be the first of the cool season vegetables in the garden. However, it is likely more practical to plant seedlings a bit later. 

Seed for cabbage and cauliflower can go into the garden now. Alternatively, it should do as well in flats or cell packs, for later planting. This procedure delays their occupation of garden space, which might still be occupied by late warm season produce. Besides, it is easier to defend tiny seedlings in flats or cell packs from slugs, snails, birds and insects.

For big and leafy cool season produce, it may be more practical to purchase seedlings in cell packs rather seed. Since only a few seedlings of each type are needed, they are not too much more expensive than seed. However, confinement to cell packs disfigures root vegetables, such as beets and carrots. Their seed can get into the garden in two weeks to a month.

AGAIN – NO Blue Ribbon!

P90929After all that fuss yesterday, about how much I wanted to win a first place blue ribbon for one of my jams or jellies at the Jam, Pie and Chili Contest of the Santa Cruz Mountains Harvest Festival, I must still do without! Not only did I not win the ever elusive first place blue ribbon that I so desperately crave, but for the first time ever, I did not win second or even third place!

However, it is not as disappointing as it seems. There were no ribbons to win. There was only the same single prize for each of the three categories, which is a winter pass for the hot tub and sauna at the Bear Creek Recreation and Community Center of Boulder Creek. Although it is not the blue ribbon that I can flaunt and brag incessantly about, it is a fabulously generous prize.

What was more disappointing was that the Contest was canceled. For the Jam category, there were only two other contestants with only a few submissions, and neither showed up! How can that even happen? My six submissions were the only six to compete! It was even worse for the Pie and Chili categories, with only one contestant bringing pumpkin pie and two types of chili!

Yes, it was disappointing, but only briefly. No one minded that there were only identical pumpkin pies to vote for in the Pie category. In fact, we all easily agreed that they were the best pies in the Contest! Selection of the best of two types of chili in the Chili category was slightly more challenging only because no one wanted to say that one chili was less excellent than the other.

I still crave the elusive first place blue ribbon, but can easily do without it too.

Anatomically Correct Horticulture

P71026Certain fruits and vegetables were so much more palatable before studying botany. Knowing what they really are sort of puts a damper on things.

Real fruits, including those known as vegetables, are no problem. We all know what they are, and they have the seeds to prove it. Just like flowers reward pollinators with nectar, many plants use fruit to get animals and people to disperse their seeds. Therefore, the fruit is designed to be eaten.

The majority of vegetables are fine too. It seems natural to eat leaves, stems, roots and even flowers. Things get a bit weird with petioles of rhubarb, celery and cardoon, since the leaves are not eaten. Cinnamon bark and saffron stamens also seems a bit odd. What about maple syrup? Is it a vegetable too?

Then there are fruits and vegetables that are not what we think they are.

You will never look at a potato the same way knowing that it is a subterranean stem known as a stolon. If it is looking back at you, it is because it has eyes, which are actually modified axillary buds, which only stems are equipped with. It it were a modified tuber or or a tuberous root like most of us think it is, it would not have these eyes.

Pineapple might be watching too, with its many eyes. Each eye actually represents a flower. What we think of as a pineapple fruit is actually a densely crowded collection of distended and fused flowers. Does that mean it is a vegetable like broccoli or cauliflower?

Strawberry is sort of fruity; but only what we think of as strawberry ‘seeds’. They are actually single seeded fruits known as ‘achenes’. Really, those little black things are outfitted with everything that they need to be classified as fruit. The red part of the strawberry is only a ‘receptacle’ for the achenes.

Everyone knows that fig trees do not bloom. So, how do they make fruit? Well, they technically don’t make any visible fruit; but they do bloom. What we think of as a fig fruit is actually a weird inside out inflorescence, with minute flowers on the inside. Each species of fig is pollinated by a particular species of minute wasp that enters the inflorescence through a very small hole at the end. Minute achenes about the size of strawberry achenes are the crunchy bits in ripe figs. To make figs even more unappealing, some wild figs contain the eggs and larvae of the wasps that went inside to deposit their eggs before dying there. Yum. Most garden varieties attract the wasps, but lack the necessary floral parts for the wasp to want to leave their eggs there. They therefore do the job of pollinating without dying inside.