Monday, August 6, 2007

Guest post: summer in Denver

My brother- and sister-in-law, B. & B., live in Colorado where they work as a cook and pastry chef, respectively. This spring, they vastly expanded the garden plot in their yard; since my own attempt to foster a modest herb garden in pots on my fire escape were foiled by one cheeky, persistent squirrel, I garden vicariously through reports like this one from B.

Disclaimer: our mother-in-law M. would like it to be known that her only involvement in the referenced drug bust was as a disappointed landlady. Those kids seemed like they were going to be great tenants....

The vegetable garden has been more of a success than we could have hoped for: we have an abundance of squash, yellow & green cucumbers, squash, cherry tomatoes, squash....I planted the yellow squash with the intentions of harvesting the blossoms. We soon found that squash blossoms are better when prepared by someone else's prep cook. We also learned that B. doesn't care for radish more than once a summer, S. can make radish flower arrangements, broccoli stems are for the cows, broccoli flowers are a waste of time (they rot quickly in salads), and Home Depot hybrid corn contains too much sugar and gets mushy.

My mother-in-law M. recently gave me some fertilizer leftover from her marijuana bust, so I dumped it around in the garden. I thought it was pretty tame stuff 5-4-3, until we returned from our camping trip to find squash and cucumbers the size of my thigh! We have been forced to eat our vegetables, at home with our friends or each other. This has be a pleasant by-product of gardening.

10 Ways to use Yellow squash:
- roast with tomatoes and toss with pesto for a quick side
- Grill
- sliced raw with hummus
- grilled blossoms with herbs and goat cheese
- gifts for neighbors
- alternative peg leg
- Leave it as a surprise gift over the neighbors' fence so they cannot refuse it [ed. note: This was my own dear mother's standard solution when we were little, but she always made us kids actually carry and dump the bags.]
- Saute with tomatoes, toss with pasta, pesto and fresh corn
- use it to scare off birds or neighbor children
- Bocce squash

The garden has had to go vertical. Due to first-timers planning problems, the cantelope, cukes, watermelon and tomatoes have taken over the walking paths. Tours are canceled. So I took an idea from the botanical gardens and have trained the vines to grow up trellis. The watermelon is also using the expired corn stalks as upright support. The unintentional overgrowth has its good points; I find a surprise bounty every time I weed. Just today I found another watermelon fruit, a radish, and a snap bean. We also had a surprise in the front flower garden. We used our compost dirt to fill in the new area, a patty pan squash seed survived and is invading the poppies and snapdragons.

Have any extra gardening stories and pictures of your own lying around? Send them to the huisvrouw! There are city folks all around who are starving for the experience of dirt under their fingernails, the stink of earthworms, and all other suchlike pleasures of summer in the exurbs.

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