I’ve been vegetable gardening now for five years, and I’m no longer completely surprised that when I put in a seed, food grows. It is still amazing how much food grows from a single seed, but I also get downright crabby when those dang peas don’t put out an abundance of pods. Michael Pollan, in his gardening book Second Nature, talks about what an amazing thing it is that vegetable garden produces so much matter. I mean, the inputs: water, soil, seed, are not at all in relationship to the green stuff and roots and fruits that come off a single plant. In bulk and in weight (think about potatoes), the plant seems to give back from nothing. At the end of it, we have the soil, mostly, minus maybe a tablespoon of minerals (but we probably also have more worms and their castings) so the only thing that’s fully “consumed” is the water and that invisible energy from sun and air.
So yes, that does amaze me, but I don’t walk around my garden gasping all the time like I did those first two years at the first sign of a 2 ft Jimmy Nardello pepper or a cluster of cherry tomatoes.
But this week in the garden I did, during a marathon weeding and watering session, have two occasions where I actually gasped.
The first was when I was this:
Yes, that is a watermelon. A sugar baby I grew from a seed saved by my friend Scott Pauley and given to me at the beginning of the 2012 season. I had such low hope for watermelon, I considered not giving it bed space. But instead I decided I’d do the best possible for them (in the past I’ve stuck them in with other “winter” squash and the plants have been paltry and without fruit. In four years I’ve gotten exactly one small watermelon. It was perfect and sweet and juicy, but it was solo.) So this year, their last chance, I gave them half a bed, next to two tomato plants. And what do you know if they aren’t thriving. In addition to this guy (I pulled all the purslane that was hiding it out before taking the photo), there are TWO more fruits and a number of blossoms like the one at the right of the picture. Wowee.
Then I went over to where the Brussels sprouts are growing their enormous staffs covered with leaves that are actually starting to tighten into heads (another first). I’d recently pulled out the flowering broccoli plants and hadn’t thought much about two plants left behind. So when I caught sight of this, I gasped again:
That is a large cauliflower head! I thought I was only going to have the one head I harvested earlier, but once the plants were given room, TWO cauliflower plants have appeared and are putting out heads. Here’s the other one:
It is tiny and covered by leaves, which is what keeps the cauliflower head white as it develops. Clever, huh?
So those are my two gasps for this week. Additionally, however, I have been so happy about my tomatillos. I don’t understand why all gardeners, especially Minnesota gardeners, don’t grow them. Especially if they knew about tomatillo sauce, which I’ve made a batch of and am using with chicken for dinner tonight.
I was a little worried that tomatillos might be another hot-weather princess like tomatoes and peppers, but no. My friend Lynn from Texas even said he has trouble growing them in Texas. They like heat, but they don’t like lingering or too much heat. They are ideal for Minnesota’s climate, which cools off in August (yes, just when tomatoes hit their stride). Well, I’m not sure what it is, but my tomatillo plants started strong and early and are putting out literally hundreds of fruits. They are blight free and happy as any plant in my garden. I will be making lots of yellow and green salsa (especially if those lemon drop tomatoes come in) and tomatillo sauce in a few weeks! (And to think, last year when my plants broke off in a storm I had to buy them at $3/pint and scrounge to even find them at the Farmer’s Market!)