Just as I left one apricot to ripen while the tree gets its strength up, I let a solitary plum from the tree I planted this spring develop. It was really hard to pick off all the tiny plums back in May, but if that means I’ll get a bigger harvest next year, I’m all for it. This plum had turned a deep, beautiful purple about four weeks ago. It remained very firm, only starting to yield to gentle pressure a few days ago. We actually found it on the ground today, and it may have been a touch overripe.

Still, the flavor was great – not as transcendent as that apricot last month, but still – unbelievably sweet flesh, with a tart skin and more floral than anything I’ve ever eaten from the store or even farmers market. The plum was quite a bit smaller than I expected, but still, it was the perfect dessert after the great Indian meal Janna cooked up today.

 

It’s been another great week in the community garden. Even with temperatures in the 90s all week, it did fine without a weeding or watering since last Sunday. The cilantro has all gone to seed, so there will be a lot of homegrown corriander in our future. The squash are taking over the garden, and the onions seem to be doing the least well. I didn’t pick any this week to give them time to rebound a bit. I really do need to thin my beets – those that have had plenty of space have matured pretty quickly, but lots of plants are very cramped. There’s even a peanut-sized watermelon growing.

This week, I got a big bunch of kale, two heads of broccoli (the first time I’ve grown it!) a few smallish bulls blood beeds, with their reddish leaves, THREE artichokes, including one fairly large one, some tomatillo and ground cherries, and a winter squash! The squash is a Rouge d’Vif Etamps – and I’m not sure what I’ll do with it. I wasn’t expecting it to ripen for another few months, but here it is – and there are plenty more small ones on the vines.

I’ve stopped eating meat this early year – not really out of any one particular reason, though the need to feed a cow 9 calories of grain to get 1 calorie of beef  has a lot to do with it. In honesty, I’ve just stopped enjoying the taste of meat. I still eat and enjoy fish and seafood. I try not to be preachy or even mention it too much. Everybody knows an annoying/high maintenance/scowling vegetarian/vegan. The last thing I want to do is tell anyone else what to eat or do. This is probably the last time I’ll mention it.  This is all to say, I’ve been looking for and finding a lot more meatless meals that are seasonal, satisfying and delicious! So stay tuned!

After the disappointment of last year’s Hardy Chicago Fig not being so hardy after all, I replaced it with two more bush-shaped fig plants rather than the tree-shaped version I had last year. I was disappointed again earlier this summer, when only one breba fig appeared, and then broke off its stem before it ripened. But! A few days ago, I took a close look at the bushes, and saw a couple dozen tiny figs forming! The bush shaped plants have 4-5 stems rather than the one stem from the standard-pruned fig that died over the winter. This seems to be much better for fig production!

My plan is to let these figs ripen, and then bring the whole contraption inside in mid-fall. It should retain all its leaves and make a nice, if huge, houseplant, and also have a  good start for next year’s season.

As the weather gets hotter and hotter, the nightshades in our garden are getting really happy. One of my new experiments this year was with chichiquelite huckleberries. The plants in my old potato box are thriving! They’re each about three feet tall and peppered with clusters of berries. Some of the first to show are now ripening, and I think in a few weeks, I’ll have quite a haul. I’ve also got one plant in the cucumber/pepper/eggplant bed, and one in the community garden, both of which are quite a bit smaller. The berries grow in clusters of 6 or seven, and each cluster ripens more or less at the same time. The berries change from green to a deep, lustrous black when they’re ripe.

I tasted the first few berries to see if they were ripe. They certainly are – they’re very sweet but have a bit of an odd taste. It’s a bit of a disappointment – but they still might be good cooked into a jam or pie or syrup. The flavor isn’t exactly bad – it’s just really…different. Almost like a sweet green bean if that make sense. Once I try cooking these, I’ll make a judgement as to whether I’ll try them again next year or give over the space to even more ground cherries (which I really love.)

We’re in the middle of a heat wave in Central Ohio. Today, we hit 94 degrees, and tomorrow is supposed to be 99. I don’t think anything is better on a hot day than ice cream. I’ve been making a lot of ice cream and sorbet lately, thanks to an inspirational new cookbook from Columbus’ own ice cream luminary, Jeni Britton Bauer. Her recipes use cornstarch and cream cheese to thicken them rather than eggs, and the result is my favorite ice cream in the world.

After Janna and I made some batches directly from the book (bananas and honey, backyard mint, apricot/ale sorbet with my brother’s homebrewed beer and raspberry sorbet) I thought I’d strike out a bit on my own. Taking the basics of one of Jeni’s recipes, I made an ice cream that feels right for godawful hot days, taking inspiration from the deserts of Mexico.

I found some prickly pear cactus fruit at the grocery store this week, and the idea of a prickly pear/tequila ice cream seemed too intriguing not to try. Here’s my recipe, modified from Jeni’s.

Tequila Ice Cream with Prickly Pear Syrup
2 cups whole mik
1 1/4 cups heavy crea
1/2 cup sugar
2 tbsp corn syrup
1 1/2 tbsp cream cheese
4 tsp corn starch
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 cup tequila
2 prickly pear cactus fruits peeled and crushed
1/3 cup sugar

First, make prickly pear syrup – cook the crushed prickly pears with the sugar in a small saucepan until it thickens. Push it through a sieve to get rid of the seeds and cool.

Next, add the milk minus 2 tbsp, cream, sugar and corn syrup and bring to a boil for three minutes. Bring off the heat and add the corn starch mixed with the reserved milk. Bring to a boil for one more minute, then whisk in the cream cheese and salt. Cool to room temp, then add the tequila. Chill for a few hours, then put the mixture into an ice cream maker. When it’s fully frozen, drizzle in the prickly pear syrup slowly. Don’t overmix.

The flavor of the tequila (I used Patron) comes through, but there isn’t much of an alcohol taste. It’s slightly salty, like you’d want a margarita to be, and the cactus syrup (which doesn’t freeze so much as firm up a bit) adds an interesting texture.

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