I grew this! In Ohio! And there are more on the way! The community garden is going gangbusters.  So far, I’ve had beets, kale, cabbage, onions, tomatillos, cilantro in great volumes, and today, this artichoke was looking up at me. I’ve got a squash about a foot in diameter growing, and even the watermelon volunteers look great.

Of course, I’ve never seen an artichoke so fresh. The color is so much more vibrant than anything I’ve seen in the store. We’ve got to eat it today. It’s going to be part of lunch, with some red beet greens.

The row of Chinese Kale in the bed of greens is by far the tallest, and it’s starting to form flower buds, so it seemed to be time to harvest a significant portion of it. Chinese Kale is interesting in that its leaves are large and flat, but also leathery and lightly bitter. This is a green that definitely needs to be cooked. The stems are fairly tender for something so sturdy, and the flower buds are also edible, and delicious. 

A weeknight calls for something simple and light, so I settled on a pasta, combining the Chinese Kale with broccoli raab. This is not a complicated thing to make – and there really isn’t a firm recipe, but here’s an outline:

Chinese Kale and Broccoli Raab Pasta
as much garlic as you can handle
as much olive oil as covers the bottom of a skillet
as much Chinese Kale and broccoli raab as you have on hand (chop the stems separately from the leaves/buds)
as much salt as you like
a little pasta for body
more red chili flakes than you think is prudent
some cheese for on top – I used ricotta salata, which is creamy and squeaky at the same time

Lightly brown the garlic, then add the chili flakes and salt. Add the chopped stems, cook until soft, then add the leaves and buds. Cook them until slightly wilted, mix in some pasta, and top with cheese.

The greens are nice and bitter, which pairs well with the creamy cheese and hot pepper. A satisfying supper.

Nights like the ones we’ve been having lately are made to be savored. Last night was as close to perfect a night as I can remember – not too muggy or buggy. Cool, but warm enough for shorts and a t-shirt. A breeze that rustled the treetops. Light until 9:30, so I could read a book until I had to squint. A hundred lightning bugs hovering and flitting a few feet off the ground. Bats zipping high overhead. Lush grass and garden plants growing toward their peaks. Two dogs exploring the yard quietly (a rarity!) and getting totally befuddled by the lightning bugs.

It’s been over a week since I started the nocino, so we thought it was high time for a check-in. After the first day, the liquid turned green-black – dark, sticky and noxious-looking. I’ve been shaking it about every day to mix the flavors. I opened the jars just to smell a few times, and early on, it still smelled like raw black walnuts. Last night, though, the aroma had transformed to something more subtle and balanced. The vanilla and lemon scents came to the forefront. Four of us tasted small sips, and all agreed – it was pretty darn good! Very complex in flavor and surprisingly smooth.

 

The redcurrant infusion is doing well too. Almost all of the color has leached from the berries and into the vodka. The flavor is very bright with none of the sourness of a fresh currant. These are the beginning of what I hope will be a nice collection of infusion experiments over the summer.

The lone apricot that I let grow on my two-year old tree was finally ripe! I’ve been keeping a close eye on it over the past two weeks, as it turned from green to yellow before changing to a deep golden orange. Just yesterday, it started feeling less than firm, and I knew it wouldn’t be long before we could pick and eat it. After a normal check in last night, I stepped outside this afternoon to find it on the ground! I was a little bit devastated at first, but it seemed to have survived the three-foot fall fairly well. A family of ants did find it, but they were pretty easy to brush off.

It was much larger than an average apricot – more like a generously sized peach. When I sliced into it, it retained some firmness, but was juicy, too. Pixie Cots are a free-stone variety, which makes it easy to split and eat. All this means nothing, unless the fruit tastes good, and boy, did it! It had none of the sourness that most apricots have, but retained the essence of the fruit. The sweetness was profound but complex. More like a floral honey than table sugar.

On the one hand, I really wish there were more apricots right now. But on the other hand, my asceticism in only letting one mature should result in much larger yields in future years. I really can’t wait until next year!

After a few busy weekends of work and family visiting, the community garden had got a bit out of control. We’ve had plenty of rain, so I hadn’t paid it a visit in three weeks. When I did go last Sunday, I was pretty horrified – it was literally choked with weeds. I spent about five hours over two days, and finally got it cleared out. It’s amazing how fast weeds grew in the communtiy garden plot as compared to the raised beds we have at home. I’m not sure if it’s the soil mix I use at home, as compared to native soil, or the fact that the edges aren’t separated from the grass in the community garden, or the fact that there are so many more weed seeds around the community garden. But it was bad.

Underneath the carpet of weeds, lots of plants were actually doing really well. I’ve got a solid six-foot row of cilantro, and I’ll probably let some of it go to seed for corriander.

The artichokes have started to take off – they were relatively clear of weeds all along. They’ve got a lot of growing to do, though, if they’re going to be productive.

The tomatillos I planted in the community garden aren’t staked, but they’ve also grown huge, and these are even starting to bear fruit.

The cabbages getting nice and big, and the cauliflower and broccoli are doing pretty good too. I caught a couple of worms on the cauliflower, but they hadn’t done much damage.

While weeding, I did have a few casualties. A few onions and a zucchini plant got pulled inadvertently last Sunday. But near the compost piles, I found some volunteer watermelon seedlings, so I’m giving those a shot in the empty space.

 

The community garden should be getting a lot more attention moving forward, because I’m starting a new job on Monday that will require much less travel! Woohoo!

Right now, the garden is in an in-between state. Some things have taken off fast – the tomatoes, ground cherries, even the chichiquelite huckleberries are getting really big. Other things are taking their time – the black currant bushes are healthy, but haven’t grown much. A eggplant I started from seed and was pulled up by some bird or squirrel is dwarfed by its nursery-bought neighbors.
 
Among everything else, the tomatillo is enormous – it’s at least four feet tall, and it could easily be taller than me in a month.

Mammoth tomatillo

 After my hardy Chicago fig turned out to be not so hardy, I bought two new bushier figs to put in the planter. I didn’t expect much out of these this year, but there is one tiny fig starting to grow on one of them.

Midget fig