dark days #18: in lieu of a local meal — a dream of summer meals

Let’s face it folks, this is the dreariest part of late winter for locavores.  We’re tired of eating local meat-laden stews, and besides, the potatoes, onions, garlic, and winter squash are all in their death throes.  The Months of Kale are just beginning, and that brings with it a new ennui, but for now, let me just say that I’m tired of non-green things.

I’ve been dodging rain showers and slugs to do my spring garden cleanup this week, so I thought I’d share some of my plans for future local meals in lieu of a proper winter eating Dark Days challenge post.  The garden is at its least picturesque this time of year, but I always take a few shots so I can remember that spring hopes usually come to fruition later in the summer.

Berries are the most promising this year.  I’m finally in the magic third year for my raspberries.  I should have a good crop this year. I’m not sure I have enough sun for part of the row, but all looks good for the blackcaps and Meekers in the front.  My strawberry patch is well-established now, too.  My new haskapberry (also known as honeyberry, see photo to left) hedge in the front is blooming and growing like crazy.  I’ve planted a couple of salal starts.  I have a fantasy of making a hedgerow jam just as they do in England, but mine will be blackcap raspberry-honeyberry-salal.  I also planted some red currants in the front, and I can’t wait to play with them.  Currants, like gooseberries are so hard to find here because of their fragility, so one really does need to grow them.

I planted two kinds of peas: the ubiquitous ‘Oregon Sugar Pod II’ and ‘Waverex.’  I’ll add some ‘Cascadia’ in a couple of weeks for variety, I think.  I’m still working on my lettuce bed.  I bought several kinds of leaf lettuce and chicories from Gathering Together Farm in Philomath last year.  (It’s a wonderful organic working farm and restaurant, and you should go for a meal.)  I’m the first person to complain about salads, but I’m much more inclined to eat them when they’re full of unusual and sturdy leaves.  So we shall see what kind of salad love I’ll be able to create. I’m still loving my arugula.

My onions and garlic starts are doing quite well, and are the herbs.  My caraway wintered over, and it’s now producing a flower head.  I’m really looking forward to having my own caraway seed.  I’ve yet to plant my ‘Mammoth’ dill seed, but the fennel is already up and running in two places in the garden.  I’m trying to decide if I need to plant more lemon thyme, or if I should just hope for the best with the scraggly old plant that was crowded out by the much more vigorous French thyme last year.

Spring artichokes are one of my favorite vegetables, but I am not sure I’ll have them this year.  I lost one of my two ‘Green Globe’ plants this winter, and the other is now hidden behind a rosemary bush that’s finally grown too high.  I planted more in the front (‘Imperial Star’) and they say they produce in the first year, but I dunno.

I’ve also put in some ‘Jersey Knight’ asparagus, a gift from my neighbor.  That’s a far-off dream.

I’m still holding out hope for my ‘January King’ cabbages that are scraggly (to the right).  The aphids seem the only species around here that is happy with their progress.  I squished a bunch for that unpopular view, hoping that Pat Patterson’s technique for releasing aphid squish scent into the air for predators would work.  Yeah, I know.  I’ll likely pull them and put in ‘Detroit’ beets. Or cucumbers.  I’m pretty much satisfied with ‘Cool Breeze’ for summer eating and pickling, so I’m going to stick with that variety.

Still trying to figure out where I’m going to put in all of the heirloom beans I bought last year and this spring, having forgotten I had some from last year.  Hutterite soup bean!  Orca!  Vermont cranberry!  Scarlet runner!  Yelloweye!  I think I only have one row for beans, too.  Hm.

I do have, however, a nice old galvanized garbage can for growing potatoes this year.  I’m rather unreasonably pleased by this development.  Will keep you updated.

And tomatoes and peppers, right?  I make dark promises about nightshades each year, and find myself in a frenzy of gluttony no matter what kinds of reasonable goals and lists I make.  So all I’m going to say is that I have a brilliant pepper bed (to the left) and two tomato beds.  I want ‘Saucey’ plums, ‘Sungold’ cherries, and a black slicer or two for tomatoes.  For peppers, I need many, many, many lovely red Hungarian peppers, jalapeños, and anaheims.  And we’ll see what else develops.  I think I’m also going to grow a Japanese or Italian eggplant, so I can make more ajvar.  The stuff I froze last year was great.

You can also see my tiny ‘Desert King’ fig tree, which sustained some frost damage this year (center) and my newly transplanted elderberry tree (upper right corner) that I’m hoping will do better in the back than it did in the front.  It’s also closer to its sister elderberry, on the opposite end of the back yard, so I’m hoping for more pollination action.

So that’s my summer vegetable and fruit forecast.  Dreams of summer meals.  What are you planning to plant?  Some of you have already commented on my Facebook page, and I’d love to hear more!

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