my morning ritual included a slow, quiet tour of the garden. I took the time to watch the colors change, to smash aphids with my bare hands and yank young weeds. In my sepia-toned memories, bees the size of quarters disappeared into the blooms of towering foxglove flowers.
Of course, those memories are only montage moments. The reality is that I worked hard a little each day, to have a really, really nice yard.
How quickly it all can turn to dust.
After all that water rationing, I have lower expectations, which I am learning to embrace.
The “garden” is a black plastic truck bed liner used as a raised bed. Right now you can’t even see the plastic because it is shrouded in vibrant green leaves as wide as two hands.
If I dig among the leaves I find bright orange flowers and the occasional squash.
Does it matter that in a matter of minutes I may have more zucchini than I could possible eat?
Not at the moment.
Some overlooked produce can soon be the size of a small pontoon. No worries. Landing zucchini on your neighbor’s door is a fun new version of doorbell ditch.
My favorite simple recipe for summer’s largesse can be found on epicurious.com, http://tinyurl.com/h9jqcam.
Cut the zucchini in half, then slice lengthwise into four, flat strips.
Drizzle with a flavored olive oil, such as jalapeño or garlic, to fry the slices for a few minutes. Then add garlic and cook a few minutes more until just underdone. Add red pepper flakes, salt and pepper and parsley if you have it on hand. (Basil would be good as well).
I also found this recipe for baked Parmesan zucchini. Read the original recipe online at: http://tinyurl.com/k7vrh8s.
For this one, cut the zucchini lengthwise and into four wedges.
Mix 1/2 a cup grated Parmesan cheese with a quarter teaspoon each of several dried herbs including thyme, oregano and basil. Add 1/4 teaspoon garlic powder, salt and pepper, and two tablespoons fresh parsley. Place the zucchini in a baking dish treated with nonstick spray. Sprinkle with cheese mixture. Cook on 350 for 15 minute, and broil the last 2-3 minutes.
I can’t think of very many reasons to fire up the oven during the middle of the summer. I have a perfectly good toaster oven that can be placed on the back porch.
Thick strips of zucchini also do very well on the grill.
My friend Peggy likes to cut the vegetables into noodle size and freeze them in single serving bags. Perhaps this is the original “pasta primavera.”
Other recipes will use thin strips of zucchini instead of lasagna noodles. Again, a toaster oven on the back porch is more civilized than the indoor oven.
A few more thoughts
The big, floppy Dumbo leaves of summer squash and cucumbers will naturally wilt during the heat of the day. I learned the hard way that the wilting is not a desperate cry for watering. In fact, watering at mid-day could result in sun-burned leaves.
Most likely the plants will revive when the evening temperature are cooler.
Cucumbers need 1-2 inches of water each week. Water slowly to ensure the water has a chance to absorb. Better yet, use slow-drip irrigation.