August 21, 2008

Now that's what I'm talking about!

I've been waiting all summer for the tomatoes to be ready and now they're here! Yay! There's nothing in the whole world like a tomato off the vine. I have had some real growing experiences this year with my garden, learning alot about the joys and pitfalls of growing food plants. Here are some of the pests, other than weeds, that I've come into battle with this summer.

I nearly had one tomato stripped clean by a tomato hornworm. I can't believe how big that thing was or how many leaves it could eat so fast. As soon as I noticed the top of one of my tomato plants deprived of leaves, I went looking for it. I found it by it's own weight! As soon as I touched the branch it was on I knew because it was so heavy! Unbelievable. Luckily for me, I noticed it quickly and before it ate the whole thing. The plant bounced back, grew new leaves and is now producing. From what I hear, and I believe it, they eat so fast that you most often loose the whole plant.

Another pest I came into contact with is the dreaded squash vine borer. I had two squash plants, one zucchini and one summer squash essentially killed by them. Well, I saved the plants with squash surgery, but they were so mutilated that they won't produce any more this summer, so it prettty much amounts to the same thing. Squash vine borers are revolting creatures that look like maggots. They chew into your squash plants vine and start eating their way up and you know when all of a sudden your beautiful, healthy plant just completely wilts overnight.

Unfortunately, I am too much of a novice gardener to know what had happened quickly enough to extract the borer before it ruined the plant. It took me two days to find out what happened, and by the time I cut into the vine and removed the grub, the damage was done. I buried the vine to encourage new roots, and they're both still alive, but they died back to just a few leaves as opposed to a huge fruit bearing vine, but oh well. Now I know about it, and will know what to do for next year. One thing about gardening, I'm learning, is that you really have to jump in and get your feet wet to learn.

The zucchini on the left weighed over 2.5 lbs! Crazy! And it still was sweet and tender, couldn't believe it. The eggplants are really yummy, and not bitter.

Another pest I had land on my poor squash, again, was the Mexican bean beetle. I saw these bright yellow, spiky things crawling all over one of the plants, and it looked like they were eating the leaves, so I physically removed them. Found out they were the larvae of the Mexican bean beetle, which looks like a yellow ladybug when mature, and is actually a member of the ladybug family, but one of the few non-friendly ladybug types. Usually ladybugs are good, the red kind anyway, they kill aphids that suck the juice out of your plants.

Mmm, raspberries. Didn't have any problems with them, I think their prickles take care of that themselves, and they were tasty!

I grew a beautiful sage plant. The leaves are huge!! If you've never had fried sage leaves, this is the time to try this wonderful delicacy. Pan-fry sage leaves in butter or olive oil, either as is, or dusted with a little flour, until crisp. You will marvel over the oh, so delicate taste, which is quite unlike fresh sage, and the crisp, buttery texture. They cook quickly, and the flavor goes nicely with beurre noisette, in my oppinion. I've seen them offered as is for hors d'oeuvres just by themselves, or as a garni for meat or grain like polenta or scrapple. Try them yourself, see what you can do with them. They are definately a summer-time treat, or anytime you can get nice fresh sage.

Anyway, happy summer eating and gardening!