Back in June I showed you some photos of the herb garden on my deck and some examples of dishes I made with my bounty. I mentioned that I was also growing some vegetables in containers, but didn't share any pictures of them because they weren't producing much yet. Well, all that's changed. Spring wasn't kind to the hot weather crops--tomatoes, eggplant, zucchini and bell peppers--that I planted. It was long, rainy and cold, whereas those plants thrive in hot, sunny weather. So their growth was stunted for a while. They have, more or less, rebounded of late, and it's fun to check on them every day and note their progress. It's even more fun to cook and eat what they provide me. Here's a little tour of my garden:
Tomatoes: a compact "Better Bush" variety that yielded me my first ripe tomato, shown here.
Tomatoes: a larger, leggier "Celebrity" variety that did poorly when I first planted it; I uprooted it, tossed it into a corner of my deck, and forgot about it. Miraculously, it survived and produced flowers; when I noticed, I re-planted it and it's been doing well ever since.
Zucchini squash: all the yellow blossoms you see here are male blossoms; the female ones, from which the zucchini fruit grows, haven't arrived yet. When they do, bees (or, if there aren't enough on the deck, I--with a Q-Tip) will visit both the male and female blossoms, thus pollinating the female blossoms and ensuring good fruit production.
Cucumber: a close relative of the zucchini plant, it doesn't look much different, huh? Again, all these blossoms are male; the female ones develop later in the season.
Bell pepper: this plant is so pathetic it hardly merits sharing, but at least it does have one pepper. This plant is the one that suffered the most during the spring. It had lots of little baby peppers, but all but one of them fell off due to excess rain and lack of sunshine. This hardy little pepper continues to grow and mature, though, and as of today had a little patch of yellow on its shoulder. First it will turn yellow, then finally red when it is ready to harvest.
Eggplant: this variety, known as Asian or Japanese eggplant, is what I prefer to cook and eat. While Italian eggplants are often huge and full of bitter seeds, Japanese eggplant are slender and rarely grow to be more than 7 or 8 inches long. They have very few seeds and more sweet, creamy flesh. This is how my first ripe eggplant looked yesterday before I harvested it: it was about 4 or 5 inches long and could have matured more, but it was weighing the plant down so I removed it and cooked it:
Sauteed, very simply, with olive oil, salt and red pepper flakes.
Allow me to show you, too, how I ate my first ripe tomato:
Sliced and sprinkled with salt and pepper, no more, no less. That basil--purely a garnish--is home-grown too, of course!
It's obvious that my vegetable garden brings me a lot of pleasure. But the question is, does the produce taste any better than what's available in stores? So far, my answer to that question is a resounding yes. The tomato I grew was sweet, firm and vibrant-tasting; full of that true tomato flavor that is so often missing from store-bought tomatoes these days. The eggplant I cooked came out creamy and sweet, with a pleasant hint of bitterness from the deep purple skin. I don't do anything special to my plants--I water them when the soil is dry, and occasionally--like, once every month occasionally--feed them with a weak Miracle-Gro solution. That's it. So the moral of this story is that you, too, should try your hand at vegetable gardening and see if your thumb isn't green. It may be too late in the season now, but there's always next year!