Monday, July 18, 2016
High Season in the Garden
It is mid-summer and we are in the midst of yet another heat wave. We have had occasional thundershowers, but I have watered the garden pretty regularly, to help keep everything growing, green and blossoming.
This time of year, one delights in being able to start the day with a cup of hot coffee while inspecting what has transpired overnight in the beds. It is best to get an early start, since any time after 8:45AM can be too hot to endure for more than 10 minutes. What is blossoming and what is ripe? What needs dead-heading and what should be harvested? This years planting scheme in the north bed, with Swiss Chard, Baby Tuscan Kale and Sweet Basil forming borders in front of beds of Tri-color beans and just as many colors of squash, seems a happy arrangement. The chard, “Bright Lights,” has matured to have beautiful vibrant green leaves with brightly colored stems and veining in red, white, and yellow. It is ideal for a variety of uses, including one of our favorite breakfasts, "Oeufs Potager":
Note: A six inch cast iron pan is ideal for this, however any small sautéing pan and a lid will do.
With the pan over medium heat, add a generous tablespoon of butter to the pan. While it is melting, go out to the garden and cut 2 or 3 leaves of Swiss Chard, including the stems. (In the absence of a garden close by, get the freshest leaves your market or fridge can produce.) Return to the kitchen and rinse the leaves clean, shaking off any excess water. Fold the stems and ends of the leaves under, until the leaves just fit into the pan. Cover with a close fitting lid. Allow the leaves to wilt for 2 to 3 minutes. While the leaves are softening, have ready a slice of bread and one large egg. I prefer a whole grain loaf, but ones’ preferred bread will do. Rye works well. After about 3 minutes, turn the Swiss Chard “nest” of leaves over, then, crack the egg onto the sautéed side of the Swiss Chard, preferably without breaking the yolk. You may add a sprinkle of salt or a grind of pepper at this time, if you like. Replace the lid. At the same time, begin toasting the bread. Toasters will vary in the time required to toast a slice of bread to ones preferred level of doneness, however, it turns out that the time required by my toaster to toast a slice of bread, is just the amount of time required to poach the egg to perfection. That said, when the toast pops up, put it on a plate. Remove the lid from the now perfectly cooked egg and Swiss Chard leaves, and place the “nest” atop the slice of toast. Sit down with your preferred knife and fork. Enjoy!!!
This recipe is one of my favorites for a satisfying summer breakfast. The crunchiness of the toast, the silkiness of the Chard and the creaminess of the egg all compliment each other beautifully. And, it is just enough food to power one through a morning of weeding or painting or whatever task is at hand.
Otherwise, the Lacinato, (“Dinosaur”) Kale, and the “Couve Tronchuda” Collard Greens are thriving, as are Carrots in a rainbow of colors. The heirloom tomato collection (ordered from Burpee) is full of swelling fruits and blossoms, promising lots of juicy BLT’s, and Gazpacho to come. One of the seasons’ biggest surprises is how well the Melons are doing. The four plants, which I started from seed with little hope of success, are sprawling all over the place and filled with bright yellow flowers. I can’t wait to see which of the three varieties of Melons in the packet from Renee’s Seed they are. I must say, all of Renee’s Seeds are doing well, including the Carrots, the Melons, Chard, Squash, Beans and Basil. The seeds have thrived in the soil we have amended with compost, and watered generously. Now, to mulch the vegetable beds with straw, to cut down on weeds and to help retain precious moisture.
The flower beds continue to delight us with rich color, shapes and textures, despite the extreme heat of midsummer. There are plants from six inches to over six feet tall, carrying flowers in shades of purple (Larkspur), to mauve (Verbena), pink (Echinacia) to magenta (Phlox), orange to yellow (Coreopsis) and white. Self-seeded sunflowers have formed what we have dubbed “Sunflower Corner,” against the back wall of the barn. These, like the Zinnias and so many other flowers still have weeks to go before they reach their peak, but then will carry us into the Fall with brilliant color. All of these blossoms play host to an army of pollinators that becomes busier and more varied by the day. The first of this years’ Monarch Butterflies has passed through; likewise Black and Yellow Swallowtails. Bees, in a wide variety of shapes and sizes work these blossoms on a daily basis, harvesting the pollen and nectar. All in all, it is the best garden ever, and there is lots of growing yet to be done!
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