I love looking closely. A really close look helps you to see the beauty and wonder of life, and how it manifests itself here on planet earth. I’d love to go take pictures of plants on another planet sometime. Fortunately, our earth is varied enough to have more subjects than anyone could shoot in a lifetime. Later this winter I will be privileged to go take photographs in Costa Rica. That’s going to be eye-opening fun.
One of the tasks that came with preparing for my recent talk to the Martha’s Vineyard Garden Club was reviewing all my previous garden photographs. Thousands of photographs, from the last five years, were involved in the sort. Every photo carries with it the memory of the shot. If asked, the camera will helpfully tell you details about your picture, including the date and time of your exposure. There were too many to include in a brief overview.
This post contains a dozen vegetable portraits from the Wishetwurra Farm garden.
With comments, of course.
Everything has a back-story.
Last year someone gave us a pretty gourd. We kept it around until it dried out, and then cracked it open to get the seeds. Last spring we started some of the seeds in pots, and put them out. The seedlings were shaded out by the corn, and just sat, pouting, until the corn was harvested. Then the vines took off and grew twenty feet in every climbable direction. At the very end of the season we got a few dozen gourds of wonderful colors and shapes. You can tell it’s the end of the season from the denim jacket. Four people are holding six gourds. It’s nice to have help from your friends. For more, see: https://thetompostpile.wordpress.com/2013/11/19/mongrel-gourds/
Celeriac. Celeriac is not easy to grow, compared to beans, or peas. The seeds are teensy, they require two or three weeks of warmth just to germinate, and then the seedlings dawdle around, still teensy, for months, until they’re ready to transplant to the best soil you can find in the garden, where they’ll need another hundred to a hundred and thirty days of care to reach maturity. But once they’re ready, what a great root to store for the winter! A pan of roasted beets, carrots, parsnips, celeriac and potatoes is a wonderful winter mealtime luxury.
In March, when snowdrops are in full flower, rhubarb stirs. Red spherical buds test the warming air. Leaves begin to unfurl.
By late spring or early summer, rhubarb, if in a fertile location, produces enormous leaves, supported by equally massive stalks. Since deer don’t life to eat rhubarb leaves, rhubarb can be planted outside of your fenced garden. This leaf was over eighteen inches across. Big enough to wear for a hat. The foot in the lower left of image is shown for scale. The foot does not have scales. Since it was strawberry time, the stalk from this leaf went into a strawberry and rhubarb pie. Yum.
Carrots come in colors. Todays’s carrots, available in colors from purple to maroon to red to orange to yellow to white, are all descended from the wild carrot, or queen anne’s lace. Stored roots will last well into the spring.
Few vegetable are as weird as the kohlrabi. Even the name is weird. Was the plant left on earth by cabbage family loving aliens?
The cabbage. Holding court with admiring borage flowers. Plus a few flies. Cabbage likes good dirt and ample moisture. If you can keep the cabbage worms down, cabbage is a rewardingly productive crop. You don’t need more than a few at a time in a home garden. Plant a few, every few weeks. Plant breeders have developed a whole range of cabbage varieties, from pointy-headed single-serving sized miniatures to giant, tight-headed types whose destiny is the sauerkraut barrel or the kimchi vat. What’s the world record? In the summer of 2012, Alaskan Scott Robb grew a one hundred thirty eight and a quarter pound cabbage.
One of my favorite vegetables is the chinese cabbage, sometimes called the napa cabbage. With its savoyed leaves, its elongated head, higher water content, and delicate taste, I think it makes the best coleslaw ever. For a flavor “twist”, use a peanut sauce instead of the traditional mayonnaise or vinegar dressings. If you eat meat, add some crumbled bacon pieces just before serving.
In the garden, as in life, timing can be everything. As winter nears its end, we crave salad, and leaves of green. This little plant wakes up as soon as the day length gets to ten hours or so, can take a freeze without any fuss, and produces a nice little rosette of leaves by early spring. Pull up the whole plant or snip off the top leaves and let it keep growing. Some call this plant Corn Salad. Others call it Mâche, Lamb’s Lettuce, Rapunzel, or Fetticus.
Yellow crookneck summer squash in early morning sun. The squash on the left is a day or two old. The one on the right still has an unopened flower bud. They’re both ready to pick and eat.
Late August. Hanging on the garden deer fence is a nice fat-necked Waltham butternut squash. In another few weeks to a month, this fruit will have taken on solid tan coloration. Properly cured and stored in your pantry, at around fifty degrees F, a butternut will last two or three months — well into the winter. They’re good eating as squash, and make a fine pie.
Our last picture is of some miniature ornamental corn.
Amaizing little jewels.