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It’s the first true week of summer, and the garden is brimming with good things. The shell peas are done already, but the sugar snaps have climbed 8 feet to the top of the trellis and the fat pods are in full spate.
The prickly yellow flowers of the cucumbers are budding, and the vines began to run overnight. I can never quite believe those tiny flowers will set actual, life-sized cucumbers. Why is it that a cucumber’s flowers are so minute, while a zucchini’s are as big as a hibiscus–when the fruits turn out roughly the same size?
The complex, beady green clusters that will burst into white blossom are emerging at the junctions on the Nickel filet beans. Carrots are ferning, lettuce is bolting. And after years of wishing, I have eaten my first harvest of fava beans, fat and emerald green and worth all the trouble it takes to shell, skin, and blanch them.
The borage volunteered this year, flecking the beds with stars of brilliant blue.
Meanwhile, I am scratching my head again over a mystery plant. I started my usual two types of tomato seeds in April: Sungold, the popular golden cherry bursting with sugars; and Rose de Berne, a well-formed small pinkish-red tomato with deep, carrying flavor. I planted the Sungolds in one row and the Rose de Bernes with some Purple Cherokees from a friend in the other. But now that they are setting fruit, I see that many of the Sungolds are not Sungolds. Instead of setting small, alternate branches of many tiny fruits, they’re setting lusty, assymetrical branches of large and irregular, faintly striped fruit. I’m sure they’ll be delicious. Still, I’m baffled.
Meanwhile, the chicks are 7 weeks old and pullet-shaped. The Barred Rocks have lost many of the markings I used to tell them apart, and they look like almost-identical quadruplets. But if I look very closely, I can see that Two Patches’ almost-gone pale markings give her eye an almond shape, and she still likes to forage away from the others. One Patch’s patch is gone, but her beak has a dark band. Jumpy’s lost her J, but her beak has a light, spotty, disorganized pattern. Lumpy still has a lumpy pink beak, complains all the time, and is the last to arrive. They’re so busy pecking and scratching in their movable run, though, that I can rarely get a still glimpse of their faces.
The Wyandottes are quick on their feet, fearless (for chickens, anyway), and enterprising. Stormy is the most endearing bird in the flock–she comes running when I start pulling weeds and never leaves my side while I work. Here Stripèd does what chickens do best: hunting for bugs, and incidentally keeping sections of my garden weed-free.
It’s days like these I remember why we moved to this crazy old farmhouse, this scruffy and uncivilized property, this place of frostbound winters. It’s not always an easy row to hoe, but it sure is a rich one.
Who can not love a vegetable garden in June? A hundred shades of living green begging you to touch, pick, taste. Blue and celadon shadows of green under the leaves, lime and chartreuse on the sun-facing fruit.
I was making up my weekly grocery list yesterday when I suddenly realized: it’s the first week this year I don’t have to buy any produce! The garden is its own produce aisle, no refrigeration necessary. After I finish out my formal recipe-testing for the current cookbook, it’s time to ponder the delicious dilemma: what can I make with spinach, peas, scapes, baby fava beans?
I’m not 100% sure yet, but maybe I’ll make some paneer for saag paneer. The scapes will go into scape pesto. The favas will be tenderly turned with mint and maybe some butter. And the peas! Well, the peas will likely never make it to the table. They may not make it past Bed 16. They’re simply too adorable, too perfect, too delectable just as they are.