Garden Groove: The Bounty of the Backyard Garden
Getting in the Garden Groove with John Schroeder: The Bouquet of the Harvest
When you tell someone that you’re into gardening the follow-up question you often get is predicable: "Flowers or vegetables?" The longer I partake in vegetable gardening, the more it seems to offer similar visual pleasures that you receive with flower gardening.
I’m not solely a vegetable gardener. I also happen to enjoy fooling around with annual and perennial flowers, and I think I’ve gotten better at propagating and displaying flowering plants over the years. But while I’ve always enjoyed the sustenance and flavor that my vegetable garden provides, I also now more than ever appreciate how beautiful much of the harvest is at this time of the year. The pickings I clean and lay out on my counter often appear like a beautiful bouquet of flowers.
These produce beauties include:
• Tomatoes, most of which are bright red but also others that are brilliant yellow or heirloom colors of greenish-purple.
• Peppers that start forest green but that often transition into orange, yellow and red depending on the variety and how long you keep them on the vine. I have a bunch of jalapenos that I’ve let go long enough this year that they are glossy red (and that usually mean increased heat, too!) I grew datil peppers for the first time this year. They are the beautiful miniature orange peppers you see here. Datils have the color of habaneros, and their heat level probably exceeds them. I grew those datils specifically to make hot sauce, which I bottled in tiny jars that I saved over the past few months. Banana peppers are mostly dull yellow, but they can begin to turn orange and even deeper shades of color. This year I had only one banana pepper plant and it got over taken by a leggy tomato plant that just sort of enveloped the pepper. You’d normally think that a plant that gets mostly covered by another neighboring plant would be a bad thing. But in this case I believe the peppers on that plant benefitted by maturing more slowly and didn’t stress from too much sun. As I pulled away the tomato branches I had several perfect deep red banana peppers ready to be picked.
• The brilliance of the leaves from the beets we grow is amazing, with the smooth velvety green expanse of the leaf being bisected by its beautiful red center ribs. Not only are beet leaves pretty to look at but they’re also delectable as salad greens.
• Potatoes come in red, light brown and golden shades. Heck, I even grew a purple variety of potato a couple of years back.
• Speaking of purple I’ve seen carrot varieties that come in that color, as well as bright red, more yellow than the customary orange and other shades.
• More purple can be seen in some varieties of eggplant.
• I started growing radicchio a couple of years back, and this season I got several brilliant reddish-purple heads with their white streaking veins…a visually appealing (as well as tasty) addition to our salads.
• And then there are the ACTUAL FLOWERS you see in your vegetable plot, like the big orange blossoms that are the first step in the formation of squash and zucchini. Not only are they beautiful but they also make an attractive edible garnish for a dish or a salad.
As you pick the last of your produce this season make sure you take the time to appreciate how beautiful much of it is before it goes under the knife or into a dish.
Next week: What DIDN’T go right this year.
John Schroeder is a sales guy at Townsquare Media St. Cloud, but in his past life, he was an on-air personality specializing in sports. But what really turns his crank is getting out in his 28 x 15 foot vegetable garden several times a week nurturing, eventually harvesting (and sometimes sharing) homegrown food.