I got most of my gardening done today; the last of the lilies-of-the-valley transplanted under the maple tree, broccoli and cabbages, the last two peppers. They took up most of the space in my newly-expanded vegetable garden, now twice the size it was last year and marked off by new landscape lumber like a proper garden.
Then there were the leeks; of them I’m clueless.
Most of the vegetables I buy at Murphy’s are little starter plants, which come in plastic containers, three or four to a box. It’s very easy to know what one cabbage looks like. But when I pulled the leek starters out of their box, there were no little segments, just 40 or 60 seedlings all thrown together with their roots intertwined. I didn’t know how to handle them.
They’re cousins of onions, and when you plant onions from seed, you drop 2-3 seeds into a little hole, then thin them later. I suppose it will be the same with these things, because a single leek is an inch in diameter at harvesting. But I planted them in clumps of 10-12. I hope that’s right.
But the leeks are a reminder that I’m mostly looking this year just to learn how to grow these things, not for some fantastic yield. I’ve never even cooked with a leek, much less grown one, so this is all an experiment.
In previous years I’ve learned I can grow tomatoes, peppers, radishes and herbs, as well as flowers. Those experiments brought me where I am today, just seeing what happens with cabbage, broccoli and leeks. I’ve already found out this spring that the onion sets I bought at Murphy’s do very nicely; I’ve eaten one already as a scallion, and it was sweet, but they say that if I leave the others in the ground they’ll turn into big onions for cooking. I hope so, because I use onions all the time in the kitchen, to me they’re a miracle food in soups, stews, stir-frys and when they get to star on their own, as in my mother’s patented Onion Dip with cream cheese. (I don’t know why people buy “French onion dip” in the stores, with all the preservatives. Besides, there’s nothing French about it, that’s just marketing based on French Onion Soup, which Americans love.)
Tonight I’m eating the last of the lamb chops I bought at the farmers’ market last Wednesday. I agree with the farmer, the Brook Locker Plant didn’t trim them at all. Last night I broiled a couple of chops and they were good, but tonight, even though it’s getting dark, I will grill them outside. With my great marinade they deserve a charcoal fire.
Now suppose I actually get cabbages, broccoli and leeks out of this year’s garden; whatever will I do with them? One average cabbage would last me a week; I’ll have to check out Recipezaar and Search by Ingredient.
My mother cooked cabbage once and stunk up the house for a week; not a good idea. What do people do besides make cole slaw? Cabbage rolls, I suppose.
Next year at this time, because I’ve got that new landscape lumber and the right mindset, I will plan a proper garden, with all the vegetables I really want to grow: radishes, onions, carrots, tomatoes and peppers of course; maybe some corn. This is Indiana, after all, it’s like a patriotic duty to grow corn here. And maybe I’ll even do cabbage, broccoli and leeks if I figure out how.
IN THE MEANTIME, I want to start a strawberry patch, and I’ve got a whole flat of 18 ever-bearing plants; some even have green berries on them already. But there isn’t room. However, if I bought two more landscape boards, I could extend the garden another eight feet east… And I’ve got muskmelon seeds I saved last year from a big juicy fruit grown in Knox County (Vincennes). Melons don’t go in until after all danger of frost is past, which is another couple of weeks. I can’t see myself doing well at all with a viney plant like a melon, but hey, you don’t know what you’ve got till you try. Maybe someday I’ll be going door to door trying to give away zucchini in August, you never know.
Gardening is like theology; endlessly fascinating if you’re into that sort of thing, always more to learn, then one thing leads to another and before you know it you’re frying up a mess of Swiss chard in bacon grease and thanking God for your little patch of ground.
I bought this house six years ago this week and I’m still full of gratitude.++