Margaret Lauterbach

The fruit and vegetable garden bounty is abundant this year

Margaret Lauterbach
Margaret Lauterbach

Sweet potato vines have gone berserk in my raised beds, creating a series of jungles inside which my chile plants are happily putting out healthy pods. No sun-scald on pods hidden among leaves, but the only weeds showing in that area are some crab grasses that I didn’t remove before the vines took over. The vegetable garden is especially fun at this time of year, when we can brush aside a leaf and find an edible treasure – a chile, a ripe tomato or a ripening squash.

I didn’t put out celery plants very early, but they think they’re 2 years old now, and in the terrible twos they’re going to flower and seed. I’ll use them for flavoring anyway. Bush beans should be ready for harvest about Sept. 1, but I’ve already harvested and shelled them by mid-August (six varieties involved). One pole bean put out pods early too. I do love that bean in soup, and a friend thinks (from description) it’s a Lingua di Fuoco borlotto pole bean. I see Seeds of Italy has that variety also in a bush bean. I had been given seeds by a woman named Gretchen (can’t find her surname), whom I met at the Metropolitan Opera simulcasts at the Edwards movie theater. Seeds were from Joe’s Garden in Bellingham, I think.

The way in which my chile plants are producing, I’m beginning to think chile plants love cool roots. The lower parts of the plants are definitely shaded, now concealing the growing pods and protecting them from sunburn.

Until two or three years ago, I grew only indeterminate tomato plants. When I found I didn’t need all of the space on 11 beds for growing vegetables for two of us, I started growing some determinate tomato varieties. They grow to less than 2 feet in height, so don’t need to be caged, and I can tend and harvest from the seat of my scooter. I’ve been growing open-pollinated determinate varieties, but was tempted by catalog description to grow Scipio F1 plum tomatoes. Prolific producer is an understatement.

Some who’ve seen it asked whether it was a Roma. No. I hate Roma tomatoes. That’s a supermarket variety, withstanding shipping and having poor flavor. They’re picked green, ripened with ethylene gas, and refrigerated somewhere along the way. If Roma tomatoes had good flavor to begin with, that treatment would destroy it. But they lose every taste test they’re entered in. They’re useful if you need something wet and/or red in a dish in midwinter, and that’s all.

Scipio F1, also called Astro, is a paste tomato, with far better flavor than Roma, although technically that, too, is a paste tomato. Paste tomatoes have fewer seeds and less runny gel than nonpaste tomatoes. They have more true tomato flesh, so are happily used in salsas. Plum tomatoes are usually a little smaller than paste tomatoes, but these Scipios are plump, well-formed, 4-ounce tubes. They’re not ripening all at once, either, as some determinate varieties do (tomato canners prefer that habit, but I don’t).

▪  Fruit is abundant this year, even the Seckel pear is so heavily loaded it broke a branch. Have had large crop of thornless blackberries, and Gravenstein apples, and now the white peach is ripening (so far no codling moths in the peaches, hurrah). Next will be Italian prune plums. That tree is very heavily loaded, and so are the pear trees. I have a Bartlett pear, then to pollinate the Seckel, I bought a Comice pear. I saw it would be years before it would pollinate anything, so I bought an Anjou pear tree – and now they all are loaded.

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