Maybe it was how tiny the seeds are, or how puny the seedlings were when I moved them to the ground several weeks after germination. Perhaps it was the assault of cabbage worms that, at one point, was destroying the leaves seemingly as fast as the plants could grow them. But a little water here, a little organic insecticide there and - voila! - that head up there just appeared. I was so enthralled that I couldn't bring myself to cut it on this day, which would have, it turned out, been the exact day TO cut it. I waited about a week, at which point the head started getting bushy and ended up being a wee bit bitter. That's OK. Live and learn. Here's what else I learned about broccoli in a flurry of panicked Googleing (I never thought I'd actually reach this point with broccoli, and, no, I just could not figure out how to make a joke combining the words head, appeared, bushy and bitter. I'm off my game today):
- Harvest when the outside florets get to be about the size of a match head.
- The slightest hint of yellow means the vegetable is about to turn into an inedible flower.
- And, the best part: Broccoli isn't a one-shot deal. Cut the initial head with a sharp knife about five inches down the stalk, and the plant will continue to try to bloom in the form of side shoots provided ...
- You keep the roots cool. Hot weather shuts broccoli down, but it's not the heat on the plant above the ground that's the problem, it's the head in the soil. So one tip I got was mulch the roots and keep the soil moist. Those few degrees should keep the plant producing. We'll see.
Here's an itty, bitty floret on a different plant.
Oh, something else I learned about broccoli: They weren't kidding when they said one plant per square foot. I squeezed five into three, and they have pretty much taken over as you can see in the next two pictures. That's them on the second row below, and my onions (second picture) were completely overpowered by the three-foot tall monsters and died. Whoops.
In other gardening news, I also harvested bush beans and snap peas since we last spoke. Here's the evidence (that would be beans on the left and peas on the right for all you city-folk out there):
We ate the beans and peas in stir fries, primarily, though I have to admit I was disappointed in what I got from my eight pea plants. What you see is pretty much it, which wasn't terrible except for the fact that you get one harvest from peas and that's it. Above is the difference in about a week. The pod on the left has gotten too big to eat, meaning we had to open it to get the peas themselves, while the one on the right was still tender enough to toss in a wok.
Peas, too, are a cool-weather vegetable, and when it gets hot the plants simply die. I probably planted these too late in the spring, which I'll avoid in the future. I have also learned that it's possible to have a fall pea crop by planting seeds in August. Oh, don't worry - I'll keep you in the loop. Here's a shot of the pods on the vine:
The bean plants, meanwhile, looked pretty done when I picked these, but my mom assured me that the plants would bloom again and by George she was right. I'd go take a picture of the new flowers and post them, but I'm too lazy. Good news, though.
In still more gardening news, guess what this is:
If you said a cheap plastic ball, close. In fact, it's a watermelon - one of two that are sneakily expanding every day. This one is finally big enough for me to almost not step on it.
And last, but not least for today, we also have plums. Lots and lots of plums. At first I felt bad taking them from the birds, but that was before we watched a cowbird sit on a branch and just mangle the shit out of what was once a nice piece of friend with its beak before flying away after having actually eaten only about a quarter of it. So to hell with the birds (which is becoming a theme when it comes to birds and my garden).
And, finally, I threatened to put borage in my gin-and-tonics. I did. It was delicious.