Saturday, July 26, 2008

Veggie Tales and Random Musings

Have you gotten "sticker shock" at the grocery store lately? Yesterday I bought a five-pound bag of red potatoes for $3.99. Even in the winter when produce is usually more expensive, I rarely spend that much on ten pounds of potatoes. But the real shock for me came when I looked in the meatcase at the local Meijer on Monday. A one-pound package of Oscar Mayer bacon was $5.49! I don't eat much bacon, but I was looking forward to BLT's when the tomatoes ripen. Looks like we may be eating LT's instead. And things aren't going to get better any time soon: a news report yesterday predicted that food prices are going to go up another 5% in the next six months.

All this gives me one more reason to be happy I planted a vegetable garden this year (though there isn't any bacon growing there!), and why I probably will expand it next year. I don't grow many different kinds of vegetables, so that I make sure we do eat what I grow. For example, broccoli is too much trouble, in my opinion, because of the pests, so I would rather buy that in the store. But I feel foolish buying a small zucchini when it is so easy to grow. A few weeks ago I wanted a zucchini for a pasta salad I was making and spent $1.00 for a small one. I haven't planted any since the "Zucchini Explosion" of 2006. That year I gave away lots of the vegetables and made zucchini bread, zucchini-apple bread, zucchini-carrot bread, zucchini cake, zucchini brownies, added grated zucchini to spaghetti sauce . . .you get the idea. It got so bad my daughter wouldn't eat anything without asking first whether there was zucchini in it. Now I wish I'd planted some this year--I could have had a veritable zucchini goldmine in my garden!

We have had some spinach, lettuce, and kohlrabi from the garden already, but our real favorites are just beginning to ripen. Yesterday I picked the second bunch of green beans, some summer squash (you can't make this into bread, unfortunately), and the real treat--the first tiny tomatoes.

There is nothing like a tomato fresh from the garden. I feel sorry for anyone who has known only the mushy, tasteless tomatoes sold in the supermarket. I got a little carried away this year planting tomatoes and have several varieties, including grape, cherry, Roma, and standard tomatoes such as Supersonic and Beefsteak. The tag for these tomatoes simply said "Grape."

I even have a variety of cherry tomato from England, courtesy of Cheryl (via Beckie).

By the end of August I hope I will be swamped with tomatoes and will be making tomato juice and tomato sauce to put in the freezer as well as all the fresh ones we will eat. I say I hope because some of the plants are not looking too healthy right now. There are yellow and even brown leaves on most of them. I usually stick with the varieties that are resistant to fungus, so I think the problem is in the watering. Quite frankly, we have had too much rain this year. Everything I have read about tomatoes says that they need regular, consistent watering. Unfortunately, the rain gods haven't paid attention to these recommendations.

Another reason to be thankful for growing my own tomatoes is the scare this year over salmonella and other possible contaminants in produce. Although tomatoes have now been taken off the recall lists, it still is more reassuring to know exactly where your produce came from. There was an article in the newspaper recently about the importing of produce. The article featured a model farm in Mexico where extreme precautions are taken to ensure safe handling of its lettuce all the way to the supermarket. The photo accompanying the article showed workers dressed in protective clothing, hats, and even face masks picking lettuce. I couldn't help feeling sorry for these workers. I pick vegetables only during the cool parts of the day, not for 8-12 hours in extreme heat, let along wearing layers of clothing. But what really struck me was that the writer explained the whole process of getting the lettuce to the supermarket, ending with the proud comment that it arrived safely on the supermarket shelves just a week after being picked. A week! Last Sunday I picked the first green beans and had them on the table within an hour!

Some random thoughts from the last few days . . . . . . Yesterday while I was sitting at the computer reading blogs, I kept hearing a low-flying plane. It took awhile for my fog-clouded brain to register what I was hearing. Finally, I ran outside with the camera and got a picture of this crop duster.

Since I was so slow in getting out, I didn't get a good photo because he was on his last round over this nearby field. He must have had several jobs to do because I could hear him in the area all day but never this close. I found out later he was spraying a fungicide that this particular variety of corn is susceptible to in wet weather.

Rambling along here, I noticed the other day that my clematis is blooming once again. That's not so unusual because it bloomed twice last summer as well. But what struck me as strange was the color of the bloom. You'll notice it is definitely lavendar.

But below is what it looked like this spring.

Is this normal?? Now that I think about it, last year, its first in bloom, the clematis bloomed just once--about this time of the summer-- and had lavender blooms. Earlier this spring I thought I had identified the plant as a "Nelly Moser," but now I am completely befuddled.

Speaking of clematis . . . . I wanted to thank everyone for their helpful comments on my last post about the sense of smell. You gave me some great ideas for plants to add to my garden to make it smell more sweetly. And I would still welcome any other suggestions. The power of the sense of smell to trigger strong memories seems surprising, while memories triggered by sights or sounds seem more logical in a way. Which brings me back to the clematis . . . I have seen the ever-popular Jackmanii clematis pictured on several posts. I know this variety has been around for years and is probably the most common, but I can't bring myself to plant one. Yes, they are beautiful, and they are purple, a favorite color of mine in the garden. But the Jackmanii triggers a very strong visual image for me. My grandmother was quite the gardener, and many of her flowers still live on at my parents' farmstead. My grandparents did not have indoor plumbing until I was about 5 or 6, and it always amazed me how my grandmother managed to get everything done, including tending flowers, when she had to pump water for doing dishes, laundry, and many other household chores. Grandma had a large Jackmanii clematis near--you guessed it--the old outhouse! My apologies to all of you who have these lovely clematises, but perhaps you'll understand when I say I can't see one without thinking of an outhouse.

One last parting comment . . . I have gotten daylily envy from seeing all the lovely daylily posts the last few weeks. So when I found a few on sale this past week at Meijer's I snatched up this "Lavender Dew."

I know it's not the right time of year to plant daylilies, but I have been scouring the local stores and garden centers whenever I have time lately for end of the season bargains. This one wasn't a great steal, but at least it was still healthy. I did find a few real bargains on Friday at the same sale Beckie went to, but I'll save them for another day. Right now I need to get busy and plant them before it rains again. Hope you all are having a great weekend!


  1. Rose, I laughed at the 'zucchini explosion' comment. Sometimes that is how it feels when they are producing so well. And you are so right about a garden grown tomato-there is nothing to compare it to. I haen't had much to do with clematis so I don't know if your is unusual or not. But it seems you got a 2-fer. Can't wait to see what you picked up at the sale.

  2. Hi Rose......I won't even start with food prices here, they are rocketing.....petrol has gone so high, I believe it is double what you are paying......we have our cars converted to LPG, thank goodness....

    I get my produce from local farmers, it is organic, and because it is local it has not increased in price.....and it tastes fantastic. I do grow my own tomatoes, beans etc though but I will do more next year....I am thinking of raised beds, to deter the rabbits.....

    That day lily is the best I have seen and one of my favourite colours.......

    By the way there is a recipe on Naturewitch's blog for green tomato marmalade...sounds great...might be worth a try??

    That clematis has got me.....I have grown many varieties and I have never seen that.....amazing, wish I had one......

  3. Beckie, You are welcome to pick up some summer squash if you'd like! I just realized I wrote that the clematis bloomed twice last year, but actually I don't remember. I hope someone can explain this to me.
    I restrained myself at the sale, buying somewhat the same as you.

    Cheryl, I know Americans complain so much about gas prices right now, but we're really just catching up to what Europeans have been paying for years.

    I noticed someone else from the UK saying they got produce delivered from local farmers. The local farmers' market is not that convenient, but I need to check it out for other vegetables. Beckie gave me a couple tiny tomato plants grown from seed you'd given her. They seem to be adapting to Illinois soil, thanks, Cheryl!

    I'll have to check out the green tomato marmalade recipe...

  4. I think it might not be too late to plant some zucchini. You might try it out as it is very expensive at the grocery store these days.

  5. I've also experienced repeated incidents of "Zucchini explosions." I think I'm going to try it in a pot next year. Any time is the right time to plant Daylilies. Their fleshy roots make them very forgiving. In fact, my mom had dug some up & was going to replant them, but she forgot about them. They sat in a pot all summer without any soil & were still alive to be planted in the fall. Color changing Clematis wouldn't surprise me. Nothing Clematis does surprises me. Too bad about the negative association you make with Jackmanii, but there are other great purple Clematises you could plant instead.

  6. Tina, I have a little room left in the vegetable garden, so I might plant some zucchini yet. Even if I harvested only a few, it would make up for the cost of seed.

    MMD, Thanks for the comment on the clematis--I thought you might know the cause, if anyone. I did go ahead and plant the daylily; in fact, I took your advice and put it in the shade garden, the only good place with room right now. It does get a couple hours sun.
    Thanks for all your suggestions on scented plants. I'm going to write them down in my journal so I don't forget.
    I probably did get a lame heliotrope:)

  7. rose,

    I have avoided the grocery sticker shock by sending my husband to the store! I can't believe what I paid to eat the best tomatoes I've had in a while. I went to our local expensive produce store and bought a small package of heirloom cherry tomatoes. Oh my, it was the best $5 meal I have had. I just wanted a good tomato taste and these guys came through! There were purple ones, little yellow tear drop shaped sugar balls and red ones. I am going to have to rethink a garden and at least grow tomatoes and some more herbs, well, lettuce would be good and then.....

    I don't know anything about your clematis except that it is good looking as a pink or lavender flower. Is it possible that two vines were in the one pot you planted?



    We used to sneak grated zucchini into the spaghetti sauce to get our son to eat them, too.

  8. Your veggies are doing great!

    Beautiful new daylily. Actually this is a perfect time to plant them. Whenever I order, they arrive in late summer.

  9. Hi Rose, Your zuchinni explosion really struck a lot of chords. Those delicious rascals are like beloved relatives that visit too ofen and too long. You love em but you can't wait until they leave. Ha...

    That Nellie Moser changed colors on me too. Only it was more of a fade out. I don't remember shades of lavender on it. It died on me. I don't know why either. Hmmmmm

    Too bad you have such a bad association with jackamanni. It is such a tough guy. It seems there are many that look similar to it too. I guess you will have to stick with the pinker, redder or yellow and white clematis.

  10. Gail, I've been wanting my husband to do some of the shopping so he understands what I have been complaining about.
    $5 sounds like a lot for cherry tomatoes, but then again sometimes it's worth the splurge to get something that actually tastes good!
    Is it Jerry Seinfeld's wife who has a cookbook out with recipes for sneaking veggies into kids' food?

    Marnie, Glad to know it's ok to plant daylilies now. Of course, I don't always follow the recommended "rules" anyway:)

    Lisa, Perfect analogy for zucchini:)
    Maybe Gail was right that there were actually two clematis vines planted in the pot I bought. I want to plant a couple more varieties--I think I'll stick with pink or white or maybe lavender for now.

  11. Your veggies look really nice. I love yellow squash and tomatoes..that is my two favorite veggies.
    I make a casserole of yellow squash, shrimp and cheese that is really good when we get tired of them just shut down with onions. The good thing is, we can go cast a net for the shrimp and get at least enough for a couple of meals. If we had to buy them, we coldn't afford them.

  12. Good luck with your tomato crop, Rose - we sure have opposite problems this year. I'm trying to keep two 'Juliet' grape tomato plants alive and hoping desperately for rain and a day under 95°F.

    I wonder if there were two small rooted cuttings in the pot when you planted your clematis. That's what happened to me. The package showed a pale pink flower but after 2 years I had one strand with a white flower and another with a purple one. After some very careful digging and separating they now bloom separately.

    Annie at the the Transplantable Rose

  13. Food prices here are soring too. I went to ASDA yesterday and spent at least £50 more than my usual bill for the second week running. The price of basics like butter have risen by more than a third

    Your new daylilly is a beautiful colour. I only have orange ones, I didn't realise they came in other shades.

    Does the crop spray reach your house and garden? I would hate to have that in the air around me, I don't like chemicals!
    Hope all is well with you. Any humming birds yet?

  14. Eve, Your shrimp casserole sounds yummy. Unfortunately, the only shrimp near here are in the supermarket:)

    Annie, It seems like everyone is in one of two extremes--too much rain or not enough. Thanks for the idea about the clematis; that sounds like a very plausible explanation. I don't know if I want to try separating it, though; I'd probably kill it.

    Suburbia, Daylilies come in lots of different colors--some of the other gardening blogs on my blogroll have been showing so many different ones lately, I have daylily envy.
    The hummingbirds are back! But so far my camera and I have been too slow. I'm going to keep trying...

  15. Rose, I love your picture with the green colander. I have one exactly like it! I bought it shortly after getting married in 1980. Its size is much more practical than either one of the other two that I have. I bet I've used that colander thousands of times throughout the years. Speaking of zucchini, I'm making some bread this morning with it and putting some in a casserole I'm making tonight for supper. My sister is supplying me with some of her surplus.

  16. Suburbia, I forgot to answer your question about the crop duster. The pilots are careful, I think, to spray only on days when there's no wind. I really didn't notice any drift. Unfortunately, chemicals are a necessary evil with corn and soybean farming. Too much money invested, I guess.

    W2w, I never thought about that colander, but mine is probably that old, too:) I think it's indestructible! Usually if you have a friend or family member with zucchini in the garden, you don't have to plant any of your own, LOL.

  17. There's an award for you at mine , hope you don't already have it :)

  18. Wow! Your garden is lush, Rose. Wish I lived near ... the surplus would land in my pots! Zucchini Pie is a favorite and tomatoes haunt me ... can't live without them! Since I don't grow vegetables (only herbs), I rely on local farmers to supply 'my cookin' habit'.

  19. Your clematis is awesome! Enjoy your vegs. They look scrumptious!

  20. Superbe hémérocalle Game Theory !


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