Morning Rounds in the Garden, June

A lot can happen in a month.

Here in mid-June in Tennessee, the peas, lettuces, radishes, turnips, spring onions, and spinach have given way to tomatoes, cukes, zucchini, summer squash, peppers, eggplants, beans, basil, and garlic.

Here’s what’s growing in my Italian kitchen garden this month.

Tomato Plants

Tomatoes are the stars of the summer garden. I planted twelve heirloom Cherokee Purples and an assortment of twelve other heirloom varieties.

I use the Florida Weave system of support for growing tomatoes. It requires 6-foot posts and a few layers of string woven in and around the posts; new layers of string are added as the plants grow taller.

A few years ago, I wrote a post on my favorite tomato plants where I described many varieties. Last year, I had a brilliant idea and decided to grow only Cherokee Purples because they were my favorites. So uniform in color, right?

With a single variety, the art part of my heart wasn’t as enthralled as it had been in seasons past.

That’s why this year, I mixed it up and planted an assortment of tomatoes. I’m going for a variety of color and shapes once again.

Zucchini, Summer Squash, and Patty Pans

Every summer, I try to figure out a new way to keep squash vines off the ground so they won’t rot or be devoured by vine borers. This year, I tried using new short cages I found at Home Depot. So far, they are doing the trick. Each cage has 5-6 seedlings planted in it. I meant to thin them out, but I have a hard time thinning because I hate to discard the rejects. Now, the cages are tightly packed with foliage, flowers, and some fruit. It’s a jungle in there. I plan to sow more seeds in the back garden, this time with three plants to a hill, as is recommended on the package.

The plants are just starting to produce.

Cucumbers

I’m afraid I overplanted here, as well.

Eating cucumbers in a salad, making cucumber soup, and making pickles, are my favorite ways to enjoy cucumbers.

I did want to show the little supports I bought online to help attach viney vegetables to a chicken-wire fence. Note the dark green clips. I use them to support peas and beans, too.

Sweet Bell Peppers

I use the same Florida Weave system of support for peppers and eggplants as I do for tomatoes.

Eggplants

My large Black Beauty eggplants went in the ground late and have a ways to go before they flower.

The smaller style of eggplants, Fairy Tale, Hansel, Gretel, and Ichiban, are already producing and will provide eggplants for cooking while I await the larger Black Beauty.

String Beans (Bush Beans)

I planted these in between the lettuce plants and in front of the peas in early May. When I pulled the lettuce and peas, the string beans seedlings took off.

Rainbow Swiss Chard

Truth be told, I enjoy photographing chard more than eating it.

 

Basil

It wouldn’t be an Italian garden without basil. I throw it in almost every pasta dish I cook. There’s plenty to share.

The Back Garden

I’ve pulled the lettuce, radishes, spring onions, and beets.

The last of the spring onions.

We’re still harvesting garlic, kale, potatoes, carrots, and asparagus. Asparagus shoots turn into tall ferns if you don’t harvest them. This is year three for these Jersey Knights.

Commercial or Agricultural Crops

Every year, I plant a few new crops (mostly agricultural) to see how they grow.  I have quite a few stories about commercial farming that I’ve written over the years. You can find them by browsing the Menu. In this next photo, I’ve planted sugar cane and rice (inspired by our trip to India), and peanuts and cotton (inspired by our trip to Como and the Delta in Mississippi).

In another raised bed, inspired by frequent trips to Kentucky, I’m growing: corn, tobacco, and soybeans. Some plants were grown from seed, and some are “roadsydia.”

Finally, there is a fairly robust crop of indigo growing from volunteers from last year’s indigo plants that I picked up at a Farmers Market. I’ve allowed the seedlings to mature so I can try my hand at making indigo dye.

I was playing with an indigo dye purchased at Eastertime, and I’ve been thinking about making a natural indigo dye ever since …

My first blackberry ripened today!

Can’t forget the chickens this morning.

That’s it for this episode of Morning Rounds!

Check out Morning Rounds from April and May.

What do I do with all of these gorgeous vegetables?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Don’t miss a recipe! Become a subscriber and have every post delivered to your Inbox.

Follow Judy’s Chickens on Instagram and Pinterest @JudysChickens.

Remember to always check this website for updated versions of a recipe.  

© 2014-2018 Judy Wright. All rights reserved. Photos, videos, and text may only be reproduced with the written consent of Judy Wright.

Peperonata!

Five years ago, I posted this picture on Facebook of peppers I had just harvested from my backyard garden.

Within minutes of posting it, I received a message from a Sicilian friend living in Germany, Francesco Strazzanti, with the following message, “Peperonata!”

Francesco is a fantastic cook; so when he talks, I listen. I had never heard of peperonata. When I Googled it and learned it was a stew made with sweet bell peppers (“peperoni” in Italian), onions, and tomatoes, I realized I knew exactly what peperonata was — I just never knew the dish had a name.

There are many ways to make this dish, just like there are many ways to make
sausage with peppers and onions,

marinara sauce,

or chicken cacciatore,

The core ingredients are all pretty much the same, a variation of vegetables typically grown in a summer Italian kitchen garden: tomatoes, peppers, onions, zucchini, eggplant, garlic, basil, and parsley. These are MY VEGGIES!  I garden just to watch these beauties grow and then to have a quiet kitchen in which to prepare them in delicious and creative ways. The bonus is the connection I feel to my mother and grandmothers when I make their recipes.

Peperonata! 

Peperonata is the kind of dish you could make a big batch of every week and have in the fridge to use as you plan meals.

You could serve it over pasta for dinner or as a side dish alongside grilled sausages or chicken.

You could serve it over a slice of crusty bread with melted mozzarella or goat cheese for lunch.

Or, you could serve it scrambled with eggs for breakfast. This last way was one of my favorite foods to eat when I was a teenager. My grandmother in Baltimore used to make it for me all the time. She scrambled the eggs in olive oil and stirred in the peperonata at the end. Yum.

Yield: 8 cups

Ingredients:

DSC_2339
¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
1 large onion, about 3 cups cleaned and sliced
3 pounds bell pepper, about 10 medium-sized, or 10 cups cleaned and sliced.
1 level tablespoon chopped garlic, about 4 or 5 cloves
2 pounds juicy, ripe, tasty, tomatoes, or 4 cups cleaned and rough-chopped.
1 teaspoon sea salt
¼ teaspoon ground black pepper
1 heaping tablespoon chopped fresh oregano, or the leaves from about 6-8 sprigs
¼ cup chopped fresh basil, or the leaves from two stems
1 heaping tablespoon chopped mint, or the leaves of one long stem
2 tablespoons honey
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice,  or about ½ lemon squeezed
1 heaping tablespoon plain Greek yogurt (optional – swirl in before serving if desired)

Mise en Place:

To prep the peppers: cut in half and scoop out the stem, seeds and white pith. Chop into slices or chunks. I leave the skin on. Note: red sweet peppers make for a pretty sauce if you have a choice when buying the peppers.

 

To prep the tomatoes: cut in half horizontally, use your index finger to scoop out the seeds. Remove the stem and core and cut into two-inch chunks. I leave the skin on because the heirloom tomatoes I use (called Cherokee Purples) are thin-skinned.

DSC_2365

To prep the onions: remove the papery skin and white core at the base. Slice into slivers.

Instructions:
Warm olive oil in a 6-quart pan. Add onions and sauté for 5 minutes on medium heat until translucent.

Add peppers and garlic and sauté for 10   minutes, covered, on medium-low heat until soft. Stir about every 5 minutes. Do not brown peppers.

Add tomatoes, salt, and pepper, cover and sauté for 5 minutes on medium-low, stirring occasionally. Stir in herbs. Cover, cut off heat and let sit for about an hour to finish cooking. Stir in the honey, lemon, and yogurt. Add more salt to taste. I like to add ¼ teaspoon at a time until that moment when the salt brings out the best in all the flavors. Francesco is the one who encouraged me to add the lemon, honey, mint, and yogurt. He was spot on. They boosted the depth of flavor wonderfully.

P.S. It gets better every day!

How about Italian cookies for dessert?

Sesame Seed

Lemon and Ricotta

Always check the website for the most current version of a recipe. Thanks!

© 2014-2017 Judy Wright. All rights reserved. Photos and text may only be used with written consent.