On grazing

Monarch caterpillar munching on an asclepiasMonarch tasting the zinniasI have come to the realization – as I think I do every year – that there is nothing better in this world than feasting on the garden’s harvest. But I think the critters have it right – there are some things that taste infinitely better in the garden than out of it. I don’t love cherry tomatoes nearly as much if I take them home first and put them in a salad. Call me a wingnut but the closest I can get to enjoying them to the same degree as I do in the garden is if I eat them standing up at the kitchen counter. The same goes for the ground cherries (a sweet relative of the tomatillo) which I prefer to pick just as they’re about to drop to the ground and I have been known to take serious grazing breaks at our clump. Bring them inside for a sit-down break though and I tend to lose interest.

Ground cherries are ripe when they fall to the ground - or just before.Peeled ground cherry ready for the eating.

Maybe it’s like picking flowers to bring inside – some people love to do that while others really only enjoy their flowers in the garden. Granted, with veggies there are some things that are much better brought home – I might not be inclined to graze the beets, for instance, since I really prefer them roasted, chilled and slathered in homemade blue cheese dressing. And isn’t basil best drizzled in olive oil and draped over a slice of heirloom tomato?'Nosegay' hot pepper - tempting but I don't think I'll graze on this...

It seems like it’s been a funny year for the vegetable garden – slow to start for us with all of that rain in June and July and it seems like everyone’s tomatoes took a bit of a blighted beating. We are enjoying a good onion and leek crop though; the lettuce went on for ages and the artichokes were awfully good (dipped in melted butter, of course). Plus we’ve had more than our share of thievery in the gardens this year. The deer dined on the pole beans, somebody is chewing on the sweet potato foliage and whoever wiped us out of nearly ripe and still green tomatoes this weekend, shame on you. (I think Gail and I had the right idea planting the agave with the cherry tomatoes – though even those people with permission to pick have scars now from grazing…)

The agave tomato guard

Praying mantis waiting for dinner in the Blue Spice basil (and talinum)Gail and Cathy and I have been wondering about all of the people who were inspired this year to start a vegetable garden – are they feeling discouraged? We all already know that every year brings some kind of strange extreme and because of that I think we veteran gardeners have a duty to try to pass along our garden-variety optimism to any newbies we meet so they’ll keep on keeping on too.

How is your harvest so far this year? Do prefer to eat it standing up in the garden too?