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Full-on Plant Joy

10 August 2012

It’s the beginning of the hottest, most humid part of summer here in North Carolina, and I’m harvesting vegetables and herbs from my garden almost every day.  I love it when a garden bed reaches this point.  I get on my knees, reach my hands into the tangle of plants, focus on the mix of smells and the texture of the leaves and vegetables, and grin uncontrollably.  If this is not a direct experience of the divine, then I don’t know what is.

The eggplant has done exceptionally well, and I have far more than I know what to do with.  My father has decided he’s going to work his way through The Joy of Cooking during his retirement, and since we have a surplus of eggplant, he’s challenged himself to perfect his eggplant Parmesan recipe.  He cooks it at least once a week, mostly with eggplant from the garden, though sometimes he buys varieties at the grocery store that I’m not growing.  I have to admit, he’s getting pretty good with it.  I’ve made a few eggplant stir-fries (stir-steams) with broccoli and onion and, of course, hot pepper from the garden.  I have neglected to take pictures of any of these culinary delights.

All of the basil is pure ecstasy.  The cultivars that became ill when I first planted them have grown healthy.  I am surprised at how different the flavors are!  They all are still identifiable as basil, but there is great variation.  The purple ruffles is a favorite, just like previous years.  It cooks better than all the others, retaining its mellow, smooth flavor and infusing it into the food, while the other cultivars lose their more pungent flavors when heated.  The red rubin is incredibly mild, far more mild than even Genovese.  I put it in salads!  The Mexican and Spicy Globe have grown to epic sizes.  They’re also both quite tasty, with the Mexican having a cinnamon undertone and the Spicy Globe a clove undertone.  I have to trim them back to keep them from choking neighboring pepper plants.  The Greek Columnar lives up to its name.  Even the diminutive Aristotle basil has grown long shoots, soaking in the hot, humid air.

Most of the sweet pepper plants have become diseased, while the hot peppers are thriving.  I don’t know what it is or what to do about it.  It is becoming apparent that I handle plant disease poorly.  I need further education on this topic.

The amaranth grew to match my height, then was attacked by a pest.  I don’t know what this pest was or why it only ate the amaranth and nothing else.  It swarmed the plant, ate holes in all the leaves, then departed my garden, never to return.  The amaranth has since died due to all the damage it sustained.  I did eat some of the leaves before the pest arrived, and found it agreeable.  It’s hard to describe the taste, but it is mild, perhaps somewhere between spinach and kale.  Until the pest attacked it, it proved to be incredibly hardy and thrived in the heat.

Everything else is thriving vibrantly, and you can see many more images in today’s gallery.

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