Today we bid a sad farewell to the zucchini. Vine borers, those pesky pests of organic gardening, hit the stems at the root zone, and we saw tell-tale sudden plant wilt and collapse. But not before we harvested a basket full of nice, perfect fruits. Organic methods of control for vine borer include wrapping stems in cloth or aluminum foil; it is also possible to inject nematodes into an affected stem, but an invaded stem will never recover full strength. Finally the tiny, red eggs may be hand-picked off the base of the stems when they are laid. We do not have time to bother with any of these, and rather lose a couple plants; zucchini are so quick-growing they can be replanted. Let them RIC (Rest In Compost).
The photos today are our garden experiments: white potatoes, and Aunt Molly's Ground Cherry. These potato bushes are about knee-high at five weeks old. We planted them in composted manure when the potatoes were already well-sprouted, and now they are in flower. We will check on tubers around seven weeks to see how they are developing, and maybe harvest some "new" potatoes which, from what we hear, are a special treat of potato gardening.
Ground cherries are in the nightshade family, related to eggplant, tomatoes, and, ironically, potatoes. When still green, ground cherries contain a mildly toxic substance called solanine. Fruits come wrapped in light, papery lanterns, and they are ripe when they yellow and fall from the plant. Mature ground cherries are deep yellow-orange and can be picked up off the ground in their dry papery skins. The earliest fruits that set on our plants this Spring are now ripening, and they have an interesting pineapple-strawberry flavor. We plan to try these in a pie, and if they merit, preserves, although they are a tempting treat to eat fresh from the garden!
We are harvesting cucumbers in abundance; we made our first batch of overnight Kosher dill pickles with fresh dill and garlic from the garden. These are similar to Claussen brand refrigerator dills, only better. They are not canned and must be eaten within a couple weeks or they turn soggy, but they aren't in danger of spoiling in our house! It looks like we're only getting started by the abundance of little cucumbers that are in flower now; picking only encourages more. We will need to can pickles soon.
Tomato bushes have outgrown their cages and their stakes, and will have to sprawl from now on. Each bush is loaded with a crop of swelling green fruits and are setting more, but it looks like we will have to wait until July for that first sun-ripened red tomato. We have both determinate and indeterminate varieties; once they come, we won't be able to keep up with them, but we need a lot at once to preserve.
Melons have set the size of a clenched fist. Peas are giving a second crop, not as big as the first, but still welcome. Broccoli heads as big across as 10 and 12 inches are ready to harvest - we will need to cut them, blanch, and freeze since we can't keep up with eating them fresh. Already side shoots are growing that will give us fresh broccoli season-long. Sweet corn is tasseling out now and should be ready to pick in about three weeks. Add green beans, carrots, sweet and hot peppers, and onions to the mix, and who needs to shop at the market!