Stillwater News Press

Garden

July 5, 2014

Seed to Table 07-06-14

Smaller gardens may produce bigger yields

One bright spot on the farm this spring is the vegetable garden. Because I was able to irrigate, it is thriving. We are at the height of the spring harvest period; and so far I have harvested the beets, carrots, onions, and cabbage – and will soon start on the potatoes.  

This is one of the more joyful times in the garden, everything is so big and lush; and I am enjoying lots of stir fry. This is also a time when my mind spins from numerous thought.

There are, of course, the thoughts of just how good all these will taste, and of how bountiful the land can be.  

I also think about how much closer I have come to food security and independence; and how much joy I have received getting there.

I have yet to find anything to match the sense of satisfaction generated from knowing that the food on my plate came from my own garden, and often only minutes earlier.  

It is impossible to hold back a prayer of gratitude.

Two things different this year, are how much I am enjoying the garden, and how well I have kept it up. I believe this is the result of two factors.  First, having closed the business, I no longer have the pressures of other person’s expectations. Second, the garden is much smaller; weeding one 50-foot row of potatoes is much less daunting than six.  

Inspired with thoughts of producing so many different crops (and several varieties of each), new gardeners often overwhelm themselves - making joy difficult to achieve. If that has been your experience, I can confidently tell you that cutting back will help – and you will end up with more instead of less, because you will tend it better.

I also think about things I can only experience through my own garden, like truly “fresh” vegetables. There is nothing quite so tasty as a stalk of broccoli transferred from the garden to boiling water in 3 minutes.  

And then there are those “new” potatoes and “baby” carrots – the tastes and textures of which are notably different from mature ones.  Unfortunately, most of what I see in the supermarkets do not seem to be really “new” or “baby.”  The potatoes resemble smaller mature ones (culls by some standards), and the carrots, larger ones run through a pencil sharpener.  I wonder what they do with all the shavings.  The result is that they both lack the softer textures and gentler flavors of real young vegetables.

When shopping in the stores for “new” potatoes, look for ones with paper thin to almost non-existent skins; those with darker rougher skins are of a more advanced maturity. And I’ve never seen real “baby” carrots in the stores, but maybe I’m shopping at the wrong place.

So, get out and enjoy your garden this week. And start thinking about fall; most of these crops can be replanted in June, July and even August for fall harvest.

Richard A. “Dick” Ortez earned a doctorate degree from Creighton University in microbiology. During the past 40 years, he has taught elements of food science at the university and medical school levels, operated a café, and run a truck farm and food processing business. He writes the Seed to Table column at his farm near Glencoe and welcomes questions, comments and suggestions sent to raortez@pro-value.net.

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