Our garden is not dead yet! Last year everything died in July, but this year mostly everything is still alive and producing. We are still gathering cucumbers, Swiss Chard, carrots, jalapenos and green and golden peppers. We've gone through our garlic, beets, turnips, shallots, kale, mustard, lettuce, arugula and tomatoes, and we were able to harvest two zucchini and two butternut squash before the vine borers took the plants out. Right now we are growing what looks like canteloupe (we can't remember which seeds we planted!), green beans, black eyed peas and amaranth. DH planted the amaranth because apparently, you can eat the leaves like spinach. I had no idea! I'm looking forward to trying that.
(We've harvested lots of lemon cucumbers and green peppers this summer!)
The other night DH and I watched a PBS documentary about urban gardening. It was all very exciting - hydroponic rooftop gardens, rooftop beehives, and urban farming in cities like Detroit. And then I thought hey, we are urban farmers too! Well maybe suburban farmers - although we live in a small city abutting a big city, we have a yard. Lots of people have very small yards or no yards at all, but even then you can garden - check out these nifty ideas here! We are getting small amounts of several vegetables from our garden and I've been throwing them together in medley dishes, when last night I surprised myself by making a fresh veggie succotash.
(Fresh garlic from our garden turned out to have more bite than store-bought garlic!)
I have always hated traditional succotash. Anytime it turned up on the table when I was growing up, I refused to eat it. I remember it being some kind of corn and bean dish, like creamed corn and lima beans. I hate lima beans. They taste dry like sawdust in my mouth. My mom used to make a lima bean soup and I hated that too. The soup tasted dry and I could never wrap my head or my taste buds around dry soup. And creamed corn from a can was almost as bad - too mushy. It tasted sort of like corn but had none of the pleasing crunchy texture. I could not handle the combination of mushy corn and sawdusty lima beans. Whenever succotash appeared at the table, it was all I could do to not gag. So it was a complete surprise when last night I made a veggie side dish, looked at it, and said "holy cow, I've just made succotash!". It's funny how your roots rear up to blindside you when you've been happily munching on jalapenos and finding ways to incorporate hot sauce into all your favorite dishes.
This version of succotash is way better than what I grew up with - to start, the veggies were all fresh. Apparently, succotash can consist of a variety of vegetables and a shell bean. Instead of limas, I used fresh black eyed peas. Instead of corn, I used summer squash. The other vegetables are what I had laying around - incidentally, every ingredient save the salt and chili powder are from our garden and other friends' gardens. I told DH last night that this turned out to be a friendship succotash, and we agreed that's the best kind of succotash there is.
Fresh Vegetable Succotash
2 tbsp. olive oil
1 medium onion, chopped
4 cloves garlic, minced
2 medium tomatoes, cored, seeds removed, and chopped
splash of white wine
1 bunch Swiss chard, chopped into large pieces
1 small summer squash, quartered and sliced
1 cup fresh shelled small black-eyed peas, boiled a few minutes until tender*
chili powder to taste
salt to taste
Heat the olive oil in a large skillet over medium-low heat. Add the onion and cook until just beginning to turn soft. Add the garlic and cook 1 minute. Add the tomatoes and wine, cook another two minutes. Add the Swiss chard and cook, tossing, until beginning to soften. Add the summer squash and black eyed peas, toss, then cover and cook another couple of minutes until the chard is tender. Season to taste with chili powder and salt. Serve hot.
*DH tells me that small fresh black-eyed peas don't have to be boiled at all, you can saute them until they are tender! I'm going to try that with our next batch of black eyed peas.