Hard Vegetable Gardens = Farmers market run!

My vegetable patch is a very, very tiny patch.  About 2-4′ in width that points out to accommodate an annoying honey locust tree (Gleditsia triacanthos var. inermis). It hoards all of the soil’s richness that I added last fall.  To add to it, honey locusts are notorious for blocking out the shade; all those tiny little leaflets quilt together to block any light from reaching to the ground below. I’ve had to rely on the very little sun I get throughout the day from different angles.

On a good day, I get about 4 hours – on a very good day, but mostly 3 hours tops. It’s a very tough plot that I often have to remind myself that in full sun, I would have MUCH to brag about.  My very leafy garden with humble yields are just a symptom of a shady vegetable bed. On a very good note, my orach  and lettuce did wonders in the early spring. The trees were not budding as yet so it had all the sun and moisture and coolness allowed me to harvest a generous amount for the family to enjoy.  Sadly, all the crazy rain from this year invited a slew of aphids that decimated my orach, while powdery mildew stopped my peas from flourishing.  I have since removed them, allowing much more space for my scarlet runners.

My pollinators plants have had to be versatile, almost weedy-like flowers that are survivors of shade, the greatest being my native elderberry tree (Sambucus condenses) which I cut down to 3 feet every winter. This keeps the height at a reasonable size with no affect on flowering. Also added in was borage, cornflower, calendula, mountain mint, Korean perilla, mint, oregano, thyme lemon balm, and dill

I have tried zucchinis this year again. Next to that damned tree.  So I will be enjoying lots of stuffed flowers as the conditions do not allow for fruits.  I tried my hand at an heirloom variety tomato called Matt’s wild cherry tomatoes.  They too have stunted at 3 feet.  It is August now, and my seeds went in late MAY.  Shade. Blame the shade. And that damn tree.  My cucumbers are flourishing – slowly, and have finally flowered as well, I see the signs of prickly little cuke babies persisting. Both my pickling varieties and cucumber melon has flowered – robustly I might add! Happily, I have enjoyed arugula and lettuce, along with my korean perilla with some bbq meat. YUM. And of course, my scarlet runner beans and blue ribbon bush beans are finally coming.  Off to the farmers market to pick up and cheat!

So now that you know I have a shitty, shady, difficult and temperamental plot I stubbornly refuse to give up on, you now know that I have been shamelessly cheating my way into preserving all that vegetable goodness via the farmers market, to make up for failed attempts.  For example:

Pickles. Lots of fermented Korean pickles, spicy zucchini pickles; Jams:  sour cherry, wild blueberry with raspberry, the lilac jelly from spring is still waiting to be opened; roasted pepper and garlic preserve – all so very good.

Our family has already enjoyed the preserves in spades, especially the pickles! My references have come from a variety of books.  One of my favourites is The Amish Canning Cookbook by Georgia Varozza. You can find it on amazon.  Quite frankly, it’s been my first year canning like crazy, so this book came in very handy. Her thorough and detailed instructions made this all very easy to do.  The only thing that wasn’t found in any recipe book was the pickles. These were fermented in salt brine and a part of my family recipes handed down many many generations.  If anyone would like instructions, I can certainly post in my next entry.

Happy urban homesteading-ish adventures!

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