If you follow me on Twitter (@VitalityGuide) then you are well aware that my garden is becoming quite the marvel. We got off to a puttering start, and our delinquency resulted in a mess of weeds; summer sippin’, vacations and the pull of gainful employment was surely to blame. But alas, despite our borderline neglect, our garden has really begun to take flight. Where once we were able to harvest from our garden maybe once every week and a half, we are now overwhelmed by the bounty of our planted enclosure.
Every visit I marvel at the wonder of nature and her ability to support life in such a way. I used to wonder why people would surrender full weekend days to their gardening efforts; but now I get it- completely. The first visit where we were able to harvest I nearly cried at the sight of zucchini flowers; I cheered when we pulled candy cane beets; and I marveled at the height of our corn- boy, I am waiting on bated breath for the corn to be ready; but alas corn is like me, a late bloomer, but I know it will be worth the wait!
We have been enjoying rainbow chard galore, as there is more rainbow chard than I could have ever dreamed. Chard is excellent for juicing, as the stems are brimming with moisture; I’m sure you can appreciate the amount of juicing I have been doing; when chard says juice me, I juice it.
Our peas are plump and juicy; our last harvest we were eating them right off the vine, which is the most apropos method of enjoying these emerald pearls. Our purple beans are also flourishing; we have hatched a tradition of making dinner post harvest and our beans are always featured; since they grow at hypersonic speed, we can afford to be cavalier with our consumption!
Tomatoes are impossibly easy to grow; sun and water is really all this bud needs to swell. But tomatoes are best grown in pots, so we’ve all chosen to grow tomatoes individually; but the owner of our little patch of land has some tomatoes on site, so we’ve taken liberties when it comes to mid harvest snacking!
Our herbs are smiling at us from their perch; thyme, dill, oregano and basil are all ready to pick and the appeal of herbs is that they grow like bats out of hell. The horseradish has been ready forever, but it’s a root that grows very deep and digging it up always fell by the wayside to the easier to harvest goodies; but we finally dug them up. Freshly grated horseradish is something else- seriously some kind of wonderful; but pungent, which I learned the hard way.
But this story isn’t all bushels and bushels of produce, there were some failures. We failed to take heed to the planting instructions when it came to our radishes and they never came to fruition- which is too bad, because I love me some radishes; but we replanted and our hopes are high that this time they will take.
The corn, potatoes, carrots, red beets and the bulk of our candy cane beets are still cooking below the surface, but if the leaves are any indication things are going well!
There were some big surprises in our little patch of life, namely our summer squash. We were blessed with some rather well endowed yellow squash- like behemoth styles; and I thought the worthiest treatment was to use my share in a gratin. Why I would want to fire up my stove on a 25 degree day is beyond me; but a well endowed anything gets what it wants. Since we’re talking gratin, I think this is a great time to have the dairy talk.
In some circles dairy is a dirty word; and although I don’t consume that much dairy, I do love a sharp cheddar. The thing to remember with dairy is to ALWAYS go organic; and if you can, opt for goat or sheep’s milk cheeses; they are not only delicious, but tend to lean on the cleaner side of things. With that said, this recipe is pretty cheesy, as is required by most gratins; what can I say, it ain’t easy being cheesy!
I feel that now, in my twenty seventh year of life, after a great deal of dead foliage in my wake, I can fully say that my thumb is green- I have caught the gardening bug. So without further ado…
Summer Squash Casserole with Potato
Adapted from theKitchn
2 medium yellow squash
4 small to medium potatoes
3 tablespoons olive oil
4 ounces goat cheese
salt and pepper
1/4 cup whole organic milk
1/3 cup freshly grated organic parmesan cheese
1 tablespoon thinly sliced basil, optional
Preheat oven to 400°F.
Use a mandoline or chef’s knife to slice the squash and potatoes into very, very thin slices, 1/8-inch or less. Toss the sliced vegetables with the olive oil in a large bowl.
Pour a small drizzle of olive oil in a casserole dish (around 8 or 9 inches square) and spread it around the bottom and sides. Place 1/3 of the squash and potato slices in the bottom of the dish—no need to layer them squash-potato-squash-etc.—then season with salt and pepper. Top with half of the goat cheese, scattered evenly in large chunks. Repeat with another 1/3 of the vegetables, seasoning again with salt and pepper and topping with the other 1/2 of the goat cheese. Finish by layering on the final 1/3 of the vegetables and seasoning with salt and pepper.
Pour the milk over the entire dish. Top with the parmesan cheese. Bake, covered, for 30 minutes, then uncover and bake 15 more minutes, until the top browns. Scatter on the fresh basil, if using.
Do you garden? How are your gardening efforts coming along this season? I’d love to know!