When I get to the end of July, I usually think that summer is half over—and that brings me cheer. There is no basis in reality for this, just as there is no good reason to think, as most people seem to, that summer starts on Memorial Day and ends on Labor Day. But perhaps it is a throwback to my days at summer camp, which lasted eight weeks. And by time it got to the end of July, the summer was half over. Now that summer camp is less than a vague memory, I reach late July thinking there are only six more hot weeks left. But are there?
The meteorologists have confirmed what I already know. This is the hottest July on record. I’m not sure if that is just a New York thing or a national thing because the TV reports are very New York-centric. When it comes to weather, it has got to be a disaster in some other area of the world for them to deign to mention it. But I began the growing season thinking I’d make the best of a bad deal (that is, an unusually warm spring) and get a jump on my warm-weather-loving vegetables. It turns out that many of them are about as happy with the hot weather as I am. In their case, I think it is more the lack of rain that is the cause of their woes—and some of mine. We had virtually no rain for the first three weeks of July, and then my municipality imposed mandatory water restrictions. I can water only on odd-numbered days, even though my new carrot seedlings need watering twice a day to keep from drying out. Once I began to collect my bathwater in barrels to use for watering on the off-days, we’ve had two deluges. Last night, we got two inches of rain, a bit of hail, and a loss of power.
The dryness caused many of my cucumbers to fail to mature, and they’re only just ready for picking now. Here’s what I’ve done with the first one:
Basil Cucumber Salad
Preparation time 5-7 minutes
1 large cucumber, peeled and thinly sliced
4 tablespoons distilled white wine vinegar or tarragon vinegar
2 tablespoons vegetable oil [I use extra-virgin olive oil]
½ teaspoon each salt and freshly ground pepper
2 ½ teaspoons sugar
1 tablespoon fresh basil leaves, minced
½ medium onion
Combine all ingredients and toss. Set aside, stirring now and then to make sure the sugar dissolves. The salad is best made the day before, or in the morning of the day you plan to serve it. The waiting period gives the flavors a chance to marry. Store and serve at room temperature. Makes 4-6 servings. The recipe may be doubled or re-doubled.
This tangy cucumber salad will not make 4-6 servings—Ed and I will probably finish it in a sitting. I don’t peel the cucumbers that I harvest from the garden. And I don’t add the salt, since I restrict my salt. But it gave me a chance to use my newly-harvested onions and basil, and first my batch of tarragon vinegar. My tarragon has been flourishing. The recipe is one I clipped years ago from my local Gannett paper.
Things are still looking pretty good in the garden despite the dryness:
This year, the right half of the garden is my “summer” side, and the left is the “spring-fall” side. The left half is about done and ready for replanting.
We’ve eaten the last of the beets, which were fabulous, and I'll be planting more this weekend in the first left-side row. The Chiogga beets almost look like peppermints.
We are still harvesting broccoli,
although now there are only two main heads left and, until the transplants are ready to go in the garden, we will be eating the side shoots:
The summer side has also provided us with pole beans.
And there are promises of things to come. Even though we’ve been eating zucchini every day or so, the plants are just coming into their own now. This is my first time growing yellow crookneck squash, and the plants are covered with flowers and bees.
The creamy squash is a few days away.
Some peppers are ready for picking:
But the tomatoes have yet to reward us. Only the cherry tomatoes have begun to turn, but it won’t be long before the 50 or so that are good sized will be ready. These are Brandywines, my first try at growing heirloom tomatoes.
Oh, and on the knitting front, I’m half done with my Sockotta socks. These look very lopsided because the tops have so much negative ease, but the fit is perfect.
The challenge now, aside from staving off the boredom of the second sock, is to figure out what to replant in the left side of the garden. The weather is still going to be hot, but I’m ready to plant fall lettuce, beets, chard, spinach, and kale. Will all these germinate in 90° heat and not much rain?—stay tuned.