Reap the fruits of your labor

Overgrown, weedy and abandoned.

August is around the corner. Every year around this time, I observe vegetable gardens around town looking overgrown, weedy and abandoned.

I too run out of steam right about now.
Tomatoes are finally ripening, string beans, long and thin, are hanging on their vines, eggplants, ivory black with dark purple tinge, are plump and ready. The summer squashes are multiplying faster than we can eat them. The garden is at its best–beautiful and overwhelming. We need to catch our breath.

If you haven’t been able to properly enjoy the fruits of your labor, I propose that you call in friends to help, organize a picnic, ask your friends to bring their children. A four year old can help pick berries, and cherry tomatoes, beans and peas while older children can do most everything else. Watering, picking, a bit of weeding and eating.

Ready for the picking. Cesar Chavez community garden in Portland

I ate my first ripe tomato yesterday, with a little salt, while sitting on the stairs of my apartment building; it reminds me of being a little girl in France when that was a daily snack in the hot months of summer.

My aunt Sylvie taught me how to enjoy foods from the garden when I spent two summers at her farmhouse in Southern France.

In the late afternoon when she came home from her book-keeping job at the truffle factory down the road, we picked grapes that grew on the arbor in the back courtyard. The fruit went in the blender, then in a sifter to catching skins and seeds. It was SO good!

Aunt Sylvie's old farmhouse

On my aunt’s days off we gathered the wicker baskets and drove to farms in the area to buy eggplant, peppers, onions, zucchinis, summer squash, garlic, and loads of tomatoes to make a Mediterranean stew called ratatouille, and freeze it for winter.

Once a week after we had the kitchen cleaned, we’d make extra grape juice, pack the dogs in the car and go up in the mountains to visit her friends with the goats. Three couples who had put their resources together had moved from Paris to the dry mountains of Southern France to raise their kids in the country. We shared our juice and they shared cheese, bread and wine. They made amazing goat cheese. The aged crottins [small dry goat cheese] were as white as plaster and as dry, melting on the tongue leaving the most wonderful creamy taste with a hint of thyme and oregano, which grows wild the region. The children, dogs and young goats ran free all evening. We came home so late we could barely see the dirt road, the tires skidding a bit–just enough to keep us awake.

To this day, I grow all the vegetables needed to make Ratatouille. I do not have grape juice to exchange for goat cheese, but I am friends with the goat farmers who come to my co-op every Wednesday for the farmer’s market. I always buy their cheese and ask for stories.


See you out back…

Tip of the day: let’s make ratatouille together; come find my blog next week, and I’ll show you how.

A small garden may be more manageable and still give you plenty to eat.



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