Wow, if I had waited just 18 more days, it would have been a full six months since my last blog post. I debated whether or not to fully retire but slowly but surely the words are coming back. The last six months found our household with a new member, my bed-ridden grandma. It was quite the journey and we have seemed to returned to our normal routine since her passing almost two months ago.
During my hiatus, I planted a spring garden complete with peas, green beans, carrots, tomatoes, watermelon, zucchini and cantaloupe. Gardening in the desert is not for wimps! Yes, we have a long growing season but if you don't hit everything just right, you may never see a harvest. I was overjoyed when my peas blossomed and produced the most delicious little green orbs. When my tomatoes were covered in delicate yellow flowers, I imagined them sliced and covered with basil and balsamic vinegar, but sadly our love story ended tragically. May was unseasonably cool and because of the evening temperatures being below 60 degrees, the plants never set fruit. The carrots and green beans tried to compensate and began to fill in nicely until the wind blew part of the garden fence down and the chickens wiped out the entire carrot crop in 15 minutes. Their scratching and digging severed the green bean and pea vines from their roots, thus ending their brief residence in my garden. I did not despair because there were tiny green buds finally coming out of the tomato blossoms. My little hens had also eaten the leaves off of the melon vines and all the cantaloupe blossoms but even these had overcome the tragedy and were returning to their growth cycle.
Yesterday we returned from a week-long visit to Virginia. I knew there was an intense heat wave while we were away so I fully expected to see a stressed-out garden when I returned. What I found instead was NO garden. The strong Vegas winds had once again blown the garden door down, but this time I wasn't there to prevent the merciless slaughter of that which I had poured my heart and soul into for the last few months. Honestly I can't blame the chickens for being chickens and I could have not been so lazy and secured the door better, but still...
Since chickens seems to be the one thing I am good at when it comes to producing our own food, we added three more to our flock. The new girls will lay white eggs which will nicely round out the colors in our egg basket. They should begin laying around October which will give us the possibility of up to 9 eggs per day. While in Virginia, I bought the first grocery store eggs I have had in about 8 months. I splurged on what seemed to be the best possible eggs the store offered. They were organic, free-range, Omega-3, etc. When I cracked open the first one I was greeted by a pale, yellow and runny yoke. It was quite different than the firm orange yokes that we have become accustomed to. My kids wouldn't eat them and when I tried one I found the flavor diluted and just plain wrong. I ended up hard boiling them so we couldn't tell the difference. The next day I was able to buy some at a Williamsburg farmer's market and they looked and tasted more like we were used to. (Confidentially, I still think mine taste better but don't tell Farmer Bill).
Even though it seems to be virtually impossible for me to have a garden, at least food is growing somewhere and I can buy it. Summer welcomes so many wonderful foods: berries, stone fruits, tomatoes, melons and artichokes to name a few. If you eat these when they are in season and not shipped from South America or artificially ripened, the flavor is incredible. I have found if I invest in a variety of the summer fruits and leave them ready-to-eat on the counter, my kids will snack on them all day. When you are feeling fancy you can turn them into light and refreshing desserts to enjoy on the hot summer nights.
Since we cannot live on fruit alone, I am working on ways to incorporate more vegetables in our diet. I would like to try at least one new veggie each week this summer to help break us out of our corn, peas and broccoli rut. Tonight we enjoyed grilled endive(pictured with grilled chicken) drizzled with balsamic vinegar. I got the idea from a magazine and it was enjoyed by all of us, even the kids. Our weather was not cooperating with my plan to grill outside so I cooked them indoors on my George Foreman grill. Simply slice Belgian endive in halve lengthwise. Brush halves with olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Place face down on a hot grill for about 4 or 5 minutes and drizzle with balsamic vinegar before serving. Next week's assignment: celery root.