2013-07-17 / Arts and Entertainment

Take Charge of Blight, Beetles, and Blasting Heat (and Southern Vegetable Dinner)

Gardening GUSTO
Katherine Whiteside

Local vegetable gardens are getting to the gorgeous stage. Here are three tips to keep yours healthy during the upcoming weeks:

1. Rutgers University says that Late Blight is heading our way. This icky fungus attacks and kills tomato and potato plants almost overnight. Make an easy, organic blight buster developed by Cornell University: go to our Gardening Gusto Facebook page and see the Tuesday, July 9th, post.

2. Japanese beetles are hatching! Take action with this gross, potent remedy: Early in the morning, when the beetles are sluggish, pick as many as possible off your plants and drop them into a jar of water. Shake vigorously and set jar in the sun for several days. (Yuck.) Next, pour the jar contents into an old blender, make a vile dead Japanese beetle slushy and set this in the sun to fester. (YUCK!!) To use, strain the liquid into a squirt bottle and douse infested plants and chomping beetles. Awful and effective.

3. Water wisely during periods of intense heat: too little and plants die, too much and plants die. Watch this Gardening Gusto video for how-to tips for managing your garden through a heat wave: http:// www.gardeninggusto.com/ page/videos.

Have you wondered about those ten feet tall bamboo teepees spotted in local vegetable gardens? These are for growing pole beans and, yes, their vines climb that tall. Pole beans mature later than bush beans, they have beautiful flowers and will produce copious long pods that keep coming until frost. Pole beans are bigger and meatier than bush beans. Braise them until tender and they will surely twine their way into your summer cravings.

Southern Vegetable Dinner

Southern food is not all about cracklings, deep fried pickles and bread pudding made with Krispy Kreme donuts. We did not eat any of those things when I was growing up. In fact, like many Southerners, our traditional Sunday evening meal was Vegetable Dinner.

Vegetable Dinner consisted of the fresh produce found in the garden or Farmers’ Market (our local was huge and open every day), cooked to perfection and heaped on dinner plates. It was a weekly treat that everyone adored. Now, when I invite other ex- Southerners over for Sunday night Vegetable Dinner, we laugh that our grandmothers would love everything about our meal, with the notable exception of the cold white wine that we drink. We ex- Southerners still crave Vegetable Dinner, but we have moved on from sweet tea.

Here’s What You Need (to make four vegetable dishes):

• Pole beans: pull strings if necessary, snap into two inch pieces

• Olive oil: a dollop

• Onion: one large yellow, chopped into small pieces

• Garlic: several cloves, peeled and chopped

• Potato: one medium sized, unpeeled, cubed into small pieces

• Chicken or vegetable broth: enough to cover all

• Tomatoes: the best available, cut into cubes, peelings and seeds intact

• Cucumbers: peeled if waxed, cut into chunky slices

• Onion: (again) white, yellow or red: cut into thin slices

• Cider vinegar (see below for amount)

• Ice cubes: 4 or 5

• Summer squash: yellow, unpeeled, cut into thin slices

• Onion: (again) yellow, cut into thin rings

• Corn: shuck right before cooking (Shucking corn in the store is silly. The exposed kernels immediately begin to dry out. Don’t do it!)

• Butter: for the table

• Salt and pepper: to taste

To Make Pole Beans:

1. Sauté chopped onions and garlic in olive oil until onions are translucent. Add potato cubes and beans, cover all vegetables with broth and simmer on low until beans are tender.

To Make Ice Salad:

2. Place toms, cukes and onion slices in a bowl. Splash generously with cider vinegar, add ice cubes, salt and pepper, and stir. Place bowl in fridge to mellow.

To Make Summer Squash:

3. Using a large vegetable steamer, place an overlapping layer of thin onion slices on bottom. Then add an overlapping layer of squash slices. Add salt and pepper. Add another onion layer, then squash and repeat. Steam until squash is al dente. Remove from heat.

To Prepare Corn:

4. Place big pot of water on high heat. Shuck corn, cook until al dente and remove with long tongs to big platter. Dot with butter or drizzle with olive oil, and drape with clean kitchen towel to keep warm and moist.

Then Do This:

5. Remove ice salad from fridge. Place a slotted spoon in the bowl for serving. Pole beans stay in pot with big spoon for serving, squash stays in steamer removed from heat, corn is on its platter. Vegetable dinner is self-serve right from the kitchen table. Everyone adds their own butter, salt and pepper. Heap your plate and smack your lips: summer is here and it’s gooood!

Gardening Gusto is on Facebook. Like us for daily tips. Katherine Whiteside is a contributing editor for Architectural Digest and the author of six books. She wrote and Peter Gergely illustrated The Way We Garden Now.

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