Summertime, and the living is…steamy! While it may not be summer according to the calendar, my internal timetable says that summer starts the first time I have to turn on the AC in order to be able to sleep. I passed that milepost several weeks ago here in sultry Mississippi, but I’m really not complaining. After an uncommonly cold and crazy winter (a city without water for nearly a week due to broken pipes), I’ll gladly sweat a little in exchange for a garden full of vegetables and a back yard full of frogs.
Yes, frogs. While there are probably dozens of frogs and toads living in my small yard, there are two that I know well enough to say hello to every day. The fellow above lives in a bucket of potting soil that I keep on my patio. Until I found him (or her, according to my daughter) living in the bucket, I’d planned to finish using the soil to plant the rest of my basil, but now that I know it’s occupied, I’ve left it alone. E and I check in every day or so, lifting the old hanging basket that partially covers the top of the bucket to see that “Greenie” is still there. So far there is no sign that I’ll get my potting soil back any time soon, and that’s just fine with me.
Our other summer resident lives in the soil of a potted cactus only a few feet away from Greenie. I was watering the plants one morning when I saw him emerge from the soil and peer around, as though looking for the source of the downpour. Since that day, we’ve found that he can dig down a couple of inches into the soil and somehow cover himself up so well that the soil looks completely undisturbed. (We know this because E took a straw and carefully uncovered him so that she could “pet” his back; I’ve advised her to leave him alone before she chases him away.) I never realized that toads bury themselves in the ground like this, and I can’t tell you how uneasy it’s made me as I dig in the garden.
Speaking of the garden, we harvested our first tomatoes about a week ago. To be perfectly honest, the plant came from the garden center with these two tomatoes already formed. The rest of our crop is probably still a few weeks away from harvest, but since I got a late start planting, I didn’t mind cheating a little to get to enjoy home-grown tomatoes a little early.
Here’s our first jalapeno pepper, which I’m planning to pick and use very soon to make International Quinoa Salad, one of our summertime staples.
I’ve been revisiting a lot of my old recipes this summer, especially those that can be served cold, because most of my cooking has been for a paying job: I’m taking the photos for Nava Atlas‘s next cookbook, Vegan Holiday Kitchen. We’re working on Thanksgiving and Christmas recipes right now, so I’ve been using my oven more than usual for June. After a day spent in a hot kitchen and then bending over a camera, I haven’t felt much like experimenting with new recipes of my own, so I’ve gone back to some old favorites, including:
- Spicy Kasha Vegetable Salad
- Grilled Asparagus and Spinach Salad with Smoked Paprika Dressing
- Vegetable Couscous
- Chickpea Salad with Fresh Herbs
Each week I’ve been posting links to the old recipes I’ve been re-cooking on my Facebook page, and you can get an update in your news feed any time I post by clicking “Like” on the page.
A happy side effect of having an unusually cold winter is that our apple tree, which normally bears tiny apples that only the local squirrels and birds enjoy, has managed to produce some real apple-sized apples that have a tangy yet pleasing taste. The squirrels have taken most of them, but there’s one branch that hangs low enough and close enough to where our dog sleeps that is still full of fruit. I may soon be breaking my no-oven rule to make an apple dessert, though it’s just as likely that I’ll make them into apple butter instead.
And finally, here’s one of the many fruits on our calamondin tree. A calamondin (also called calamonsi) is a citrus fruit that I’ve photographed before and even made into pies and bread. A couple of years ago, my father, who grows calamondins outdoors in Louisiana, gave us a potted tree that we bring into the house when the temperature drops below freezing and leave outside the rest of the time. This winter it spent more time inside than out, crowding the window area in our kitchen, but we were rewarded for this inconvenience with about a dozen of these small fruits which should ripen in the fall.
Say what you will about the heat in Mississippi (and I say a lot!), any place that can give me tomatoes, peppers, apples, and citrus fruit growing all at the same time is paradise to me–a steamy, froggy, gardening paradise.
TraceyJune 9, 2010 at 12:18 pm
Living in Vermont, we don’t get anything close to your growing season. We’re just getting our first salad green now!
I love looking at the pictures from your garden, though. Reminds me of how the other half lives!! Thanks for the images!
AnnaJune 9, 2010 at 2:39 pm
So cute – I love the frogs/toads. I miss them having moved to NYC – so so adorable! I used to collect tadpoles when I was young in the hope of having a pet frog – sadly they inevitably died and I learned to leave well alone. I’m hoping to get a tomato plant out on the balcony this summer – far too late to truly ‘grow my own’ but I like the idea of nipping out and picking a few for dinner.
REBECCAJune 9, 2010 at 2:56 pm
How do you keep the bugs/animals from eating your veggies all while keeping your veggies to great looking? I’m just starting my home gardening and have heard that I will need to spray my tomatoes and zucchinis with pesticide…
SusanVJune 9, 2010 at 3:03 pm
Oh, please don’t do that! There are natural insect repellents that you can use as well as other organic methods. I don’t have any pest problems for peppers, okra, cucumbers, or eggplant, but I have to check my tomatoes closely once the hornworms arrive and just pick the worms off the plant. I have to admit that I don’t plant zucchini or other squash anymore because I’ve had no luck keeping the squash-vine borers from destroying them–I just don’t bother with them and concentrate on what does grow well for me.
I think with some planning–knowing what pests to look out for and what to do if they show up–you can avoid pesticides. There are lots of websites for organic gardening that should be helpful.
AprilJune 9, 2010 at 9:53 pm
I have recently taken over the garden work from my husband. My interests have peaked and my children are older and are able to help me more. We are currently on lookout for those pesky hornworms out for our tomatoes. We give our children $.50 for each worm they locate and pluck off. (makes gardening fun!)
We have had problems with aphids and ants on our okra in past years. We are in south MS and decided to give it another try this year. Word is you can wash the leaves with water to get rid of them. They are beginning to come back, so we will see if we get a harvest with the help of plain water (instead of any poisons).
The rest of the garden is fine. Except for the occasional stray dog that tramples through and bumps over a plant… (the joy of no fences in the country)
Your photos are wonderful. I’m too looking forward to our bountiful tomato harvest soon!
Noelle @Vegan OPera Singer in the KitchenJune 9, 2010 at 3:07 pm
The frog picture is GREAT! HOw fun.
MariaJune 9, 2010 at 3:19 pm
Wow Susan! Those photos are amazing! I’m not a fan of anything cold blooded but I’d make an exception for the little green guy, or gal. What a pretty green color.
I love hearing that you and Nava are working together. I have a couple of her books, and would gladly make space on the shelf for anything you and her work on together.
moonwatcherJune 9, 2010 at 3:51 pm
What a beautiful entry. The photos are exquisitely beautiful, and I loved hearing bout the frogs and the fruit. Such rich bounty. Up north here I am enjoying kale, mustard greens, parsley and green onions coming on like gangbusters, and the sugar snap peas and strawberries are coming along beautifully.
An biodynamic pest tip: Nettle tea, steeped for 24 hours, and put into a spray bottle, is a good pest repellent. It works for aphids anyway. And it strengthens the green growth on any plant, and doesn’t change the taste, like a tobacco-pepper soap mixture might. You might try that, Rebecca.
I also recently read that cucumber slices place in an aluminum pie tin or aluminum foil keep away pests because the cucumbers react with the aluminum to produce a smell we can’t smell, but that repels the pests. Who knew?!
Both not toxic, easy and inexpensive things to try.
Happy gardening and cooking, and thanks for such a beautiful entry. I bet the photos for the book are luscious as well.
justcorblyJune 9, 2010 at 6:20 pm
Way up here in North Carolina, we are marginally less sultry than your part of Mississippi. Still, I’ve been using the AC for a month or so.
No (visible) frogs and toads in my neighborhood. A fair number of lizards who try their best to remain hidden. And birds. Lots of birds. Some of them rise with the first light in the tree a few feet from my bedroom window and start high-decibel singing. I believe they are trying to entice a mate. I hope they get lucky pretty soon, because I need my sleep.
RobinJune 9, 2010 at 6:26 pm
Congratulations on the job doing pix for “Vegan Holidays”.
I have lurked here for quite a time but had to compliment you on your recipes, photos and website.
Will be looking for the release of the new book when it gets published.
Ambika VenkatJune 9, 2010 at 11:14 pm
Susan, you’ve got me dumbfounded!!! I have absolutely no words…I’m lacto-ovo vegetarian, yet I’m ogling at your recipes. I seriously cannot believe that people who do not eat eggs and dairy can eat such good food! Well, I may not turn totally vegan, but I’m definitely on the way to cut out the fat from my cooking. You shall be my inspiration 🙂
heatherJune 9, 2010 at 11:22 pm
Here in the Northwest, it’s still hooded sweatshirt and warm soup for dinner weather! All of the vegtables are in puddly raised beds, confused. I can’t wait until spring has finally sprung. I want to note that I love the way you put “old” recipes up on Facebook, it’s a quick way for me to sample the best of your recipe archive. 🙂
LeaJune 10, 2010 at 12:10 pm
Love your recipes – especially the silken tofu/chocolate chip dessert and cauliflower “no-fredo” sauce.
I’m in CT, and I wish I had some frogs in my backyard to eat the unseen bugs that are chewing tiny holes in my garden eggplant leaves. I’m using marigolds and nasturtiums to try to keep the bugs away instead of pesticides. I’m also convinced that talking to my garden is helping the plants grow…..but maybe that’s just the crazy cat-lady in me!
SusanVJune 10, 2010 at 12:17 pm
The frogs do eat a lot of bugs, one of the reasons I’m happy to have them around. And I’ll have to try talking to my plants more (I think I tend to do it without thinking about it, “Wow, you are getting big” kind of thing).
Karen M.June 10, 2010 at 12:18 pm
I love that you sacrificed your pot of soil for the little guy. What a kind soul you are! 🙂
ms_minJune 10, 2010 at 2:11 pm
Rebecca, for aphids and some other bugs I have successfully sprayed most of them off with water, then used a homemade spray of garlic, hot peppers and castile soap. I usually have to do this twice, a couple of days in a row, but it has saved my cucumbers more than once. Good luck with gardening, everyone!
veghunterJune 11, 2010 at 4:49 pm
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keep up the great work!!
ericaJune 11, 2010 at 6:02 pm
garden envy here as well! in Portland, OR my tomatoes haven’t even started to flower yet, and the basil, eggplants, and peppers just sit there not getting any bigger 🙁
Vyolet BlueJune 12, 2010 at 11:43 am
I love your photography Susan. The photos of these little critters are outstanding! So cute. I live in Utah and one summer we had a Toad make his way inside our house. This is the first time i’ve written, but I’ve been enjoying reading your blog for about a year now and I gotta say I love your wonderful recipes. Keep up the awesome work 🙂
Pat HerriottJune 13, 2010 at 4:39 am
Here in England, the warmest day we’ve had was about 75 degrees and that was fleeting, so a few of the tomato plants have flowers but the thought of eating any of our own tomatoes before the end of August beginning of September is amazing!! But all is coming on and we’re looking at a big fruit harvest in the garden this year as well as the usual. Fortunately, I’ve never even heard of hookworm so one less bug to worry about. We have frogs, hedgehogs, ducks and hens to clear up bugs and such which is great. Wildlife is a great help in keeping down pests. Susan, thanks for the always lovely photos whether creatures or food or occasionally your daughter, your photography is excellent–as, of course, are the recipes!! Good luck with the book photos. Pat
MimiJune 15, 2010 at 4:19 pm
I love backyard wildlife! Great pictures!!
AimeeJune 16, 2010 at 7:35 pm
First, I can’t wait for the Vegan Holiday Kitchen book!! Much needed 🙂
Second, what we put IN our body is just as important as what we put ON it. Here’s a great short video for more: “Unmasked: The Truth About Cosmetics” http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lQYxkMVexo0
And help support the work by voting here: http://myown.oprah.com/audition/index.html?request=video_details&response_id=265&promo_id=1
Many thanks 🙂
Nancy (guinnah)June 18, 2010 at 1:53 pm
those frogs are adorable (but it would make it a bit difficult to dig!). I’m impressed that you have citrus and tomatoes at the same time. I’m in Northern California and my citrus has been finished for awhile but our tomatoes are ripening and the nectarines will be ready soon!
KarinaJune 18, 2010 at 4:28 pm
What a lovely froggie pic! So cute. Beautiful glimpses of your garden. I love the intimate views. Just wanted to stop by and say, Hello! xox
JohnnyeJune 28, 2010 at 8:56 pm
Love your photography! You wrote this on June 9, and I read it June 28, so our city has been without usable water for several days again. Even worse in the summer, isn’t it? So glad to have the water back at full pressure and safe to drink….
My younger son, who lives in eastern Tennessee, planted his first garden this year. I talked to him late this afternoon, and he was about to pick snap beans for dinner. He doesn’t have ripe tomatoes yet, but he’s already picked green tomatoes and cooked them by the standard southern method which I won’t mention here! He’s enjoying his garden so much that he’s already thinking of what he can plant that will grow in a fall garden there…kale, collards, winter squash. I suggested he plant some gourds after he said there is a flock of purple martins around his yard, and they eat mosquitoes, so he wants to encourage them to stay. Hollowed-out and dried gourds are great for making martin houses.