Get Growing!
by Lesley Stiles
May 01, 2013 | 336 views | 0 0 comments | 14 14 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Light floods into morning windows earlier and stronger, creating longer days that turn into brilliant evenings of crickets and outdoor possibilities. A month perched on the edge of renewal and mischievousness, May’s temperatures are unarguably the best of the year, hovering around 75˚ to 80˚, giving us plenty of time to get acclimated to the inevitable summer spike in mercury. Winter restlessness is cured by puritanical longings to get stuff growing. Some might say the motive is food, fresh and home-grown, produced with our own hands and backs, tenderly harvested daily and enjoyed in our amazing climate. Others may cite action itself; exercise meshed with accomplishment is motivation enough to get that garden going. Regardless of philosophy, satisfaction ensues on a daily basis, “gardens: the gifts that keep on giving.”

Tomato plants, their tendrils reaching longingly toward impending summer sun, eagerly await May evenings to set luscious fruits. Squash seeds poke green life through rich soil, heralding the beginning of a never-ending crop to last through the summer. Cucumbers crawl stealthily, developing little yellow flowers seemingly overnight, promising that burp-less experience in your salad. Time is perfect for getting all those little seedlings into the earth for the continuation of a year-round garden.

Enrich soils with organic compost, manures, worm casings, whatever your choice; lots is much superior to nothing in crop production. They say most summer vegetables want warmth in an overnight soil temperature with a minimum of 53 to 55 degrees. We may be pushing that, but most of us are planting pretty stabilized plants and not tiny seedlings, so you need to play that one by ear. Best rule is to amend, amend, amend that soil! Growing can be done in orderly furrows, lovingly dug in the back of the yard, planted with seeds spaced an inch apart and deep, or as contemporary as gigantic clay pots arranged decorously on a nice west facing deck sporting tomato plants climbing up a trellis. The marriage between abstract splotches of color and orderly patches creates a conceptual whole of the urban garden at its best in both cities and suburbs and acknowledges inspired food production without a traditional farm.

Local cherries are coming into the farmers’ markets at full speed. Early varieties are sweet and juicy this year, and the crop is expected to be plentiful with a long season. Hothouse tomatoes, grown in local greenhouses, are bending market tables, brilliant in color and not too bad on the palate either. Strawberries are back, released from winter hoop growing, tasting sweetly mysterious and purposely provoking salivary glands to rule the wallet as you saunter by their table.

Winter greens are still at their peak, literally throwing off nutrition as you touch them, not to mention the effect on bodies once ingested. Fava beans are also at their peak, with a pretty short season not to be missed if possible. Don’t be thwarted by imaginary hardships for preparing these sexy spring stunners. Take the whole beans, toss them in olive oil and cracked sea salt, and lay on a really hot grill. The edible chartreuse gems inside the pod will steam right out as the outside, thick shells grill and turn into this amazingly tender, completely edible treat. Eat the whole thing. Purists may still want to go through the three-step process of shelling, blanching and shelling to get to that tasty nugget, then sautéing or adding to pasta, risotto, scrambled eggs, and sautéed vegetables, or just sprinkling with salt and eating as is. Spring peas perch prettily in little bags, all shucked and ready to be sautéed with a little olive oil, green garlic and mint. Excitement starts as creative visualizations and preparations for late spring and summer grilling of asparagus and local wild salmon fight for space with rosemary and lemon stuffed whole chickens, roasting on the grill alongside ruby red new onions and potatoes.

It is more important than ever to buy produce that is certified organic, especially strawberries and root vegetables, as they retain the most chemicals that are applied to plants which grow low or under the soil. With the passage of the Monsanto Protection Act (boo!!), be assured that when you buy non-certified organic produce, it is grown with and contains in their DNA massive amounts of pesticides and herbicides. I prefer not to eat Raid and Round up, so if you feel the same, stick to organic because law still does not allow them to be genetically modified for pest and weed resistance. You will not be able to read on a label if it is GMO, or not any time soon. When in doubt about what you are feeding yourself or your family, the best rule of thumb is to go organic.

Almost stepped on a rattlesnake today on the Lafayette Ridge Trail in Briones! So exciting and pretty early to boot, but we are ever grateful to share the trail with the local animals, flora and fauna. Hiking and wildflowers are at peak season, and it’s the best time and temperature of the season for walking, so get out there and experience our hills to their full. You, your butt and your waistline will not regret it.

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