Urban Homesteading – Summer Abundance

Reader Contribution by Heidi Hunt
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It’s the start of August, hot and humid in Kansas, but my garden is hanging in there! In fact, I’m fairly amazed at how well it’s doing, given only six hours a day of direct sun and soil that resembles builder’s clay.

Back in April, I gloried over the prolific foliage and flowers of the small strawberry patch. I never imagined those 12 plants could explode into such profusion. This photo is of the first picking in early June — in all we picked 13 quarts of berries. In fact, we had so many berries available to us, that I over-ate them one evening and broke out in a nasty case of hives! OK — maybe I shouldn’t have eaten a whole quart in one sitting. But my, those strawberry shortcake dinners were worth all the itching. And now that we’ve doubled the size of the bed, I anticipate being able to freeze a few berries next season.

Another perennial success is the tiny asparagus bed — only six plants. Last summer, all the underground crowns popped up a few spears, which I let grow as is recommended for increasing the vigor of the plants for future years. I was pleasantly surprised this spring that all of the plants make it through the winter produced green spears. A couple of the plants have only three or four fern-like frond stems, but one has 14! Next spring, I’ll be able to harvest enough asparagus for many luxurious meals. Such abundance!

I’m sorry to say, not all my efforts have been a raving success. For years, I’ve grown potatoes and done just fine — which just goes to show you that a little education can be a dangerous thing! I learned recently that potatoes should be allowed to dry for a day or so after harvesting. What I failed to note last year was that they should be dried inside, away from the sun — never let the sun shine on your potatoes! So, I spread them all over the up-turned dirt for a day or two – and ended up with green potatoes — which is what happens when sun hits potato skins. They were salvageable, but most needed to be peeled to be edible. Shucks! This year, I was so much smarter. As soon as the potatoes were harvested – about 25 pounds of both red and gold tubers — I put them in the garage to dry for a day – and promptly forgot about them for a week, at which point over half of them had rotted in the overly-hot garage atmosphere. So, next year — one day of drying in the house where I can keep an eye on them. I can report, despite the little oops, that the flavor of boiled, just-dug Yukon gold potatoes can not be compared … and is sufficient for a meal.

Two other wonderful foodie experiences this week. The first was discovering a recipe for cream of tomato soup from a Barefoot Contessa cookbook. Creamy tomatoes with a hint of basil and garlic — very rich and satisfying. The other serendipitous event was making apple butter from ripe crabapples. It may be the best flavored bread spread I’ve ever made. And as you can see the color is just awesome.

I’m looking forward to a great fall harvest of raspberries. My berry plants don’t know they’re only supposed to produce in June — but that’s a story for next month. See you around the garden!!