There is a produce bonanza in the backyard, which I happily discovered upon return from vacation. I did a fair job last year of incorporating the harvest into our meals, but I knew I could do better and this summer is off to a great start.

I have been picking the greens (lettuces, arugula, collards, spinach) often and either eating, giving away to friends, or feeding to the chickens. This encouraged the plants to keep making more greens. We enjoy collards sautéed lightly in olive oil, but I recently tried a new recipe for “Kickin’ Collard Greens” that was simple, flavorful and very easy. The trick for me is to anticipate what is about ready to harvest and build our meals for the week around it, even if the dish is a side dish. We planned to eat the collards first, then planned the fabulous meat loaf to fit in with the side.

Fava beans are finally ready! I planted these as a nitrogen fixer for the soil, under my fruit trees. The problem with favas are their double shells. You need to peel them first from the pod, then peel each bean again from the thin bean shell. It’s a lot of work, but there are so meaty and delicious that I think they are worth it. We love to snack on them raw, but I recently made them into this good pasta dish with plum tomatoes. The next round should be ready in a couple weeks and I might just try them more simply prepared, so I can enjoy them all on their own.

My purple carrots are just barely big enough to pluck, so I added them to a delicious salad to accompany the pasta dish. The arugula has gone to seed, as I intended, so I pulled them out this weekend and am drying the small seed pods. I did the same with the spinach, but it’s a little hard for to tell exactly where the seeds are…

Soon the beans will be ready. The bush beans anyways. The climbing beans need more time, although the scarlet runners are on their way to covering the pea teepee. The other green beans I planted along the south-facing side of our fence are barely big enough to start needing climbing assistance. I made a lazy-man’s twine trellis for them today. Basically, I just hammered nails in the posts on either side halfway, then ran twine back and forth from side to side. It should do the trick, and it should be easy to take down this fall. And out cat, Lionel, seems to approve.

And the tomatoes and peppers – oh my! I have 14 cages and still not enough for all of them. They seem to be loving the heat and growing inches everyday, although still smaller with my late start. Tomorrow I will add some fish fertilizer to give them a weekly boost, but surely I will have tomatoes and peppers before the end of the season. Better than none at all, especially since I am so excited about these unusual heirlooms.

With the heat hovering in the 90’s, it seems silly to start thinking of cold weather. But alas, after pulling the spinach and arugula out I need to start planning some fall crops to take their place. Always something to be done!

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Written by Renee Wilkinson