Eggs and Eggs

First fruits have arrived.

As I have complained already, the vegetable garden is more or less… a failure, this year. The combination of ill weather and the new septic system have conspired against the whole idea of production. Down in the garden, we have a couple of hard, green Early Girl tomatoes on the vine, about 3 infant zucchini (imagine if you can, a summer when the zucchini are scarce!), and the stubs of bean plants left behind by the rabbits. It’s not looking good for subsistence gardening. It’s fortunate we have markets.

But, unexpectedly, my stop-gap garden, the one in pots at the studio door, is doing quite well.

The cucumbers are looking good, the Swiss chard is coming on, we’ve had lettuce and radishes, and here are the eggplants. Eggplants have to be one of the loveliest of vegetable garden plants. They’re fit to be ornamentals.

Even in the best of seasons, it’s a challenge to mature full-sized eggplants here. But we can grow the smaller, short-season variety Ichiban,

and we had our first rewards this week. If we want a Moussaka, I go to the market for big, black-skinned eggplants. The little Ichibans are terrific for stir-fry dinners, though. Never mind all that business about peeling, salting to leach the bitterness, rinsing, squeezing out, and patting dry. Just slice these little guys into dollars (well, quarter-dollars maybe, given their size), and toss them into the mix. You want them to be thoroughly cooked, but they really require nothing more special than the other ingredients in the pan.

Now, isn’t that pretty? It was nice on the palate, too!

But wait! There’s more!

We have new eggs, too. Real eggs, not vegetable ones. The young Barred Plymouth Rock hens have started to lay. (The Ameraucanas seem to be a little slower to mature.)

When a hen first lays eggs, they come out quite small, as befits her young anatomy.

Soon enough, they will size up.

…That may be a small exaggeration of scale.

The view below shows a first egg and one from a hen who has been laying for merely a week.

Thank you, ladies.

So, odd season that it is, we won’t go hungry out here. But it looks like slim pickin’s overall. This is the kind of year in which, in earlier times, farmers starved.

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Published in: on August 10, 2008 at 11:41 am  Comments (8)  

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8 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. Ok. We’ll wait til next year to visit!!

  2. Which, you know, isn’t all that far away!

    S.

  3. How does one prepare Swiss Chard? I’ve seen it for sale in my co-op, but I’ve never known anyone that uses it. Do you boil it like collards or turnip greens? I’m glad to see that you’re still able to get some produce this year.

  4. Oh, dear. Swiss Chard is much tenderer than collards. We do it sometimes in stir-fry, but if I were going to prepare it as a side dish, I’d start a pot of water with a bouillon cube in the mix, and bring it to the boil. Cut the chard leaves into manageable sized pieces. When the water comes up to the rolling boil, add in the chard. Give it 3 minutes or so. If you doubt it will be ready, try a bit. If it isn’t to your taste, give it a minute more. It isn’t that scientific, actually. You can do it in a steamer as well. If the stems are large or heavy, you might start them a couple of minutes ahead of the leaves. Never throw the stems away! They’re sweet and, if you get the red-stem kind, colorful. Also, if you do cook in a pot of bouillon, that’s a fine soup stock there, so I wouldn’t throw it away, either. If nothing else, drink it up for breakfast the next morning!

    We grow chard in preference to spinach. It’s an easier crop (doesn’t bolt to seed so readily), and it will winter over here and come back the next spring.

    S.

  5. Susan has it right: taste it every minute or so as you cook it. She asked me how long I cook it and I couldn’t tell her.

    When you do grow chard (if you don’t have much space, you can grow it in pots. This year, because of the uncertainty of the house project, our garden is mostly in pots right outside the door. We plant new lettuce every week (several varieties of leaf lettuce) and harvest one leave at a time from several plants. Chard can be harvested the same way. Use a sharp knife and cut close to the main stem.

    When I was a kid, we grew plain vanilla chard that was a lovely green with nearly white stems. Now you can get chard in all kinds of colors and some packages of mixed colors. They make a beautiful plate.

    One last point: I think most people over cook most vegetables. Some of it is the fault of older cookbooks. Even “Joy,” my bible, says to cook turnip greens for up to 20 minutes. Unless you’re at the end of the season and the stems are wood, that’s too long. (See an earlier post of Susan’s about the baby turnips she turned up at the farmers’ market not long ago.)

    Bon Appetite

  6. Good info on cooking chard. My americaunas have not started laying yet either. Been meaning to tell you about a website that I think you’ll like. If you don’t already know about TED.com, check it out. Fits your sidebar…

    Sara 🙂

  7. Sara —

    Thanks. That’s a place to lose a few hours!

    S.

  8. Your blog is interesting!

    Keep up the good work!


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