Sunday, July 17, 2011

17 July 2011

I’m determined to get to the bottom of my caterpillar-eaten Zambian greens. First, the name. The friend who gave me the seedlings calls them “rape,” and for obvious reasons, I have avoided that term. People have heard of “rape seed” which I think turns into canola oil. In the fields a bit north of where I grew up, rape seed is plentiful – it’s in big, beautiful, very smelly yellow fields. I think the term for it is brassica napus, but I’m not 100% sure (for rape seed, that is). So then the kind of weird thing is that this plant, when it is grown for the greens rather than the seeds (not sure how to do it for the seeds – maybe it’s a different variety instead) is variably described as being “like rutabagas,” “like turnips,” and “in the cabbage family.” Perhaps these are all in the same family, I'm not sure. So I'm forging ahead trying to find out a bit more about it, so I can find out what to do about the critters who like to eat it.

What I've tried so far is a simple solution of water with molasses and dishwashing soap, sprayed on every day. I think it has worked okay, since the caterpillars used to eat even more of the leaves before I started spraying this on.

But then my Organic Gardening book told me to look under the leaves for eggs and/or caterpillars. I didn't see any caterpillars on any of the plants, but in one plant, I did see this little bounty of black dots. Eggs? I don't know. But I washed them off, so I'll check back tomorrow to see what's up.

The tomatoes were plentiful again today -- I've gotten at least 10 every day for the last few days. The picture at the bottom of the post shows what I've got in the house right now, after giving lots and lots away and using a ton too. We pretty much just eat the cherry tomatoes for snacks all the time, and this week I roasted a le creuset pan full of all the different varieties. As per the Cooking Light instructions of making marinara, I roasted them on 250 degrees for seven hours. Oh. My. God. They were so damn delicious. I'm going to do the same to this batch, except I'm going to try to zap them quickly at 450 degrees for about a half hour, since it seems like seven hours of oven time is a bit too energy-intensive (and I'm assuming that way less oven time, even at a much higher temperature, will take less energy). We'll see how it turns out.

We also had insalata caprese on Friday evening after Ken got home from work. DELICIOUS. We had gotten a little bunch of basil at the grocery store and I planted it just for fun. Yum.

But now onto the big (or actually, very miniature) news: the carrots.

Io has been sweating me about these carrots for weeks. Really, months. We planted a whole row of carrots, the same size as the row of arugula, but really only two little plants popped up. They've been doing their best to hang on, but they look a little bit sad all by themselves.

Last week I told Io she could pick the carrots today. She was SO excited. So we cleared out some space (dug up a bunch of the old arugula) so she could get a really good grip on one of the tiny plants. She got down and looked really closely, and she could see the carrots popping up over the surface. And the she very carefully pulled one out.

I was tickled that her first instinct was to smell it. It smelled wonderful.

She said it "didn't smell bad" in an excited voice, as if she expected that it would.

It was tiny! And cute.

So of course she wanted to eat it, but Ken insisted we wash it first (in true City Kid fashion), so they walked over to the hose and washed it.

And then she ate it. She said "it didn't even taste bad," again making it seem like she had expected it to.

And Idris goes on picking and snacking on his cherry tomatoes.

A lovely week in the garden.

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