Today I’m celebrating!
First, I’m feeling much better after my bout with COVID (thank you for asking). So good in fact, that I ventured forth to pick a gallon of raspberries. More on that in a second.
Then, I’m celebrating a garden failure. A flop. Not entirely, but I’ll cover that one, too.
Finally, as we approach the final days of summer, what can you plant at this point?
As I leaned into the hillside, my feet slipping oh so slightly on the damp soil and leaves, I wished that I’d grabbed my ice cleats. Who’d have thought that you’d need ice cleats to pick raspberries. But they were so plentiful, those red orbs against the blue sky. I had to give it a try.
So I slipped a belt through the handles of two, half-gallon vinegar jugs (with part of the top cut away), cinched them around my waste and scrambled up the hill. Now with hands-free picking, I got to work. And the lessons began.
First, a car pulled up. “Mind if I join you?”
“Sure,” I said, turning to a person in braids. “Just be careful, it’s slippery up here.”
I started picking a little faster, as if my ego was fiercely competing for berries from some primitive, deep-seated fear of lack. I called a halt to the nonsense. “This is silly,” I thought. “There’s plenty to go around. And his success is my success.”
After 30 minutes or so, I glanced inside the jugs. “Let’s see, I’ve got about eight cups.”
Before I could take another breath, the inner voice chimed in again. “You don’t ‘get’ raspberries, dear,” it said. “You are gifted raspberries.”
So true. I can’t create a raspberry any more than I can create an amoeba or ponderosa pine. Humbled once again, I continued picking, only this time, more mindfully so as to practice being in the moment and feeling grateful.
“Thank you for this berry, thank for that berry, what a beautiful berry you are.”
AND NOW TO MY GARDEN FAILURE...
I don’t know what got into me way back in March but I decided to try growing butternut squash, a winter squash that, like a pumpkin, is eaten after it matures. In contrast, summer squash, such as zucchini, can be eaten anytime.
Even though I’d be growing them inside our 8x12-foot greenhouse, I turned a blind eye to the warnings: Butternut squash cultivation takes up a great deal of space. Each plant should have at least fifty square feet for growing, since plants can send out vines up to 15 feet long.
Long story short: Lots of flowers appeared, but no squash. So, my celebration comes in the form of a recipe for Black Bean and Butternut Squash Casserole that a friend shared with me today:
BLACK BEAN AND BUTTERNUT SQUASH CASSEROLE
5 cups butternut squash, cubed and roasted
1/2 onion, chopped
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 green bell pepper, chopped into cubes
1 red bell pepper, chopped into cubes
1 teaspoon cumin or more
1 teaspoon chili powder or more
8 oz can corn (rinsed and drained)
15 oz can black beans (rinsed and drained)
1/4 teaspoon salt (add more, to taste)
Other ingredients for assembling the casserole:
1 cup salsa (to go on the bottom of the casserole dish)
12, 6-inch diameter corn tortillas, (4 corn tortillas per each of 3 layers)
1 1/2 cups sour cream (½ cup sour cream for each of 3 layers)
1 cup enchilada sauce
1 3/4 cups Mozzarella cheese, shredded
To cook remaining vegetables, preheat a large skillet on medium-high heat. Add 1 tablespoon of olive oil and toss in chopped onion, chopped green bell pepper, and chopped red bell pepper, cumin, and chili powder. Saute the vegetables in olive oil and spices for about 1 minute, until charred just a bit.
Add corn, black beans and roasted butternut squash. Season with salt to taste.
To assemble: A casserole dish measuring 8.5x11 inches is ideal. Add 1 cup of salsa to the bottom of this 3-inch deep casserole dish and spread to coat the bottom evenly. Top with 4 tortillas, overlapping to cover the bottom of the casserole dish. Spread one third of the vegetable mixture over the tortillas followed by 1/2 cup sour cream, added as dollops.
Then carefully spread it over the veggies. Pour 1/3 cup enchilada sauce evenly all over, at the same time spreading sour cream evenly all over. Sprinkle with 1/2 cup Mozzarella cheese. Repeat the layer described above two more times. You will have three layers. On the final layer, add extra cheese. Cover with foil and bake at 375 F for 30 minutes covered. Remove foil and bake for 10 more minutes.
FINALLY, IT’S THE END OF AUGUST. WHAT CAN YOU GROW?
I’ll cover the details next week, but I’m giving you a heads up: If you want to grow spinach that overwinters and continues growing next spring for an early harvest of fresh greens, now is the time to buy your seeds because you’ll need to sow them within the next couple weeks.
And finally, if you want to push the envelope this season with a final blast of fresh greens, mix up your own seed blend by tossing together your leftover lettuce, Chinese cabbage, kale, arugula, cress, Swiss chard seeds. Sprinkle them in lines or patches, cover lightly with soil and water well. In a few weeks you’ll have “cut and come again” gourmet greens.
And that’s worth celebrating!