On Eating Weeds

Conversations With Pat

Over the summer, I’ve been exchanging notes with Pat Patterson, a grand gardener who is now retired from being Oregon State University’s Master Gardener coordinator. We were discussing this summer’s disappointing performance of tomatoes (in my neck of the woods, at any rate) despite their being efficient self-pollinators when she said: “I learned from SSE some years ago that although peppers also self-pollinate as efficiently as tomatoes, they will outcross with pollinator up to 30%. Let’s see, Habenero x Bell- spicy spaghetti? 8-).”

I do love that idea–it reminded me of those marvelous offers in low-end gardening magazines for tomatoes grafted onto potato rootstock. The plants were supposed to produce huge quantities of both tomatoes and potatoes–and if they didn’t, it was most certainly your own fault! Happily, the Log House Plants grafted tomatoes have been performing far better than those mythical marvels. On Bainbridge, we experienced far too many cold nights, often dipping into the 40’s, which caused many promising tomato blossoms to drop off in disgust.
Some of the cherry tomatoes did pretty well despite the cold, and the grafted tomatoes are still going strong in their new home off my bedroom. As summer drifted away, I moved half the grafted tomatoes into an unheated sunporch that allows floods of light into the otherwise dim bedroom. The sunporch faces due south and gets all the light that’s going, and the tomatoes and some pots of basil seem quite happy there. They have to share quarters with my jasmine, now a strapping 6-footer in a 3-gallon pot, but so far, all is peaceful coexistence.

In mid-August, Pat wrote: “I am putting up the year’s supply of dilly beans and frozen beans now. Also, we are eating the first tomatoes from the garden. I should have plenty within the week! 8-) We’ve had a few peppers also. On the down side, I had to replace all the greens but the cabbages, so we are a bit short on those. Good thing we eat the weeds. Still lots of greens there. Most of my cukes were destroyed by the voles, but the two survivors are putting up a good show for us. No pickle relish this year, but I canned 2 years’ supply last year. Our nights got down to 40, but are up to 50 again. Wish us luck!

Hi Pat!
I just picked my first tomato also and have harvested exactly 6 beans so far–they are very slow this year. Our greens are going great guns and are about the only thing that is really looking splendid this year. We are eating masses of kale and endive and chicory and spinach and all kinds of lettuces. I love salads and totally enjoy gathering snippets of herbs and greens for each meal.
Actually, our herbs are doing very well and we’ve got plenty for pestos and dressings and salads and so on. So are the little Italian onions (cippolini), which are about the size of a marble and wonderful in salads (tossed with cherry tomatoes, chopped basil, lemon thyme, and tiny fresh mozzarella balls).
We also have been plagued by cool nights into the forties and mid fifties–really frustrating, since the heat lovers just HATE that and sulk like mad. We are starting to build some cold frames and some movable mini greenhouse structures with scrap lumber from our basement remodel. Next year, all the hotties will be raised in comfort!
We had voles in Montana and it was scary what tiny spaces they could get through. Even when I lined beds with wire mesh, they squeezed those little bodies in and out again; kind of creepy. I’ve been told that lining beds with row cover will work but what a job! Have you got a cat? Our young males catch voles and moles as well as mice and baby rats, which haunt the chicken house. Our kids, who are remodeling our daylight basement into an apartment for themselves, turned an unused gazebo into a very elegant chicken abode. We love the eggs and the wild cluckings that announce them, but are not so wild about the rats. What are you feeding your beans?

Ann

Hi Ann,

Harvest is starting to roll in. I picked about a dozen Cool Breeze cukes, some zucchini, maybe 20 assorted tomatoes (as usual Bloody Butcher is leading the pack, but Juliet beat him for earliness.), dill for the beans and 18 ears of Quickie corn. If you have not tried it, you should. It is a short plant and very quick to bear, a very sweet bicolor. We ate 4 ears for dinner, I kept back 4 for tomorrow and the rest I froze already. It tastes doubly good at Thanksgiving and Christmas.

We had our first basil, cream cheese, bacon and tomato sandwich today. Heaven!

I envy you your great greens. Even my summer lettuce has now bolted and run. Of the new ones I put in half have just vanished, a combination of too much heat and slugs. It is a good thing we eat the weeds as they are our most reliable greens. My purslane is doing great and it is so nutritious and versatile. I had to pull some of the amaranth and lambs-quarter as they were over the hill, but new ones are popping up. The chickweed in the watered and shadier area is doing great, but the bittercress is just now starting again after shooting its artillery seeds all over.  Best of all, I don’t have to plant or coddle any of them 8-). Still, we do yearn for some juicy lettuces and Mizuna.

Do you like the radish pods? I like them better than the radishes and I get at least a pint of snappy pods instead of one solitary radish. I know the leaves are edible, but we really don’t much like them.

The Eugene Celebration was on today, so the radio show was slower than usual, but still lots of nice conversations.

Yes, we have two cats and both are great hunters. Sita-Xena hunts the house, greenhouse and house yard, Pasha hunts the barn and garden. I think he finally got it that my preferred prey is voles as he has presented me with 3 in the last week. Each time he is praised extravagantly and rewarded with his favorite treat, a dried liver bit. He is a big cat. We try hard to dissuade their interest in our many birds and both are collared, but they can stalk without a tinkle. Mostly the victims are rodents.

We love our poultry, but you are right, they do draw in the rats and skunks. I don’t mind the skunks, but I cannot abide the rats and it is constant warfare. So far we are keeping ahead. I think the ducks are helping and we have many raptors about, esp. hawks, but also owls. Needless to say, the birds are in every evening and not out until broad daylight. They are a delight to watch as they forage, dust bath and work out the interpersonal conflicts.

As to what I feed my beans, lots of compost, a special fertilizer mix at planting only of biofish, kelp, cottonseed meal and fish bone meal. All but the cottonseed meal are NW products and I may drop that next year, tho it is my cheapest ingredient. I am trying to get more and more local in my materials. Living just 50 min. from the ocean makes that easier.

Pat

Well, great tip! I am now enjoying radish seedpods in salads and as a snack–they are spicy, crunchy and kind of addictive. Here’s our favorite (and rather healthy) version of that quintessential summer sandwich, the BLT (the ETC is all optional but so very delicious!):

BLT ETC

4 slices Canadian or lean peppered bacon
OR soy bacon (Morningstar is pretty not bad)
1 ripe tomato, thickly sliced
sea salt and pepper
4 slices wholegrain bread, lightly toasted
1/4 cup hummus
OR 2 tablespoons mayonnaise
2 thick slices white or yellow onion
lettuce and/or kale
big leaf basil

Cook bacon until crisp but still flexible (or however you prefer it), drain. Sprinkle tomato slices with sea salt and pepper, set aside for at least 10 minutes. Spread bread with hummus and layer on the tomatoes, onion, bacon, lettuce and basil. Makes two.

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