Ronnie Paul: Raiders of the garden
Although life’s unpredictable, summer holds many rituals for me. For instance, coyote howls serenade me nightly as they circle our property, and I’m awakened every morning by our neighbor’s crowing rooster.
Then there’s the espresso-with-frothed-milk rite held daily on the patio. As I sip and sigh with gratitude, I watch the sun begin its daily climb over the cedars and listen for the chatter of squirrels and the drone of chain saws beginning their day in the neighborhood.
When I’m really quiet, I can also hear the garden zucchini growing. Without fail, there are at least six pickable squash that weren’t even yellow flowers when I went to bed the night before. I muse about these baseball-bat size veggies and wonder if zucchini shampoo or laundry detergent would make good Christmas gifts this year.
I’ve never been to the Amazon, but come close by picking garden cucumbers. It’s dangerous bushwhacking through a labyrinth of tangled prickly vines where hanging shapes beckon. I often consider turning back, but with the determination of Indiana Jones confronting overwhelming obstacles, I bravely forge ahead.
After I haul my veggie basket into the kitchen, I open my tattered recipes for making pesto, pickling green bean, and canning tomatoes, but feel baffled about what to make with this year’s wealth of eggplant and tomatillos.
My garden holds both expected and as yet unestablished traditions. Maybe these recipes will become rituals for you, too.
After I fought my way out of the cucumber jungle, I made this. The effort proved lip smacking.
2 cups chopped watermelon
1 cup chopped cucumbers (Advice: taste first for bitterness)
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
Pinch of cayenne
1 large garlic clove
1 cup chopped tomatoes
1 cup watermelon
1 cup chopped cucumbers
1 cup chopped red onion
2 packed tablespoons chopped fresh basil
Salt and pepper
3 ounces crumbled feta
Puree the ingredients from part one until liquefied and pour into a large bowl.
Add all the ingredients from part two into the liquid and stir well. Cover and chill.
To serve, divide into bowls and top with feta crumbles.
Slurp up and celebrate summer’s bounty.
Pickled Green Beans
If you’re in a pickle wondering what to do with your green bean crop, try these.
7 ounces raw green beans, cut in half
3 sprigs fresh dill
½ cup white vinegar
½ cup red wine vinegar
½ cup water
1 tablespoon brown sugar
1 large garlic clove, quartered
1 teaspoon mustard seeds
¼ teaspoon peppercorns
1 teaspoon coriander seeds
Stuff the beans and dill into a pint jar.
Bring the remaining ingredients to a boil, then turn down the flame and simmer for two minutes.
Pour the liquid over the beans, pushing the garlic down into the jar. Leave about one-quarter inch of space between the liquid and the top. Close the jar and let it cool.
Refrigerate, and though you may be tempted, wait two days before sampling them. They’re good for about two months in the refrigerator, but chances are excellent they’ll be gone well before that.
Ronnie Paul is a Nevada County freelance writer.
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