As I googled what to do with unripe butternut, I silently cursed the squash bugs who had invaded and murdered my beautiful vines. I have 23 unripe squash lying in what now seems to be their grassy grave. Frustrated with the waste of it all, I perked up when I found two recipes using green squash. Two! Only two, but this was better than none, right? Maybe I COULD make these edible some how. And so tonight I tried it. I chopped and sautéed that green little b-nut in some bacon fat, sprinkled it with salt, garlic and smoked paprika and topped it with some fresh grated parmesan. Then I handed a fork to my daughter and waited for the verdict. She scarfed it down and thanked me for a delicious dinner. Yes!

For me, the real joy I get from gardening happens in the kitchen.  My garden consists of just two 4’x10’ beds and each morning I head out to check on things. When everything was small I enjoyed watering and watching things grow while applying the new things I was learning. As the plants got bigger the excitement built as small beans formed and tomato blossoms bloomed. At some point I saw how close the harvest was and I just prayed nothing would come and eat it all in the middle of the night. And then I got to pick! And eat. And create delicious things.

I never felt I quite had enough to bother with canning anything, but I had enough to need to be intentional and creative in using our bounty. The tomatoes, those golden nuggets of sweet deliciousness, were coming in at close to 2 lbs a day and I was able to make spicy, smokey tomato sauce, Italian sauce, caprese salads, tomato cobbler and, my favorite, oven dried Italian tomatoes in olive oil. My cucumbers became salmon, chicken salad and tuna boats, refrigerator pickles, Asian cucumber salad, Greek cucumber salad and green cucumber smoothies. The bounty of collard greens were enjoyed both raw and cooked, as were the green beans. I basically stopped shopping for produce for the entire summer.

But the end of July and early August I started to see issues. My squash plant was so large it felt like an impossible task to check every leaf for eggs. I couldn’t even get to parts of the plant anymore without stepping on the vines hidden in the grass. And, my tomato plants started to have some yellow leaves at the bottom. I thought maybe I had burned them by splashing fish fertilizer on them. But I think a disease of some kind had taken hold and it spread at a steady pace through all six plants. I still don’t know what it was, and that bothers me. How can I prevent it from happening again if I don’t know why it happened? But as I submitted my August harvest totals I was amazed at how many pounds of veggies had come out of my little garden. Some of my season totals were 39 lbs of tomatoes, 16 lbs of collard green and 57 lbs of cucumbers! That’s amazing! It was good to see it in black and white because it’s easy to focus on the 23 squash that never made it, the diseased tomatoes and the caterpillar colony on the collard greens. This season of learning and growing has been so rewarding and I’m so thankful that I got to be a part of this program. It has been such an invaluable experience.