It’s the year of the cucumber.
No, this is not an official holiday or something that one would see on a calendar. This is the official year that our cucumbers, after at least 20 years of living in Hicksville, have officially taken off.
Last year, Hubby decided that he was finished with the forsythia bush that bordered our driveway. Scraping automobile paint on the branches had finally gotten on his last nerve, which prompted him to begin the arduous task of removing the bushes from the small strip of land that bordered our property and our neighbor’s. After several days and lots of Biofreeze later, we had a clear view of our neighbor’s backyard and a driveway free of protruding branches that never failed to poke one of us in the head or rip at our shirts when we retrieved Luna’s toys beneath the branches. Several weeks later, Carl’s Fence came to install the rest of the two-tone resin fence that borders our yard.
Hubby and I decided that the spot where the forsythias once resided would be a perfect spot for a small garden. Every year, our garden had been planted in large oak barrels that were home to tomato, pepper, cucumber and eggplant starters. By the end of the season every year, we were rewarded with perhaps three or four misshapen cucumbers, about 10 tomatoes, two peppers and an eggplant. I kid you not. We had even gone as far as to replace all the dirt with Miracle Gro soil, but to no avail. Herbs grew brilliantly, but veggies? Not so much.
Hubby stated that vegetables needed to be placed in the ground, so we planted zucchini, cucumbers and Ichiban eggplant where the brilliant gold forsythia once grew. In every pot that had new soil and “black gold” compost material, we planted San Marzano tomatoes, another Ichiban, several Bell Pepper plants and one cucumber plant. Where the lilac bush once grew, we noted a dark green leafy plant, which was the beginning of what is now a tremendous potato plant. I had forgotten that I had planted an “eye” of a potato last fall in that spot. We crossed our fingers and hoped for the best.
We hoped to have a garden that was much like my mom’s. Mom’s tomato and eggplant plants have yielded so much fruit over the years that she has resorted to giving much of her harvest to her neighbors and my aunt. This year was no different, as her Beefsteak tomatoes were literally the size of small pumpkins. It was our hope that we would have at least a fraction of her yield.
Our zucchini plants looked a bit wilted one day, which prompted Hubby to express his desire to remove them from the garden bed. That afternoon, I did a little searching and found five tremendous zucchinis that were hidden beneath the tangle of large green leaves. They were the size of small baseball bats. I haven’t grown zucchini that large since we lived with my father-in-law in his home in Plainview. So glad we did not pull them out.
We had no choice but to give a lot of our harvest away. Our Ichiban were girthy and our San Marzano tomatoes were literally the size of softballs. At one point, we had twelve cucumbers on the vine, with many more in various stages of growth. Our neighbors and our daughter have profited from this, though I did share some with my mom as well. She did not grow cucumbers this year, so she was grateful for what we left in her fridge while she was away. She also said that the Ichiban eggplant was much better than the Black Beauty variety she had grown, which she found to be bitter and not as tasty.
The greatest producer this year has clearly been our cucumber plants, which we purchased from DiMaggio’s on South Oyster Bay Road. Thank you so much, guys. What a wonderful harvest it has been. Tomato and cucumber salads for days, and I am not complaining at all.
The season is winding down now, and I have noticed the basil plants have begun to go to seed. It is time to begin the process of drying the tarragon, thyme, sage, basil and oregano for use over the winter. As my mom taught me, I will flash freeze some of the fresh basil for pesto atop a thick and hearty potato soup. Some of the tomato plants that are in the ground still have green tomatoes on them, but not for long. To date, we have created two fresh tomato sauces for Sunday sauce, which my grandmother referred to as a “dirty sauce.” There will be a forthcoming column with the recipe.
Gardening is not only a relaxing hobby, as watering the lawn and searching for yields are Zen-like in nature, but it is also gratifying. The joy of gifting and sharing with others is heartwarming and the ability to grow something from the earth and enjoy it in a meal is one of life’s greatest joys. I wish you all a happy harvest and a wonderful wind down to your gardening season.
Patty Servidio is an Anton Media Group columnist.