When I was little, the new school year meant fresh, empty Hilroy notebooks, virgin pencils and never used pens. Each of these things meant this year, it could be different. Everything presented to me in class, I would remember. I would score perfect 100s in my tests. My notebooks would have perfect penmanship (pen-wo-manship?) and there would be no crossing outs or ink splats.
This is the way I felt about our allotment garden this spring. A clean piece of real estate with no failures, no weeds, no damaged crops or eaten fruit. I can dream, can’t I?
Instead, the tomatoes we planted burst forth, bending and finally taking down the stakes that held them upright, the broccoli flowered and left us behind (we did get some good harvests anyway), the sweet peas just sat there and refused to grow up their trellises and the canteloupe — where did it go?
We didn’t water and we underestimated how large the tomato plants would grow (how did they get that big? One look at the size of some of the tomatoes and it’s clear…) and I wondered if we would ever get a perfect pepper and a watermelon big enough to actually eat??? But still, things grew — and the gardens look wild!
These beautiful peppers are called Beaver Dam, a Hungarian heirloom variety brought to Beaver Dam, Wisconsin, in 1912 by the Joe Hussli family. I obtained them from the wonderful people at Seed Savers Exchange in Decorah, Iowa. They are described as being mildly hot and I am here to tell you that this is true. So from someone who can’t stomach spicy food, this is the perfect pepper! I just chopped some and put it on some whole wheat fusilli pasta with stewed tomatoes (yes, ours), broccoli (yes, I grew that too!), wilted arugula (nope, but I should have) and sauteed shrimp. Yum!
The tomatoes you see are largely the Rose variety, also from SSE, and in my opinion, one of the best tomatoes I’ve ever eaten. It is an Amish heirloom and is a large, softly coloured, but very meaty fruit. The other winner from SSE is called Black from Tula, and yes, it’s black and ugly. But wow! What flavour.
Some of the tomatoes grew and grew and didn’t seem to want to turn red. So I picked some and ate them anyway. I had forgotten that I had also planted a variety called Gold Medal and had chosen it because it was picked as the 2008 Seed Savers Exchange tomato tasting contest. All I can say is ‘Yes.’
And this beautiful creature is a Cream of Saskatchewan watermelon, also available at Seed Savers Exchange. Betcha didn’t think we could grow those here? It was brought to Saskatchewan by Russian immigrants and comes to maturity in an astounding 80-85 days.
Oh and did I mention — it has white flesh! This fruit is 4-10 pounds at maturity and up to 10″ in diameter. Our bigger one was only 4″ across but I harvested them anyway because their stems snaking along the ground, looking all the while like shrivelled umbilical cords, looked to me like they were wasting away into nothing.
As a consequence, I don’t believe my taste analysis is accurate. Although these melons were juicy and fresh, they weren’t particularly sweet and reminded me of a cross between an old-fashioned watermelon and honeydew melon, before sweetness was the holy grail. And I have to admit — like pomegranates, I find the seeds irritating. But they are a refreshing and beautiful thing.
Stay tuned for more harvest news….