This is the first in a series of weekly farm reports from our own Tom Hirschfeld, complete with recipes, cooking and gardening tips, and wisdom dispensed.
Today: Tom on garden-planning baptism by fire and Zucchini Frites with Lemon Basil Mayonnaise.
It Only Takes One Shiny Bean
It is one of those pre-sunrise mornings where, while staring upward from the comfort of your bed into the faintly bluish first light of day, you outright question your sanity. If you were in your right mind wouldn’t, and shouldn’t, you just go to the grocery? It hasn’t rained in over a month and it has been just as long since there has been dew on the grass. Funny how in spring you had to replant twice because you were flooded out. Seems you got all your rain at once this year.
Shiny Bean the dog is stubborn. There is a reason we call him Shiny Bean. First, he doesn’t know shit from Shinola, and second, he has a big head just like the Beans in The Beans of Egypt, Maine. That aside, he has developed this stubborn streak and he thinks he owns the mud room porch. He won’t leave it but for certain reasons. He follows me wherever I go, but always lays back down in front of the door before I can go into the house. When we aren’t outside, he still stays on the porch, laying right up against the screen door, a door stop in fact, rendering this door useless to anyone who might want to enter the house through this particular ingress. He won’t move. Not even when the UPS man drives up in his big brown truck does he even flick an ear, and what dog doesn’t like to sniff the UPS man?
So lately, every morning at sunrise, I slog myself out of bed and wander, sometimes wonder, out to the garden and traipse through the mud of yesterday’s folly, move the sprinklers, and walk back to the spigot and turn on the water. Never mind the many mosquito and deer fly bites when I have a 96-pound black lab to contend with. Always so close I am tripping over him at every turn and having to yell, “Move!, damn it.” like I was trying to get a five-year-old ready for kindergarten while cartoons are on the TV.
I have a door on every side of my house for a reason. Simply put, I don’t want to have to walk around the house in order to get into the house, so you can imagine how this is making me mad, this dog that won’t move from in front of the door. I have even tried to sneak up to the door. Acting like I am pulling weeds from around the steps of the porch, trying to get in in front of him so I can go inside, only to have him nudge me out of the way to cross the finish line first and plop down with a tail wag of victory.
So it is when I set down the big basket full of beautiful and perfect zucchini of all kinds that I realize I am spoiled, that I get to cook with great ingredients every day, and that I am not insane, just stubborn. That I have taken to my garden like the dog has the porch and I will do whatever it takes to keep things growing, including using the door on the opposite side of the house.
Tom On Planning a Garden
These are a few of the things I have learned. Baptism by fire, so to speak.
1. Watch the sun before deciding where to put your garden (since this advice is really for your next growing season, start watching that sun now). If you want to do spring, summer and fall plantings make sure your garden gets lots of sun, and I mean lots. You need to get the plants up and out so you can get the next crop in. A couple of hours less sun per day can add weeks to a plant's fruiting date.
2. I have a kitchen garden with raised beds dedicated to herbs, onions, garlic, and salad greens. I originally planned it to be the whole garden but I didn’t think about the above sun issue. Fortunately, salad greens do better in the heat of the summer with lots of shade and it is a good control mechanism for herbs that might be invasive, oregano comes to mind. Mint is invasive even in the shade.
3. I have a huge garden that I plant in rows because I have the space. I didn’t start out this way. I started out with two little raised beds before we lived on the farm and I grew more then enough for our family to eat fresh all summer. Both these methods have specific advantages. Study both methods and decide what is best for you. I grow way more than I need personally, but no one in my extended family ever complains about the excess. I like being able to give it away.
4. Remember, the bigger the garden the more the work load.
5. Don’t work in the garden when it is wet with rain or dew. You will potentially spread any diseases you might have to all the plants. Unfortunately, this means working most of the time in the heat of the day or, as many folks do, in the evening after dinner.
Zucchini Frites with Lemon Basil Mayonnaise
3 cups zucchini batons, approx. 2 1/2 inches long and 1/4 to 3/8 inch square, you want to use firm and relatively seed-free zucchini
1 cup all purpose flour
1 1/2 tablespoons fresh basil, minced
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1/2 teaspoon paprika
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1 cup of milk, or more
1/2 cup mayonnaise
2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
1 teaspoon lemon zest
1 tablespoon fresh basil, minced
kosher salt and fresh ground pepper
peanut oil for frying
See the full recipe (and save and print it) here.