Saturday, August 17, 2013

August Garden Tour

The gardens in Craftsbury are exploding with fresh produce!  Every day there are more veggies to pick and the Outdoor Center kitchen staff has done an amazing job creatively using all the ingredients into different dishes.  Tomatoes, cucumbers, snap peas, beans, beets, peppers, and some greens are in the salad bar every day.  Pizza day features lots of new toppings featuring handmade pesto.  We're freezing chard, kale, and more to have local greens this winter.  We're up to our ears in zucchini and summer squash.  There is fresh mint at our house for refreshing summer drinks.  Blueberries, blackberries and raspberries are weighing down the bushes and can be picked by the handful.  The cider press is set up next to the pizza oven.

My parents are avid gardeners and I was spoiled growing up with an abundance of fresh produce all summer long.  I like to think I've inherited their green thumbs as I've come to appreciate the process of gardening. When you plant a little seed in the spring it's hard to imagine how it will germinate and grow into blossoming plant.  It's a challenge to try to improve the harvests from year to year and experiment with new crops.  Last year our carrots were short fat stubs lacking their normal length so I tried tilling the soil more than normal making it easier for the young roots to reach into the dirt.  Only a few beets came up in each row last summer but those survivors were giant monster beets which likely stole all the nutrients from their neighbors so we increased the spacing this year hoping to give all the seeds enough nutrients.  I still have lots to learn but I've come a long way from my five year old self who accidentally pulled up all the onions when asked to weed in those rows.

This is the exciting time of year in the gardens, when the baskets are brimming with a colorful bouquet of vegetables.  It's the rewarding time when the fights with the black flies of May, the rain in June, and the hot sun in July become worthwhile.  A lot of energy and time in the dirt is required to nurture productive plots of earth.  It's truly a labor of love!  When I grown up I hope to have large gardens of my own but at this stage of my life it would be next to impossible.  The weeds will take control if you leave for a few weeks for a ski camp somewhere and sometimes the veggies won't wait an extra day for their harvest while you try to rest between sessions.  For this reason, I feel very lucky to be in Craftsbury during the summers and working together with many of the athletes in a cooperative garden crew.  Pam and Amy took control of the gardens last year and have done wonders turning the old jungle into a beautiful and productive farm.  New land has opened up room for expansion and every year we are able to provide more and more of our own produce for the kitchen, aligning with the sustainable mission of the Center.  Here's a photo tour of the Craftsbury gardens.

Welcome to the garden
The rhubarb bush sill looks huge but if you look closely some of the leaves are dying and it's getting past its prime.  Earlier in summer is the best time to hit up the rhubarb.
Walking onions
Bunch onions
Here's a big row of parsley.  There are lots of other herbs as well including basil, thyme, dill, and cilantro located close to the kitchen so the kitchen staff can easily pick fresh handfuls to season the wonderful meals
Echinacea is great for the immune system and also blooms into this pretty flower  
Here is one of the garlic beds.  Garlic is planted in the fall and harvested in August once its shoots begin to turn yellow.  We harvested all the garlic last week and are drying it in the garage before we braid it for storage
The Elinor's house garlic haul for the year
The overall quantity of the garlic harvest is very high but there is lots of variety in the size of the bulbs.  This diversity is likely caused by all the rain at the beginning of the summer as garlic prefers drier soil.  Luckily some of the garlic stillgrew into big white heads.  
Pickled beets are my favorite part of the salad bar
Kale is a prominent crop in the COC gardens.  It's a great vegetable to grow in northern climates as its hearty leaves are very frost resistant so these plants will likely keep producing for another couple months.  And although the nights have started getting a little cooler this past week, we're luckily not quite to the frost stage yet! 
Purple kale
Dino kale
The rainbow chard isn't looking very impressive in this picture but that's because it was very recently harvested for the dining hall.  We pick several big boxes of chard and kale for the kitchen each week, enough to see it pop up in the meals every couple days.
We've had a bumper basil crop again and Caitlin and Liz have been very busy making pesto and freezing it for later use.
Tomatillos in the front and peas in the back. 
Caitlin picking beans in the bean arch.  I think this design for the beans was another one of Amy and Pam's great ideas.  The beans are easy to pick and it looks really cool too.
The apple trees are all weighed down with fruit and it looks like its going to be a great year for apple picking.  I tried one yesterday and it was still a bit tart but getting close to ready.  Here's an apple tree which is probably extra productive with rich soil since it is next to the compost bins.
New this year is the Edible Pizza Garden which features pizza toppings only feet away from our outdoor oven
It used to be just a rocky ledge but Amy and Pam initiated the project of turning the space into productive grounds that look much nicer too with some flowers planted among the pizza toppings.
Here are a few different kinds of basil for fresh toppings on Margarita and other pizzas
Some spicy peppers
New this year as well are the green houses in Wilbur's field where there are lots of tomatoes and peppers growing
The tomatoes are just ripening and there is nothing better than a fresh juicy tomato.
We planted more tomatoes and peppers this year so I think we will have to have a salsa party soon

Spicy peppers
We have lots of different tomatoes like these purple ones and sometimes the baskets of tomatoes after picking are a rainbow of reds, yellows, oranges, purples, and greens.
It's almost like eating candy to pop a handful of these in your mouth!
Next to the tomatoes and peppers are the zucchini, summer squash, and cucumber patches.  We often pick over 100 cucumbers at a time!
The zucchini and squash are growing so quickly and explode to over baseball bat size if they aren't picked at least every other day.  Luckily we have hungry pigs who are more than willing to gobble up any that get a little too big.
Here's one of the winter squash patches with Elinor's house in the background.  These will not be harvested until the fall but its exciting to see lots of flowers and healthy leaves.
We have a few rows of carrots in the garden at Elinor's.  They're not quite ready yet but the baby ones which we picked while thinning were great and much longer than last year's harvest
Our experimental crop is cantaloupe this year.  They had a slow start and we don't have any melons yet but there are flowers so my fingers are still crossed.

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