I face challenges in my vegetable garden every year. I never achieve 100% satisfaction. The blue cabbages I've planted every growing season since my garden's inception sixteen years ago will be banned next year. The endless plucking of green worms and the difficulty of mowing and trimming around the large leaves have forced them out! Next year -- blue-green Lacinato Kale will stand at the corners of my brick-edged garden beds.
And yesterday I bought three large basil plants to replace the two packages of basil seeds I planted this spring. The seeds grew into plants that were pale with leaves so full of holes they were rendered useless; seemingly torn apart by a predator that was devouring every bit of new growth. Our neighbor mentioned the possibility of goldfinches as the culprits. Who knew? After research I learned that the American goldfinch (nicknamed "Salad Bird") loves dining on vegetable greens such as beets, Swiss chard, and, it seems, also basil. After seeing several goldfinch in my backyard and with the discovery of newly-eaten holes on the upper leaves of the basil planted just yesterday, I think our suspicions are confirmed.
There are issues with several other plantings. All I ask is that I have tomatoes with every meal in August. If that happens... all is forgiven.
And speaking of green worms... Yesterday I found this Eye Hawk Moth Caterpillar quickly making its way across my yard. The photo doesn't justly convey the caterpillar's actual size; about 4-inches in length and 1/2-inch plus in diameter. From what I've read about the moth, it seems to reside in England. No mention was made of the U.S. Therefore, let me suggest... watch your apple trees and willows -- the caterpillars' primary diet. Judging from the size and speed of this caterpillar, we're in big trouble if the Eye Hawk Moth gets a foothold in the states.
The Eye Hawk Moth Caterpillar curled up on my sidewalk. Get a load of the big, blue, hook tail!
Do you still have an appetite after this photo? Yikes!
But back to my garden... At least I can say that this year I have no quarrels with my zucchini. My massive three plants have been keeping me busy with all of the zucchini they've produced. I just made Zucchini-Feta Fritters with Hummus Dip. I love the loads of lemon zest in the fritters! I served them with corn on the cob and salmon... YUM.
• RECIPE by ROBIN ASBELL (adapted)
MAKES 4 SERVINGS
• 1 pound zucchini
• 1 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
• 1/2 cup unbleached, all-purpose flour
• 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
• 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
• 2 teaspoons lemon zest
• 1 teaspoon dried oregano
• 2 large eggs
• 4 ounces feta cheese, crumbled
• canola oil, for frying
• 2 small cloves garlic, peeled
• 1 14.5-ounce can garbanzo beans, rinsed and drained
• 1/4 cup tahini
• 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
• 1/4 cup lemon juice
• 1/2 teaspoon salt
• 3 tablespoons water, or more to thin
1. Trim the ends of the zucchini and shred using the large holes of a box grater. Place the shredded zucchini in a colander and gently toss with 1 teaspoon salt; set colander on a plate to catch any moisture and let stand for 30 minutes. Turn the zucchini onto a clean dish towel and twisting the towel around, wring out as much moisture as you can.
2. In a large mixing bowl, combine the flour, baking powder, remaining 1/2 teaspoon salt, pepper, lemon zest, and oregano; whisk to combine. Add the eggs and whisk until smooth. Stir in the zucchini and feta cheese.
3. Heat a large non-stick skillet over medium-high heat. Add enough oil to just cover the bottom of the skillet. Using a large spoon, drop mounds of batter onto the oiled skillet, pressing lightly with the back of the spoon to flatten. When the bottom has browned, approximately 2 to 3 minutes, flip the fritter and brown the other side.
4. If you aren't eating the fritters immediately, they can be placed on a baking sheet lined with paper towels and kept warm in a 250˚ oven.
1. Drop the garlic into the bowl of a food processor and mince (or use a mortar and pestle to mash the garlic). Add the beans and pulse until smooth, scraping the bowl when necessary. Add the tahini, olive oil, lemon juice, and salt and pulse to combine. With the motor running, drizzle in water to thin. Serve with the fritters.
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