Admit it. You’re jealous of my beautiful corn. It’s ok. I don’t blame you. I would be jealous too.
For days now, I have been trying to sit down and write a post, lamenting summer’s near-nonexistence in this part of the country. I was going to talk about daytime highs in the 60s and 70s, and crystal-clear mornings with that familiar, crisp, autumnal chill as lows dip into the 40s. I was going to talk about how this is what I saw last Saturday at the downtown Portland farmers’ market:
I was going to talk about how there is no hope. That we skipped summer this year and all my efforts to grow early, big, strong, healthy tomatoes, eggplants, and peppers will have gone totally to waste. How the tomatoes sit green on the huge, healthy vines for weeks without the slightest hint of color, how the eggplant flowers shrivel and drop over and over again, how my strawberries are tasteless and bland, my carrots are beautiful but lack sugar, and my tomatillo plant is covered in sadly empty green husks. But I couldn’t do it. I couldn’t get myself to sit down and write all that. It just seemed so sad and, frankly, uninteresting. It’s not just here, you know. My family in California has exactly the same woes, my garden-blogging friends from all over the Western states are singing the same song, and I hear the words, “early fall” tossed around like confetti every week at the farmers’ market.
Ah, but then there was today. Today – the last day of a three-day “heatwave” here on the West Coast. After a solid week of distinctly fall temperatures, we had 90 degrees on Monday, 99 (!) yesterday, and 93 today. And after months of staring at my stubbornly green tomatoes, BEGGING them to ripen, and picking one, two, or three Sungold cherry tomatoes a day – not enough to do anything with them other than eat them immediately and then wish I had more – today, I was rewarded with this:
<Lisa faints with happiness>
That big yellow tomato is a Pork Chop tomato from Brad Gates’ Wild Boar Farms. I posted the first picture of that exact tomato on June 28th. Every day since then, for the last 8 weeks and two days (but hey, who’s counting?), I have gone out and stared at this tomato. And every day it stared back at me – green and smug, mocking my naive hopes for a ripe tomato in July (ha!). With each passing day, the hulking plant grew up around my baby until I couldn’t see it anymore without holding back a mass of large vines and leaves with a long stick. Green, green, green, green, and more green. I started to allow my mind to wander into forbidden territory… maybe I should pick it green… fried green tomatoes, anyone? I really gave up hope when, two weeks ago, we had 4 days in a row in the 90s and still not a single blush of color on a single tomato in my garden. We only had 4 days total in the month of July that were in the 90s, so 4 days in a row in August was a huge deal, trust me. A big deal with no results. Just more green tomatoes. By this past weekend, I had mentally moved on. I got cold overnight in bed and added another blanket. The next morning I shivered at my keyboard in my fleece, sweatpants, Uggs, and knitted fingerless gloves as I stared out the window, past the thermometer that said 49 degrees, at our birch tree, suddenly sprinkled with bright yellow leaves. Fall was here. I accepted it.
And the reality is that fall is here. There’s no denying. Today’s high of 95 will soon be forgotten with tomorrow’s high of 68. But NONE of that can take away from my giddiness today; I was like a kid in a candy store. It’s true – absence really does make the heart grow fonder. Monday dawned cool but quickly heated to 90 degrees, and when I went out to do my normal, unenthusiastic glance at the garden, lo and behold there she was, shining like a beacon in the night – a hint of brilliant yellow on the crown of my evergreen beauty. Hope springs eternal! To add to the excitement, a couple of my Sweet Carneros Pinks were barely beginning to blush as well, AND I suddenly had several eggplants set on one of my plants. I could hardly believe my eyes. I immediately dashed inside and emailed Brian at work to tell him that he should get ready to pick some tomatoes in the next couple of days (remember, I do not touch tomato plants during this part of the season due to the distinct possibility of encountering my sworn enemy, the tomato hornworm), then I called my parents and a couple of friends to tell them the news. You’d think I’d just won the Super Bowl or something.
It was all I could do to resist picking them yesterday, knowing that 24 more hours would just make them that much better. When Brian got home from work today, he hadn’t even shut the door behind him when I said, “ready to pick some TOMATOES?!?!?!” He pointed out that it was only 4:00 and I worked until 5:00 and we wouldn’t eat them before 5 anyway. So, I relented and sat through the last hour of my work day, bouncing in anticipation. At 5:01 pm, we were out the door and in the garden. In addition to what you see in the pictures, we actually picked an entire additional pint basket of Sungolds, which I accidentally gifted to my neighbors. ”Oh, Lisa, are those tomatoes?! Our tomatoes are terrible this year. We don’t have any yet. How do you make them ready?” I walked over to show them my tomatoes. ”Oh! You have cherry tomatoes, too?!” I lifted the pint basket toward her and said, “yes, would you like to try one?” Her eyes got wide as she took the entire basket from my hand, “OH, THANK YOU, LISA!! Thank you SO MUCH!!” Hmmm. Not exactly my intention. Oh well. They are honestly the world’s nicest people ever and they have given me tons of stuff from their garden over the years, so all is well. Though I will admit to smacking myself in the head multiple times over the rest of the evening. Why didn’t I just hand her ONE tomato? Oy.
Anyway, the rest of the story is that this second, miniature heatwave seems to have kicked everything into gear… my carrots are finally sweet, I picked my first summer squash (bulbous light green thing in the picture on the right, looks like an onion, called a Trombetta squash), and my first ear of corn. And can you imagine my delight when Brian pulled away the husk to reveal this:
Have you ever seen anything quite so beautiful in all your life??? Normally, beautiful, colorful corn such at this is dried and used only for decoration, or possibly flour. But not my Painted Mountain corn. It can be used at all stages, including fresh as a sweet corn. It is not a sugar-enhanced hybrid, so the sweetness does not last. You must pick it and eat it immediately or the sugars will convert to starches. And so eat it we did, sauteed in a little butter with lime juice and cayenne pepper. I win.