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Well hello, friend!
The rush of spring planting and the warmth of June made this month feel like spring and summer were crammed into just a few short days. I know June is the official start of summer, but in my neck of the woods, I’ve already been living in the summer season. June brought dry, hot weather, making it seem like it was already the middle of July. Adapting to fluctuations in the weather is my least favorite garden task, but it keeps me on my toes!
The beginning of June was the final harvest of the radishes, spinach, and lettuce. But instead of feeling sad that a season has ended, it’s comforting to know that the next arrives quickly. I’ve already picked some cabbage, broccoli, and cauliflower. Kale and Swiss chard will continue throughout the summer, and I’m already thinking about the fall garden.
This year, I did something I’ve never done during the summer: I left for a week-long vacation. I’m always worried about going away, what with all the watering, the garden, and new plants. But I found a terrific person who could water and watch the yard, making me feel incredibly comfortable that everything was cared for. The yard and the plants are doing great, and this was a great life lesson: getting away is essential!
I feel refreshed and excited to tell you about it, so grab a drink, maybe a mint lemonade or an iced coffee for me, and let’s catch up on the month that was!
Let’s talk about my recent getaway.
I recently spent a week in the Hamptons, New York, also called the East End by locals (or so I overheard while about town). I’ve always heard about the Hamptons but had never visited. I was lucky enough to be invited by friends who were the best tour guides. Instead of feeling like everything was new and unknown, I was able to experience it all with people who know it best.
On my first night in town, I was introduced to and shared a meal with Katie and Amanda of Amber Waves farm. I had yet to learn of the intense and amazing culture of local farms, and farm stands throughout the Hamptons. These two moved to the area without farming experience and now run their nonprofit farm, growing beautiful organic produce! Talking with them hyped me up, and seeing their work gave me more energy to keep enjoying what I’m growing at home and sharing the process with all of you.
Early in the week, I filmed a video with L’Isolina Pasta, an artisan pasta company started by brothers Dylan and Sean. They use many recipes from their grandma (Nonna) to make truly amazing fresh and dried pasta. Even better, they use flour milled by Amber Waves farm. It’s full circle! I was struck with the focused drive to use local products, even to the point of sourcing whole wheat flour, grown and milled locally. I can’t wait for you to see the video!
Days of sightseeing and eating fantastic food at various restaurants made the time fly by. In case you’re interested (because we all know that we love to have restaurant recommendations), here’s a list of all the places I ate:
- il Buco al Mare
- The 1770 House
- Sant Ambroeus
- Wölffer Estate Vineyard
- Nick & Toni’s
- Round Swamp Farm
- Sí Sí
I’ll admit I’ve heard how the Hamptons can be lofty, but I found them to feel like a small town. In fact, on two separate occasions, I stumbled into both Katie and Amanda of Amber Waves while out and about. The farming community felt like home, where people care about their food and how it’s grown. The area is lush and green, with so many beautiful garden centers. I can easily see why so many call the Hamptons home.
Let’s talk about the garden.
The garden is growing daily. As soon as the warm summer sun hits, the plants shoot up. And that’s especially true when it comes to tomatoes. They’ve grown so quickly in such a short amount of time! But one issue I’m dealing with on my tomatoes is leaf curl, which can be caused by three things:
- Harsh growing conditions. Inadequate moisture and heat stress can cause the leaves to curl. Either too much or too little water can cause this stress.
- Poor soil health. Having soil with low nutrition and organic matter can stress tomatoes. Adding compost, worm castings, and good organic fertilizers yearly can help.
- Pesticides and herbicides. Lawn herbicides, weed killers, and drift from agricultural fields are the common cause of my leaf curl. Tomatoes are susceptible to any spray and show their stress through leaf curling.
If you notice the leaves of tomatoes, or any plant, curling upward in a cupping shape, they are stressed. I know mine is from herbicide drift from area fields. Nothing you can do will provide immediate change other than to keep them watered and fertilized as needed. I may have one plant that will not make it, but in time they will hopefully recover. Fingers crossed!
Here’s what else is growing:
- Peppers. The peppers are growing well, and in about a month, I’ll make batches of my favorite condiment: hot pepper mustard. I also preserve many jars of pickled hot peppers and use them on taco salads, nachos, and snack plates.
- Eggplant. The eggplants are beginning to bloom. We never grew eggplant when I was young, but I’ve learned to love the soft, tender flesh. I love to slice and grill thick slices and make batches of baba ganoush.
- Cabbage. I’ll soon make fermented sauerkraut (made from cabbage) and film the process since it’s super easy. Once the sauerkraut is at the right stage, I jar it and refrigerate it instead of canning it.
And even though it seems way too early to think about this, it’s about time to plant cabbage, broccoli, and cauliflower seeds, so I have transplants for a fall harvest. Every year the time goes fast, but the reward is big when growing vegetables.
Let’s talk about food.
The weather may feel like summer, but the produce doesn’t quite yet. That means I’m still working through my spring produce, which includes lettuce that I’ll use in some of my favorite summer salads: spiced pork and nectarine, chorizo and sweet corn, and citrus chicken.
But when that summer produce is ready to be picked, I’ll make my fresh tomato herb pasta, which is a simple way to enjoy the summer flavors. I’m just about ready to pick zucchini and cannot wait to make my zucchini tomato pasta recipe. I love using fresh produce to prepare these quick and filling pasta meals!
When it comes to dessert, this month is all about strawberries! My strawberry crumb bars have been a huge hit with so many of you! I love the shortbread dough that is buttery, rich, and tempered with the bright strawberry filling. My recipe for strawberry rhubarb crumble was in close competition with the bars. The rhubarb is tart and tangy, but when mixed with sweet strawberries, both flavors can break through. A crisp (or crumble) will always be my go-to when in the mood for a quick and easy summertime dessert.
Let’s talk about Kip.
Thankfully, I do not have much to write about Kip this month other than he is excellent! The doctors recommended decreasing a few medications, so I’m monitoring Kip daily to ensure no changes. Since he is doing so well, we’ll do his monthly treatments close to home for the next few months instead of driving to the University of Illinois. Prayers answered for at least the time being!
Kip continues to be full of energy and has the best spirit. While I was on vacation, Kip was at “Grandma Camp,” spending the week with my mom. I’m so lucky that she loves Kip as much as I do, and he gets all the attention he wants while I’m away.
One cute story to round out this newsletter: strawberry season is here, and since Kip loves to tag along in the garden, he’s often rewarded with fruits and vegetables. Little did I know how much he loves strawberries! While in the strawberry bed, he stared at the bowl filled with strawberries, just waiting to be fed one of the bright red berries. While he was very obedient, he did steal a few small strawberries here and there, but that’s okay. It was so cute to see him munching on the fresh fruit, and I’m sure he’s already looking forward to next June!
Until we talk again next month, I hope you have a great rest of your week. Whether the time is going fast or slow for you, let’s all revel in the joy that summer brings. The world is alive with growth, and while there are challenges, we need to see the happy parts of each day!
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