How Can I Tell If It’s Ripe?

You would think that a person that has gardened off and on, for fourty years or so would know just about everything there is to know about gardening and harvesting. Not so.  That’s one of the things I love about gardening. Every year it’s different. Every year I learn something new. So join an old dog like me in learning a few new tricks.

Not quite there yet.

So our gardens are doing well. The plants are healthy and they are starting to produce. That’s terrific, but how do you know when it’s time to start harvesting? Trial and error is how most of us learn this phase but there is an easier way.

This one is ripe.

One of my favorite gardening sites is Renee’s Garden. I received an email the other day with an article by guest author, Alice Formiga, it was called When the Time is Ripe: Harvesting Vegetables for Best Flavor. I immediately wrote Renee’s and asked permission to share the article with all of you. Heidi Harris their Customer Service Representative’s response “We would love you to use the article!” The active link to the article is here.

OK, so a few of you are saying to yourselves. Well I don’t garden so this article isn’t important to me. Well it is important if you buy fresh produce (and I hope you do). Just because it’s fresh doesn’t mean it was harvested at it’s peak. You the consumer have to know what you are buying. You have to know what to look for. Alice’s article will give you the tips you’ll need for choosing the veggies that will give you the best flavor.

A personal note:

Renee’s Garden is one of my favorite sources for seeds. This year I’m trying Persian Baby Cucumbers, Green Fingers, French Baby Carrots, Babette, Pole Beans, Tricolor Mix, and Old Fashioned Zinnias, Cut and Come Again. Like the other seeds I have purchased from Renee’s they all germinated well and are growing vigorously. You can read more about Renee’s Garden by visiting her website which also includes more “How to” articles, cookbooks and recipes and a nice gardener’s resources page. They also have a Facebook page.

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Salmon With Tarragon Sauce and Fingerling Potatoes

I really love French tarragon and have it growing in my garden in several places. I do this not to provide abundance, which I certainly have, but because tarragon is a good companion plant.  Tarragon has a scent and taste disliked by many garden pests making it a natural pesticide. I have it planted amongst the veggies, not just with other herbs; I have some in the flowerbeds too. Just like some human companions work better together than others, you  kinda have to learn which ones work in the situations  you are thinking about. There is a good site with compatibility information and more about organic gardening  here.

You don’t need a large yard to have fresh herbs, they do well in pots on a patio, deck or terrace and you can companion plant them that way too. I also love the way the textures and colors of their foliage looks amongst my flowers. My in ground gardening area is really pretty small so I also garden in pots on my patio. This year I created a space about 4’ x 10’ in the sunniest part of my yard. I dug out the ground cover that was planted there and  planted green beans, carrots, Persian cucumbers, bell pepper, summer squash, an heirloom melon, and various herbs, including chives, thyme and basil and even some zinnias. I expect that the squash and the melon will overflow into the adjacent flowerbeds later in the season. I also have pots on my patio planted with a Japanese eggplant and cherry tomato, along with more herbs such as parsley, sage and rosemary and more flowers (some of which are edible). The garden and pots are all organic with insects being controlled by birds, a few lizards and beneficial insects. Even if I do have to share with the pests sometimes, there always seems to be plenty left for me (the insects take pretty small bites). A garden is always an adventure, different every year.  Maybe that’s the reason I enjoy gardening so much.

Tarragon and chicken are good companions but tarragon sauce and fresh wild caught salmon make excellent companions. This is one of my favorite ways to use fresh tarragon. I can’t think of a more delicious meal on one of these hot summer evenings.

I have found it’s a good idea to  steam the potatoes and make the sauce ahead of time. That way all I need to do at dinner is pour a nice glass of wine,  light the BBQ and grill the salmon and make a salad. To serve, spoon sauce onto 6 plates and arrange some potatoes in a circle, overlapping slightly, on top of sauce. Arrange grilled salmon on top. Garnish with fresh tarragon, gather your family and enjoy.

Tarragon Sauce

(for use with grilled salmon or as a dressing on grilled chicken sandwiches)

2 large bunches fresh tarragon (about 1 ounce total)

1 large bunch fresh chives (about 2/3 ounce)

1 large shallot

3/4 cup fresh flat-leafed parsley leaves

1 cup mayonnaise

1/3 cup rice vinegar (not seasoned)

2 teaspoons Dijon mustard

Pick enough tarragon leaves to measure 1/2 cup (do not pack). Chop enough chives to measure 1/3 cup. Coarsely chop shallot. In a food processor puree tarragon, chives, and shallot with remaining sauce ingredients until smooth and season with salt and pepper. Sauce may be made 1 day ahead and chilled, covered. Bring sauce to cool room temperature before serving.

Steamed Fingerling Potatoes

Cut 1/12 pounds of fingerling or other new potatoes into 1/8” slices and steam over simmering water until just tender. 4 to 5 minutes. Remove from heat and let cool to room temperature.