Shapes of the Summer Solstice Kitchen Garden

In these long days around the summer solstice, pole beans and winter squash, pea vines and garlic stalks are lengthening themselves to match the days, stretching and twining, sending out tendrils, twirling and looping into fantastic shapes.  Responding to sun and warmth and longer days, these vegetables have begun their serious growth.  We’ve made it past the uncertain weather of spring and summer is really here.  It’s a lovely time to wander in the garden.

pole beans climbing 1

Winter squash vines 1

On the sisal strings of the pole bean trellis, leaves are spreading open along the twining vines and will soon cover the entire structure.  White, pink and scarlet blossoms will join the green of the leaves before giving way to dangling pods.  Squash vines are reaching beyond the borders of their beds and will soon carpet both paths and beds with giant leaves, then blossoms in shades of white and yellow and finally swelling orbs of squash.

Peas are producing now, the first crunchy sugar snap pods ready to enjoy raw or sautéed. Their blossoms and climbing tendrils continue to grow upward, lovely to look at and also delicious to eat.  We’ll have more peas than we can keep up with so harvesting a few vines and blossoms and sautéing them along with the pods adds beauty and variety to dinner.  In another month we can do the same with squash blossoms and late vines.

Sugar snap pea vine:flowerAnd finally the garlic stalks rising above the soon-to-be harvested bulbs have been creating the most whimsical show of shapes in the early summer garden.  Called garlic scapes, these seed heads of hardneck garlic are not only a delight to observe, each one different from its neighbor, they are also a delicious garlicky treat.

Garlic scape groupSome cooks make a pesto from the raw scapes but we find the resulting sauce too garlic-hot.  Lightly steamed, though, the scapes are really delicious, like a sweetly garlic-flavored green bean.  We eat them alone as a side dish or mixed in with other spring vegetables, peas, carrots or turnips.  Last night, garlic scapes, peas and pea shoots mixed with pasta for a summer dinner.

Garlic scape, pea still life

Garlic scape and pea pasta

Looking ahead to July and August, the garlic will be harvested in the next few weeks, then the peas will wind down as the beans come in and the winter squash will take on colors of rich green and deep orange, but for now, in these days just after the solstice, we’ll enjoy the special beauty of the early summer kitchen garden.

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In the Early June Kitchen Garden

Our spring and summer vegetables are off to a great start this year. The early June kitchen garden isn’t always this promising but we’ve had an exceptionally lovely spring, just enough rain and many warm, sunny days to encourage speedy seed germination and quick growth of transplants.  Even a travel schedule that had us away several times through April and May didn’t hold slow down the garden.

The bed of spring vegetables I planted April 30 is providing radishes, lettuce, chard and turnips with beets and carrots in the wings.  A second bed of these spring delights that I planted May 23rd will be producing in another few weeks, just as the first bed winds down.

Spring vegetable beds

The sugar snap peas seeded indoors March 3rd and set out March 14th have topped the trellis and are covered in white blossoms and the first few peas, both promising lots of sweet, crunchy pea flavor very soon.   I’ve hilled and mulched the potatoes and the earliest fingerlings have blossom buds forming.  Peas and potatoes will be a late June treat.  And in the onion bed the rows of sweetly pungent purplette spring onions are beginning to bulb.

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Looking farther ahead to summer meals, tomato and pepper plants are blossoming and setting fruit and eggplant isn’t far behind.  Zucchini is putting on leaves and will soon outstrip this summer trio in size and production.  And beans and corn planted May 14th germinated quickly in our lovely warm spring, their leaves now spreading out and up. The first pole bean vines are reaching for their strings and the corn is on its way to knee high or higher by the Forth of July.

Tomato closeup cherry

Pepper closeup

Beans pole & bush

Corn closeup

I don’t know what weather is ahead for July and August but if summer continues the pattern set by spring, we have some glorious meals ahead.