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August 2012 Garden Tip of the Month

From Master Gardener and Fox Islander Linda Dodds

August Tip of the Month

Now is a great time to bribe little ones into helping you harvest all that zucchini!

How do I prioritize the many chores for August gardening?  Keeping up with pulling weeds, deadheading fading blooms, or keeping up on your watering schedule?  I think I have gone over these subjects numerous times, so let’s discuss what to do with the overflow of produce.

If you have fruit trees and berry vines, check almost daily for signs of ripening fruit and berries.  Figs are almost ready and if you wait too long, the birds and raccoons will get them first.  As soon as you feel them getting soft, it’s time to harvest.  Peaches should be ripening this month also so pick them before they fall off the trees, bruise and start to rot.

If you grow green beans and peas then you must know how quickly they mature and sometimes hide within the plants leaves so that by the time you discover they are there, the pods are too woody and large to eat.  I found that even pickling them wasn’t the answer to preserving them once they get woody.

Stay up on picking lettuce, spinach and all greens by occasionally thinning the rows and using the greens in a cacophony of interesting salads, both cooked and raw.

Some good ideas for not letting zucchini go to waste is to make pickles out of them or grate them and put in Ziploc bags in the freezer to use for zucchini bread in the winter.  And they are delicious brushed with a little Italian dressing, before grilling on the BBQ.  Just please do not go looking for unlocked cars in your neighborhood and hide them there for unsuspecting neighbors to find.

If you enjoy harvesting your own herbs and drying them, it’s best to cut them early in the morning while their oils are most flavorful.  Rinse off any dust and dirt and either hang them to dry upside down in a paper bag or place them in a dehydrator to dry.  Just don’t save them in a sunny place or they will turn brown and be tasteless.  For best result, keep pinching off the tips of basil and other tender herbs because once they flower, they start to get bitter. Be diligent in your snipping on basil because who doesn’t love the taste of fresh homemade pesto without a bitter taste!  For those of you who have never made pesto, I am adding the recipe I make as it can then be frozen.  Just either freeze in ice cube trays and store the cubes in plastic bags or just spread the pesto in cottage cheese containers and pop it in the freezer.

Homemade Pesto

1 qt. of packed freshly picked and stemmed basil leaves

6 cloves of finely chopped garlic or more to taste

A handful of freshly grated parmesan cheese or more to taste

¼ tsp. of salt

Pine nuts (optional)

½ to 1 cup of extra virgin olive oil or more if needed to make a thick creamy sauce

Place the first 4 ingredients and pine nuts if desired, in a blender and add ¼ cup of the olive oil.  With the motor running, keep adding olive oil until it is still thick but all other ingredients are well emulsified.  You may choose to add more oil than one cup to accomplish this.  The main thing is to get the basil leaves completely blended with no chunks of leaves left.  You may need to stop the motor and occasionally stir up the pesto to be sure it all blends well.   It can be used immediately, frozen or by taking a small amount and adding with a touch of balsamic vinegar and more olive oil to spread on crusty bread.

Buon appetito!