Around the community garden at 241 lately, one can find quite the diversity.
As you wind your way through the garden your eyes stop a moment to peak at the purple-bottomed leaves of the many Shiso plants about. Self-sown from their abundant forbears of last summer, they’re a welcome bunch who take up niches in the margins which may otherwise be taken by less tasty and undesired weeds. Intrigued enough, your nose might even nudge you closer for a little sniff of these strongly-scented, serrated spades. Otherwise known as Perilla, this plant makes a lovely cordial type infusion when steeped in hot water and mixed with a touch of honey and lemon. It’s medicinal, delicious, and will even put on a fascinating colour-changing show with a squeeze of some lemon.
Towering taller than most others at the moment are the Sunflower relos, the Jerusalem Artichokes. These giants are beginning to bloom their medium-sized yellow flowers which please the eyes and the pollinators alike. Pretty as they may be, their harvest is truly out of sight – little tubers lay beneath the soil to be dug up when the plants and flowers have run their course. Mild in flavour, but rich in fibre and good for the gut, they’ll probably be ready for harvest in a couple of months. Another beautiful thing about these is, a little bit of the harvest missed, and you’ve got yourself a patch planted for next summer.
Lemon balm has also rampantly carried itself on from last season. Again, like the Shiso, it occupies the edges, limiting the growth of other weeds in those spaces. Simply brushing against it’s leaves will release lemony notes into the air ready for capture by any nostrils nearby. It can be an almost intoxicating aroma and is also very medicinal and good for use in teas. For strongest flavour I’ve found over-night steeping is best, otherwise for a quick infusion a generous bunch lightly crushed in mug.
Though it’s not all pretty around the garden. Recently a few tomato plants had a talkin’ to. You could say they were hanging around with the wrong crowd(fruit flies); perhaps you could say they were simply bad seeds. Their initial vegetative growth was strong but their fruit soon went infested and foul. They possibly sprouted from the compost rather than from selected seed and they just didn’t have what it takes to be a tough tomato in this town. They gave us however, their lessons, and now their space.
Mighty Marigolds stand strong and proud on the sides of a couple of beds. They bring a nice warm pop of red and orange, a strong almost carrot-like smell and are meant to attract beneficial insects to the area. I hear topically, they too are medicinal.
What about leafy salad vegetables? Don’t be Raddichio-less! Possibly new to the garden there can be spotted a lovely pair sun bathing in one of the beds together, and shaping up quite nicely.
Lovely Sunflowers, state flower of my childhood home of Kansas, most of you have now come and gone, and yet some have surprised with multiple blooms which are still unfolding. Thank you for your golden beaming beauty, perhaps until next year, you will be missed.
Pumpkins, oh pumpkins, pumpkins, pumpkins…. I had my doubts, I mean I’d seen you pop up unannounced and uninvited so many times before, your hearty seeds surviving the compost with ease. Usually not amounting to much more than a garden takeover with your huge, juicy leaves taking up all the light from anyone shorter than thou. But this time, you’ve made right, and are providing several fruits. Good on you mate! A vigorous volunteer you are!
Of course this is but a glance into a garden that could keep me writing into the wee hours of the morn, but alas there are other crops in my life that need tending. Perhaps you can come see the rest for yourself…..