Grazing My Way Through The Lull

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Cmon, let’s go!

Though I’ve been doing a vegetable garden for 20 years, I often rue my stupidity at this particular moment, when, if I’m not vigilant, there is nothing in the garden to eat.  This season, we’ve already had lots of nice spring meals of sugar snap peas and favas, garlic scapes, spinach, cilantro, and arugula.

But now the favas and sugar snaps are burning up in the heat, and the spinach and cilantro have gone to seed. Ditto the arugula, possibly the single most important vegetable to my health and happiness. And it’s gone so to seed, that there aren’t even any side leaves worth harvesting off the stems.

But the next wave of great meals hasn’t yet started. No eggplants yet, no peppers, no tomatoes, no potatoes, no cucumbers, no summer squashes, no pole beans. Even the beets, a cool-weather crop, are not quite ready.  The beet greens at least are nice, but I don’t have an easy time of it when I try to feed my kids a load of oxalic acid at every single meal. I made my first pesto this week, but only by denuding the poor young little basil plants more than I really should have.

An intelligent gardener would have anticipated the mass going-to-seed that always accompanies the summer solstice and planted a second crop of arugula and cilantro, plus a bunch of other lettuces, in early June. The stupid gardener but intrepid cook–me–just makes due with what’s out there. Yesterday afternoon, there were exactly 5 okra pods waiting for me. Okay! I scissored off some of my cutting celery and bay leaves, yanked out a few young leeks and bought some Price Chopper peppers. Andouille sausage from the Putnam Market, one of my buddy Rick’s chickens from the freezer, and there you go–gumbo!  It was delicious.

In two or three weeks, I’ll have an insane bounty in my garden. It’s frustrating that it’s so stingy now. But the upside is that I do all my best cooking in the lulls. The lack of any one thing in abundance inspires creativity and a light hand.  I’ve watched my sister-in-law Na–who is Thai and a professional cook–make a meal out of nothing from my garden in the lull, too.  A couple of black garbanzo beans, a little chard, maybe some carrot tops.  The result is a feast.

Making do–using a little of this and a little of that–I suspect it’s the method of all great home cooks from time immemorial.


Posted by

on June 29, 2012 at 2:11 pm, in the category Eat This, Feed Me.


  1. Jeane 17 July, 2017 at 20:40

    I have the exact same lull in the garden right now. My beets aren’t ready yet, and I can only pick a handful of cherry tomatoes or green beans each day, so it takes several day’s worth to have a significant amount. The only thing I can consistently harvest right now it turnips, which my kids don’t really like, and hot peppers, which I don’t really like!

  2. Cathy 19 July, 2017 at 15:41

    Thanks for saying this out loud. I have been feeling so frustrated after all our work, to have nothing to eat. I Keep muttering “have patience” to myself.

  3. Kaviani 21 July, 2017 at 14:12

    I feel your arugula pain (ours went to seed in February), but keep in mind they would’ve bolted anyway if you reseeded in heat. THAT would’ve been the real tragedy…hoping for deliciousness but getting only stringy bitterness.

  4. John 24 July, 2017 at 11:15

    This is always the hardest stretch, exercising the tiniest bit of patience before the bounty of tomatoes and herbs and cucumbers springs upon us. It’s almost time for the first few peas, maybe if i look real hard I can find some…

  5. Christopher C NC 28 July, 2017 at 09:06

    The lettuce has bolted. The strawberries are pau. Even the late seeded long white radishes went from germination to bolting without radishing. Carrots I have. I could dig the first potatoes. Still have some chard. I just need to marry someone who knows how to cook.

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