June 06, 2013

Nothing X-rated here, though nature is making magic happen. As the summer garden kicks in gear and we inspect everything morning, noon and night, there’s one question on my mind a lot: is it a male or female? Why? Whether squash blossom or day-old baby chick, its future here depends on sexing.

The winter and summer squash plants have just begun to bloom. Yours, too, perhaps. If you are wondering why your plant is covered in blooms but you haven’t gotten any fruit yet, it’s most likely due to the first blush of many male blossoms. Look for the female blossom that has a tiny fruit, or ovary, attached. Those will be pollinated by the males and produce copious amounts of squash. In our Cooking Light garden, we have an ambitious amount of summer and winter squash varieties planted--more than any sane gardener would take on. If you’ve grown zucchini, you know one or two plants will keep you picking daily in high season. We’re trialing pool ball shapes, trombone shapes, and dainty summer squashes, such as Ronde de Nice, Ortolana di Faenza, Trombetta and Astia. On “Pumpkin Hill” -- the 100+ foot hill of running vines--we are trialing beautiful winter squashes with silvery or dark green leaves, such as Pink Banana and Thelma Sanders. If we can keep the squash bugs and borers at bay, we’ll soon have our hands full. Look closely at your squash plants to identify the boys and girls. If you have far more male blossoms than female currently, harvest a treat that only gardeners or same-day-service farmers can serve -- fresh squash blossoms. You won’t sacrifice any future fruit and can relish a luxury, like our Pimiento Cheese-Stuffed Squash Blossoms.

Blooms aren’t the only thing bursting forth this week. We’ve hatched a clutch of eggs from our own “Valley Girls” at Maple Valley and our friend, P. Allen Smith, who has a passion for conserving heritage poultry. It’s nothing short of miraculous to see an egg “zip” in half with a tiny peeping beak breaking into the world. The fuzzy chirpers are too cute! Hatching your own raises the bar of chicken-keeping, however. Usually half will be male and we’re already at capacity for boys in the hen house. Hence the studious eye-balling of wing patterns and feathers and rolling the dice. We’ll have to choose a few males carefully and find new homes for the rest. If you’ve never seen a baby chick hatching from an egg, it is worth the 21-day wait. I felt like a wide-eyed five year old with my nose pressed to the glass of the incubator.

Take a tour of the garden through these photographs to see what else has happened in the last week. We’ve begun digging garlic for curing, the pole beans have curlicued ten feet to the top of the teepee, and sunflower faces are chasing the sunshine. Tomatoes should be ripe within a week or two! We have over 70 tomato plants to pick this summer. Want to help?

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