Farmer Mary Beth just sent us a most wonderful update on our summer cookbook garden. Here, the Darling of Dirt in her own words:

Hope everyone had a happy 4th, celebrating with all things American, grilled, red, white, and blue. We celebrated all things red -- hot, red cheeks and harvests of hot, red tomatoes. We had been neglecting our Maple Valley varieties after taking care to pick, tag, and wrap the Cooking Light ones. I think we brought in fifty pounds or more.

Here's a photo of our counter top as it appeared last night! I'd say that's about as pretty as any fireworks display, no? Some of the ones you see are Yellow Brandywine, Dr Wyche's Yellow, Red Zebra, Gold Nugget, and German Red Strawberry -- you can see those on the counter.

It's a great thing David installed hundreds of feet of drip irrigation tubing and lots of underground PVC pipes. This is the summer to have a little watering help! Despite over two weeks of hitting highs in the 100s, we have kept the plants from going on strike too badly. Above the drip irrigation schedule, we've also had to resort to dragging a big, old fashioned hose around twice a day (coffee in hand in the morning, sangria in hand in the evening...). It makes for a hot chore.

We've lost a few peppers to sunscald, an annoying blistering effect that is the same annoying thing we humans face when our skin is exposed to bright sun for too long. The plants have been so prolific to produce that the fruits reach beyond the shade of leaf canopy.

LOTS of GREAT news! We have our first Chocolate Bell Peppers ripening on the plant. Interesting shade of purplish brown. Can't wait to see what the test kitchen staff does with those. The Lemon Drop peppers are slowly turning light yellow from the original dark green -- all 500 of them.

The Fish Pepper [on the left] has become a fast favorite in the garden. The variegated foliage is stunning; it's more ornamental than most peppers. I've yet to eat any -- delivering straight to the kitchens/studio -- but I hear they are HOT!

In the eggplant world, the Lao Green Stripe are eye-catching little eyeball-looking fruits. The Rosa Bianca eggplants we delivered on Monday were the prettiest I've ever seen or grown. The Malaysian Dark Red are going strong, and the Applegreen keep producing those light green "eggs." Beans and Butterpeas are in their heyday this week. We've delivered green bean/immature versions of the Cherokee Trail of Tears, Dragon Tongue, and Golden Wax. Now those left on the vine are beefing up to the "flageolet" stage, and I'm curious to shell a few. The Italian Rose Beans are light pink and turning hot pink ("hot" is a theme here...), and I think they'll be gorgeous shelled beans. Dixie Butterpeas are just now starting to form hundreds of flat, tiny pods.

We've planted over one hundred feet on the property with melons, winter squash, pumpkins, and gourds. The Cooking Light melons are beginning to take over "Pumpkin Hill," as we've named it. Every morning I go out to search and search and stare at the mounds of leaves trying to find the baby melons, and finally, after my eyes adjust, I can pick out a few. So here's a photo for you to have the same "Where's Waldo" moment...See if you can find the melon!

One of the best parts of growing your own is also one of the scariest, most frantic. It comes in the height and heat of summer and makes you think "What in the world am I going to DO with ALL OF THIS?!" And then the calm of sitting down to shell a big bowl of beans makes you remember why you planted all of that... (While you swear you won't plant 100+ tomatoes the next year. And then you do anyway.)

Mary Beth and David


Cherokee Trail of Tears Beans

Moon and Stars Melon

Old Time Tennessee Melon

Rosa Bianca Eggplant