Garden notes: Tomatoes, Basil –and a new recipe. Unspeakably toothsome!!! And news of a new poem, “The Piano”.

Very hot cherry pepper

Very hot cherry pepper

As already posted, the first tomato, so red and so ripe, was picked on Sunday the 8th of June –a cherry tomato.

I picked it, and a basil tip, and savored that combination of fresh-tomato juicyness and fragrant faintly-pepperyish ‘fat’ basil leaves, that defines the very best of summer garden eating.

(Eat like a king –unspeakably toothsome, to quote my old friend Tim Wyllie. And healthy. And free. (OK, we’ll deduct my undocumented wages at the end of the season. Happy now?)
But –Eat like a King!

(And, as long as I am at it: What a Country! At its very VERY best in its own backyard, gardening. Country? With borders? Careful there. Somehow, borders always seem to mean “Border Incidents”. Especially these days.
OK, borders –but with Nasturtiums.)

I am still buying tomatoes –I get them, those vine-reds, in Chinatown, at anything from $1 to $2 a pound, usually closer to $1.
But I am –I estimate– just about a week away from Full Tomato Independance! Yes, that prized FTI-status that we all aim, nay strive, for, and which –Tomato Gods Willing– will last me right into mid-November! I who eats tomatoes every day.
Yes, it is hard to believe –not to spend ONE cent, and have the very best!– but the time is here, and the time is now.

A week later, eight tomatoes are ready. And in another week –who knows. It won’t be long before I’m bringing little shipments into Manhattan for my ungardened friends. Cultured they may be –some of them– but not horti-cultured.

One of the great tomato lessons from last year was the Secret of Staking. It seems that a tomato vine, a fully and properly staked tomato vine, will not stop, but will climb into the heavens.
Onwards and upwards –to quote the RAF’s WWII motto, “Per ardua ad astra”. “Through difficulties to the stars” would be a direct translation. Probably the RAF took it from an old tomato gardener. Although tomatoes have a tough time realising their full tomato-ness in the relative cold-comfort of the British Isles, as they used to be known.
So, Stake those Tomatoes.

So my Tomatoes wax, God bless them, AND my Basil is coming on fabulously.

RECIPE: Pesto Variant
I invented a new Pesto Variant Recipe that you might like to try: it involves processing–
a handful of fresh-picked Basil leaves with
a clove of Garlic
(I throw in some snipped Wild Chives instead sometimes, and sometimes both) and –instead of Olive oil (I just ran out and will need to bike up to Fairway at 73rd and Broadway, an oily pilgrimage that I make every 3 to 4 months —
a knob or two of butter. (This is the difference in my Pesto Variant)
Plus a spoon of grated Romano or Parmigiana to taste.
Plus –if you like it hot- a snipped up tiny Thai pepper (Careful with the heat!)

Whisk in the processor until mixed. Enjoy on some angel hair pasta or fusili, or just spread thinly on a quick-toasted tortilla.

(Afterwards, to indicate utter “mm-mmn” delight in the Unspeakable-Toothsomeness, rub in a circular-motion the tip of an index finger on your cheek. Somebody did that in a movie once, a British movie of the fifties –can’t remember his name right now but he was PERFECT for the part/STOP PRESS: it was bit-actor Cecil Parker, seen to extraordinary Parker-ian advantage in “The Ladykillers” with Alec Guinness.) One brilliantly funny movie, by the way. And with an unbelievable cast. Can’t remember the director, but he was one of the Big Ones, and possibly fairly early in his career, I believe. (Late note: Alexander McKendrick was the director. And it’s just possible that it was Robert Morley who did that Unspeakably Toothsome bit.)

I expressed concern in my last posting about my pepper-production. I took remedial action and now am much more sanguine about the situation. It looks like my Serrano and Thai production may be in good shape –I planted endless seeds (all of them saved from 2007) and enough of them seem to be making good progress to put my mind at rest. For the moment, at least.

Also, a very hot Cherry bud pepper (not sure of the name, but no mistaking the heat). Purple flowers turn to deep red shiny cherry-pit sized peppers.
And some Red Bells, which appeal to me much more than the Green Bells. And the Jalapenos, and the Hot Bananas….well, yes, they seem to be doing fine.
And that old Serrano bush that I nursed indoors through last winter already has about 20 peppers on it, although it itself looks somewhat attenuated. It’s just begun to sprout some extra leaves, and turn itself into a real bush. But it won my admiration for its sheer persistence.

The Growing Weather in the last weeks has been really splendid –great sun, much rain.
To stand in a garden and be surrounded with that singing Greenness and Growth, and all the myriad benificent miracles of nature that are in process all the time, is –I have come to see– to be blessed in a truly transcendant way.
(“Say no more”, as a wise person once said. But who? I hear it pronounced “Soy…no…mow-er!” Not another British bit-part movie actor? I fear so. Probably another line from another movie.)

Others experiments progress well: Winter Squash, Summer Squash, Cantaloupe –as I write their names their picture-perfect pictures from the seed packages come to mind. And the Bush beans –right now, as I type, I am blocking the troubled W’s face, not altogether successfully.
And the snap peas.

Dill, Parsley and Cilantro always seem to give me problems: I may have to rename them Dill-icate, S-parsely, and…a Cilantro Pun escapes me for the moment. (Let me know if you have any suggestions. “Silly-antro” seems without sufficient pun-rationale to sustain it….).
I manage to get them to produce but, apparently, only under some protest. Parsley ought to be profuse, as though it were a weed, but mine never is.
I can never throw fistfuls of chopped parsely into anything. There is never enough. “Parsimonious Parsley” –there’s another name.
And the cilantro is always difficult, has its all too brief moment in the sun, and then just up and bolts, all too quickly.
But even a few leaves of home-grown cilantro far outweigh any store-bought equivalent in its sheer coriandrum-sativum ness.
My DILL-icate always seems frail and in bad health, but puts on a spurt every now and again. I’ve found a source for cheap Canadian Kippers which I take with some dill-speckled cream cheese spread on a piece of bread. Talk about Unspeakably Toothsome –which we have– this is a good contender.

We are all supposed to be cutting back these days, watching expenditure, substituting, going without –all of that. With certain standards, I have been unyielding over the years, attempting to maintain them. A Decent Olive Oil, for instance, which necessitated my quarterly Oily Pilgrimage to Fairways on 74th and Broadway on the Upper WestSide, that demographic concatenation of zipcodes that Rush Limbaugh and Sean Hannity are constantly sneering at –though I would not be surprised to catch the portly Mr. Limbaugh sneaking in the backdoor of Zabars. (Why can’t the right wing invent its own Zabars or Fairways? Very revealing. Or art? Or jazz? Or be able to dance? OK, now I’ve gone too far.)

Fairways charge $19.95 for three litres for a really good Olive Oil; with Euro-vacillations and our sadsack dollar (thanks, W: You did say “bring it on” but omitted to say what) that went to $24.95 at one point, but if I have to get to Fairways to discover that…well, I’m not going to say “Scr*w You, Fairways” and turn around and bike back to Staten Island, oil-less. Am I?

But just a few months ago I did buy a 3-litre can at our local WB s’mkt, having previously resisted all oily such blandishments as fake and deceptive. This one looked….hey, none of those give-away words that reeked of substitute, fake, ripoff, wool-over-eye pulling….when I scoured the label, and checked it thrice.
And hey, this one was Turkish. They have good Olive Oil in Turkey, don’t they? Hey, let’s give this one a try, for $10.
Well you couldn’t imagine anything more characterless, although it took me about two weeks to overcome my own denial, two weeks of “Hey, NOT bad….NOT bad at all…”
We are all familiar with our own self-deceptions. Aren’t we??? You in the back….AREN’T WE.
(Just what I thought: not paying attention.)

One of the reasons for my sparser blogging is the fact that I have been working on a new poem, “The Piano” (A poem of memory). It is a poem about my mother –she was a wonderful pianist– and our piano back in Cobh (bought in 1929, the year she and my father married) and the music in our family, and draws together a number of themes (such as romanticism and patriotism, and an unusual dream), some of which surprised me.
But that’s what poetry is all about, isn’t it –or, one of the things.
I’ve written a fair amount of poetry, but this is the first that I will publish. At this point I see great narrative possibility in poetry. We will see how it pans out.
It will be out soon.

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