Sunday, August 19, 2012

Winding down

My neighbor across the street, a retired man who was sitting in the dark out on his porch watching the thundery rainfall a few nights ago, has gone swimming in the river 53 times already this summer.  He rides out to the Ile-St. Quentin every day by bike.  The last time I swam in the St. Lawrence  the current was so swift and so strong it carried me farther faster than I thought possible and took every ounce of frantic treading to simply stay in place.  Its sheer, gripping force caught me by surprise, and was not a little frightening.

This has been a strange summer. I remember the end of last March looking out the window at the back yard still covered in snow, dreaming of when it'd all be gone so I could begin planning the planting of my garden. Seems like yesterday. Now we're getting chilly,  autumn-like mornings, it gets dark a bit earlier, the public pools have already all closed.  And the garden--last week we had four scorchingly hot days in a row followed by three consecutive days of rain.  I brought in three baskets-full of red-ripened tomatoes yesterday evening.

Earlier this summer
I have a 12' X 12' plot at the community garden a few blocks past the library where I'm growing chard, red cabbage, onions, tomatoes, cucumbers, beets and celery.  This is such a great bargain for urban dwellers--you get the opportunity to rent a little mini-farm for only $12 a year.  They supply all the rakes, hoes, shovels, water barrels and hoses for watering, etc.  All you have to do is come plant the seeds;  weed and water as needed.

  I'd been away, traveling, for five days and when I returned and stopped by the garden I noticed several plots that seemed to have been abandoned: ripened tomatoes hadn't been picked, a massive amount of weeds had sprung up, leaves had yellowed, withered, or dried up, veggies lay rotting on the ground.  The three plots adjacent to mine showed serious signs of neglect.  There are enough vegetables (of every variety)  planted in these three plots to feed a family of four for the entire summer.  What happened here?  Why'd they just abandon it?  Unfortunately, this is not uncommon. One year the caretaker gave away bags-full of green peppers that had never been picked, the owner of the plot long absent.  The soup kitchen behind the garden benefits from these giveaways, so produce does not get wasted.  But it's still puzzling, the lack of interest in simple maintenance. 

I think I went overboard again this year.  I now have enough chard to feed an Army.  What was I thinking!? You rarely find Swiss chard in a grocery store here.  You can sometimes get kale (imported from California), but most of my fellow community gardeners here had never heard of Swiss chard.  I hadn't actually  eaten it either, until later in life.   It's so easy to grow, and so good for you!  It contains 13 polyphenol antioxidants and has betalains (which have an anti-inflammatory and detoxifying effect on the body), high amounts of fiber and protein (that stabilize blood sugar levels), and Vitamins A, C and K. 
My favorite Quick Chardy Lunch:

Heat a few teaspons olive oil in wok
Add: 2 garlic cloves (minced), small onion (diced), bunch of chard leaves (shredded) (they shrink a lot when cooking), fresh raw ginger  (size of half a finger),  handfull of cubed tofu (optional), salt, pepper, pinch of tumeric, cumin and/or curry, sprinkle with half handfull of unsalted peanuts, cook till chard softens, about 5 mins.  I prefer cooked chard to cooked spinach (less bitter, not as mushy).

Another way is to steam it, add a bit of salt, pepper & vinegar, then dab with melted butter.  (You can also make Swiss Chard Soup)

Anyway ...

It's already starting to be Goodbye, Summer--Hello, Fall.
My swimmer-biker neighbor across the street tells me he's a bit "summered out" now, more than ready for autumn.  Me, too!!