summer deluge

rushing stream

This picture was taken on 7/22, after what will no doubt come to be called The Deluge of 2010. If you don’t know what our  tiny creek looks like in late July, you see a fair amount of water. If you do know, you see Niagara Falls.

blue bucket

Rain gauge

When we left for  an evening opening at  Caldbeck Gallery, in Rockland, I put an empty bucket in the driveway, carefully avoiding measurement complicators like overhanging trees and dripping eves. When we got home (after crossing three low spots that should by all rights have stopped the car, since the water was up to the doors), it was overflowing. That is not a doctored photo; we got over 8 inches of rain in less than 4 hours.

Also the lightening was nonstop throughout. Also a giant elm branch fell on the sailboat parked in my neighbor’s yard. Also many roads were washed out; basements flooded…

People are pretty much alright, however, so I’m free to say the unusual storm is a perfect symbol for the usual Summer Crescendo: way too much of everything all at once.

wild black raspberries, aka blackcaps

Fruit is ripening - fast! These blackcaps came and went in about two (glorious; I made jam) weeks.

chanterelles on blue table

Mushrooms are popping up everywhere. (I fried these chanterelles in butter and froze them; they were the third batch this size in 8 days.)

bolting leaf lettuce

The second planting of lettuce has bolted

And a whole bunch of other stuff is happening but right now let’s talk about the lettuce.

Thing 1. Heat makes lettuce bolt – rise up and go to seed. All lettuce gets bitter when it bolts. But some varieties are bolt-resistant, much slower to switch from making leaves to making the next generation, and others (far fewer, alas), remain tasty even after bolting, their bitterness so modest it’s more or less inconsequential.

summer lettuces

Lettuces planted in early July to be ready in mid August when needed for BLT's. The spiky one in the left hand row is Italienischer, with some blushed leaf Craciovensis spilled from its own row second from left. Frilly Panisse - not quite as bolt resistant as the other three, but this is Maine - is to the right of that. Anuenue, a heat tolerant header reminiscent of iceberg, is on the far right, needing reseeding because the borage that used to be even farther right fell over and smothered it. (Seed sources at end of post)

Thing 2. Keep replanting, ideally at 3 week intervals but realistically at least 3 or 4 times a season. Even when it doesn’t bolt, home grown lettuce stops tasting home grown as soon as it matures.

Thing 3. Lettuce doesn’t need to lie in its own bed. Very short rows of seedlings can be divided into individuals and transplanted into open spots anywhere.

mixed lettuces, bolted

These bolted bozos are about to be cut down before they overwhelm the young bush cherries they were planted between. (The cherries were tiny when they came and are therefore in a “nursery bed” until they get big enough to move to the field.)

Cutting the bolted lettuce brings us to Thing 4: Lettuce in this condition is still delicious; you just have to cook it – and not for long. Cut the central stem at @ 1 inch intervals, leaving leaves attached. Wash by swishing in a big bowl of water (see Washing Spinach for details). Allow to dry off a bit then stir-fry in very hot butter just until wilted. Season with salt and a tiny pinch of sugar. Bolted lettuce is also tasty braised in chicken broth as though it were escarole.

Shopping for Lettuce Seed at brick and mortar stores isn’t so easy at this time of year; most garden centers have pulled down the seed racks to make room for fall bulb displays. I get Panisse and Anuenue from my friends at Johnny’s Selected Seeds, the Italienischer and Craciovensis from Fedco. Both are also excellent sources for the next round – cold-resistant lettuces like Winter Density and Mervielle de Quatre Saisons, and all the delicious specialty greens that carry us through the fall: radicchio, mache, broccoli raab, Portuguese cabbage, kale…

Chanterelle note: Whatever else you do, don’t forget to make a couple of quarts of Dianna’s Chanterelle Vodka.

Creek and rain gauge photos  by Bill Bakaitis

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1 Comment »

  • Ohh, it all looks just wonderful! Are the blackcaps blackberries or black raspberries? And those gorgeous mushrooms. Mmm, mmm. The ‘shroom & crab recipe is making me hungry! One of these days (but not this time) I’ll drive to Maine in my new Flying Flivver, and then I’ll see what I can bring back!

    Have you had any problems getting cukes to reach full fruition? I have a White Cucumber in one bed that has a gorgeous vine, and all the little potential cukes behind their yellow flowers, and not a single one, apparently, has been fertilized, even though the Bush Crop cukes in the front yard produced a lot. Don’t know what the problem is. Posted about it on FB, but I only have a few gardening friends.

    At ANY rate, I do SO enjoy your blog, even though I don’t always comment. Cheers, MP

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