It never ceases to amaze me how things grow. From the tiniest seed comes all sorts of contortions as a pale green stem pushes its way through the seed hull and upward to light.
A case in point is the onion seed. A black dot no bigger than 3/32 of an inch, the seed holds the means to grow a soldier-at-attention straight green-topped white onion. To come up through the soil, a thin-as-a-thread green shoot pushes up in a loop. As it gains momentum, the loop gets bigger until one day it comes unraveled, straightening up overnight.
Do you know what a beet seed looks like? Those big red globes that are so good as Harvard beets or pickled beets begin as brown, crunchy, Grape-Nut cereal-shaped 1/4-inch seeds. When the tiny sprout appears, it’s already red with deep green, rounded dicot leaves. Its true leaves come next with thinner-than-hair streaks of red. And all the time the leaves and stems are growing up, the red tap root is growing into a ball with a sweet, earthy flavor.
Spinach seeds appear as tiny stone chips, shades of gray and brown. Yet, when they send up their produce, multiple broad green blades are the first to grow. More days in the sun and their true leaves appear, oval and slightly crinkly bunches of ever-so-deep green leaves. No wonder Popeye loved it.
You can play tiddlywinks with zucchini seeds. Flat oval light tan seeds may not be the colorful plastic winks and squidgers of the international game, but they can be sent off the end of a hand spade into holes or opened rows of dirt for a fun gardening game. If two people are playing, it may be wise to limit the amount of seeds used. Zucchini plants are notorious for producing endless fruits. Many a neighbor have been insulted by bushels of zucchini left on porches by unidentified friends. In about a week or so the seeds will send thick, large oval pale green leaves up which lay flat along the ground. Before you know it there are huge fan-shaped deep green leaves that are prickly to the touch. Then those huge yellow trumpets of blooms make the plant a big bouquet.
Yes, seeds are wonderful things. Of course, their end result is usually what we wait for. Fresh onions with bread and butter. Pickles beets, creamed spinach, glazed carrots. Fried zucchini or stuffed and baked zucchini boats. In the meantime, take a look, a close look, at what is going on right before your eyes in the garden. You might be amazed.
Harvest small to medium size beets. Brush dirt off. Leave roots intact. Cut leaves off about 2 inches from top of beet. Leaves can be washed and cooked like spinach. Place the beets under cold running water and wash. Place in pan with enough water to cover. Bring to boil, then simmer until knife tip can be inserted to middle of beet. Remove from heat and cool by running under cold water. To peel, hold beet under cool running water and slide peels off. Cut off root and leaf ends. By leaving the root and leaf ends on during cooking, the beet does not bleed out its color. Cool beets completely and use in recipes, dice in salads or slice and heat in butter.
Real Baby Carrots
The baby carrots in plastic bags at the grocers are not babies. They are “sanded” down from large full grown carrots that don’t make it into big bags. Real baby carrots are in the garden, from the first days of summer. They are about six to eight inches tall and have just begun to have thickened orange taproots. You may want to let them grow big. But if you thin the row for optimum growth, there will be baby carrots to cook and eat. Wash all dirt off in cold water. You may choose to leave leaves on. Gently simmer them in water, just till tender crisp. Drain, cool and eat or drain and transfer to skillet with melted butter. Sauté and add a bit of brown sugar to glaze them.
Gather spinach like you would lettuce. Plant can be pulled and leaves removed for cooking, or if it is early in the growing season, use scissors to cut off leaves, leaving roots in ground to grow again. Wash leaves thoroughly. Place wet leaves in skillet, place lid on. Do not add water. Place over medium heat and cook until leaves are wilted. This only takes a few minutes. Cream can be added to coat leaves. Do not let boil, but heat over low until thoroughly hot. Season with salt, pepper, garlic or nutmeg. You’ll want a lot of spinach leaves as they wilt down to what looks like nothing. We pile the skillet overflowing and tuck in everything as we put the lid on.