Inch by Inch: First fruits

Posted Wednesday, June 27, 2012 in Features

Inch by Inch: First fruits

Mosquito larva, courtesy Wikipedia Commons

It's not even July yet, but some vegetables and some fruits are ready to harvest.

Most notably in our area, June-bearing strawberries are ripening, as are wild blueberries. People who started their zucchini indoors, very early, are finding those small squash ready to eat, and beans and peas have been coming up for a couple of weeks now. Some leafy veggies are ready now, too. But we all have to be a little more patient for the tomatoes and peppers and blackberries and corn, those amazing summer crops that keep us in an agony of anticipation all winter and spring. Here, we've already had a bit of our basil in a special pasta dish that we wait all year for, and we had almost enough strawberries to make a shortcake.

What you do with your young harvest will depend in large measure on what you like to eat, but remember that not all options are obvious. Zucchini makes a great bread, for instance, even if it is not something you automatically think about. Peas can be dried and made into split pea soup in the depths of winter. Lettuce can be pressed into a rather thirst-quenching drink. It's your harvest, and you get to decide.

We found the first Japanese beetles of the season over the weekend. If you drape a smooth cloth (like a sheet) under an infested plant and shake it, the beetles will fall onto the cloth. You can then feed the beetles to your chickens, if you have them, or crush them and leave them where beetles tend to congregate. Japanese beetles do not like the smell of dead beetles, so they make their own rather ironic, albeit somewhat disgusting, repellent. 

If you've spent any time outdoors at dusk lately, you'll note that the mosquito population is increasing. That, and the recent rains, means it's a good time to hold a bonfire of your brush pile. The smokier the better when it comes to discouraging mosquitoes. Check with your local fire department to see if you need a burn permit before you light up.  Don't forget to empty out any plant pots, trash containers, sand buckets, bird baths, or even tarps that may be collecting water. Baby mosquitoes look a lot like little tadpoles, and they require the same thing: still water. 

The rains also make it essential that you keep a wary eye out for late blight. There has been blight reported in New York state this year, although we have not heard reports of it in Maine yet. Keep your copper sulfate ready just in case!

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