Ask Judy: Deep summer questions answered

Last week’s most common question from our customers was: How does your garden survive in this heat? The short answer to that is, irrigation, of course. We were fortunate that our weeklong 90-degree-plus heat wave was sandwiched between two substantial rains, 2-1/16 inches on June 27 and 1-1/8inches on July 9. During that time we ran our overhead irrigation for a little over 6 hours, which was barely enough to keep the plants from wilting on those truly hot days.
Our soils are clay-based loams; a sandier soil would have required considerably more amounts of water. We currently have just enough irrigation pipe to water half of our crops at any given time, and Will and our faithful crew spent hours “setting T’s” and lugging pipe. Moving pipe and getting water to the rest of the acreage would seem straightforward, but as Will always says, “nothing is easy.”
This time of the year we have numerous tasks in addition to keeping the crops watered: scheduled field seedings, transplanting of fall crops, harvesting late spring and early summer crops, cultivation and weed control, marketing, sales, and delivery of product. As a result, sometimes the watering doesn’t happen when it should.
On the other hand, our tomatoes, cukes, melons, summer squash and berries are all set up with drip irrigation. With those crops it’s as easy as turning on the faucet. We let it run every couple of days for a total of over 30 hours. Here at the farm we are thankful for access to Tri-Town municipal water.
Last week’s second most common question from our customers was: How do you survive, in the garden, in this heat? My personal tool kit for managing against heat exhaustion is beginning harvest by 6 a.m., spending lots of time in the afternoons organizing the walk-in cooler, drinking Gatorade, eating salty chips, frequenting the pool, not turning on the stove, and resuming work (such as raspberry picking or getting ready for market) in the evening after dinner.
Last week I was asked by Candy Page at the Free Press about cooking and eating produce during a heat wave. Here is part of my response (and forgive me if you already read about this in that paper): When the weather is miserably hot and I don’t feel like heating up the kitchen by cooking I usually make salads. I try to keep plenty of interesting salad additions on hand in the pantry and refrigerator such as hardboiled eggs, leftover cooked chicken and fish, jars of marinated artichoke hearts, olives and interesting cheeses.
We often have chicken Caesar salad using our fresh romaine. I like to make a spinach salad that includes hardboiled eggs and bacon. I fry up extra bacon on Sunday mornings to have in the fridge to add to green and pasta salads. Once the tomatoes are in season (and they are just beginning), I will have cooked bacon strips in the fridge for BLTs. We enjoy deviled eggs as a side to a tossed salad, which takes less than 15 minutes of stove time.
For lunch we have lots of chips and salsa. Will is happy to make a lunch of chips and salsa most any day of the week. We make and can salsa in late summer and keep a shelf full of it in the cellar. The key there is to keep plenty of corn chips on hand.
What I didn’t tell Candy, but will share with you now, is that last week I discovered the joys of making and eating cool, fresh spring rolls on hot nights (see the recipe in the sidebar). Actually, my daughter Pauline deserves the credit for this, as she does for most of the creative dishes we’ve eaten this summer.
We are often asked this question: When do I know it is time to harvest my garlic? Later this month is when you will want to harvest your fall-planted garlic. As my father-in-law always says, “Plant garlic on the shortest day of the year and pick it on the longest day of the year.” Well, actually, we plant ours right around Halloween and, more often than not, start the harvest on July 21.
Garlic plants have 11 to 12 leaves. When 5 or 6 of them are completely dead it is usually time to pull your plants. Start by pulling a bulb or two, break the bulbs apart and see how well developed the individual cloves are. Cloves should be able to separate from each other and the wrapper of each will be thick at this stage. A late harvest will result in bulbs with deteriorated outer skin with cloves that fall apart easily.
Once you have determined that the bulbs have matured, pull or dig them and lay them out in a shady spot such as your garage or barn for a few weeks of drying. The cured bulbs are now ready to be bunched or braided and hung where it is cool and free from freezing temperatures.
Pauline’s Shrimp Spring Rolls (courtesy of Pauline Stevens)
– 1 package of rice vermicelli
– 1 package 8.5-inch spring roll skins (Banh Trang Deo)
– 2 cucumbers
– 3 carrots
– 1 pound cooked shrimp, shells removed
– 1 bunch fresh mint, washed and leaves stripped
– 1 bunch fresh cilantro, washed and leaves stripped
1. Bring a large pot of water to boil. Add rice vermicelli and cook until tender, about 5 minutes. Rinse the noodles well with cold water and set aside.
2. Prepare the cucumber and carrots by shredding them lengthwise with a vegetable peeler into long thin strips. Set aside on a plate.
3. Fill a rimmed plate, at least 8.5 inches in diameter, with warm water. Place one spring roll skin on the plate and submerge it. The skin will become transparent and very soft. When this occurs (after 20-30 seconds under the water), remove the skin and lay it flat on a second plate. The first spring roll is now ready to be built.
4. Place a small handful of rice vermicelli in the bottom third of the spring roll skin. Spread it into a 4-inch line.
5. Place two slices of prepared cucumber and four slices of the carrot on top of the noodles. Then place four cilantro leaves and two mint leaves on top of the vegetables.
6. As if you are folding a tortilla to make a burrito, fold the nearside of the skin over the filling. Then fold both the left and right side into the center. Roll the partially made spring roll away from you once, so that you see the rice vermicelli, and the vegetables should now be on the underside. Place three or four shrimp on top of the wrapper (if using jumbo shrimp, cut them in half lengthwise). Continue to roll the spring roll away from you until all of the skin has been used up. You should now have a compact spring roll with shrimp visible on one side and the cilantro and mint visible on the other side.
7. Repeat steps 3-6 until you have as many spring rolls as you need. Serve with peanut dipping sauce.
Adaptations: Use other fresh vegetables, sliced thinly. These could include, but are not limited to, peppers, scallions, daikon radish, cabbage, lettuce, mushrooms, bean sprouts and mango. The shrimp can be replaced with tofu or cooked chicken.
Peanut Dipping Sauce
– 2 tablespoons fresh ginger, finely minced
– 1/4 cup warm water
– 1/2 cup natural peanut butter
– 2 tablespoons soy sauce
– 1 tablespoon rice vinegar
– 1/2 lime, juiced
– 1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
Mix the first six ingredients in a small bowl. Add the red pepper flakes to taste.

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