On Sunday I barely missed what would have been my most traumatic gardening experience. The pole beans on the first two teepees needed picking, and since the vines had started to form such a thicket I asked my husband to come along to lift the vines while I cut off the beans.
When I had quickly harvested some beans for dinner the week before I had noticed a nest made of newspaper scraps almost at the top of one of the tepees. Smart birds, I thought, taking the newspaper mulch from around the tomato plants, and I simply picked around it.
The nest soon started to get in our way when we were picking on Sunday so I suggested we check if it still had anything inside. My husband took it down and instantly threw it over the garden fence down the hill.
“What was it?” I asked.
“You would have screamed so loud all our neighbors would have called 911. It was a mice nest. One of them was looking straight at me.”
He was not exaggerating. Mice and other rodents, dead or alive, small or large, freak me out in capital letters. Living in the country for more than a decade has not diminished my phobia, on the contrary.
I know there are always mice around outdoors, but as long as I don’t see them or their traces, I can manage. But sticking my face into a nest and having a mouse stare at me would have been too much. If I had taken down that nest, I am sure I would have had such a shock that I most likely would have had a hard time setting foot in the garden for a good long time.
Upon my insistence we stripped the teepee of all the vines and cut off all harvestable beans. Now when I go to the garden, I clap my hands several times before opening the gate. I know it sounds ridiculous but it makes me feel better.
To end this post on a more positive note, the China asters that I planted as cutting flowers are blooming. I gave them a sheltered home inside the garden to protect them from voracious rabbits.
And, I have started to harvest Fairytale eggplants! I fell in love with those beauties at Field to Fork, an event I organized last year in August with the Master Gardeners. Designed to inspire more people to garden, we grew different fruits and vegetables in containers. One member of the group had Fairytale eggplants and I couldn’t wait to try them myself.
Fairytale eggplants are hybrids, meaning a cross breed between two parent plants. Unlike heirlooms, you cannot collect the seeds for next year. Frankly I do not understand the hype about heirlooms, and the demonization of hybrids that often goes hand in hand with it. Mankind has been breeding plants for thousands of years. If plant hybridization gives you crops that are resistant to a disease or a pest, and/or yield a result as delicious and beautiful as Fairytale, what’s the big deal? I think one of the reasons why hybrids are often shunned is that some people confuse them with genetically modified organisms (GMO’s). They are not. Seed companies that have signed the Safe Seed Pledge, thus reassuring their customers that they not knowingly buy or sell genetically engineered seeds or plants, do sell hybrids.
Fairytale eggplants do not require much preparation. Even without salting they are not the slightest bit bitter. I cut them in half, brush them with a mix of garlic and olive oil, and sprinkle them with salt and pepper. Then I put them under the broiler and turn them once until they are slightly browned from both sides. Fairytales truly deserve their name.