Salisbury, MD. Today, we took a walk around Granny Griffith's raised bed veggie garden and were inspired by the promise of summer bounty yet to come. The spring weather, no matter how little it may have impressed us humans, the vegetable plants obviously loved it. They are strong, sturdy and full of promise.
Granny Griffith, as with most of you, has been cutting kale, spinach and buttercrunch lettuce for a few weeks now. This year's early season veggies seem to be crunchier and more flavorful than most years. Could it be the cooler and unpredictable weather? Less rainfall than usual? We don't pretend to know why, we just know that we love the results!
Granny's sugar peas (snap peas to some of you) are full of blossoms, indicating an outstanding harvest soon to come. The sweet peas, the non-edible flowering sort, are sturdy and about a foot tall. They likely won't set blossoms for another couple weeks but are looking full of promise. Granny Griffith doesn't plant English Peas because, as she so candidly puts it, she's just too "lazy" to spend the time required to shell them. Granny has friends who are organic farmers and she chooses to purchase the fruits of their labors.
An absolute surprise was the fruiting of the Alpine strawberries. Perhaps a half dozen of the tiny ruby colored gems were ready for picking and we sampled them immediately. So delicious! Granny Griffith grows them in a little 4' x 4' raised bed at the edge of the woods and they do remarkably well in our mid-Atlantic climate. Seldom seen around here, Granny discovered them while traveling in Canada at the Isle d'Orleans many years ago. Alpine strawberries are a small, extremely flavorful berry that the Canadian locals used to make strawberry jam which they then would sell to the tourists at roadside stands, along with freshly made homemade bread, butter and a bottle of wine. How terribly French and what wonderful memory-makers! (There's obviously a story here, but we couldn't convince Granny to share).
About five years ago, Granny Griffith ordered Alpine strawberry seeds from a catalog and, once sprouted, planted the seedlings out. She had a good survival rate and revels in growing something that is normally found in cooler climes. The only drawback to Alpine strawberries is that, in this area, the plants must be watered during extremely hot, dry spells. Otherwise, they are quite hardy and productive. The tiny, intensely flavored fruits are particularly good, we think, served with high quality ice cream. No berry slicing required!
Granny also has three fig trees, two of which are most likely Brown Turkeys and one is a larger "white" fig. I write "most likely" because they were gifts dug from Granny Greenthumb's brother's garden outside of Baltimore. At this writing, the first harvest of figs are now about the size of pullet eggs, green and rock hard. As they ripen over the next few weeks, the figs will soften and pick up the color of the ripened fruit. The "white" figs (you tell when they are ripe by gently squeezing them) are Granny Griffith's favorite. They are larger than the Brown Turkeys and have a firmer skin and a slight vanilla-ish favor. While we have seen Brown Turkey figs in season at local produce outlets, if you want white figs, we think you will most likely have to grow them yourself. All figs have the ability to grow into medium sized trees but Granny Griffith, because she has limited amounts of sunlight, allows them to grow as large bushes with multiple trunks, cutting out 1/3 of the largest each year to control size. As figs come into season, we'll share some of Granny's favorite recipes with you.
The Gardening Grannies are a group of avid and Master Gardeners who live, love and garden on the Delmarva Peninsula. They can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.