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In the Garden

Aug 28, 2017 08:57AM ● By Lesley Stiles

Lesley Stiles

Plant Winter Crops as Summer Ends

September has to be peak season for tomatoes, especially heirlooms and my all time favorite, Sun Gold tomatoes, which are so crazy on the vine -- they look yellow instead of green. Padron peppers, guajillo peppers, ghost chilies, and habaneros are also popping out and growing to picking size daily. It’s hard to keep up but oh so satisfying to have that as a problem!

Most peppers come into season in the later summer, developing into an amazing array of different hues only gifted to the patient grower who does not pick them green in June. Tomatillos start their parade into the blender as the summer wanes, calling out for garlic, lime, and cilantro for a simple but astounding salsa to put in and on everything. I have seen so much squash and so many lemon cucumbers that I could start my own farm stand. Summer vegetable garden bounty is an awe-inspiring series of picking, watering, and weeding events that never cease to amaze the gardener. I have discovered that I hold chicken manure dear to my heart as the nitrogen content makes my vegetables predictably greener and fuller right before my eyes.

It is time to start that winter garden once your summer garden begins to slow down. Winter crops like a little heat at night to get them started, and temperatures rarely drop below fifty degrees, ensuring that tender roots get plenty of time to develop before the cold sets in. You will have stronger plants and get an earlier and longer harvest by planting now. As soon as your earliest tomatoes start to turn brown and leggy, take them out and put in broccoli. As the sun starts to change position in the sky, you will notice shade in different parts of your otherwise blazing hot yard. Plant new lettuce and arugula as the shadows deepen for a nice, long run of succulent, garden fresh greens from yard to table. Just remember to amend your soil liberally and generously with your favorite compost -- either your own, your favorite manure, or both.

Besides having an incredibly positive effect on your culinary delicacies, your garden will also calm your mind and work your muscles. There is really nothing quite like turning over a nice big square of soil to ease a burden of anger or sorrow in your life.  When you see the result of what you have done, nothing else really matters as much as it did when you started out. Consequently, burning calories and strengthening muscles does not feel too bad either. Once in the garden, toiling away, before you know it, hours have passed and the sun is waning. Oops…was it my turn to cook dinner tonight?? Have campfire food by the BBQ! Experience summer garden by-products with al fresco patio dining a la minute. As the sun dips into the ridge, wine in hand, cook while discussing day’s events with loved ones as your gaze lights on a particularly amazing bloom. Bon appétit!



Syrian Fatoush Salad


1 head of romaine lettuce, washed and torn

2 medium sized cucumbers, peeled, seeded and diced

1 basket of cherry tomatoes cut in half

1 small red onion, sliced into small half moons

½ bunch of fresh mint, chopped fine

½ bunch fresh cilantro, chopped fine

½ cup feta cheese, crumbled

1 cup of pita chips

½ cup pitted kalamata olives, chopped.

Toss all together in a large salad bowl with Lemon – Cumin Vinaigrette


Lemon – Cumin Vinaigrette


¼ cup of fresh lemon juice

2 tablespoons of seasoned rice vinegar

¾ cup of extra virgin olive oil

2 tablespoons of freshly toasted and ground cumin seed

1 tablespoon of chopped fresh garlic

Whisk all together in a bowl and season with kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper.


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