Grazing My Way Through The Lull

Cmon, let’s go!

Though I’ve been doing a vegetable garden for 20 years, I often rue my stupidity at this particular moment, when, if I’m not vigilant, there is nothing in the garden to eat.  This season, we’ve already had lots of nice spring meals of sugar snap peas and favas, garlic scapes, spinach, cilantro, and arugula.

But now the favas and sugar snaps are burning up in the heat, and the spinach and cilantro have gone to seed. Ditto the arugula, possibly the single most important vegetable to my health and happiness. And it’s gone so to seed, that there aren’t even any side leaves worth harvesting off the stems.

But the next wave of great meals hasn’t yet started. No eggplants yet, no peppers, no tomatoes, no potatoes, no cucumbers, no summer squashes, no pole beans. Even the beets, a cool-weather crop, are not quite ready.  The beet greens at least are nice, but I don’t have an easy time of it when I try to feed my kids a load of oxalic acid at every single meal. I made my first pesto this week, but only by denuding the poor young little basil plants more than I really should have.

An intelligent gardener would have anticipated the mass going-to-seed that always accompanies the summer solstice and planted a second crop of arugula and cilantro, plus a bunch of other lettuces, in early June. The stupid gardener but intrepid cook–me–just makes due with what’s out there. Yesterday afternoon, there were exactly 5 okra pods waiting for me. Okay! I scissored off some of my cutting celery and bay leaves, yanked out a few young leeks and bought some Price Chopper peppers. Andouille sausage from the Putnam Market, one of my buddy Rick’s chickens from the freezer, and there you go–gumbo!  It was delicious.

In two or three weeks, I’ll have an insane bounty in my garden. It’s frustrating that it’s so stingy now. But the upside is that I do all my best cooking in the lulls. The lack of any one thing in abundance inspires creativity and a light hand.  I’ve watched my sister-in-law Na–who is Thai and a professional cook–make a meal out of nothing from my garden in the lull, too.  A couple of black garbanzo beans, a little chard, maybe some carrot tops.  The result is a feast.

Making do–using a little of this and a little of that–I suspect it’s the method of all great home cooks from time immemorial.



  1. I have the exact same lull in the garden right now. My beets aren’t ready yet, and I can only pick a handful of cherry tomatoes or green beans each day, so it takes several day’s worth to have a significant amount. The only thing I can consistently harvest right now it turnips, which my kids don’t really like, and hot peppers, which I don’t really like!

  2. Thanks for saying this out loud. I have been feeling so frustrated after all our work, to have nothing to eat. I Keep muttering “have patience” to myself.

  3. Fortunately, while my veggies are in the lull, my fruit trees runneth over. I made over a gallon of plum jelly last night, and the night before … and still have at least a gallon of juice in the freezer with more plums still on the tree. Thanks goodness my family likes jelly. And the cherries – ! Eat them fresh, turn them into jelly & preserves, & throw some in a jar with bourbon for when the weather turns cold … and still I had plenty to dry & turn into more juice. And yes, I give my bounty away, too. At the office, around the neighborhood, to family, to the food bank. Instead of staying up too late working on my summer reading list or catching up on re-runs of my favorite shows, I’m staying up late emptying the jelly pan, the canner, the pressure cooker.

    I can only hope that “tomato season” hits us with such abundance.

  4. I feel your arugula pain (ours went to seed in February), but keep in mind they would’ve bolted anyway if you reseeded in heat. THAT would’ve been the real tragedy…hoping for deliciousness but getting only stringy bitterness.

  5. This is always the hardest stretch, exercising the tiniest bit of patience before the bounty of tomatoes and herbs and cucumbers springs upon us. It’s almost time for the first few peas, maybe if i look real hard I can find some…

  6. The lettuce has bolted. The strawberries are pau. Even the late seeded long white radishes went from germination to bolting without radishing. Carrots I have. I could dig the first potatoes. Still have some chard. I just need to marry someone who knows how to cook.

  7. One big planting of greens has bolted, but I guess I have to thank the rabbits that have been making their own meals in the garden, for the successive planting of lettuce and beans which will be harvestable in another week or so. The sugar snaps were a total loss. But salads we have.

  8. Onions and garlic are all I am getting from the garden vegetable wise. The peas got yanked early because the heat zapped ’em. The beans are planted late ( to thwart the japanese beetles which a few years ago decided green beans were their absolutley favorite thing in the yard- even over roses) the pepers are growing, the tomatos are flowering but no fruit (is it too hot for them to set fruit?) Got just enough blueberries for pancakes, just enough red raspberries for eating out of hand. The basil, planted for the THIRD time (dam’ squirrels) is barely up. Not a good year due to the drought and the heat. Last year was so wet and cool didn’t have much of a garden either. But next year will be better, right?

  9. I haven’t harvested anything from my garden yet. With the heat and the drought the strawberries were teeny tiny. I’ve had to replant the broccoli, corn, cucumbers, onions and green beans. I planted more peppers and some pumpkins too. Zucchini were setting fruit but with temps near 90 the fruit is aborting or rotting. Oh I did harvest some basil and had with patio tomatoes a plant I bought for $7! in April while visiting my sister in VA-it was so worth it.

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  11. This is my first year doing a large scale veggie garden and I was beginning to wonder what I’d done wrong as I’m in the exact same boat. Except for lots of sour cherry plums over the past two weeks, we’ve had pretty much the same harvest except our beets are ready thankfully. I did discover yesterday our Santa Rosa plums are ripe, whew, although we’re expecting only about 30 this year. Thanks for posting this!

  12. I don’t know if your posts like this and the last one on patience make me feel better or worse–better because I’m in the same boat, but worse because I’m in the same boat!
    I lament this every year, once writing in a blog post how “June is the Cruelest Month,” but it’s hard to complain since the non-winter meant I actually got the spring stuff out early enough to do well. I may have not started the summer stuff early enough as a result, and rabbits meant re-sowing was in order, but it sounds like I am actually right where I’m supposed to be–complaining! I picked three okras pods myself yesterday. Scallions and herbs fill the void, but soon there will be tomatoes. The cukes always stand a chance against the cuke beetles, and the delicata squash and eggplants are looking lovely.
    To add insult to injury, the power outage resulted in my losing all my homegrown frozen fava beans, peas, and strawberries, along with just about everything else.
    Thank you for making novices like me feel so reassured!

  13. This is the time to eat weeds. Not a big lull in my garden, but enough that I am more than happy to eat some of the weeds. Purslane, lambs quarter and tender amaranth tops are coming on strong.

  14. With just a patio garden, it’s hard to ever feel like I have an abundance of food to pick. It’s helpful to remember that everyone needs to have patience until their gardens are ready!

  15. My garden lull has turned into a killing field. 100 + degree temps and 10 days of no rain and incredible heat have burned just about every plant. I use soaker hoses and do deep soaks but you can’t help but lose plants and produce when the temps are that high. Thank goodness I live in Amish country. I head out to the stand and buy 1/2 bushel baskets of green beans for $7 and cook and can. But it breaks my heart to see all my babies withering in the sun. Praying for rain….

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