They Look Like Squash Plants
But Not Like Any Squash Plants I Can Recall Ever Seeing
Realization Of The Day:
I think 2006 is going to go down in history as (besides The Year Of Cary Laying Waste To The Garden) The Year Of Mysterious Plants. Looks like I've got yet another one.
I recently mentioned that some volunteer cucumber plants were coming up in one of the newly planted raised beds the dogs decided to dig up and destroy (obviously for my own--but unknown--good, as Finny Knits, who so totally takes the animal's side in these matters, has assured me). Then I amended my statement because the little seedlings were beginning to look like squash plants rather than cucumbers (hey, a lot of those first leaves look alike). No problem. I love squash, and if you've been reading about my garden for very long, you know that there is a dire (and really pathetic) shortage of it here.
But now I'm just (once again) a teensy bit worried. These squash plants are very, very happy and are practically growing by the hour. They're surviving nights around 50F just fine, and I haven't seen a single squash bug on them! All good news, yes. The only thing is, well, they look weird. Really weird. As in, I don't know if I can handle another mysterious plant in the garden this year weird. Of course if the weather continues to cool down at night, I may not have to worry about it as they will self-destruct. In the meantime, a proper identification sure would be nice.
A few years ago I did successfully grow some lemon squash (which I used--along with my faithful Aconcagua peppers--to make my Simple Summer Harvest Soup, as well as the Autumn Version), and although I don't remember exactly what the plants looked like, they may have resembled these, with the flower buds popping out all the way up the stalks. I just came back in from a very close inspection and did discover the teeniest, tiniest yellow squash you've ever seen on one of the plants, which could possibly someday turn into a full grown lemon squash. At least right now it's the correct shape.
The thing is, though, that the lemon squash from a couple of years ago grew in a raised bed all the way on the other side of the garden. And even if, say, some seeds ended up in the compost bin, why would they suddenly decide to sprout now? (I didn't recently spread any new compost in this bed.)
So this brings me back to the unlikely explanation I made in a previos post--that the dogs felt so bad about digging up all my newly sprouted fall greens that they planted some squash for me instead. Now I am thinking this may not have been as preposterous as it seemed at the time. Perhaps the seeds were actually hiding several inches down in the soil, and only the canine excavation brought them up to sprouting level?
It's the only thing I can come up with at the moment. But you can be sure I'll be watching these plants closely for any signs of suddenly transforming into something else entirely--or, more hopefully, putting forth some edible bounty. Squash, cucumbers, whatever. As long as I can eat it, I won't complain. Of course it is always nice to know what you're eating.
Miscellaneous: Seeds (that I actually planted) are popping up all over!
--About half of the Oriental Greens seeds I sowed on September 4th have sprouted already.
--The beet and chard seeds I planted in the spots where the dogs had obliterated the original plantings are also poking out.
--Various stray seedlings that escaped dog destruction are doing well: a few Nero di Toscana (or Cat) Cabbage, a few Red Russian Kale, and a surprising number of rapidly growing Escarole plants.
--Lots of tiny lettuce seedlings are slowly covering the mini-greenhouse bed. But considering I literally sowed about 5,000 seeds, I was expecting more of a showing than what's come up so far. And of course I have no idea what varieties sprouted and what didn't since I raked them all together when I sowed them. At this point, though, I'll happily munch on any lettuce that will grow!
From Garden To Table:
--I did recently harvest three of the Summer Straightneck Squash (that were supposed to be Golden Zucchini) and cooked them up in my Less Fuss, More Flavor manner by simply slicing them into rounds, sauteing them in some nice olive oil, and flavoring them with nothing more than a sprinkling of salt and pepper. Delish! I think there are a few more babies out on the vines, and I am looking forward to hopefully harvesting them soon. No sign of any actual zucchini on any of the palnts--golden or black.
--I am thrilled to report that my salad bowl is once again full of the dark, tasty, incredibly good-for-you greens that I love so much: baby Nero Cat Cabbage, baby Red Russian Kale, baby Purple Kohlrabi leaves, Escarole, Yellow Chard (from the greenhouse), baby Arugula (greenhouse), and baby beet greens (though some are actually red). And in a week or so, some of those Oriental Greens should be big enough to start sampling.
I am not, however, thrilled to report that yesterday I spotted two large deer ambling toward the garden at five o'clock sharp--dinner time! I spied them through the back window and could practically see the cartoon bubbles floating above their heads: "Hey look! She planted fall greens!" and "Oooh, I love them when they're so young and tender!"
I grabbed my camera (I know, I know, I should have grabbed the gun) and--smart and stealthy farmgirl that I am--sneaked out the front door and then slinked around the house, camera on, ready to shoot. Damn! Spotted! They casually bounded away, flashing me with their big white tails. When I later reported the incident to Joe, I told him that I'd been this close to having a clear shot before they spotted me and took off.
"They can see you moving inside the house, you know."
"Well, if that's true, they don't seem to be scared of me when I'm in the house. They didn't run away until I was outside."
"That's because they know that almost nobody will shoot at them through a closed window."
I'm still behind responding to your wonderful comments, questions, and emails. Please bear with me, and thanks for your patience. I'd start catching up right now, but it's well past 5pm, and I think I'd better go see if anyone is outside munching on my dinner. I'm sure you understand.