Squash – the Triumph of Hope over Experience

It feels like I’ve written this blog post before. Why can’t I outwit squash borers? I grow my squash from seed under grow lights. Tending them religiously, hardening them off before planting in my raised beds. I even rotate the beds. This year I had a couple of new beds at the community garden. They aren’t the best beds. Right under an old silver maple, they needed deep digging and now constant watering. But, I thought, there was no squash in this bed last year so I might have a fighting chance.

I did suffer something of a setback when I dropped the tray that held all the squash seeds I’d planted. I was working in the garage in preparation for bringing the tray inside to put it on a heating pad for plants to encourage germination.

I put the seeds back in the peat pots trying to match what I’d written on the craft sticks. Was this a Blue Hubbard or a zuchinni seed? In some ways it didn’t matter. I’d know soon enough once the plants were outside and began blooming and setting fruit.

Two zuchinni plants at the community garden were doing well. I got at least four small zuchinni, but today I began to see some yellowing on the leaves, a sure sign of borers at work. The other squash in that bed aren’t thriving. I do see a very small spaghetti squash coming along. Those vines should be covering that bed by now. Maybe that’s why that bed went unclaimed this year. But I didn’t give up. I planted more squash seeds. There’s still time for a squash harvest as we have late frosts.

The squash plants at home were doing extremely well. In fact, I have two blue hubbards and one naguri. Both the blue hubbards were doing well. I used some tomato cages I’d made from concrete reinforcing wire for the vines to climb on before I realized the blue hubbards can get huge. In my mind I was figuring out solutions to that problem. Then one of the blue hubbards didn’t seem to be growing. This morning this is what I saw.

The other blue hubbard is much larger and that vine okay. This is so disappointing. Commercial farmers are able to grow squash. What do they do to keep squash borers at bay? Everything on line is something I’ve tried except noxious chemicals – although I might consider… Once the leaves start to yellow, it’s too late to do anything. I wonder what immature blue hubbard squash tastes like?

But the real question is why do I keep trying? When every year the outcome is the same.

I suppose it’s partly because it’s a challenge and I want to figure out how to solve this problem. That may be some of my Viking heritage at play. Those men and women got on their ships and sailed out of the fiords and didn’t know what they’d find. It was a challenge. Of course, it was too cold to grow squash in northern Norway and they were looking for plunder and slaves, not a lovely blue hubbard squash to turn into the best “pumpkin” pie ever to grace a Thanksgiving table.

When the seed catalogs arrive next winter, will I be able to resist ordering squash seeds? Somehow I doubt it.

 

A Braised Short Ribs Recipe

After two days of humping loads of chips to cover the paths at the St. Michaels Community Garden, I had aching muscles and was ready for an easy oven meal (fast forward to bottom of post). That’s not me in the photo. I was the photographer who was taking a break.

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Thanks goodness for morning yoga at The Studio. We’re hoping for another load today and that job will be finished for another year. My bed is still producing. Carrots, mache (a rosette of tender greens that’s fabulous in salads), and kale.

I’ve started tomato plants under grow lights, enough to share with some friends. I’m starting Amish Paste and Sun Gold cherry tomatoes. So far they look great. The heat mat helped with germination.

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We’ve had a couple of cold days, cold enough in the evening to have the last fires of the season in the fireplace. And cold enough for a hearty dinner of Braised Short Ribs. This is what it looked like before three hours in the oven. Those carrots and parsley are from my Community Garden bed.

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This is what it looked like when I took it out.

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It was so good I’m including the recipe which a friend shared. Originally the recipe came from The Village Market in St. Michaels. I got my short ribs at BJ’s which recently opened by us. They were fatty and I didn’t know enough to trim them. Next time I’ll buy the short ribs from The Village Market. I’ve been told by a friend in my yoga class whose brother-in-law works at the Market that they trim their meat!

Braised Short Ribs of Beef

1 tsp freshly ground black pepper, plus additional to sprinkle over the ribs before cooking

4 lbs beef short ribs, cut into 2 inch lengths

5 tbsp olive oil

8 garlic cloves, peeled and finely chopped

1 ½ cups canned Italian plum tomatoes, with juice

2 cups sliced carrots, 1/8 inch thick each

3 cups sliced onions

8 whole cloves

½ cup chopped Italian parsley

¾ cup red wine vinegar

3 Tbsp tomato paste

2 Tbsp brown sugar

2 tsp salt

¼ tsp cayenne pepper

3 cups beef stock

 

Sprinkle pepper over short ribs. Heat oil in a Dutch oven or casserole. Sear ribs, browning well. Drain on paper towels. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Return half of the ribs to the casserole. Sprinkle with half of the garlic. Layer half of each vegetable over the meat. Add 4 cloves and sprinkle with half of the parsley. Repeat with remaining ingredients, ending with a layer of chopped parsley. In a bowl mix together vinegar, tomato paste, brown sugar, salt, 1 tsp black pepper and cayenne. Pour over meat and vegetables and then add beef stock just to cover. Cover casserole, and bring to boil over medium heat. Bake in oven for 1 ½ hours. Uncover and bake for 1 ½   hours longer.

Enjoy!