Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Glory Be To God For Dappled Things

This afternoon we decided to take the Gertster on a ride -- this is how we justify taking rides. As we usually do on such journeys, we visited a couple of our Amish neighbors' roadside stands -- soon coming to the end of the season -- to see what produce they might still have for sale. We were specifically looking for Delicata squash, a small striped winter variety that's easy to prepare even in the microwave, fine-fleshed and candy-sweet.

We were in luck -- there were still a few Delicata  available. There were also some wonderful confetti-colored acorn squash. "I have to try one of those," I announced. (I found out later that this particular variety is called Carnival.)

One of my many garden eccentricities is a fascination with anything unusual for its type. (Fellow Traveler says that this is part of the "Ooh, Shiny!" Syndrome.) Why grow green snap beans if you can grow striped chartreuse-and-purple snap beans? Why not candy-stripe beets, or golden beets, instead of the old Detroit beets that my parents grew every year? Round orange pumpkins are a dime a dozen; what about the elegant red-gold French heirloom pumpkins instead?

Obviously I'm a GMO developer's dream consumer, which is why it's a good thing that I'm also an organo-locovoric type who shuns such products whenever I can identify them, on principle. (And usually loudly, in the store -- as in, "Oh, look! Here's some Acme Corn Critters made with genetically manipulated corn!") If my squash is tri-colored, I want it to be because its ancestors were cross-bred with lovely multihued heritage varieties, not because a mad scientist in a multinational agribusiness added some calico-kitty DNA to his witch's brew of Frankensquash.

And some of these veggies don't just have a pretty face. Chioggia beets, with their candy-cane interiors, are wonderfully flavored, as are the purple-striped Dragon Langerie snap beans. One of our great discoveries this summer was the Black Russian variety of tomato, which beat out all competitors in my BLT taste test. Other unusual veggies are -- well -- meh; all hat and no cattle. But that's okay too.

I'm going to continue my love affair with dappled things in next year's garden...and expand that category to include the "Miscellaneous" section of seed catalog offerings.  After all, we can get a lot of very nice veggies from our Amish friends; but try finding salsify or Florence fennel around here. FT is chuckling over my current moodling over sketches of our garden plot -- which will be divided into raised beds in the spring -- trying to decide the most advantageous spots to plant this motley assortment.

Frankenfood: no. A garden of earthly delights to the eye as well as the palate: oh, yes.


bunnits said...

Those are lovely. And it makes me want to run right out to the Farmer's Market--probably have to go tomorrow and see what goodies they have.

Auntie Knickers said...

I don't know if your growing season is long enough for eggplant, but I have seen and tasted some absolutely beautiful purple/lilac and white striped eggplants; they were on the small side, too, which might be a good thing. I've had multicolored carrots from the farmers' market here, too -- various shades of orange and beige, taste good too. (I've also had a BLT with green tomato and red lettuce!)

Julie Costello said...

:) So nicely done, well said and funny. To me anyway! Thanks for the story.