The Garden in the Heat

Now that the hot, hot weather has set in here in Zihuatanejo, Mexico, the intense sun quickly dries out the soil in the garden even while the humidity in the air increases as we move toward the rainy season. Many of the garden greens and other veggies are past their prime, and I have already purged several pots of withered plants in my container garden.

My cucumbers are just about to give up the ghost. I’ve harvested a nice little crop this year, but now that the sun is beating heavily down upon them and drying them out, despite watering them at least once a day, they’ve begun to wilt and lose vitality.  What few tomatoes I had are now history, except for the hardy little cherry tomatoes that just keep on producing. I have but two plump beets left to pull out of the ground, both topped with lovely burgundy-hued “greens.”

Nevertheless, I’m still harvesting many other vegetables. My bell peppers are bearing right now; I could eat the plump green peppers as they are but prefer to let them redden on the vine before picking them: they are indescribably sweet and flavorful when left to ripen.  I’ve plucked one harvest of eggplants, and–heat lovers that they are–I expect they’ll be blossoming again soon and putting out even more fruits. The photo below shows a thin Japanese eggplant variety; I also planted Black Beauties and Thai green eggplants that are similar in shape to the Japanese.

I’m getting one good weekly feed of okra between the crimson and the green Clemson spineless varieties. Georgia Southern and Vates collards still thrive (other years those have kept growing right through rainy season), and the dwarf curly kale keeps churning out more healthy, crinkly leaves for salads and cooked dishes every time I pick a few, which I do almost daily.

Garden peppers, eggplant, okra, and kale

I’ve already harvested all of my choy sum Chinese cabbage. It’s very similar to–and even better than–the baby bok choy I had planted previous years. Now, a new variety, tatsoi, which I planted about six weeks ago, is reaching its peak and will be ready for the wok in just a few days. I’m going to throw a couple of the tender leaves into my salad today, too.

Below, top left, is a photo of the tatsoi. The spikey plant next to it is Japanese mizuna, a tender green of the mustard family that often is included in mesclun and micro green salad mixes. That’s going into the salad today, too, along with some arugula. These three greens: tatsoi, mizuna, and arugula, will lend varying degrees of peppery animation to any salad.

Garden choy, papaya, mizuna, flowers

A second papaya is just beginning to turn color on the papaya plant. After losing half of the season’s first, luscious papaya to a squirrel because I let it ripen on the stem too long, I’m torn between harvesting this one now or waiting for another day or two. The fruit is blushing but not quite soft enough to merit plucking. The flavor is so much better when it is picked ripe.

About Tatsoi: Tatsoi is the New Spinach (Haven’t You Heard?)