Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Leaves that don't leave us

I was going to post today on molokheya (Egyptian spinach) but decided to wait until I have a chance to try out a recipe. So you will hear from me on that this weekend. But while I'm (not) on the topic of green leaves that love our not-always-agreeable climate and hang around being delicious, and because I'm anticipating the fall gardening season where edible leaves are the focus, and because the summer's insects and fungal diseases have been so unkind to the appearance of many plants in the garden, I'd like to take a moment to appreciate leaves, edible or not, that have taken this summer's heat and drought and plagues and floods and still look great - a look that holds the garden together.

Watermelon leaves, shapely and plentiful:

This plant (or it might be two plants) went in late, so whether it will actually bear watermelons is unknown, but once it got established it took off and is covering about 50 square feet of space, competing with a winter squash that also got a late start.

You need a lot of square footage for watermelons. For zucchetta tromboncino squash, you should need a little less, IF you can persuade it to climb a fence. I failed at that this year, as you will see in the photo after this, but even if it's trying to take over the garden I still love it for its leaves and its long oddly-shaped fruit.

You can just see the curled squash under the leaves; if it had grown straight, hanging on a fence, it would be about eighteen inches long. The leaves are close to a foot wide. Zucchetta tromboncino is a Cucurbita moschata squash and therefore more resistant to vine borers than others.

Here's part of the bed the zucchetta is trying to swallow.

This is a nicely varied mixture of greenery: beans, squash climbing the bean trellis, a little glimpse of luffa (another great leaf plant), lemon grass with squash covering, peanuts I'm attempting to rescue from squash suffocation, and tiny-leafed Greek basil with zinnias in the front, being invaded by squash. Two weeks ago the mostly-dead cucumber in the middle was still bearing but clearly on the way out, so I mentally reserved that space for a row of turnips. When I came back a week later I could see turnips were out of the question, at least according to the squash (and it is hard to argue with a determined squash).

Not many edible leaves in the above (except for the basil) but here's one:

Not the zinnias. The sweet potatoes. Green heart-shaped ground cover, hardly touched by insects, little chance of disease, and you can eat both the vines and (of course) the tubers. Does need room to ramble!

I look forward to beautiful fall kale and lettuce, but summer has leaves to appreciate too.

4 comments:

  1. I appreciate the appreciation of leaves. All that greenery that feeds us all, one way or another. If more appreciated them, it would be a better and safer world for all.

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  2. Yes, we would not have the edible fruits and roots without the leaves to gather energy - and they are as beautiful as flowers, often. Even with insect holes, though not with fungal diseases.

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  3. Are the watermelon leaves edible?

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    Replies
    1. I have heard that they are, but you would have to confirm that with a culinary expert - try searching for recipes, maybe you'll find something!

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