It’s what’s for lunch—a garden pasta salad

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summer garden pasta salad

The vegetable garden is full of good things for cool summer salads, like this take on pasta salad that has just about everything in it, but the kitchen sink! For a complete one-dish meal, crumble some feta cheese on top or chopped hard-boiled eggs. I added a couple of those perky little red South African peppadews for zip. A vegan version could include some garbanzo beans or perhaps cubed tofu to round out the proteins. But don’t let my list of ingredients limit you, and by all means add more or less of the vegetables, herbs depending on what you have on hand and personal tastes. Try adding some leftover corn sliced off the cob, cherry tomatoes, sliced cucumbers, chopped sweet red peppers, slivered sun-dried tomatoes, or maybe some canned artichoke hearts. There’s no limit. Here’s the start:

Summer Garden Pasta Salad

8 ounces penne (or your favorite salad pasta)

1 cup green beans, snapped in half

1 cup fresh garden peas (or frozen peas can substitute, just don’t defrost them)

1/4 cup sliced Calamata olives

1 cup spinach leaves, slivered

Fresh basil (lemon is best), parsley, oregano, chives—all chopped

1 clove garlic minced (or a tablespoon fresh garlic scapes chopped)

1-2 peppadews chopped (South African sweet/spicy peppers)

Lemon juice

Virgin olive oil

White balsamic vinegar

1-2 teaspoons Dijon mustard

Salt and pepper to taste

Bring a big pot of water (with about a teaspoon of salt) to boil, and add the pasta. After five minutes, add the beans and boil briskly another five minutes. Place fresh peas in bottom of colander and drain pasta and beans over that and then run cold water over all to cool.

While pasta and beans are cooking, chop herbs, garlic (or scapes) and place in the bottom of a large bowl. Mix in oil (2-4 tablespoons or to taste), lemon juice (about 2 tablespoons), Balsamic vinegar (1-2 tablespoons), mustard, peppadews (and a bit of their liquid if desired), the peas if you are using frozen and the olive slices. Mix well with a fork. Fold in pasta and green beans and then fold in slivered spinach. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Chill until serving time. This should serve four.

Spare that Japanese beetle


Out in force now, those alien invaders Japanese beetles can be found chewing up rose buds, blooms and foliage, hollyhocks, raspberries and even peach tree foliage. Early morning and late afternoon “sweeps” of the garden will find these pests shredding uppermost foliage and inside rose blooms and buds.  While spraying might be effective for those insects present, it is no magic bullet and broad spectrum pesticides often do more damage that good. Even so there are alternatives. Though it seems we have no allies in this ever-increasing battle, there is a small insect, the Tachinid fly that lays its eggs right behind the Japanese beetle’s head. Look for a tiny opaque white dot there, and spare that beetle to enable the parasitic insects to hatch out (increasing their numbers to go on and attack more beetles) and finish off the beetle. tachnid eggs:J. beetle cropped
If you see no white spot, you have a couple options. Working quickly (for Japanese beetles have the annoying habit of dropping to the ground when they sense danger and cannot be seen once there, or they fly away) either squash them with your fingers (Ick! But they don’t bite) or take a widemouth jar half full of water with a few drops of dish detergent with you, and lightly tap the beetles into the jar where they will eventually drown. If you do this faithfully for the next few weeks, you should be able to reduce the damage and beetle populations. Happy hunting.

Three sisters, a symbiotic trio


This summer we’ve taken a page out of gardening history and are trying a variation of the “three sisters” Native Americans’ planting technique. The trio involves corn, climbing (or pole) beans and squash.

The corn provides support for the beans, which in turn fix nitrogen in the soil for the corn. The squash shades the “feet” of the corn and the beans, preserving moisture for all three to thrive. Pretty smart, eh?

Ordinarily the three are planted together, often in mounds. Instead we tried two rows of corn with beans planted in-between. Between the two rows we made a series of  mounds where the squash was planted. The corn is almost a foot tall now, and the beans are already out-pacing the corn, though it all looks pretty good so far. The squash is growing well, ready to do its part in the scheme.

There is an electric fence surrounding the garden, though we aren’t fooling ourselves into thinking that will keep the raccoons out once the corn gets ready. Actually we aren’t expecting any corn, just relying on it to support the climbing beans. Corn would be a bonus for sure. Stay tuned…