I learned a thing or two in the first growing season of the Community Resource Center community garden, the nonprofit agency of which I am the executive director. The first thing I learned is that you actually have to keep watering the plants. I feel stupid about that now. But somewhere around July I started to notice the cucumbers were bitter. I ascribed that to an old Southern wives tale that I will not go into here except to say it involves women and a certain biological function. I am not saying any more about that.
The next thing I noticed is that if your tomato plants are getting out of control, the sun cannot penetrate to the flowers which will produce the tomatoes and you will get none, which is what I got. The tomato plants – and there were just two of them – overgrew their beds and took over the handicapped ramp, which was very unfortunate and probably illegal. I think the Americans with Disabilities Act probably requires that handicapped ramps actually be accessible and not covered up with useless non-producing tomato plants.
And the last thing I learned is that while it might seem charming to watch the cucumber plants slowly creep up the trellis, you do not want them to get behind the trellis. I discovered this too late as several cucumbers mutated through the trellis into grotesque and, yes, obscene shapes impossible to dislodge. The front of the building looks like a vegetable adult entertainment store. XXXXX! Please avert your eyes.
The one thing that did grow quite nicely were the green peppers. I was pretty proud of that until my husband nonchalantly informed me that green peppers grow like weeds. Thank you. Thank you very much.
So I am already planning for next summer. Water, water, water. Number one. Get a smaller variety of tomato plant. Number two. Do not turn your nonprofit agency into a porn shop. Numbers three, four and five. There will be no cucumbers next year. I could not live down the shame again.
The following, by the way, is a great way to use up bell peppers, green or otherwise. If you have any meat stuffing left over, just pop it into a mini loaf pan and bake it along with the peppers. It also makes terrific meatloaf.
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1 medium onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
16-ounce can tomato sauce
Salt and pepper to taste
¼ teaspoon smoked paprika
1 teaspoon oregano
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
4 large green bell peppers
1 pound ground chuck
1 ¼ cups cooked brown rice
1 egg, beaten
1 teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon pepper
Shredded Cheddar cheese
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Heat vegetable oil in skillet and sauté onion until translucent. Add garlic and sauté about 30 seconds. Add tomato sauce, salt and pepper to taste, paprika, oregano and Worcestershire sauce. Simmer five minutes and then cool to room temperature.
Cut the tops off the peppers and hollow them out. Heat a saucepan of water to boiling. Add peppers and cook for about four minutes. Drain and cool.
Mix together the ground chuck, rice, egg, salt and pepper. Add the onion mixture and half the tomato sauce. Blend thoroughly and stuff peppers. Pour remaining tomato sauce on top of peppers.
Bake for 55-60 minutes. During the last 10 minutes, add shredded cheese to melt.