STATEN ISLAND, NY – All roses begin to bloom in early June. Their splashes of pink and red are a stark contrast to the rest of our garden right now, adding a bit of lipstick and personality to an otherwise very green state.
Our garden is a little wonky this year and I’m curious if yours is too. Maybe the prolonged cold of spring did that to us – blowing up some things, like these roses, as well as blackberry bushes and our normally wayward fig tree named Fran.
The other fruiting flora behaved badly for us. A plum tree and a peach tree, planted when Hector was a puppy, are hungover. The few plums that burst turned into prunes. Squirrels threw parties with hundreds of tiny green peaches that fell in one fell swoop last weekend. The bumper crops of 2021 are now memories turned into marmalade.
Al Gentile of St. George’s Pharmacy said the trees and flowers have all bloomed at the same time this year. The resulting overwhelming pollen has caused a miserable allergy season for many of his customers, he said.
But perhaps the weather is what makes roses, mint, basil, and bold herbs like sage and rosemary more intensely fragrant. It certainly keeps the kale coming. Our youngest son James planted the green about a month ago. These are now perky sheets to cook this weekend – doused in PAM and salted, roasted at 350 degrees for about 12 minutes until crisp like chips.
This late spring, we will have peas to mash in a pea and mint pesto, a combination enhanced with olive oil and parmesan cheese. I can’t wait for the cherry tomatoes to deliver their deliciousness – still warm from the sun cooking their skin to liveliness. Roma tomatoes will be reserved for the jarring. Steaks will be eaten with fresh mozz. On harvest day, I’ll make a special trip to Little Italy Gourmet in New Dorp to achieve exactly the creamy texture needed for such a gourmet event.
Having lost my sense of taste and smell for weeks not thanks to COVID, I’m enjoying the scent of the garden so much more this time around. The flavors of things are more precious than ever. While the idea of salivating over vegetables might have seemed silly to me three years ago, it’s pretty much real now.
I remember using the garden to ground myself and stay sane in May and June 2020. It was the best medicine. With no planes and little street traffic, the only sounds in the yard were the birds and the wind in the trees. And at 7 p.m. and 7 a.m., when hospital shifts changed at Richmond University Medical Center, everyone in the neighborhood banged pots and pans in support of first responders. Like the growing season, these things are temporary and it’s important to savor it all.
Pamela Silvestri is editor-in-chief of Advance Food. She can be reached at [email protected].