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Anne Arundel Trash Pickup Goes Weekly in Garden Season

If you’re eating fresh, it’s composting to the rescue

How does your garden grow?    
    Ours is behaving like it’s on steroids this prodigal summer so eager to outdo the season of Barbara Kingsolver’s eponymous book. We’re picking daily, for our greens — arugula, cabbage, lettuces, mustard and Swiss chard, some from very late plantings last year — are a forest and bolt for the sky when we turn our backs.
    My herbs want to take over the earth. We’re eating a whole lot of parsley: tabouli, parsley sauces, parsley pesto, parsley potatoes and parsley in any kind of stock. I welcome suggestions.
    In farm fields, wheat is near harvest. Corn plants were tiny babies last week; this week, they’re knee high — at least high as my knees — and it’s not yet the fourth of June, let alone the Fourth of July.
    Early and abundant though summer’s harvest is, don’t expect to find corn, peaches or tomatoes when three more of Anne Arundel County’s farmers markets open next week, between June 5 and 7. (Deale, the latest farmers market, opens July 5. You’ll find a full listing of Anne Arundel and Calvert farmers markets in every 8 Days a Week.)
    Eating fresh means eating well. But eating fresh also leaves you with a heap of waste. Avoiding the waste, as well as the time-consuming preparation, is a big part of the convenience in convenience foods. Frozen vegetables leave only the package behind; canned vegetables the tin. But the real thing means time in and waste out. Berries are pretty much the only exception.
    Corn, God love it, is a big mess, what with leaves, silk and cobs. We’ve only had that problem once this season, but that Florida corn was sweet and well worth the mess.
    Melons, my favorite fruit, are half rind. On them, especially watermelons, we’re routinely hurrying the season, devouring a couple of marvelous trucked-in, seedless melons each week. Like Vidalia onions and California avocados, I consider melons a must-have, distance be darned.
    With avocado peels and seeds, watermelon rinds, asparagus ends and the tough stems and outer leaves of greens, our household produces a gallon or so of vegetable waste every day.
    By week’s end, that would be a big bag of trash. Stinky, sodden, yucky trash.
    That’s one problem I don’t have. Like Leigh Glenn, author of this week’s story on Anne Arundel County’s Once-A-Week Curbside Trash Collection initiative, I compost all my vegetable waste.
    After, that is, I’ve prepared vegetable stock with all my succulent vegetable leavings, from weak celery stalks to parsley stems to onion peelings to carrot ends to wilted lettuce leaves. Leave out the cruciferae; cabbage relatives are too strong to make good stock. Freeze it all in a zip lock bag until you need stock or freezer space. Add water and salt (to pull the nutrients into the stock), bring to a boil, let rest until cool, strain and use immediately or freeze. I learned that trick ages ago from mid-20th century food guru Adele Davis, author of Let’s Eat Right to Keep Fit and Let’s Cook It Right. Savvy cooks have been doing it forever, sans freezer.
    The pulp goes into the compost bin. Over two decades, trench composting has transformed our clay garden soil into rich, wormy loam. This Valentine’s Day, husband Bill bought me a lovely, hand-cranked, heavy-plastic, compost barrel. Our first load is cooking in it now. Meanwhile, it’s the envy of the neighborhood. Mike Brewer bought wife Sharon a double-barreled composter for Mother’s Day.
    “That won’t stand,” Lambrecht told me this morning. He’s shopping for a triple-barreled composter.
    Ready to start composting? We know who can teach you.
    When the Bay Gardener, Dr. Francis Gouin, was a professor at University of Maryland, he turned composting into a science. Ever since, he’s been passing his methods along to Maryland gardeners. Most Master Gardeners follow his instruction, and so will you if you’re trained by one of them. He also describes his methods in Enough Said, the Annapolis Horticultural Society’s book of his columns for them, where he’s written even longer than he’s been writing for Bay Weekly (order your copy at Follow 8 Days a Week for composting classes.

Sandra Olivetti Martin
Editor and publisher; [email protected]