by Carol Dunn
HUERFANO- If you’ve lived in Huerfano County all your life, you know better than to try to grow tomatoes. It takes some of us transplants a few years to catch on. Same with sweet corn, peanuts, soybeans, potatoes, red beets, turnips and kohlrabi. Ok, I know some of you are thinking, “Who eats kohlrabi?” Nonetheless, it won’t grow here even if you DID want to eat it. I KNOW there is someone out there who loves kohlrabi and grows it effortlessly. But let’s consider vegetables that don’t look like a troll’s nose.
Many local people have told me how disappointed they are that they cannot have home-grown tomatoes. Ok, back up, I mean ripe home-grown tomatoes. I’ve had tomatoes on my plants that have been green for TWO MONTHS! If there were a world record for raising green tomatoes, I’m betting Huerfano County would take the prize. The deluded souls who have tried to raise tomatoes end up picking about two hundred of them the day before the forecast calls for frost (which may or may not happen), then line their window sills with green tomatoes and wait for them to ripen. While we’re waiting for them to ripen, we’ve all fallen prey to the Hollywood trick of frying green tomatoes. UGGH! I know what a juicy, fresh-from-the-garden tomato is supposed to taste like, and that’s not it. Some window sill tomatoes ripen, and some turn to black gooey mush. I’m thinking of starting a support group for people who secretively drive to Rocky Ford to buy field ripened slicers so we can savor at least one fresh tomato sandwich each year.
And speaking of places where they CAN grow vegetables, isn’t fall harvest wonderful! Fresh cantaloupe, watermelon, new potatoes, cucumbers, bell peppers, and last but not least okra. I know, I know, “Who eats okra?” Well, my dad eats okra, and he reads my column every week, so I want him to know we’re all thinking of him. I don’t think okra grows here either, otherwise I’m SURE I would choke some down just to celebrate the harvest.
If it weren’t for the wind, late frost, drought, rabbits, wind, early snow, hail, alkali soils, wind, cut worms, drought, soil viruses, gophers, cool nights, wind, blight, grasshoppers, weeds, mice and wind, I think we might get a ripe tomato now and then. But on any given year, the last spring frost might be May 20, and the next year it’s June 8. Another year, the first autumn frost is September 1, or maybe October 1. It’s a gardener’s nightmare. What has a 70-day growing season that can tolerate periods of drought, heat and wind? It’s the answer to the question you’ve often asked yourself, “Why there are so many zucchini recipes?” Zucchini is one of the few vegetables that will grow here, and grow abundantly. Hey, all gardeners want to feel successful at SOMETHING. That’s why you can find the ultimate recipe borne of desperation: zucchini pineapple. Look it up!
I don’t want to make it sound all bad. Green beans grow here. There are other things: sage, kochia, yucca, cactus, locoweed, nightshade, and Russian olive. When technology figures out a way to make these things into food, we’re all set.