My first jar of potato starch, made from four potatoes. (Mary Lowther photo)

Mary Lowther column: Think spring is the busiest garden season? Try August

The 80 fruit trees David bought with abandon keep sending out countless shoots that need pruning

By Mary Lowther

Some think springtime in the garden is the busiest season while others say it’s fall, but they forget what they did in August. Gardening chores can be overwhelming at times, but my “to do” book helps. When it was time to sow overwintering and fall crops and all I wanted to do was pull out weeds, I had to force myself to stop and get the seed in as my trusty “to do” list said. If we wanted to eat something from the garden this fall and winter and next spring, the weeds had to wait.

Corn is coming on like gangbusters so I’m seeking various methods of preparation. Once the corn has dried on the stalk, I’ll remove all the kernels, saving the two or three best cobs for next year’s seed, and use the rest over the winter. I’ll nixtamalize them just before I use them in cooking, planning to serve some of them with beans from the garden to make a complete protein. I think I’ll try my hand at making polenta and use a portion of corn flour in my cooking.

The next batch of lettuce and amaranth look promising and, much to David’s dismay, the kale looks great. Chopped up finely, kale ups the nutrient content of any dish and might be nice to stuff tortillas with, along with beans.

The 80 fruit trees David bought with abandon keep sending out countless shoots that need pruning if they are to grow in two dimensions along the wires we installed. A Stellar Jay elbowed its way through an exceedingly small hole in the fence, so that had to be repaired and I caught a rabbit inside the garden fence so I found where it got through and repaired that, but I think at the end of summer we’re going to have to go around the whole fence, cut down the weeds and close off every little hole we find because those critters can squeeze into very small spaces. You’d think the birds would worry about damaging their wings by going through holes smaller than themselves, but I guess the pears on the trees present too much of a magnet for them to worry about their wings.

In August I garden in the early morning and after supper in the evening, so during the day I experiment at home. My cousin sent me a recipe for potatoes that got me thinking: the chef who wrote the recipe remarked that he never threw out the starchy liquid that comes off grated potatoes when they are squeezed in preparation for frying, because he uses it in other recipes. Hmm, I wondered what he did and thought I could figure it out, so I let it sit till the solids sank to the bottom and the black liquid floated to the top. I poured off the liquid and added cold water, stirred that around a bit and then let it sit till the solids sank again. I repeated this step and let the solids sit to dry after the third rinse and drain. It made a nice white powder of potato starch that I put into a jar to use as a thickening agent. The process was easy enough to do and now I have my own source of thickening starch.

Please contact with questions and suggestions since I need all the help I can get.

Lake Cowichan Gazette