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A beggar's harvest

I'm always shy about it. I don't ask outright or stand at the edge of the garden and eye the cabbages with envy.

I don't have to. I'm lucky enough to have generous gardeners among my family and friends. When I go Up North to visit my brother and sister, I come home with a car packed full of fresh veggies -- summer squash, pickling cucs and zucchini the size of a roll arm on a sofa take up the back seasts. The way back is a jumble of plastic bags filled with the end of the radishes and the first of the potatoes, beets, peppers, beans, cabbges and early onions. A veritable feast.

All I have to do is thank my donors profusely -- and use up all that perishable produce. And there's the rub.

I'm not much of a canner, but I make a mean batch of refrigerator pickles. So cucs are accounted for. I usually have too many beans to eat and too few to freeze. The solution: Why not have beans for every meal!

Potatoes will keep. So will the onions. But the radishes and beets and squash and peppers? Those I put in the fridge, where I hope my husband will come across them and make them into something deelish. He's the main cook in the house and, as such, has devised 101 ways to to make green beans. Despite his best efforts, we almost always fall behind in our vegetable consumption, only to find dried up remnants of once edible items rolling around the so-called crisper drawer. 

We do share, of course. But you have to share up front, when the veggies are still fresh. At that point, I"m still under the delusion that we'll somehow down 10 cubic feet of zucchini. When I come down to reality, said zucs have shriveled to the point at which it would be an insult to foist them on even the noisiest of neighbors. 

So into the composter they go. 

Sure, I feel guilty. But I try to console myself with the idea that these old, moldy vegetables will make for richer compost. Which will, in turn, make for richer soil in my garden. And, maybe eventually, I'll be able to produce too much of my own produce.  

Too early for tomatoes?

Peas? Sure.

Kale? You betcha.

Tomatoes? Are you out of your mind?

Look, I"m going to say this and I'm going to say this once: IT'S TOO EARLY TO PLANT TOMATOES.

This is Minnesota, people A place where snow is not uncommon -- in May. Where the average last frost date is mid-May, for the Twin Cities. Later, up north.

I know it's supposed to be really nice this week and maybe even this weekend. But what about next week? And the week after that? Can you guarantee your tomato plants temps about 50? I didn't think so. . .

Tomatoes, along with their pals pepper, are tropical plants. That means they don't like cold. They like frost even less.

There are plenty of things you can plant now -- risk free: radishes, and leaf lettuce and spinach and carrots and kohlrabi. They like the cold, or, like Iowans, they don't mind it. If the temps take a dive, they'll just hunker down and wait for the weather to warm.

Tomatoes and peppers, though, can get stunted, lose leaves, even be killed by a frost.

So, if you just gotta jump the gun on something, plant some kale. (Everybody loves kale, right?) Fertilize your lawn. (It's a little early, but the grass is growing actively.) Or how about planting some pansies? A pot of those smiley faced flowers will last way beyond what I consider the Unofficial Official Safe Date for Tomatoes: Memorial Day!