By now, I know what plants thrive in my garden, and what don't. This is the kind of specific knowledge that can't be learned from books, or quite often even from neighbors. It's a knowledge that comes from being aware of your own abilities (in terms of time, dedication, and willingness to experiment) and knowing your garden (the type of soil and micro-climate).
For instance, I know that bell peppers don't grow well in my garden: because of its north-facing orientation, by the time the green peppers are ready to turn yellow and red, and become sweeter, it's usually September, when nighttime temperatures drop. So I have to harvest the peppers while they're still green, or they'd die. Unfortunately we don't like green peppers, so I don't grow them. Though I do I grow littly hot chili peppers (here), and, as of this year, friggitelli peppers.
Friggitelli are a Southern Italian variety of small pepper that's mild in taste and is usually fried (hence the name). They were totally new to me, a Northerner, and I took a chance when the vendor at the garden center proposed them back in the spring. Would they be small enough to ripen fully before the end of summer? Throughout August, I watched and nurtured my little green friggitelli peppers, wondering whether they'd turn red before the evening temperatures dropped. Imagine my happiness when one day I found that, seemingly overnight, they had!
Then I grilled them - which only took a few minutes - and served them with a fresh oregano sauce that is also a new and successful experiment this year, and that has evolved from my increasing knowledge of what our wilderness can offer.
In fact, I'd never considered using fresh oregano before: isn't oregano a herb that you only think of as dry, really? Like, dry and sprinkled over pizza? Well, this summer I learned that the oregano bush that grows wild near the house can be picked and used fresh too. It makes a very simple and tasty sauce which has accompanied many of our grilled vegetable dishes this summer: finely chopped with garlic, a pinch of salt, and olive oil.
Our dinner of grilled friggitelli peppers with oregano sauce, and freshly baked focaccia with sliced tomatoes and herbs (it was one of those inspired cooking days!), was full of the flavors and aromas of summer - in the garden and in the wilderness.