Last summer, I wrote about summers that make you forget you live in hot, dry Oklahoma. This summer is its infernal opposite.
You know it’s hot when . . .
- the rosebuds air dry before they completely bloom
- you go outside only to water the containers and check for any vegetables, and you are dripping sweat within a moment or two;
- the thermometer measures 108F for days and days and days;
- the air conditioner is running full blast indoors, and it’s still not cool;
- you go to the hospital, and you pass folks in the parking lot who not only don’t say hello (which in Oklahoma is odd), but they also walk with their heads down as if to ward off a blow;
- concrete parking lots shimmer like diamonds too bright, and asphalt streets create mirages from their surface heat;
- you no long make hot tea, but instead, ice it at 6:00 a.m. for your morning drink;
- water travels with you everywhere, but your mouth is still dry;
- watering the containers twice a day doesn’t really help; and
I could go on and on, but who really wants to? The tomatoes quit blooming over a week ago. They try, but the blossoms fall off unpollinated. As you both know, this is called blossom drop, and high temperatures are to blame. I brought in two tomatoes to ripen. I hope I get to eat at least one of them. I have a total of seven tomatoes on 13 plants.
Never mind, I don’t want to talk about it anymore.
Even so, I’ve had eggplants, ancho chili peppers and cucumbers this week. My bush beans emerged from the soil so all is not lost. Two hills of the squash finally succumbed, but that’s all right too. One thing about long summers, the borers have probably moved on, and I can replant.
I made the best Thai basil eggplant (and the recipe follows). My eggplants were ‘Fairy Tale’ and ‘Bianca’ so they were very small.
Thai Basil Eggplant
Five small or two regular sized eggplants, sliced thickly and cut in half (or quarters if using larger eggplants)
One ancho chili pepper or two of any other chilis
One teaspoon of red Thai chili paste (I used Thai Kitchen brand)
One onion sliced and then cut into halves and separated
A generous handful of basil leaves. I just pinched mine from the basil growing in a pot outside my kitchen door.
Half a block of tofu sliced and halved. (You could also use small pieces of pork or chicken)
Four tablespoons of a mild oil. (I used grapeseed oil.) Don’t use olive oil because it will change the taste.
Two teaspoons of fish sauce.
Two tablespoons brown sugar
In the oil, add the tofu and the spices. Brown the tofu on all sides until it has absorbed some of the spices. Add the brown sugar to carmelize the tofu a bit. Add the vegetables and a small amount of water if necessary. Add the remaining ingredients except for the bail and cook until the vegetables are tender and the spices appear to be blended. Then, add the basil and cook for approximately five minutes.
It was delicious. So were these ‘Sungold’ tomatoes I ate. The powder on them is Bt. I washed them first, but it’s an organic pesticide for the hornworms which have been abundant this year. One ate all of the leaves off of one of my heirlooms. That’s when the Bt went all over the tomato plants. I’m careful with it because I don’t want to affect other caterpillars on my dill, parsley and milkweed.
Not everything is suffering in this heat. Hibiscus x ‘Moy Grande’ is happy, and so are the bumblebees who drink its nectar and then rest in its shade. Yesterday, I started to remove a faded bloom and found two bumblebees inside. Glad I didn’t squish them. Now, I’m more careful, and I find them all over this plant. If you live where it’s hot and you have the room, H. ‘Moy Grande’ is pure pleasure even in this heat. It grows to five feet high and five feet wide and has flowers up to twelve inches across. I tried to get a good photo of it, but couldn’t because today’s blooms were already starting to wither. I’ll try later.
Hope your weather is better than mine.