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Tanya Tandoc

Hot Food

Everything in my garden is dead. The tomatoes are crispy dead with a side of wilt. The pumpkin plants shriveled up and their lovely umbrella leaves melted away last week. This makes me really sad, because one of the only reasons to live in Kansas in the summer is eating our garden treasures. Our pug dog Lulu lives for tomato season, waiting for the blooms and little hard green tomatoes, which she harvests before they are ripe. We plant one grape tomato plant just for her. Olive, our other pug, will knock down corn plants and inch her body along the stalk to nibble the ears. She can smell when they are ready. This year, Lulu keeps checking her plants but to no avail.  We have to buy her cherry tomatoes from the store.

I have been going to the farmer’s markets to get tomatoes and squashes this year. Even expert farmers are despairing of the harsh weather. Tomatoes can’t bloom and certainly don’t flourish in this heat. The few fruits they make are small or cracked. Zucchini and cucumbers get tough skin. Corn is chewy and smallish. The upside is that the heat has concentrated their flavors. I lucked out and found a tomato farmer who’s been bringing me incredible fruits. He’s some sort of vegetable wizard. I can only imagine what kind of incantations and potions he is applying to his plants, but it seems to be working. I made a bacon, lettuce, tomato, fresh mozzarella, and basil pesto sandwich the other day that was salty, creamy, and so drippy that I had to lick the juice off of my arms.

The only thing in the garden that doesn’t seem to notice the heat is mint. We planted it a few years ago and then leapt back as it immediately took over the back yard. I’ve been making lots of cold soups with mint, creamy minty cucumber yogurt salads, and many, many mojitos. They are refreshing and cold and help me relax and not care so much about my burnt-up garden and unhappy dogs.