The Star-News

Harvest moon: Let your light shine down

Fri, Sep 09 2011 02:11 PM Posted By: Phillip Brents

This year’s Harvest Moon occurs on Monday, Sept. 12. The date is determined by the full moon closest to the autumnal equinox, which occurs on Sept. 23. At this time of the year, the moon’s path across the sky makes a rather shallow angle with the horizon, meaning that successive moonrises occur rather close to one another when the sky has yet to fully darken.

For instance, Monday’s full moon is set to rise at 6:56 p.m., followed by a moonrise at 7:25 p.m. on Tuesday (29 minutes later) and at 7:56 p.m. on Wednesday (31 minutes later than Tuesday).

In earlier times, the extra light in the early evening hours helped farmer’s bring in the harvest. And a lot of good eating is to be had at this time of the year from the backyard gardens of local residents.

When I was growing up, my father, who was born on a farm in rural Arkansas (where there was no electricity), made sure he planted a garden each year despite our urban setting. It followed a family tradition. My grandfather also lived on a farm, as did his father, grandfather and great-grandfather, who was born in middle Tennessee in 1811.

Tomatoes and peppers seem to be the easiest plants to grow in limited spaces due to the proximity of city dwellings. With my family being from the South, okra also was a prized garden favorite.

For those with larger plots of land, diversity reigns, it seems.
Thus was my recent introduction to homegrown zucchini and eggplant, which I had only eaten before in Italian restaurants.

The produce came courtesy of someone who has had a lot of time to perfect his gardening skills: 98-year-old Chula Vistan Norbert Stein.

Stein recently decided to “go green” and did it, of course, in the actual sense. He laid down green carpeting over his entire backyard. He estimates he spent $3,000 to install the artificial covering. It’s a rather unique idea, holds up well in our Southern California weather and obviously works for someone who cannot actively perform manual labor tasks at his age.

There’s not a blade of grass peeking out anywhere.

Talk about weed management!

Altogether, Stein has grapefruit, mango, guava, fig, peach, plum, lemon, avocado and apricot trees planted on his property on Fifth Avenue, as well as a grapevine.  The far corner (non-carpeted) plot is chock full with a variety of vegetables: zucchini, eggplant, chili peppers, tomatoes and cucumber, among others.

A discarded store mannequin serves as a scarecrow to watch over things. “Fry up the zucchini and eggplant, they go well with scrambled eggs,” he said.

I took the advice but altered the recipe more to my taste. I sliced the zucchini and eggplant and stir-fried them in a dash of olive oil along with yellow and red bell peppers, mushrooms, garlic and onions. I added some freshly ground peppercorns.

My reviews of Italian restaurants have only served to improve my own culinary skills. I was surprised by how easy to prepare and tasty the dish was, and look forward to planting a herb garden, at least, in the near future.

In honor of my introduction to homegrown zucchini and eggplant, I’ve dubbed my new favorite dish “vegetable medley a la Norbert.”

Happy harvesting!

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