summer squash with basil butter

My first attempt at growing summer squash didn’t work out so well. We’d just bought a mod 1950s stucco house in Miami, with a carport, terrazzo tile floors and a postcard backyard, most of which was occupied by a cracked concrete patio slab. The gaps and crevices in that patio supported an alarming number of tenacious tropical weeds that I never, ever learned to control.  In fact the whole outdoor landscape in South Florida was a challenge to my New England senses; verdantly evergreen, crawling with super-sized insects and iguanas.

Up to that point, I’d been an apartment dweller. The only plants I’d cultivated were a ficus tree and assorted pots of herbs on a windowsill. But I was inspired by a little book on vegetable gardening I’d picked up at a thrift store, Angelo Pellegrini’s The Food Lover’s Garden, published in 1970. The book seemed romantically old-school to me. Pellegrini was an Italian immigrant of my grandparents’ generation,  a college professor “with an instinct for the good life.”

I wanted to start living my own good life, growing my own food in my own yard, imagining that the everlasting summer climate would be paradisiacal for vegetables. But the profuse garden outlined in the good professor’s book, full of all manner of “herbaceous edibles,”  was in temperate Washington state, not the subtropics. Long story short, when I finally paid attention to what was growing and thriving in my neighbors’ backyards I realized I’d have much better luck growing bananas and coconuts. (I did.)

[Read more…]