Notable And Potable Vol. 11: Drinking To Forget (About Pestilence And Pathogens).
Posted on July 15th, 2011
Part of gardening is learning to let go. It’s so easy to get attached to the first tender cotyledons that pop up from your seed trays in mid-March, those dazzling little green gems that make your eyes salivate* for spring. You make silent promises to each and every one that you will do everything in your power to help it grow up and contribute to the best harvest possible. But before you know it the temperatures are dangerously high, primary leaves are dotted with blight, and the insects are hungry. Losses will be incurred. There are plenty of tips and tricks for preventing blights and insect damage in your garden, but here I focus on a few drinks to steady your hand after scraping a colony of aphids from a leaf or pulling a lost cause out of the ground entirely.
Keep your enemies closer
Flea beetles leave tiny buckshot-style holes when they feed on the leaves of your eggplants, tomatoes, and other nightshade family members. Although they enjoy the leaves of chili pepper plants, they are repelled by the spicy fruit. So while you brew up a batch of chili pepper “tea” to ensure the future of your garden-to-glass bloody mary, consider having a taste of your own medicine.
I once made chili pepper-infused vodka for a party, and found that it tastes wonderful in pineapple juice with a splash of fresh lime. This combination pops up in a lot of cocktail menu drinks and the name is different each time, so feel free to call it anything you want. Take a shot of the straight infusion and imagine you are very small, just wanting some salad– and then go out and rain down fire water. I’d call the shot “A Beetle Deterred.”
Do not go gentle into that [awful] blight
I started thinking about fixing a drink as soon as I found myself scrolling through Vegetable MD Online past picture after picture of spotted, dying tomato leaves. My healthiest and most eagerly anticipated tomatoes, the Hillbilly Potato Leaf plants, seemed to have blight creeping up their stalks. A precise diagnosis didn’t seem to matter in the end since the majority of prognoses were dismal, but I’m pretty sure it was Septoria. Ew. Either apply fungicide, or trim off as many infected leaves as possible and hope for a stretch of hot, dry weather.
At this point I would recommend a very stiff drink. Something antiseptic, like that young corn whiskey being sold in jars and called moonshine. Sip liberally while amputating the diseased leaves and exhale close (but not too close) to the plant, and hope that any spores shaken up in the process will be destroyed by your volatile breath.
Over-watering: the plant hangover
Sometimes brown spots on leaves can’t be blamed on fungi, bacteria, or insects– it’s your fault. In my case, I was a bad influence on the cherry tomatoes I have planted in a wooden box filled with a peat-heavy soil and thoroughly mulched. They chugged the unnecessary amounts of water I gave them and suffered the consequences. Round brown blotches started to appear on leaf tips and I was worried the Septoria had spread, so I ended up trimming off leaves for no reason. I basically hazed my plants like a frat boy and then drew a big dick on their passed out foreheads. Dude. Not cool.
In this case, it’s time to let go of the hose and over-water yourself with a palatable and potent thirst-quenching drink. You could get fancy with this, but I recommend a simple vodka and soda with a squeeze of lemon. Drink enough so that you ultimately pass out on a blanket in the sun. When you wake up, you might have some sun spots of your own– no to mention a bit more botanical empathy than before.