Gentle Reminders for August 2006
August 9: Full Moon
August 23: New Moon
Eggplants: These fruits, which are most commonly cylindrical or pear-shaped with deep-purple skin, are best now. Choose eggplants that feel firm, and store them in a cool, dry place for a day or two. Their flesh discolors rapidly when exposed to air, so cut them just before cooking.
Scallions: Both the white bases and the green tops of these vegetables are edible. The bases contain vitamin C; the tops, beta-carotene. Scallions with slender bases are the sweetest. Refrigerate in tightly closed plastic bags for up to three days.
Get in the Habit
Before buying fresh flowers, gently squeeze the bases of a few buds, which should feel firm, and inspect the stems for mold. When you get home, hold the tips of the stems under water and recut them at an angle with a sharp knife. Place the flowers in a vase of three parts warm water -- it is more readily absorbed than cold -- and one part lemon-lime soda. The sugar in the drink will feed the flowers; the acid will slow the growth of bacteria.
Have You Done It Lately?
Planning a road trip? To help your car run more smoothly and get better gas mileage, take it for a tune-up before you leave. Have the air filter inspected; replace it if necessary, to prevent impurities from damaging your engine. Get the cooling system checked for leaks, and have the fluid changed if needed. Consult your owner's manual to see how often you should have your oil changed, and take care of this task if it's time. Make sure your technician is using the correct grade of oil (this information is in your manual); request one labeled "energy conserving." Check that your tires are properly inflated, and you're ready to go.
Don't let fresh-from-the-field corn go to waste. This vegetable is plentiful now, but its high season will wind down soon. Slice kernels from cobs, and store in freezer-safe resealable plastic bags. The frozen kernels will keep for three months. When you're ready to enjoy them, boil until tender. Lampshades that are exposed to bright sunlight should be rotated a half turn each month to prevent uneven fading. This is especially important for matching pairs. If one of the shades receives more direct sunlight than the other, alternate them between bases every other month. Cut energy costs, and cool your home, by taking advantage of the natural flow of air. Once the sun has set, open windows on opposite sides of a room; or, if all the windows are on one side, set up a fan near the opposite wall to direct hot air out. (This is more effective than placing a fan facing outward in a window.) If your home's second story is hotter than its first, vent cool air upward by opening the bottom portions of downstairs windows and the top portions of those upstairs.
Prevent homegrown pumpkins, winter squashes, and gourds from rotting before they're ready to be picked. Place a clean, dry board or a bunch of fresh straw beneath them to keep the fruits from sitting in cool, damp soil, which fosters decay. Do this while the stems are still pliable and the pumpkins are small enough to be handled easily. In Zones 4 to 7, sow seeds for fall-harvested vegetables, such as broccoli, brussels sprouts, cabbage, and cauliflower, in indoor flats this month. When nights begin to cool, set seedlings into the garden in spots where you have harvested earlier crops. Clean outdoor garbage cans: Rinse with a hose, then use an old broom to scrub the interiors with a mixture of water and biodegradable dish soap. Rinse again; leave containers in the sun to dry. Finish fertilizing trees and shrubs by the end of this month if you live in Zones 4 to 6. Doing so now will allow young growth plenty of time to harden off before cold weather sets in.