They sat there on our potato plants in the early-morning fog, tiny coffee cups raised high, waiting for The Perfect Man to drench them all in their favorite new breakfast beverage. Unlike the slugs in that Hawaii study (the one where coffee was toxic to the slimy little potato-plant-munching devils) apparently Alabama slugs LOVE caffeine. I’m pretty sure I heard one of them request extra froth.
It seems that everyone has their own favorite anti-slug strategy. Sympathetic gardening friends left suggestions on my Facebook wall: cayenne pepper and garlic oil sprinkled around the base of the nibbled foliage; nifty copper tape that mysteriously repels the slimy marauders. Or, if you have the culinary fortitude, you can even cook them up and eat them just like Tim Pearce.
Pearce, the assistant curator of Mollusks at the Carnegie Museum of Natural History, shares handy slug recipe tips in a strikingly unappetizing post on Tribe.net. It’s a pretty good bet you won’t ever hear Rachael Ray exhorting the importance of slitting open your future lunch to peel back the translucent skin and pull out the “foul-smelling digestive gland” located in its posterior. And, if that tidbit of advice isn’t enough to inspire spontaneous vegetarianism, there’s more. “It is a very good idea to cook land mollusks before eating them,” Pearce advises, “as they are good vectors for human parasites.” Yum.
Last year, high in the mountains of central Mexico, we saw coffee plants growing wild along the roadside. Looking at the skinny branches loaded with clusters of coffee cherries (the fruit that contains the coffee bean) I thought wistfully how nice it would be to have a homegrown supply of my favorite drink.
After reading that the FDA has recalled seven coffee products sold in the US because they may be contaminated with melamine, that private coffee garden sounds better than ever! In the interest of accuracy, I should point out that the FDA warning is for a line of instant coffee products… not old-fashioned coffee or coffee beans. Whew.
A more positive reason to brew your own cup of coffee before leaving home: Good Earth Coffee’s Brew at Home Pledge. I have to admit that I was not initially impressed with this idea — I thought the simplest way to reduce the 28 billion disposable coffee cups thrown away each year would be to take your own mug to the coffee shop. Right? But a little research revealed that about 70 percent of coffee shop customers fail to do that. I know I’m one of those people.
My favorite reason for coffee at home: You can use the leftovers as a deliciously aromatic watercolor. I am always surprised at the differences in the colors different coffees produce… Kenyan is a robust dark brown, while some of the Central American blends are a lovely rusty red. This coffee angel is painted with three coffee blends (Kenyan, Costa Rican and Hawaiian) and it’s easy to pick out the three separate shades of brown. I simmer a little leftover coffee (1/2 cup is plenty) in a saucepan for five minutes to concentrate the color strength. Then you can use it just like traditional watercolors.
Coffee is the engine that propels us out the door each morning to squeeze in an hour or two of gardening before the workday begins. Today’s task was preparation of the largest bed for the remainder of 54 young broccoli plants. The Perfect Man has finished planting the leaf lettuce. Another week of early mornings, and our winter vegetables will all be under way. This is the nicest season for gardening in the Deep South; already the insect populations are dropping off. With no squash borers or cabbage moths to contend with through the cooler months, gardening life is good.