“But when you see the scolymus flowering and hear the cicada sing in the tree, sending its beautiful, vibrating song pulsing from under its wings in the season of scorching-hot summer, then you will find that she-goats are fattest, wine most delicious, women most desirous of love but men most enfeebled, for now the dogstar Sirius parches their heads and their knees, and in the heat their skin becomes dry…Then would I have a shady retreat in the cool of the rocks…And then would I drink of the red wine, as I relax in the shade, my appetite sated completely, turning my face to enjoy the cooling breezes of Zephyros…”
–Hesiod, translated by R.M. Frazer
I think Hesiod did a bang-up job describing July. But I wasn’t sure about the scolymus— I mean, is that a deal-breaker? If I’m not growing any scolymus in my July summer garden, do I need to put away my wine-skins, place my she-goats on diets? Does this mean my men are not most enfeebled and I am not desirous of love?
Lest Zephyros spurn me, I had to check up on my possible frenemy, the scolymus. Luckily, my grandmother’s gardening book did not let me down. According to the Wise Garden Encyclopedia, the scolymus is a “hardy, biennial herb (Scolymus hispanicus), known also as Spanish-oyster-plant or Golden Thistle, and grown like parsnip (which see) for its long edible roots. These are larger than those of salsify but are used in the same ways as a fall, winter and spring vegetable.”*
Thistle? I have plenty, so close enough.
I prefer the squash and cucumber flowers; the lush and gargantuan greenness of the July vegetables, threatening to completely dwarf and subsume their neighbors, the tomatoes.
Hesiod and I are fond of July and grateful for Zephyros. It’s possible we prefer the red wine (by which we mean IPA, but why quibble over scolymus or ouzo? What are details amongst friends?), if we have to choose. But shade, be it under squash flower or cool rock, we — Hesiod and me— we can’t complain.
* Regarding scolymus, there’s also this cool globe artichoke, which is known as Cynara scolymus. It’s not a squash picture that I took and it’s not from the Wise Garden Encyclopedia. It’s worth a glance anyway.