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Monday, March 29, 2010

"Mary, Mary, quite contrary..."

"Mary, Mary, quite contrary, how does your garden grow?" A lot better than mine! (Mary being my mother...)

What's the opposite of green? Because that's what color my thumb is. You'd think gardening would go hand-in-hand with cooking, but unfortunately, my mom didn't pass her green thumb onto me. My parents have a beautiful yard with gorgeous blooms virtually every month of the year, but the summer vegetable garden is my favorite. I don't think there is anything else in the world like that first bite of summer tomato from my parents' garden. I don't even waste time with a fork, I just bite right in. YUM. I eat so many that my stomach hurts and I break out into a rash, but I don't care. They always were, and still are, my favorite food. No cooking required!

Unfortunately, my tomato-growing experience has been less than fruitful (pun intended!). I was relegated to container gardens for most of my adulthood (apartments in Washington, DC don't usually come with a garden plot!). My container plants always yielded a few red beauties, but I would eat them right there on the porch as they ripened. So really not much use in the kitchen -- or for anyone else! Then there was the year I tried those tomato planters that hang upside-down. I planted Better Boys and Early Girls...and I got beautiful, red, juicy tomatoes that were the size of large peas. Arg!

My mom claims it took her years to get it right, but I'm sort of (really) impatient. Last summer, we were just finishing the new house, and Keith built me a garden for my herbs. This year, though, is the year for veggies! And it couldn't come at a better time, when I get to chronicle my experiences for you -- if nothing else, it will keep me diligent about the weeding and feeding. I hope.

This weekend I planted. The weather was gorgeous and the sun was shining. My garden still has some stoic survivors from last year -- fragrant rosemary, which was fantastic with pork last night, and enough mint for me to open a mojito bar. That stuff is coming up everywhere, and it smells really good. Especially since Keith weed-whacked a bunch of it and there's now chopped mint all over the place. No worries, though, it's really resilient!

This year, I added basil and oregano on the herb side and peas and Roma green beans on the veggie side (and of course I saved room for some tomato plants!). Cooking with bright, bold fresh herbs are a great way to keep your meals full of flavor, without adding fat. Yum! I'm also looking forward to the peas (I love eating them right out of the pods), and steamed beans with a drizzle of olive oil and some garlic, salt and pepper are amazing. I can't wait! Fresh veggies are one of the best ways to stay svelte -- arm yourself with a bag of fresh peas in the pods to snack on, and you're good to go! And my favorite way to eat green beans is raw. Try it, I promise I'm not crazy. They are SO good.

So here's the current picture of my garden. You can see the rosemary, and that giant bundle of sticks is last year's basil bush. I think I'll trim it down to the base, and maybe it will grow back...thoughts? Anyway, I hope to have beautiful "during" and "after" pictures to show you -- along with recipes! What are you planting this year? Anything you love to grow, but need a great recipe for? Most importantly, any tips for those of us without green thumbs?!

Maybe someday I'll have a giant garden with a lot of variety, but for now, I thought I'd start small and see what happens...farmers' markets, stand by!

Thanks for reading!

The Svelte Gourmet: A Month of Main Courses cookbook is available at www.thesveltegourmet.com/products.html. Enjoy!


Jessica said...

I'm pretty sure even in your zone that basil is an annual and you'll need to replant. The mint WILL take over your life... if you can relegate it to its own container you're better off. I LOVE fresh, raw green beans -- they're teeth squeeky! Its rare for me to have the kids help me snap them for steaming or pan roasting and get even HALF of them into the heat.

You might try reading up on container gardening or newspaper gardening... helps to cut down on the weeds.

Good luck!

Cailleach said...

Try putting your tomatoes in 5 gallon buckets - you may have just put them in too small a container. We get them at the local big box lumber yard, drill 5-7 1/2" holes about an inch from the bottom, and fill them to within 2" of the top with good soil. Plant your tomato and stick a cage in. When you water, just fill up the head space in the bucket! In cold, short season Colorado we have 6' tomatoes every year, and enough to put up for the winter. HTH