Friday, June 21, 2013

The edible garden

When I tell people of my age and station in life that I garden, they always assume I mean food production. They seem so disappointed that I don't grow a lot of food and that I get more excited by flowers or grasses. Don't I know I could be canning? Raising chickens? Making my own artisanal chutneys or whatever?


We have these two small raised beds for edibles. I love to cook and I've been known to make my own mustard and ketchup (so delicious) but I prefer ornamentals because I hate harvesting. I would rather weed my lawn than pick strawberries. I don't know why. Thank goodness for Greg. He doesn't mind harvesting and it's a pretty good way for him to blow off steam if he's had a frustrating day at work.



A lot of our edible garden is frankly ornamental this year. Cabbages we probably won't eat (though I love cabbage and all its relatives), amaranth we'll never consume in any way, and one stalk of variegated corn in the middle. It's just pretty.



So what do we eat? A lot of lettuces. If you are a man in my life please know that I'm actively worrying about how much you poop. I want you to eat more salad (and quit smoking already). I'm firmly in the camp that believes half your dinner plate should contain veggies and we eat enormous salads every night.

The worst part of growing your own lettuce is that those pre-washed bags of lettuces taste terrible forever afterward. And once you start making your own dressing? You'll gag if someone tries to give you that crap out of a bottle. I am not a food snob except when it comes to vegetables (though I love those crappy salad bars with the iceberg lettuce and the thousand island dressing and the pickled beets). So we're growing a lot of lettuce and it never goes to waste. (LeAnn gave me the tip stuff my sink with as much lettuce as will fit and let it have a good soak in salt water to kill all the slug and crawlies. Then it all gets washed and spun in batches in the salad spinner.)


Weaving in and out of everything are strawberries. In the lower bed are my strawberries: 'Hood.' In the upper bed are Greg's strawberries: 'Albion.' Hoods are sweeter and better but Greg still claims that he likes his better.


Our rhubarb is happy and getting too large for the tiny corner I gave it. We also grow kale and chard, a winter staple at our house (this kale salad will change your life). 


In the area where we pulled out the tree stump I put in three blueberries ('Sunshine Blue').


I'm very interested in growing this thornless blackberry, possibly at the new entrance to the gravel garden. Has anyone grown these? They claim you get 10-20 gallons of fruit per plant. !!!


I'm trying to be good about rotating my tomatoes, so this year they're getting set up in the gravel garden. I refuse to buy $8 tomatoes so we wait all year to eat the ones from our garden. In August and September we grill bread and eat bruschetta every night. It's also one reason we grow so much basil; I've got five kinds this year.


The other reason to grow basil is my favorite dressing, adapted from LeAnn's recipe.

About half a cup of unflavored Greek yogurt (I like Fage's full fat version)
The juice of one lime
1-2 T of white balsamic vinegar
half a shallot
one bunch of cilantro
one bunch of basil
Olive oil
a smidge of honey if you need it.

Whirl the first six ingredients in a food processor, streaming the olive oil in until it reaches the consistency you like. Taste and adjust with honey if it's too tart. When we use basil from the garden we don't need honey but the stuff from the store usually isn't as sweet.

It's totally adjustable to your tastes: swap garlic or red onion for shallot or whatever herbs you have on hand for basil and cilantro or red wine vinegar for white balsamic. It's good.

I completely blanked on planting cucumbers this year. Greg loves them and I love making pickles. How will people know we're from Portland if we don't make our own pickles from cucumbers we grew? Are you growing any good edibles this year?

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