Last year, Clay and I built raised beds for a herb and vegetable garden. Being a gardening neophyte, I danced off with a good friend to a local nursery and bought all sorts of vegetables: Delicata squash, summer squash, artichokes, six different lettuces, two kinds of chard, strawberries, eight different herbs, arugula and two kinds of cucumber. Along with that, we planted five different tomato plants. Oh, and kale. Lots of kale, because the plants were so little. Well, kale gets really, really big and all the other vegetables took off at a gallop. Soon we were up to our ears in vegetables.
While we ate a lot of the produce and donated probably 75 percent to the wonderful people at Food for Thought, a local food bank that serves those affected by HIV/AIDS, we felt like we could have been a lot more reasonable about where we put our efforts and California’s limited water resources.
This year, we’ve decided to only plant what we know we will eat. The artichokes and strawberries are perennial, as is the chard and the herbs we planted, so we’re good there. Since most of our garden has been centered around salad, we’ve decided to plant a delicious, sweet green called mâche, (aka lamb’s lettuce…isn’t that sweet?). For Clay’s more savory tooth, we’ll put arugula back in the mix with some romaine and butter lettuces.
Clay made fabulous summer squash fritters all last season, based on a crazy-easy zucchini fritters recipe from Epicurious, so we’ll definitely be putting in another one of those.
Of course, the garden just wouldn’t be complete without beautiful basil. Last year, our basil supplied us with year-round pesto, frozen in ice cube trays and dumped into gallon Ziplock bags. One cube per diner and supper’s on the table in minutes. We’re planting just a little Italian parsley to add to our pesto recipe, as recommended by Cooks Illustrated, which, along with blanching the basil, keeps the pesto a happy, bright green.
I had wanted to experiment this year with growing pole beans, but as life keeps getting in the way of spare time, I think I’ll wait and enjoy the fruits (and veggies) of our labor and gained experience.