Gardening and Cooking
In the depths of a very snowy Virginia winter this year my other passion for gardening began to unfold in the basement. It is my annual plan to sow seed for the gardens with tried and true favorites and new versions you just won’t find in stores. This year that probably involved starting over 800 seedlings of herbs, tomatoes, peppers, lettuce, and numerous flowers. It is quite an undertaking with rows of florescent lights providing illumination to compensate for a weak winter sun. The smell of damp peat is ever present in this part of the basement. This is not an operation to just get a couple of basil plants started for summer cooking.
I am near the completion of this years spring nursery operations. Having now extended my garden beds, moved 1 year old perennials in a nursery bed to a final spot and filled over 130 pots with herbs, vegetables and flowers. Yes that was a lot of potting mix to put together. I get huge bags of perlite and vermiculite from a growers supply house mixing it with peat moss, pine bark and some top soil. It is the only cost effective way to fill that many pots with soil.
The temperatures were a little wacky here in the spring with some very late cold temperatures but recent weather has got everything growing like crazy now. The lettuce garden is overwhelming the garden beds allowing fresh salads every other night. If only nature could make it so that you could have fresh tomatoes, cucumbers and lettuce at the same time in the spring. The lettuce will bolt here in mid to late June. I am however going to try a some salad mixes this summer to match up with the tomatoes and cucumbers. Mustards and Mesclen mixes will be tried from seed purchased from High Mowing Organic Seeds. I will keep you posted on how that progresses.
It is a wonderful season with so many fresh herbs flavoring the dinner table now. Fresh chopped up chives in a salad will bring a mild onion flavor that will not overpower it. Make your own vinegars and oils to dress up your salads and you will not be disappointed. I can’t remember the last time I bought a salad dressing from the store. I will share some of my favorite recipes for these in the near future.
The Braveheart lettuce above appears to be a winner in flavor, texture and overall quality. It is supposed to have a longer season than regular leaf lettuce that will be tested soon.
Cooking without a garden just seems to be at odds for me; especially at the rip off prices charged for fresh herbs. If you did not get started with a small garden plot or pots on a patio or deck this year plan it for next year. Fresh produce from your personal garden will bring your cooking to a new level of satisfaction.