In addition to supporting boutique food businesses, all of us at Eat Boutique endeavor to focus on the great food growing in our own back yard. I’ve been especially busy planning my vegetable garden since… well… since I plucked my last squash late last year. Even while gorging on amazing local food in Paris all winter and spring, I was planning every inch of my raised beds, desperate to get back to my soil preparation and seed kits. Now that spring is in full swing, I’m finally delighting in my super early harvest and watching as my vegetable patch takes shape.
Not one month ago, my yard was three empty wooden boxes held together by nails and pounds of soil. My pea stone surround was seeing signs of wear with lots of weeds and grass poking through trying to taste the deliciously warm sun. Even my garden bench, a polished-up find from the local dump, was sad. Neither empty raised bed nor worn pea stones nor sad garden bunch could hold me back!
Upon return from Paris, I was gifted a third raised bed as a welcome present from my hubby (he knows me well) and accepted the challenge eagerly, drawing up plans, sketches, lists, visions and recipes for all the delicious produce nature would soon gift me. Though it takes four months to adequately benefit from a juicy heirloom harvest — hello, tomatoes! — I try to plan out my beds such that I’m reaping fairly immediate gratification.
This year’s garden is already showing signs of progress and will soon be overflowing with the following: four different types of lettuces, including red leaf, frisee and arugula; Cocozelle zucchini (a tiny Italian variety); two varieties of tomatillos; lemongrass; chives (that survived last year’s frost); Italian parsley; eggplant (the Hansel and Fairytale varieties, so darling); cabbage; three types of beans (black, purple and snap peas); two precious varieties of radishes; rainbow swiss chard; two hot peppers, including my beloved serano pepper; two types of carrots (Cosmic Purple and Little Fingers); rhubarb; and, four varieties of tomatoes (San Marzano, Hillbilly, Sungold and Zapotec).
I also tossed in some flowers for color, so the beds will be dotted with nasturtiums, marigolds, clematis and snapdragons. And, I couldn’t forget to include a wide variety of herbs like oregano, rosemary, lemon thyme, Italian parsley, sweet marjoram, three types of sage, three types of mint (including chocolate mint for cocktails and baking), and 12 Genovese basil plants (because you can never have too much pesto).
Oh, I almost forgot to mention the melons and squash planted in my side bed! I’m hoping these vegetable vines will take over a fussy bed that fills with bamboo each month. I gently planted two Cinderella-style pumpkins (the best!) and one European-style melon (Charentais). I just adore that moment in October when the pumpkins are ready to be baked with or shown off to neighbors during Halloween festivities.
After all the planning, planting, watering and weeding, I get excited cutting my first lettuces (which I did today) and snipping the first bits of herbs, sans jacket. To the anti-gardener, I suppose my zest for growing stuff seems a bit dramatic. But I am proud to say that I kind of live for this stuff. I also live for the first beautiful day when I can finally share a glass of wine (or two) in the garden with my family and friends.
I don’t know about you, but I feel like the wine goes down smoother, easier, sweeter in a backyard where you work hard to bring things to life, where you know the wine will someday soon be served with produce growing just a few feet away. Speaking of, what will I do with all these veggies? I have a long list of ideas already brewing, thanks to all the amazing food bloggers across the Web. Here are just a sampling:
- There are 45 Things To Do With Fresh Sage
- A delicious recipe for Fresh Tomatillo Salsa
- Pumpkin donuts calling my name
- These pretty Rustic Rhubarb Tarts
- A beautiful Rosemary Olive Oil Cake
- Squash Blossom Pizza, oh wow!
- These delightful Lettuce Wraps with radishes
- Wait… there’s more…!
I may also make many of the following dishes:
- Shrimp, Wild Rice and Spring Vegetable Soup
- Carrot Salad with Harissa, Feta and Mint
- Backyard Garden Tomatoes with Cheese
- Swiss Chard Recipe
- Eggplant Parmesan Lasagna with Swiss Chard
- Acorn Squash Quesadillas with Tomatillo Salsa
- Orange Frosted Pumpkin Muffins
I’m not sure if my dog loves all this gardening madness, but I certainly do. Cheers to you and a season of great veggies and great recipes! By the way, I am torn on what to do with all this lettuce. Any thoughts on recipes I should consider? I’m open to anything, just put them in the comments. Thank you all!