Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Grow Your Own!

One of the things that gives me a great sense of satisfaction is eating the vegetables and herbs that we grow. My wish is to have enough space to grow a lot of the produce we eat, but it’s challenging living in a city and finding enough space to have a productive garden. Some people would laugh if they knew my vegetable garden is only 2’ wide by 8’ long. What’s the point with such a small space?? How about you? What are you growing? I want to know! Leave a comment with a link (to a post or your blog) so I can find you!

My garden. I know it looks like a random mess, but it's quite productive. This year I'm growing 3 or 4 varieties of tomatoes, tomatillos, peppers, sugar snap peas, cilantro, mint, basil, oregano, strawberries.

As it turns out, you really don’t need that much space to produce a healthy bounty. The key is to be selective. Before I planted, I thought long and hard about what we like to eat and what would give the most yield for the space. Things like sugar snap peas, peppers, and tomatoes were naturally at the top of the list. Squash and cucumbers are also good bets. Still, 16 square feet just isn’t enough space, and until Hubby builds me a second vegetable bed, I also have to use containers.

Sonny wanted to grow strawberries this year. I've never grown them, so it will be interesting to see how many we get.

I've got 3 pepper plants going: 2 hot and 1 mini bell.

This is the reason I grow my own mint. Cherry mojitos!

Sugar snap peas are so easy to grow. They like cool weather so you can plant them in early spring. And they produce a ton of pods that are so sweet, you can eat them raw right off the vine. You can eat the young tendrils too! They're also supposed to be nitrogen-rich, putting nitrogen back into the soil.

Send positive thoughts for my dwarf nectarine tree. It seems to have come down with a case of leaf curl and the fruit might not be able to mature. I also have a dwarf cherry tree and Meyer lemon tree, but they have yet to bare any fruit.

I encourage everyone to grow something edible. Even if it's just herbs, it's still worthwhile. Fresh herbs are so easy to grow in containers. Every time you pluck the leaves, it encourages the plant to produce even more. You'll have basil for pesto or mint for mojitos all summer long!

The herb I use the most is cilantro. Sure, it's cheap enough to buy, but I want the roots as well and it's impossible to find cilantro with the roots. I use the roots to make Thai curry pastes and in stir-fries. I'll post a stir-fry using the roots soon. In the meantime here's a simple rice recipe using the leaves and stems. Cumin and lime (or lemon) juice give it a nice freshness. It's very versatile too; perfect with Mexican, Middle Eastern or Indian food.

Cilantro Rice
Feeds 4 as a side dish
  • 2 cups Basmati or other long grain rice, washed and drained
  • 3 cups chicken or vegetable broth (water is also fine)
  • Juice from 1 lime or lemon (about 3-4 tbs)
  • 1 tsp cumin seed
  • 1 large bunch cilantro (about 1/2 cup or more to taste), finely chopped and divided
  • salt to taste, if using water
In a medium pot, heat a tablespoon or two of oil over medium-high heat. Add the cumin seeds and allow them to fry for 10 to 20 seconds. When they start to pop add the rice and half the chopped cilantro. Turn the rice in the oil to distribute the cumin seeds and cilantro. After about a minute, add the citrus juice and broth or water. (Alternatively, you could add the citrus in at the end when you fluff the rice for a more pronounced citrus flavor. ) Bring to a boil. Once it boils, cover and turn the heat down to low. Simmer until the water is absorbed, about 10 to 12 minutes. Turn off the heat, fluff the rice with a fork and allow to steep for an additional 10 minutes. Add the leftover cilantro, fluff again and serve.

I'm submitting this to Weekend Herb Blogging, which is being hosted by Paulchen's Foodblog this week.


Manggy said...

Small garden, big garden, doesn't matter-- your 16 square feet of nature is lovely :) I actually thought of buying herbs since it's much cheaper than buying a ton then using a few leaves and having to throw the rest away, but I am a dunce when it comes to gardening and I'm pretty sure they would get eaten/ burn to death in this weather.

Thanks for reminding me about the nitrogen cycle. Hahaha. Oh, memories of college!

Your cilantro is very food porn-friendly! I love its deep pinnations.

Vicki said...

My garden looks like yours, except it's about 3' by 7'. I have 3 tomatoes, 5 jalapenos, 6 serranos, a potato in a pot, and a dead sugar snap pea (don't know how that happened!). I tried cilantro last year, but it bolted almost immediately. My goal for next year is to dig up 50% of the "lawn" in my back yard and replace it with food-bearing plants.

Dee said...

Thank you manggy! I love going into my garden and seeing what's sprouting up. I've been able to harvest a handful of sugar snap peas here and there and they are immediately eaten raw. Isn't the weather hot and humid where you are? That's perfect for growing plants. I thought mine would not make it through our recent cold spell.

Vicki, your garden sounds lovely :-) Cilantro can be tricky. The first time I tried it, I got inconsistent sprouting, then it just didn't transplant well. This year I just threw it next to the snap peas and hoped for the best. Mine is starting to bolt, but I still use it, especially the roots. I'm hoping to expand my garden as well. I'll be happy with another 20 square feet.

Kalyn Denny said...

Your garden looks like it's doing very well, and I'm impressed how you're making use of the small space. I'm mad about gardening, and even take plant close-ups and publish garden updates on my blog. This year I got six raised beds, so I'm rather in garden heaven around here. Well, except for the weeding, that is.

Love the sound of your cilantro rice. That's one herb I gave up on growing because the snails in my yard would eat it right down to the ground in a day. Now I buy my cilantro, but I do have a lot of other types of herbs growing.

Dee said...

Thank you Kalyn! I practice the "square-foot" gardening method. It really does maximize the space. I enjoy reading about your garden. If only I had the same amount of space...

Paula said...

Saw your post on Kalyn's Kitchen regarding coffee grounds. Thanks for posting that ... I'm going to check using used grounds as a deterent for slugs! I'm not a coffee drinker (gasp! unheard of out where I live!), but there is a Starbucks just a minute away. Thanks again for the tip!

Mike of Mike's Table said...

Looks like the garden is going quite well! I started with a plant-everything-I-eat approach and figured I'd see what survives the FL climate. Your garden looks a bit more successful than my haphazard collection, lol. I thought I'd have a minor success recently--a bunch of fresh blueberries. They were looking great...and the next day: they were all gone! Some animal enjoyed my one and only successful fruit plant. :-/

VCK said...

Our garden is really taking off too. Our peas, especially. I'm hoping this bout of sun we're supposed to have (cross your fingers!) will liven up my basil, which is doing the worst. My cilantro is a BUSH--no problems growing that!
You can see photos of my little garden on my blog.

Dee said...

Mike, we lived in Florida when I was younger and I remember my mom grew a lot of Thai vegetables and herbs. She even had her own green papaya tree. Stuff is supposed to proliferate nicely in warm, humid environments, however, so do the weeds. And there's the problem of over-growing, so I can see how it can be unmanagable. My neighbor has blueberries and raspberriers--way more than she can eat and has told us to take as much as we want. Last year I got enough raspberries from her to make like a pie a week for a month!

Paula, good luck with the slugs! I guess it must work because I don't see slugs out in my beds. However, ants are not detered.

VCK, I saw your garden and it's also coming along! amazing how we in the colder climates are still able to grow stuff. Although, my Kaffir lime tree did not survive the winter. I should have brought that in, but I thought mulching would be enough. Also my holy basil didn't survive this last cold spell, and the sweet basil is just barely hanging on. Everything else is doing well enough.

QGIRL said...

I am so jealous of your garden. How do you find the time??
My mother also gardened and had her own compost heap. That woman could grow anything! We have a series of photos over the years (the 70's mainly) of her holding proudly the biggest melon from her garden(she grew winter melons for soup). Hey I might do a blog post with one of the photos.
Now that my son is old enough, I might start some containers of pepers, herbs or something easy and see how I do.
Thanks for the inspiration!

dp said...

qgirl, my garden is so small that it literally doesn't require much time. I've been lucky--even after 2 years the weeds haven't set in yet. I think that's because I filled the bed with new dirt, rather than dirt I dug up. And I look at my garden daily, so if I see one, I just pull it out.

I think the best starter plants are tomoates and peppers. That's what i started with in containers. I think you'll have a lot of luck with those.

tigerfish said...

I love basmati rice but never cooked them before. I will make cilantro rice one of the dishes to try once I start cooking with basmati rice.