12 June 2013

Plant a Garden, No Matter How Small: Guest Post by Barbara Freda

Plant a garden, no matter how small.
~ Michael Pollan, In Defense of Food: An Eater’s Manifesto

Today's Farm-related post comes from Barbara Freda, fellow WordCount Blogathoner and foodie writer at Babette Feasts

garden makes food special.

When I can say I just picked something from my garden, I love it ~ especially since I am one of those people with a black thumb.

My current garden is a row of window boxes on an outdoor patio – it isn’t much, but it’s good enough for me.

When I did have a yard, any garden I planted had to survive my own form of benign gardening neglect. One year, pumpkins sprouted in my front yard next to the steps leading to our front door, the hardy insistence of a Jack o’ Lantern that had rotted into the mulch after I’d just pushed it there to...to..compost, I guess. Of course, the same benign neglect that surprised me with its snaking vines and pumpkin flowers also led to its demise when some form of rot or pest caused the plants to wither and die.

Oh well. Win some, lose some and all that.

Yellow pear tomatoes were another surprise that actually managed to bear fruit again - winning!  AND I learned that those plants that spring from fruit gone to seed are called volunteers. They’d have to be volunteers to show up in my garden!

A second crop of basil were also volunteers. Then there are the plants that just won’t quit. Mint anyone? And in case you don’t know it, lemon verbena, too. Some might see mint as invasive. I see it as green and great on Derby Day (mint juleps all around). The lemon verbena that spread through my grass?

Well, let’s just say I had the best smelling yard when I mowed that lawn.

Ooodles of Lettuce!

These days, I prefer starting my little gardens from plants. I tend to get slightly more success that way. Then the only thing I really have to battle is anything that wants to make a meal of my greens (I cannot believe how much one of those little green caterpillars can eat).

Both this year and last I planted a lot of lettuces in my boxes. I snip off the outer leaves and the inner ones continue to grow, giving me a good few weeks of fresh lettuce before the heat sets in. I love to add a few snips of herbs to the salads, as well--basil, cilantro, dill.

Then dress the salad well, and I’m not talking from a bottle. Learn to make your own great vinaigrette. So simple and so much better than anything from a bottle.

You’ve grown those lettuces--they deserve the best!

Barb’s Basic Balsamic
1/4 cup Balsamic Vinegar
Juice from 1 lemon
1 teaspoon Dijon
1 clove garlic, peeled and crushed (but left intact)
3/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste
Sugar to taste (try about 2 teaspoons)

Place all ingredients in container with tight fitting lid--shake well to mix. Store in fridge. Make sure you don’t pour out the garlic clove when using the dressing. It stays in there, infusing the dressing.

Variation: I make this into a riff on a Caesar dressing by adding a squeeze of anchovy paste and a good amount of freshly shredded Parmesan cheese.

About Barbara Freda
Barbara Freda became a food writer and recipe developer after nearly ten years on the line of professional kitchens, including the early years of NYC’s Union Square Cafe.  When she had kids, Barb decided she had to get out of the heat of the kitchen and enjoy the coolness of the keyboard, so she became a freelance writer.  A generalist over the years, her specialty is food: the business of food, the gadgets, the culture--you name it, Barb writes about it.

She also loves to teach cooking classes and is always looking for the next teaching gig. Barb is  based in Charlotte, NC, but travels a lot, eating and drinking and writing about it as she goes. Or, as she like to tell people, suffering for her craft.

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