Thursday, May 29, 2008
A garden in miniature
At the urging of my dear friend, Donald Engstrom-Reese, I'm sharing my love of the Green Bloods.
Although I only have a balcony (there will be full earth someday!), I try and take full advantage of it, growing as many herbs and vegetables as I can comfortably fit (mind you, the definition of "comfortable" is completely subjective).
In years past, I've done tomatoes, acorn squash (which I adore), moonflowers and a smattering of herbs.
This year, I'm doing basil, of course. Every year, come mid- and late-summer, I can be found in my kitchen making fresh pesto with my mortar and pestle - truly the only way to go. I made pesto for years in a blender, but after seeing a handmade version in a cookbook by the eternally lovely Sophia Loren, I never went back. The pesto achieves a texture that is unbeatable.
I overwintered a lovely rosemary plant in my kitchen this year, and now s/he's happily outdoors again.
There's sage, which I (perhaps foolishly) let flower, because I love the purple blooms.
I'm doing Italian flat-leaf parsley this year, which I always end up wanting for recipes, including a wonderful one from Alice Waters' The Art of Simple Food. I make a salsa verde, again in the mortar and pestle. A handful of parsley leaves, one clove of garlic, the zest of a lemon, and olive oil get mashed together until I get a pesto-like consistency. This makes a wonderful dressing for egg or potato salad, as well as an incredible topping/spread for vegetarian sandwiches - oh, the possibilities are endless, really.
Chives were overwintered outside this year and are clearly growing like mad.
This year's experiments are rapini greens (known by Italian-Americans as broccoli rabe). They're a divine green that are wonderful sauteed with some olive oil and garlic and tossed with pasta and toasted pine nuts (garnished with some freshly grated parmigiano reggiano or romano cheese). The greens are also great in frittata, strata, and as salad and sandwich accents.
Not pictured are my rosa bianca eggplant - a variety I fell in love with last summer at my usual haunt, the Dupont Circle Farmers' Market. I couldn't get enough of it, and I roasted and a bunch of them, using slices for summer sandwiches as well as a great recipe of roasted eggplant halves, topped with avocado cream, goat cheese, chopped tomato and fresh cilantro.
I'm also attempting to grow an heirloom variety zucchini this year, partly because of a great recipe I saw for an Italian zucchini and lemon cake from a divine book by Gina De Palma titled Dolce Italiano.
I sing to my plants little impromptu numbers, either while planting them or watering them in the mornings. That and adding some charged quartz to the pots seems to make them happy.
I also keep one pot completely random and wild as an homage to the Faery folk of the green world. I started doing this last year as an offering, and if I'm not mistaken, this year it looks as if I have some kind of maple sapling growing in the pot. Once it's strong enough, I'll plant it somewhere safe, so it can grow into a big tree.
Most of this year's seeds were bought from the Baker Creek Heirloom Seed Co., located in Montana. They had wonderful varieties of vegetables and herbs, and I'm really pleased with my first purchases from them.