Tuesday, April 26, 2011

It's Time to Visit the Garden Again-- Yay!

It's real purty AND you can eat it!
Welcome to the latest update on my food garden, which I am happy to report is OUT OF CONTROL in a very good way. In case you missed the earlier installments, YardFarm Austin built three raised beds in my backyard, filled them with organic soil and plants, and added a timed, drip irrigation system. Yes, that's right, my garden waters itself. A few weeks ago Zach, who heads up YF, came by and put in some tomatoes. I then added still more tomatoes. Being from Jersey, I've got to have my tomatoes. Other recent additions include basil, mixed greens, beets, and still more kale and chard.

Tomato Heaven

The bounty so far has been stunning. And having such beautiful beds has inspired me in a number of ways. For one thing, I actually get out there and weed, which never used to be a strength of mine. In the past, operating under the flimsy excuse that Weeds are Plants Too! I engaged in what I called holistic gardening. That is, I just let everything that came up grow, including volunteer sunflowers, and a bunch of other choking green stuff that I could not identify. No more. Now I've got neat and tidy rows. On top of that, I'm working to make the whole backyard nicer. This is admittedly a slow process, but I do sweep the back patio, and pick up stuff that blows into the yard or that is scattered there by the dogs. Also, because Zach put in irrigation along the fences he built to keep the dogs away from the garden, I've added a bunch of plants along the fence line: morning glories, moon flowers, honeysuckle, English lavender, rosemary, wandering Jew, and a passionflower vine (which, on Zach's advice, is a good distance from the food beds since passionflowers are pretty aggressive). Very soon I'm going to get a new flock of chickens. And, in my fantasy world anyway, I'd love to acquire a couple of pygmy goats. Let's call that a distant goal.

pizza before

pizza cooked. 

In the kitchen, also thanks to the garden, things are getting better all the time. Using my harvest as a guide, I cook accordingly and as a result I'm eating lots of healthy stuff. Some nights I might just grab some basil and use it to top off a homemade margarita pizza (granted not the most healthy but I throw a little whole wheat flour in the dough). But lots of nights I'll go "shopping" in the backyard and use whatever is most abundant to come up with that evening's menu. For example, tonight I'm planning a risotto with mushrooms (store bought but local) and lots of kale and chard. I'll also make a mixed green salad with a homemade mustard vinaigrette. And-- oolala-- I'm going to make a second batch of the outstanding spinach and edamame soup I made on Sunday. It's ridiculously simple and all the spinach comes right out of the garden. Here's the recipe:

4 cups (packed) of fresh spinach picked from your YardFarm garden
4 cups edamame (soy beans) out of the shell
1 good sized onion (yellow or white)
8 cloves garlic chopped
4 cups of water or veggie stock (I use water and it works fine)
Salt and pepper to taste
olive oil

Dice the onion, throw it in the heated olive oil and stir it around until your house smells really good and the onions are pretty soft. Toss in the garlic, which needn't be uniformly chopped, or even chopped up all that tiny. After the garlic has had a few minutes to make out with the onions, add in the water and edamame (I used frozen organic from Wheatsville). Cook this for awhile-- I think I let mine heat up for about 30 - 45 minutes-- until all those ingredients are soft. Now, throw in the well-rinsed spinach leaves just until they wilt. Add in the seasoning. Okay, kill the heat. Puree it all in a blender-- I had to do this in two batches. Voila -- the best damn soup I've had in a long time. If you want, you can add a dollop of plain yogurt or go nuts and top it off with a spoonful of fresh whipped cream, only don't sweeten the whipped cream when you're whipping it-- add a pinch of salt instead. Now wolf it down.

Here are some more pictures from the garden-- some are from a recent dinner party where I asked my guests to pose as if they were in a '70s filmstrip for fifth graders, designed to demonstrate the beauty of gardening. If you want a YardFarm garden, just give Zach a holler-- contact info is here.

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