Wednesday, April 11, 2007

The Garden Story

Eating what is locally grown throughout the seasons is a feature of the Mediterranean diet. It goes back to a time when transportation was limited and refrigeration and storage options were few.

Unlike the US, in other parts of the world dedicating property to expansive lawns, shrubbery, and flowers is reserved for parks, town squares, and wealthy estates. Rather small kitchen gardens filled with herbs, vegetables and fruit trees are found in the smallest of back yards.

I have always had a kitchen garden. My mother’s parents had a garden in their narrow backyard in Long Island, New York, and my father never was without a few pepper plants and tomatoes in a sunny spot in every home we lived in. My husband, Bruce Bradford grew up with a garden maintained by his grandfather on the family dairy farm in Michigan.

Today our garden is much larger than what we need, but it produces an abundance of vegetables from May through November. Our garden consists of nine raised beds surrounded by perennial flowers, herbs, and various ornamental trees and shrubs. Our dirt is enriched with compost. We save all vegetable cuttings and coffee grounds, along with leaves, etc. Last year we had a terrific crop of butternut squash that grew from the compost pile through the season.

The first planting is garlic. The bulbs are put in the garden in November and harvested in July. The next phase of planting happens in early spring. This year early spring garden was planted by Joel Anderson and Arion Kennedy as the Current Topics in Nutrition Garden.

On March 17, Joel and Arion planted three beds with eleven different vegetables on a cold and very windy Saturday afternoon. They planted cauliflower, parsley, arugula, lettuce, radishes, beets, peas, Swiss chard, broccoli, kale, and endive. I am happy to report that every thing has sprouted. The pea plants are now about four inches high. We have inserted cherry tree branches along the rows to serve as supports as the pea vines grow. The lettuce, arugula, and radishes should be ready to harvest later this month. The other vegetables will start in May and continue through June and July.

Eggplant, tomatoes, pepper plants, and basil will be planted in mid-May. These are started in February from seed and maintained under grow lights.

Green beans, summer squash, and cucumbers are sowed directly in the ground along with dill, coriander, sunflowers, and other annual flowers. In the heat of the summer, there is an abundance of vegetables and flowers. Bruce has become successful at “putting up” our tomatoes, peppers, beets, green beans, and anything else he can find. So throughout the winter, we can eat from our garden and dream about the warm days of summer.

This may seem like a great deal of time and effort and it is. The rewards outweigh the work. There is nothing better than to cook from your garden, fill vases with your own flowers, or watch the gold finch make a steady meal of sunflower seeds on a summer morning.

No comments: