Sunday, June 29, 2008

Gardening Like Crazy

My hubby isn’t the only one contributing to our mission to eat fresh, local (and free!) food. For the first time in about ten or twelve years, I’ve planted a vegetable garden. Our granddaughter’s father Chris is a tree man, so first I had him remove some trees in the back yard. Then I begged my step-father Tom to rototill a big portion of our back yard into a garden so I can grow veggies. Tom’s an early riser, so I woke to the sound of him plowing through the lawn. I jumped up and ran out on the deck in my bathrobe.

Tom was hard at work, but he paused to chat for a minute. I asked him what the logs were for and he explained that Steve had laid out the parameters of the garden before he left for work. Uh, no. This was a perfect example of the type of quibble that creates the only friction in our marriage. I’m the Queen of Enthusiasm and always plan things to be bigger and better than I can sometimes manage. Steve is Mr. Pragmatic and therefore constantly tries to rein me in.

Not this time. He was at work, so I won simply because I was the only one home. The garden is now close to three times the size Steve laid out. Ha! Steve was a good sport about it and sifted and spread the compost my brother Chris’s friend Sean (who works at Agway) dropped off for me. He even created a nice edging at the bottom with logs from the cut down trees.

I planted a dozen red tomatoes plants in various varieties, a dozen yellow tomato plants (because I love them!), yellow peppers, two varieties of beets, yellow carrots, green beans, cucumbers, Swiss chard, two varieties of squash, cucumbers, turnips, lettuce, and arugula. Here’s my Swiss chard:

I also planted a good size herb garden with Rosemary, fennel, basil, parsley, chives, sage, summer savory, tarragon, cilantro, dill, marjoram, lemon balm, and three kinds of thyme.

And then there is the experiment. Before I got a chance to plant the garden, some plants sprouted out of the compost and they looked so healthy I just couldn’t bear to pull them up. I think they are pumpkins, but I’m still waiting to see if they will bear anything because so many seeds today are genetically altered to ensure they can’t be saved from year to year. So far the (maybe) pumpkin plants are the biggest plants in the garden and they’ve even got blossoms.

Hope springs eternal – and so do the pumpkin (?) seeds. They are also growing in the spot where Sean first dumped the compost pile in the front yard. Since I never got around to planting grass seed there, I’m letting the mystery plants have their way. Fingers crossed for lots of pumpkin soup, pumpkin pie and pumpkin bread in the fall.

The only thing that hasn’t come up like gangbusters is my yellow peppers, which has me worried because my new favorite summer recipe is a twist on stuffed peppers. Now that I’ve discovered how sweet and tasty yellow and orange peppers are, I rarely eat green peppers and even snub red ones most of the time.

I found this recipe in a magazine at the doctor’s office, but I didn’t have time to copy the whole thing. In fact, I’ve discovered the quickest way to get your name called at the doctor’s office is to start writing down a recipe. My purse notebook full of half recipes is proof positive of that. No matter. When I got home I figured out my own version.

Mediterranean Stuffed Peppers:

3 yellow or orange peppers, cut in half (leave stem on)
6 medium vine ripened tomatoes, cut in wedges
18 calamata olives, pitted and cut in half
2 large cloves of garlic, thinly sliced
Block feta cheese
1 tablespoon olive oil
3 tablespoons chopped fresh basil
Salt and freshly ground pepper

Put halved peppers in baking pan and fill each pepper with four tomato quarters, 6 olive halves, and 6 slices of garlic. Divide basil evenly among peppers. Add crumbled feta to taste. Drizzle with olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Cover with foil and bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes. Uncover and bake for another 15 minutes until peppers are tender.

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