July 8, 2009

Fruits of Our Labor Bear Vegetables

Our backyard garden is small. Two raised beds each about 8’ X 16’. We’ve got what we grow well down to a few favs: garlic, basil, rosemary, cucumbers, yellow squash and a wide variety of tomato plant, from cherries to beefsteak.

Finally the time has rolled around to again enjoy the fruits, rather vegetables and herbs, of our labor.

Garlic – we plant it clove by clove around Thanksgiving. Then we watch the green tips peak through the earth in early April and sprout taller until late June. When they begin to brown at the tips and bend (and our jars of garlic from the previous year are empty) it’s time to harvest. Harvesting garlic is a family affair – digging the heads, cutting the stems, washing away the dirt, and the time intensive part – separating the heads. The easy part: throwing the gloves in the food processor for a quick pulse mixed with ample EVOO. Into jars, topped off with a bit more EVOO. Am I’m back to garlic aplenty for another year.

Rosemary – a no brainer. It’s a perennial that I perennially pick, chop and use to roast vegetables, chicken or marinate lamb.

Basil – we start with the plants, about four a year. I begin to chop up the leaves as soon as each plant can spare a few. When there’s too much basil to eat (and my neighbors have had their fill) it goes into the food processor with garlic and EVOO. Then to ice cube trays to freeze. Pop them out into freezer bags and this mixture goes into tomato sauces, sautéed vegetables and more throughout the year.

Cucumbers – A few cucumber plants keep me in cucumbers for months. I simply peel, seed, and slice. I toss them into a mixture of rice wine vinegar, a bit of water, a mix of sugar and Splenda, few drops of sesame seed oil (my new addition this year), salt and pepper. They’re a hit! Anyone got tips on canning cukes?

Tomatoes – Nothing beats a home grown tomato! (I’ve sworn off of those cardboard tasting ones sold in the supermarket). I’m anticipating this year’s crop watching them slowly turn from green to red. To date, just a few pop-in-your-mouth cherries, but I’m again looking forward to: chopped tomatoes with cottage cheese, sliced tomatoes with fresh mozzarella or a simple tomato, basil and garlic sauce served over whole grain pasta. Now that’s the way to blend the vegetables of our labor.