Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Summer Bounty

Holy Basil!

Sunshine, water and earth create the most amazing things. Flowers, plants, herbs, and vegetables fill up the senses. When I was younger, my Grandmother maintained a small vegetable garden of carrots, radishes, tomatoes, and leafy greens. In her later years, perennial herbs became the easiest to maintain. Her most cherished herbs were marjoram, oregano, basil, and thyme. The small flowers that blossomed off of them only enhanced the flavors. I remember her in the kitchen, whisking up her favorite breakfast of Dr. Suess's "green eggs" made with pulverised herbs and spinach added to beaten eggs with a pinch of salt and pepper.  Herbal flower bouquets of purple chive orbs, golden chamomile bulbs with soft white petals, yellow and green dill crowns, rosemary branches, and silvery gray sage leaves were picked for every table.

My sister and I would gather spearmint and peppermint leaves, rinse off the extra dirt, boil water in the tea kettle, and pour the hot water over the leaves. While the leaves steeped we would spoon out honey, tasting more than what ended up in our cups. The sense of smell can make a memory linger and become so much more vibrant. Sitting in the dirt, pulling lavender buds off the stalk, pinching and squeezing the delicate purple flower, until I inhaled all of its hypnotizing, calming, scent. Time seemed to stop, while I was hidden away among the plants and flowers. I have memories of great discovery, recognizing the different textures and tastes of nature.  As the breeze moved gently through, I would lift my nose to follow the trails of scents that circled around me. The sound of summer bugs composed a symphony of crescendo and decrescendos for my listening pleasure. Fuzzy, round, black and yellow bees buzzed and hovered close to my face, as I watched them float from flower to flower drinking the nectar and shaking the pollen.

3 year old Sean picking veggies from my Grandmother's garden.

How does your garden grow? Urban or suburban, you can grow wonderful things to eat and enjoy. Herbs are easy, aromatic, and versatile. A small container garden for tomatoes or greens is a smart way to start with minimal effort. As I grow older, I am more interested in where things come from and where things go. I have two curious monkeys who ask many questions about things I don't know the answers to.  They keep me on my toes and inspire me to be a worthy example of whole, healthy, happy living.

Eating food should be an exciting and pleasurable experience. Create new and old recipes, share them with those you love. We can't survive without eating. In our fast paced society with high expectations, limited time and impatient attitudes it is easy to make the wrong decisions. We are surrounded by temptations and ease of access to unhealthy food that encourages over eating. Food that makes us feel bloated, heavy, and energy depleted. Most of us are guilty of making regretful decisions about what we put in our bodies. These weak moments are driven by food rages, and hypoglycemic outbursts. Stock your kitchen with fresh, colorful, wholesome ingredients closely connected to their source. Know where your food comes from. Choose snacks with little to no preparation, for a grab and go lifestyle. My boys love apples, they sometimes eat two a day! Bananas, carrots, oranges, grapes, cucumber, celery, string beans, and snap peas, are some examples of on-the-go eating. Take the time to make food that you like. Even though broccoli, cabbage, and lima beans are good for you, they may not digest well in your body or taste good to you. Try spinach, kale, or leeks instead. Saute or grill zucchini, summer squash, and peppers. Spice up your dishes with this simple pesto recipe, no pine nuts needed.

In a food processor, combine basil, parmesan cheese, garlic, sea salt and pepper.

Add this creamy sauce to pasta, sandwiches or veggies.

Certain combinations of foods allow for better absorption of their benefits. Lemon and parsley offer a light and delicious addition to your diet, and are featured as main ingredients in home made tabbouleh salad. Fresh garden tomato, cucumber, and flat leaf parsley loosely chopped create a wonderful side to couscous, quinoa, chick pea or hummus. Raw honey, lemon juice and zest, olive oil, sea salt and pepper whisked together as a dressing provides the finishing touch.

The health benefits of eating mostly vegetables has been well documented, changing the outlook on American eating. Organic produce is best, but it can be expensive. With minimal effort, we are able to grow our own food. It is possible, and it doesn't take a lot to yield a bounty of goodness. Indoor, outdoor, vertical, or horizontal, there are so many ways to start growing your favorite things. Most home improvement stores carry inexpensive gardening containers that take the hard work out of moving earth and tilling soil. Recycle old pots or buckets for your plants, you don't even have to buy dirt. Make your own dirt by composting fruit and vegetable waste, scraps, leaves, and grass clippings. Be careful not to put any animal products into your compost, egg shells break down well, but meat and dairy do not. Coffee grounds and tea can be composted too, just be sure to remove the tags on the tea bags, as they may be plastic coated or have a metal attachment. Compost is known as black gold for your garden. The nutrients in the leftover waste increase nitrogen levels, enriching your soil. Banana peels and coffee grounds can be placed directly under your plants without composting at all to enhance the health of your garden.

Finding ways to use recyclable waste is exciting and creative. I have been saving my egg shells for seed starters next Spring. Cardboard and old newspaper can be placed over sections of earth where you don't want weeds growing. Large bins or barrels can be used to collect rain water for watering your plants, just add a water spout and a mesh filter cover to keep debris from clogging the water flow.  Rubber maid plastic bins are perfect for year round composting. I have had mine for almost two years now and the soil is unbelievable. Drill two holes on each side of the bin and on the bottom, so those helpful earthworms can get inside and do their work.  Fill the bottom with dried leaves or plant matter and begin saving your leftover vegetable scraps. Remember to rotate the contents every few weeks. I like to cover my compost so I don't attract skunks, racoons, or other wildlife. The rubber maid bins have a snap lid that works well.

Support your local CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) farms, pick your own fruit and berries at local farms, read and understand food labels, start your own container gardens or begin composting your kitchen waste. Learn about exciting ways to explore where your food comes from!


  1. Aw ya! Go Medfa chick! I'm right there with ya composting and growing your own herbs and veggies! I'm coming over for dinner tomorrow! It looks super fresh and tasty:)

  2. Thanks for reading Jess! We need to schedule a family dinner, summer is moving fast...