Growing Things

When I was six, my parents moved us to Joshua Tree.  I was not pleased.  For years, I walked around saying, “I’m a city girl.  I don’t like the desert.”

How did I not notice that this is one of the most beautiful places on the planet?

Beautiful day after beautiful day passed, and I continued to hide out inside.  I avoided fresh air, and complained if my feet touched dirt.

As an adult, I’m the opposite.  Sure, I live in the city.  My career is population-dependent, and I’ve learned to thrive on crowds, culture, and the variety that city living brings.

But, I love the outdoors.  I spend as much time outside as possible.  Right now, that means squinting at my not-so-bright laptop screen as I sit on my “porch” enjoying the sunshine.

(My porch is a tiny little landing at the top of my stairs.  There’s enough room here for one chair, two tomato plants, and a windowbox filled with four types of herbs.  That’s about it.  This year, I’m going to push the envelope and try to plant some sunflowers, but I’m a little worried about what happens if they get to big.  My “porch” is also my fire exit, and I suppose my landlady wouldn’t look kindly on my blocking it with green growing things.)

I am obsessed with things that grow.  That’s one thing that growing up in the desert will do to you.  We got our food from the supermarket, never from the ground.  When I came to New England, I became obsessed with picking my own apples and sitting under the shade of tomato plants.

Last year I grew a single tomato plant on my porch, and it was a dismal failure.  It only yielded a handful of sour-ish cherry tomatos over the course of the season.  My porch isn’t quite sunny enough for tomatos, but the poor thing did its best.  The real problem was the squirrels who came and stole each and every tomato just as it was about to turn red.

But, for me, it’s less about having tomatos, and more about the process of growing them.  So, I recently stopped in at Russo’s in Watertown to grab myself some tomato plants.

Have you ever been to Russo’s?  Some call it amazing.  I call it amazing and insane.  They have every possible type of vegetable, and every veggie-junkie in the state crowded into their narrow aisles, eagerly grabbing unidentifiable vegetables.

Seriously. Do you even know what these are? I don't!

Last year I got my cherry tomato plant from Walmart. It was a regular, boring, standard cherry tomato plant. What’s the point of that? I was hoping Russo’s would have something more intriguing.

Wow. I'll let you guess which ONE of these I've seen before.

Okay, I’m intrigued. Granny smith…tomatos? I’m sure all of these would be fun, but my porch doesn’t get enough light for full sized tomatos. I think I’ll have better luck with little ones. It took me a half hour hunting through every potted plant in Russo’s stock, but finally…

Jackpot!

I grew these a couple of summers ago and they were AMAZING!

I got some smelly stuff to try to ward off the squirrels, but let’s face it. My porch is not going to yield enough tomatos to satisfy my fresh grown addiction. Plus, I tend to cook with the same veggies over and over again. Zucchini, bell peppers, chinese pea pods, onions, celery, blah, blah, blah. I’d really like to challenge myself to try something different.

To that end…

I joined a CSA!!

CSA stands for Community Supported Agriculture. Basically, you pay them upfront for a share of whatever the farm grows over the summer. You have no guarantee as to what you’ll get or how much. It all depends on how the growing is going.

I joined with my friend Erin because the medium share offers more variety, and I’m looking for variety, folks! The first week didn’t disappoint. It’s been cold and rainy, but we got:

Red leaf lettuce
Romaine
Asparagus
Green Chard
and…

The most incredible strawberries I have ever tasted in my life! We were told that the strawberries were picked after a rain and were therefore a little more “delicate” than usual. We were warned to eat them within 3-4 days.

The warning was not necessary. I had to stop myself from finishing off my share that very night! I saved just enough for my favorite WW friendly dessert: chopped up fruit (fresh mango is amazing, too) with a teeny bit of Splenda (only if you’re a sweetness junkie, like me!) and topped with 3 oz non-fat vanilla Greek yogurt. Yum! Depending on the yogurt, this will be about 2-3 Points Plus.

You're lucky I stopped to take a picture. I had to keep myself from inhaling these!

I had never cooked chard before, so I consulted Erin’s blog and found a recipe for Swiss Chard rolls.  It’s a good thing Erin started eating poultry again, because these little things rocked!  I added a bunch of random herbs from my garden.  Random fresh herbs never hurt anything, I say…

One thing important lesson from trying to eat super gritty asparagus, farm fresh veggies are dirty! Maybe it’s all the recent rain, but everything I got from my CSA needed some serious rinsing. Still…I’ll take good, clean dirt over chemicals and pesticides any day!

See what I mean? That's some serious dirt!

Floating it in some cold water until the dirt sank totally did the trick!

I didn’t get a decent picture, so you’re gonna have to go to Erin’s blog if you want to see them…

I paired my “never cooked with chard before” rolls with some quinoa.  Quinoa is another one of those things that I’ve eaten, but never cooked.   I picked an Herbed Quinoa recipe from the Food Network’s Giada De Laurentiis to take advantage of more of those random herbs in my garden.  If I make this recipe again, I will definitely measure better.  It might have been my fault, but I ended up with way too much lemon flavor!

Incidentally, a friend thinks I look like Giada.  I think he’s on crack.

Giada in her kitchen and me in mine. The only thing we have in common is brown hair. More importantly, what do you think of my new haircut? Pretty cute, eh?

I had intended to plant those sunflowers this afternoon, but I decided that it wasn’t a good idea to go digging in the dirt after getting road rash all over my hands in a tragic jogging incident yesterday morning. So, instead, sun tea with fresh mint on my porch.

Yay for Summer!

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3 Responses to “Growing Things”

  1. Great job washing the veggies last night! The hair looks fantastic. You DO look like a celebrity!

  2. I suspect one of those “unidentifiable veggies” are pods from Invasion of the Body Snatchers. Best leave those alone!

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