What have you been doing since we last talked? I took a month off to stare into the winter abyss and wonder when the icicles would melt off my eyelashes. I’m still waiting for the thaw, but today, the mail came, and a fat stack of seed catalogs came with it. Thumbing through the pages, plant after plant jumped out at me.
I need an organizing principle. I like to start from the bottom up, with some base crops. For me, those include potatoes, squash, cucumber, corn, and beans. Think of these as the vegetables that end up in jars, because you couldn’t possibly consume the whole harvest in one sitting. I recommend making these a lower priority for your home garden, because they tend to take up a lot of space, and you can easily find them at the farmers’ market. But if you have room for them, they can feed you year-round.
I’m still waiting for the thaw, but today, the mail came, and a fat stack of seed catalogs came with it. Thumbing through the pages, plant after plant jumped out at me.
Moving up, let’s consider the flavor-boosters: chili peppers, ginger, hard herbs. Cooked or raw, they add complexity to your base harvests. Those new potatoes you picked up at the market would be tasty with chopped spring garlic and freshly plucked rosemary. A basting brush made from oregano and lemon thyme will have your cookout guests gathering around the grill to waft in the fresh scents of summer.
Next come the most overlooked crops, which tend to offer the most value per square foot. Those are the delicate finishing touches that bring your recipes into the current season, from basil and dill to hot-pink dianthus flowers. Consider the beautiful strawberries that you and your family might bring home from your local u-pick this spring. I recommend slicing them, tossing them with just a little bit of sugar, and leaving them to macerate on the back patio while you eat. After dinner, try spooning the strawberries into a few chilled bowls and dolloping on whipped cream scented with the lemon verbena growing along the garden fence.
I think I just rewrote my seed list after thinking this through again. I want the herbs and flowers and other full-flavored jewels of the high summer to be the highlights of our meals this year. This type of gardening, which starts with flavor, is what we need right now, as the snow melts into the new growth of spring.