It's Spring!Well as nice as the few days have been recently, we know better. But spring begins in our house as soon as the new seed catalogs start arriving so spring generally starts in December.
Now is the time to start planning this year's garden. When my grandmother was young, the Victory Garden was a patriotic way to make sure that the troops got the food they needed. Those on the homefront would grow the food they needed and make due with rations so as much food could be sent to the troops. Our homefronts are no different now than they were then. While the American food supply is generally safe, things like GMO which may lead to colony collapse in our bees who pollinate our fruits and vegetables. Many of the foods you eat contain GMO and the food industry is under no obligation to disclose what food or what it has in it. There are corn varieties for instance that actually contain Roundup. Sounds appetitizing doesn't it?
I like to know what is being fed to my family. My beef comes from my parent's farm, I get my pork from a trusted friend of theirs but like most people, my chicken and fish come right from the store. We can't control everything but we can learn to grow as much as possible for ourselves so we know where our food comes from. Growing a garden or even having a few pots on the windowskill is a step closer taking back your food independence!
But, you argue, I live in an apartment, I can't grow my own food! In the first apartment I was in (on the 14th floor!) I grew cantalope, tomatoes and lettuce. There is a fantastic book on this subject called "The Indoor Kitchen Garden" by Joy O.I. Spoczynska. For lugging all that dirt upstairs, you'll be rewarded with fresh veggies and herbs.
If you've never grown a garden before I'm going to suggest you start with some herbs. Herbs, like most plants, are basically useful weeds. They grew in the countryside, on cliffs, in ditches, anywhere and everywhere. One day someone tried a plant and discovered it tasted good and history moved on from there. They are fairly easy to grow and are generally pretty happy on a window ledge as much as in a garden.
I've been growing herbs since I was fifteen so I'm going to offer you up some suggestions.
BASILThis is a must have. Grow a lot. You can generally get a harvest off your plants once a week during the growing season. Grind those leaves up with some parmesan, olive oil and your favorite nuts and put it in your ice cube trays. Pop them out and put the pesto cubes ina labelled freezer bag and pop them in the freezer. Don't make the mistake I did the first time I grew basil and lift the plant for the leaves. You can take quite a few of the leaves off each plant leaving maybe 3-4 and the plant will survive and grow more. Harvesting and making pesto each week guarantees you a few bags of pesto that allows you to make your soups, pasta sauces or bruscetta instantly gourmet. I grown this at least every other year if not every year. I'm working on my three gallon storage bags I put away two summers ago. A definite must grow. Annual.
Chamomile is a calmative in that it emotionally calms you (verses a sedative which physically calms you like valarian). Great for tea, especially for small children, it helps to aid in sleep. A nice herb for dream pillows for the same properties. The oil is highly useful in essential oils preparations. Comes in two forms, Roman Chamomile or German Camomile. I find it difficult to grow in my clay soil. Annual.
|Chives gone to flower|
CHIVESThese onion like herbs are probably one of the easiest to grow.
In a few growing seasons, you can divide them up and plant them
somewhere else and have a second, a third and even more to
give away. Great for butters, put in dips or even cut up in
cottage cheese. A "gate way" herb if there ever was one.
OREGANOFor whatever reason, my oregano loves my clay soil. It grows like nuts and very rudely attempts to take over the herb garden. I cannot begin to tell you how may times I have given clumps of this herb away only to be gifted with it taking over the space I just removed a clump from. The herb is an absolute necessity when making tomato sauce and is excellent when sprinkled over just about anything. Perennial.
Flat leaf parsley earns it's place on your plate for farm more than just a garnish. This powerhouse can freshen your breath like no one's business and contains an impressive amount of vitamin A, vitamin C and vitamin K. It's a primary ingredient in Chimichuri sauce and an excellent add in to most dishes. Bi-Annual.
ROSEMARYI am so jealous of those that can grow this herb like a huge bush. I have to treat rosemary as an annual in my neck of the woods. I rarely can get it to last the season let alone survive over the winter even if I do bring it indoors. But for it's unique taste it is worth the effort. Rosemary tea is said to help bring a sense of alertness. For a better tasting drink, I've also had it steeped in pineapple juice which is really tasty. Annual in colder climates, perennial in warmer.
You've probably never heard of this herb. Salad burnett is a lovely herb that has a delicate cucumber scent and taste. I'm constantly introducing people to this deightful little plant because it is such a nice accent to a sandwich or floating on top of a bowl of onions and cucumber salad. Easy to grow from seeds (I get the seeds from a company called "Southern Explosures"), it is supposed to be a tender annual but until recently, the plant I had in my garden was on it's tenth season of coming up each year. Add it to your herb garden this year. Annual (?)