I think some of you have picked up by now that I love to garden every year! Each year I learn something new and seem to get better at it. So far, this year my herbs are looking better than they EVER have. I literally have way more basil than I know what to do with and it has been absolutely wonderful. We’re eating it almost daily, along with some of our other herbs, and it has been so rewarding. I’m not sure what is so different about this year, but it’s working!
Each year I take my garden a step further in how it’s set up. This year, we decided to raise up the tomato bed by 2 more layers of brick, and we built a brand new wooden bed. We removed the brick bed that had zucchini in it last year to use the brick toward the tomato bed. I’m pretty thrilled with the results and look forward to reusing these beds year after year!
For the fun of it, I wanted to share with you all what I am growing this summer and how I plan to use it:
I have 1 purple and 2 green basil plants this year and they are getting HUGE. Last year I discovered the purple basil and loved it! It’s not as strong in flavor as the green, but it’s just a fragrant and makes some beautiful caprese salad, which is layers of fresh mozzarella, tomato, and basil, drizzled with olive oil and balsamic vinegar, then topped with sea salt and cracked pepper. It’s delicious and this time of year we’re eating it a couple times each week. Zoey will devour it every time! We tend to make pesto weekly when we have this much basil on hand, and so far we have done just that. When we get tomatoes in, I will make a tomato, basil, cucumber and lime salsa that is divine. Basil is also good in a fruit salad or a leafy green salad, so it’s a really rewarding, versatile herb to grow.
Mint really takes off and is such a fun and easy herb to grow. As parts of it die off, new sprigs come in from underneath. We love to use fresh mint in water or in hot tea. Like basil, it’s also good in a fruit salad. I primarily use it to infuse water and because it gets so big and crazy, I only have one plant and I keep it in a smaller pot than my basil.
Lemon thyme has such a soft lemon flavor, and that thyme herb flavor that I love so much. It’s also very fragrant. We use it on fresh salmon every week. I’ve also used it on chicken, but it’s my favorite on salmon along with some fresh lemon juice and dill. Delicious!
I had never purchased lemon balm before, but it has such a wonderful, fresh, lemon fragrance that I just had to have it! I bought it to use with iced tea, to infuse water, and to make candied lemon balm. So far I’ve only nibbled on it a bit but it’s so delicious, I can’t wait to use it more.
I have only had 1 other experience growing cilantro and it did not go well. It’s also so cheap at the grocery store when it’s in season that I couldn’t justify the headache to grow it. I decided to give it another try and so far it has been doing fine. We have used it a couple times to make cilantro lime dressing to marinate chicken in for tacos. Yummy! I’m hoping we’ll have a lot more of it later on so that when my tomatoes and peppers come in, we’ll have our own cilantro for fresh salsa.
I’m growing this for fragrance reasons. I just love the scent and look forward to having fresh sprigs of lavender in the house during the summer.
I’ve never grown okra before, but I do love it so I wanted to give it a try. This year we have 2 plants so we’re hoping for some good results. I love it fried, but am hoping to find a healthier version that is perhaps baked. I also like it in soups and gumbo, so we’ll see how much we get off of 2 plants.
We love fresh salsa and stuffed peppers, so these bad boys are going to be put to work when they start coming in. We have 6 plants! I’m hoping for good results. We love them in tacos, on chili dogs, and even in a hot pepper relish.
Like our jalapenos, we’re growing this to put into salsa. However, I only found 1 plant this year, so I’m begging it to produce. You know, baby talking it into submission…
This one is new to us – we’ve never even eaten a shishito pepper, but it looks like it’s a mild pepper that we can use in stir fry, which we love to have on the regular around our house. Apparently 1 out of 10 of these peppers is really spicy, so this could be fun. There is no way to know which pepper will be the hot one. Of course, they do say that vegetables that share soil tend to pick up flavors from each other and considering how close this plant is next to the jalapenos, we might be in for a surprise. We only bought 1 of these in case we don’t like them. We already have some little peppers coming in so stir fry will be on the menu soon and I’ll report back!
I decided to give the zucchini a break because we had it coming out of our ears last year and I got so sick of it, to be honest. I love how versatile it is because it can be used in a savory or sweet way, but it was just way too much and I was giving away TONS of it. I’ll probably pick it back up next year. This year, we decided to try our luck with pickling cucumbers. Zoey is so excited to make her own pickles! The cucumber plant is actually really cute and has these precious little curly cues that come off of it and remind us of Cinderella when the fairy godmother first gets the pumpkin going, and those little vines are curling up. Side note there, haha. The plant is really smart, too. It’s weaving itself up the chain link fence, which is exactly what I was going to train it to do but I haven’t even had to force it like I do my tomatoes. It’s doing its own thing!
I’m going to lump this all into one category because I always grow quite a variety of tomatoes each year, from the cherries to the big dogs. I do it because tomatoes are way too expensive at the grocery store, especially the ones I like the most. Yellow tomatoes at Kroger? Forget about it. We’re talking $5/lb and for as much as we like to eat them, I’m not paying that. I always grow the ones that are too expensive to buy, considering we eat them all summer long in salsa, salad, caprese, tacos, sandwiches, etc. However, I will say that this year I am growing less than last year. I normally grow 10-12 tomato plants and this time we’re only doing 7. Four of the plants are usually cherry tomatoes, and this year we’re only doing 2, one of each color. Three of the plants are repeat varieties from previous years, the rest are first year choices for us. The variety we chose includes:
- Super Sweet 100 Red Cherries (yearly classic!)
- Sun Sugar Yellow Cherries (Zoey will eat these right off the vine every day after school)
- Mr. Stripey Heirloom (my favorite! They make the most beautiful salsa.)
- German Pink Tomatoes (first year! For Zoey, of course.)
- Early Girls (first year!)
- Bradley Heirloom (first year!)
- Marglobe Heirloom (first year!)
And that’s it! That is our garden for 2015 and I can’t wait to share how it’s coming along this year, as well as some recipes for salsas. I’m hoping to find a good pickle recipe for those pickling cucumbers, so if you have one to share, I’d love to hear it!