You know, sometimes I hear the strangest comments. That was the case last week when I was emerging from one of my favorite greenhouses laden with a box filled with vegetable, flower and herb plants. “I think vegetable gardens are ugly,” said a passing woman to her friend. “They’re so boring.”
I almost dropped the load I was carrying. As a dedicated gardener for all of my life I found this statement appalling. How can fresh, growing food be ugly and boring? But it got me to thinking, “Is this a common sentiment?”
When I returned home with my load I started looking at my garden in a different light. And I did have to admit, that to an untrained eye my wooden vegetable beds do probably present a sort of utilitarian appearance. Growing up, Mom kept her flowers in one bed and our veggies were grown out back in a big plot and never the two did meet. That was just the way things were done in my family and so in my adult years I have continued with that same practice.
I’m a big believer in experimenting though and that was certainly the case a few weeks ago when a friend of mine brought over a bunch of cilantro. I had never eaten it before and enjoyed the leaves chopped up on tacos and in an omelet. When I saw it at the greenhouse growing green and lush in a little container I decided to try it in my own garden. Another favorite herb of mine is dill. I use dried dill in dips and sauces, in scrambled eggs, in soups and of course it’s a staple if you want to make pickles. That too went into my cart.
In addition to my herbs and veggies I also bought a few flowers for the pots that grace my deck and all these plants nestled together presented an overflowing picture of greenery. But one thing did stand out-the delicate leaves of the dill and cilantro plants made a striking contrast with the marigolds and colorful petunias I had purchased.
As I sorted them on the deck, I got the brainstorm to plant some herbs with my flowers. Now I only have to step out my front door to gather a handful of cilantro leaves to spice up a favorite dish or snip a few sprigs of dill to liven up a dip or a cup of soup. I’m more apt to do that too, since these plants are within eye sight and only a few feet from the kitchen.
In addition, since it’s still early in the season, I think I’m going to be incorporating even more herb plants into my flower pots and I’ve also decided to beautify the garden by planting some flowers among the peas, squash and tomatoes. Why not have the garden looking a little more colorful?
Just a few days ago I planted a package of zinnias along one edge of a raised bed, and I like the looks of some double petunias I saw the other day at another green house. I think they will really add some color.
But this business of adding some food plants closer to the kitchen door is a good move, and even those short on space can do it. Everyone can include a few herbs in a flower pot or incorporate some lettuce seed in a planter box. The results are not only beautiful but tasty as well. And for sure, not boring or ugly either.
3 large tomatoes or 5-6 plum tomatoes, diced
1 med. white onion, diced
1 jalapeno or other hot pepper, diced (you decide if you want to seed it or not)
juice of 2 limes, or one lemon and one lime
1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro
salt to taste
Combine everything in a bowl. Cover and refrigerate a couple of hours or overnight before serving.
Lemon and Dill Chicken
4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
Salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
3 tsp. extra-virgin olive oil, or canola oil, divided
1/4 cup finely chopped onion
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 cup reduced-sodium chicken broth
2 tsps. flour
2 Tbs. chopped fresh dill, divided
1 Tbs. lemon juice
Season chicken breasts on both sides with salt and pepper. Heat 11/2 teaspoons oil in a large heavy skillet over medium-high heat. Add the chicken and sear until well browned on both sides, about 3 minutes per side. Transfer chicken to a plate and tent with foil. Reduce heat to medium. Add the remaining 11/2 teaspoons oil to the pan. Add onion and garlic and cook, stirring, for 1 minute. Whisk broth, flour, 1 tablespoon dill and lemon juice in a measuring cup and add to pan. Cook, whisking, until slightly thickened, about 3 minutes. Return the chicken and any accumulated juices to the pan; reduce heat to low and simmer until the chicken is cooked through. Transfer the chicken to a platter. Season sauce with salt and pepper and spoon over the chicken. Garnish with the remaining 1 Tbs. chopped fresh dill.