Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Container Gardening and the Lazy Cook

Container Gardening
Apartment dwellers and those with less than perfect gardening options can still enjoy the fresh food experience.  Any small space outdoors that gets good sun for some of the day is a great place to grow culinary herbs; of course, the closer to the kitchen, the better.

Get bigger pots and intense plant all the herbs together.  This allows the soil to hold the moisture better between waterings as well as looking big, abundant and beautiful.  I always add at least one plant in the group just for 'pretty'.  Mesclun mix, lettuces and spinach do really well in large pots in any sunny area.  This is a good time of year to plan for the growing season.  Pots and garden stuff will soon abound.

Squirrels can be a big problem.  Finding a fertilizer that is safe for food can be a challenge.  There is one solution for both of these concerns in the form of 'bone and blood meal'.  I put about an inch of the granules on top of the soil in each pot.  The little rascals will not dig through it, guaranteed. This layer needs to be refreshed about once a month.  Some people place chicken wire near the top of the soil.  This works too.

I always plant tomatoes and basil together in the same pot.  For parsley, if you have the space, in the fall dig a hole and put in pot and all.  Cilantro (coriander) and dill will self seed. Rosemary will have to be brought in, but will survive through the winter.  Spearmint will usually survive anywhere, and often pokes up everywhere.  However, mint is an essential addition to a summer herb garden.

When my garden was limited to a balcony, I just had to bite the bullet and buy new transplants every year.  It was still worth it to have abundant and readily available fresh food all summer and early fall. 

The Lazy Cook
It is hard to be enthusiastic about cooking when one is hot and hungry.  Pasta is easy to cook in huge batches.  Divide the cooked pasta into serving sizes and store them in airtight containers in the freezer.  When you need it, either leave it to defrost, or run cold water over into the container and then drain.

The ‘no time to cook’ Basic Pasta with Fresh Herbs

1 Tablespoon cooking oil
1 Onion cut in crescents
1 clove garlic crushed
½ red pepper cut in slivers
3 mushrooms, sliced
5-6 sugar snap peas (or ¼ cup frozen peas added at the very end)
1 Morga Soy Cube softened in a little hot water, (or sake, or wine)
(1-2 Tablespoons) ½ to 1 cup of fresh herbs chopped coarsely – mint, basil, rosemary, Italian parsley, curl leaf parsley, cilantro
½ to 1 cup fresh greens
Fresh scallions - optional
Grated Parmesan cheese to taste
Defrost Pasta and reserve.  Heat oil in a skillet/wok or saucepan and Saut√© onions and garlic until lightly browned.  Add the peppers and mushrooms and cook until just tender, add the peas and cook until just tender-crisp.  Add the pasta and the water/soy cube and heat to serving temperature.  Serve by topping with fresh greens, herbs scallions and Parmesan.  Enjoy!
Keep well_

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