If you have not yet, I encourage you to make it a goal to eat something as ubiquitous as a tomato that you or someone you know has tended. It will be hard to imagine how very different, unique and flavor-rich tomatoes can be – kinda like apples. Growing your own food also frees you up to embrace fruits and vegetables that are not aesthetically perfect.
I love the idea of Backyard to Table or Garden to Table. Growing my own food encourages me to get creative in the kitchen. It is the epitome of seasonal cooking and eating which is the defacto approach to food in Guyana where I grew up.
The other thing I encourage all visitors to this community to do is to try to cultivate something… even if you just have a windowsill, herbs are resilient and easy to grow.
Bora: The accent is on the ‘a’.
It’s deeply satisfying to grow something so definitively Guyanese hundreds of miles away from home and to prepare a meal with it that your children can’t get enough of. This is bliss. Growing bora has been one of the many highlights of this summer’s gardening adventure. I’m giving so much love to this vine that I’ve gotta guiltily praise and pet my other plants This makes me indescribably happy – not only because of the joy of growing a 24 inch bean from a 3 inch seedling, but because everyone in my family LOVES bora.
And it is thriving with lots of baby bora springing up everyday.
Read all about BORA including 3 recipes in my blog post: Growing, Buying, Cooking etc.
Lettuce and Salad Greens
All of my plants were grown from seedlings. A few trips to the Terminal Market in Brooklyn near my home yielded a pleasant variety of lettuce. Most of them I am letting go to seed so that I can plant later in the season and next year as well. A few seedlings gave weeks and weeks of salads, making it easier for me to eat fresh uncooked greens.
For the greens, I grew a wild mesclun mix and arugula. The arugula is very spicy and nice.
Cooking Greens: Spinach, Swiss Chard, Bok Choy
- Bok Choy has a unique taste and is best prepared simply with one of my herb blends and a touch of soy sauce. Very delicious with dahl and jasmine rice. I only have 3-4 bok choy plants so instead of uprooting the entire thing I just cut off the mature outer leaves and cook those, leaving the plant to sprout new leaves.
- Callaloo: I am growing what Guyanese call “thick leaf callaloo”. Here in America it is called spinach. Along with pumpkin (I will be dedicating a blog post to pumpkin), eggplant and bora, callaloo is one of my favorite vegetables. It is very rich in vitamins and versatile sauteed on its own, or in omelettes and other grains.
- Swiss Chard: I am growing white swiss chard. I harvest the leaves when they are still tender as I do with the bok choy. This way I can use the stems. Also, since my garden is 100% container, I am not sure that the swiss chard would grow to the maturity of the varieties I see at the supermarket. I harvest continually and new leaves grow up in the center so one plant produces a continual yield.
Here is another gorgeous, versatile, delicious vegetable (or fruit – depending on how strictly you want to define it). From the plant to the flower and finally to the fruit, eggplant offers up deep purples and pretty lilacs. This year I am only growing ichiban eggplants.
My first harvest was only two eggplants – each from a separate plant. However, I was able to make a full meal for 3 of eggplant with boneless, skinless chicken thighs cooked in coconut milk and served with hot Guyanese roti. I have about 10 more eggplant plants coming in and I can’t wait for a bountiful harvest. More to come.
Summer’s candy! Such a rewarding plant to grow, tend and harvest. This year I have two surprises and lots of cherry tomatoes. Unfortunately I lost the tag for that gorgeous green and red heirloom tomato. It is soft and sweet. The yellow tomato is fully ripe and called a “Yellow Boy.” I’m not so comfortable with that name so I am renaming it “Golden Sunshine”. This plant is giving an enormous yield. It is also a great salad tomato or fabulous just to bite into. Subtly sweet and juicy, Golden Sunshine is a real treat.
This year I am only growing red bell peppers. Peppers take a long time to mature but again , are versatile and satisfying to grow. All of my peppers are quite small in size – about 2.5 times the size of a cherry tomato.
I’ve said over and over that herbs are fairly easy to grow and useful for the home chef. If you have limited space and sunshine, try growing herbs. Fresh herbs lift a dish. This year I’ve had no luck with parsley – the caterpillars devoured it – but no sweat, it is a small price to pay for all the bounty that I’ve be blessed with this year.
To make the best of your fresh herbs check out my post on Making Herb Blends. These blends save time, preserve your herbs (which have a short shelf life) and deliver richly flavorful results every time.