Friday, June 25, 2010

A forgotten harvest

I've got a confession to make: our first harvest wasn't radishes. It was actually lettuce.


I guess I got so excited that after all the digging and planting and weeding in the big garden we finally got to harvest the fruits (or in this case, the vegetables) of our labour, that I'd forgotten about our little patio garden that's been quietly growing just outside our kitchen door.

The Plan is to convert much of the existing house garden to a herb and butterfly garden, but that'll take time and I don't have much of that to spare right now. So besides the basil, parsley, oregano and thyme that I'd grown from seed and transplanted into the big garden to keep the tomatoes and peppers happy, we've got our cooking herbs growing in pots on the deck.

There's oregano, two kinds of basil, sage, thyme, rosemary, dill, chives, coriander, parsley and mint, each with their own delicious texture and aroma.


Besides the herbs, we decided to grow a few pots of lettuce for convenience but also to see how they grow compared to the lettuce growing in the big garden. Already I've come to appreciate one big advantage to pot-grown lettuce -- there are no slugs on the deck!

There's the Tennis Ball lettuce, an heirloom introduced in the 1850's, that produces loose heads measuring only 7" in diameter.


We're also growing a gourmet heirloom leaf lettuce mix, featuring a blend of Green Oak Leaf, Black Seeded Simpson, Australian Yellowleaf, among others.


I always knew there was an incredible range of lettuce varieties far beyond iceberg and romaine. Even the grocery store produce section now offers a hopeful selection of leaf shapes and varieties in pre-bagged mixes. Unfortunately, my experience of those mixes has often been one of disappointment, with the greens being bitter or tough or worse, tasteless.

Growing my own herbs and greens on this little deck garden is not only easy, it's helped heighten my wonder at the range of sensory experiences associated with eating and food. So often we eat just to fuel ourselves, but savouring something as simple as a just-picked herb or a lettuce leaf can introduce a world that stimulates not only the taste buds, but your sense of smell and touch too.

There's an immense sensory delight in gently rubbing herb leaves between your thumb and finger and releasing their rich fragrance. Then there's the intense flavouring that fresh herbs add to a meal -- who knew that parsley could tickle your tastebuds so much? And fresh-picked leaf lettuce has not only an exceptional taste but a gorgeous satiny texture.

Whenever I write about our life here on the farm, I'm always conscious of the fact that not everyone can, or even wants to, do what we're doing here. But the great news is, anyone can do this. It just takes some sun, seeds and soil, and a hunger for eating food that's good for you and the earth.

10 comments:

Susan said...

A lovely bit of writing! And I agree whole-heartedly. I pulled my first radishes today and I was incredibly excited! There is nothing at all like growing your own. I also envy you your garden helper...

Erin said...

You'll be surprised at all the wildlife your deck garden will attract, even if it isn't "out in the garden"! I have pots of parsley and fennel I call my "Black Swallowtail Daycare" on my deck and they are covered with caterpillars in the different stages of growth! With the heat, I currently only have one row of very bitter stunted lettuce in the garden and lots of other salad goodies coming in, so I think I am going to just do my lettuce on the deck like you! They will have a shaded bamboo roof there so hopefully they will grow!

Mama Pea said...

Your deck garden is BEAUTIFUL! I may be a little strange because I love gardening so much but I enjoy looking at the herbs and salad greens just about as much as blooming flowers. I find it impossible to walk by my spearmint without rubbing the leaves and inhaling the fragrance on my fingers.

A wonderfully written post, Fiona. Could easily be worked into an article on deck gardening for a magazine! (I think I'm gonna steal it and do just that. JUST KIDDING!) :o)

Fiona said...

Susan -- thanks for the kind words. And yes, I found growing your own is so rewarding... and addictive!

Erin -- I love your Black Swallowtail Daycare! Yes, there are good wildlife visitors but so far the Japanese Beetles and slugs haven't found our little bounty :)

Mama Pea - I don't think you're strange at all... but of course, I'm the same way! The more I experience growing herbs and different greens, the more I love them. I still love my flowers, mind you :)
And thanks for the praise -- if only you were my assigning editor ;)

mustangsabby said...

We grow greens in our raised beds at the back of our house. We tried a lettuce this year named Butter Crunch and we love it! Shade cloth means we can grow all summer, and yes, no slugs. Our favorites are always spinach, Mesclun mix, and the traditional types (arugula and leaf).

When we are having friends over for dinner, my husband will pick the colander out of the spinner, look at our guests and say "Be back in a minute, gotta go pick dinner". It always makes people do the "are you mad?" thing with their faces. Tee hee....

Fiona said...

Mustangsabby -- I've been wanting to try Buttercrunch -- good to hear you had such success with it! And I've been thinking about using shade cloth into the garden - it's on my "to research" list, lol!
I giggled at your "gotta go pick dinner" comment. We've done the same thing... homesteading humour, I guess!

Annie's Granny said...

Your deck garden is beautiful! I do wish I could grow on my patio, but it's under cover and doesn't get enough sunshine. I could probably manage lettuce....like I need more lettuce, LOL!

Fiona said...

Thanks, Granny. The kids enjoy deck gardening too. Ella helped me plant some double impatiens and sweet peas as well as some fushcia (Jack thinks the blooms look like fireworks!) The deck is a relatively new addition to our farmhouse and we're slowly "greening" it with plants and such. I'd like to build an arbour and grow grapes or hops... maybe next year?!

Jules said...

I really enjoyed reading about what you are growing! After all these years and a whole lotta life in between, we are still connected - now through our gardening. I, too, am an heirloom fanatic...maybe we can swap some seeds? Let's talk...

Homesteadgirl said...

So glad to have you comment on my blog, and to find YOURS here...now I'm curious as to whereabouts you live in Ontario! Here are some ideas for sizing adjustments:
For a 6 year oldish child, Cast on 90 stitches. Do everything the same but make the hat 5 or 6" high before beginning to decrease, and place markers every 10 stitches (so you'll have 9 markers).
For an adult, I'd cast on 110 stitches, and knit till it's 7 1/4 inches high before decreasing.

This is all dependent on how loosely you knit...you COULD do a gauge swatch (knit a square of say, 30 stitches across) and measure how many stitches you get to an inch. Multiply this number by how many inches you want the finished circumference to be...

So, a baby's hat should be about
14" in circumference, a child's
18", and an adult's 20".

Good luck...email me if you have any other queries...the hardest part of knitting in the round is just joining it...once you get going, you just keep on knitting!

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