I never really grew up with a vegetable garden. It wasn’t until I was a senior in college and went to live with my godparents in San Jose for a summer, that I realized how wonderful they are. Tucked behind their garage were tomatoes, onions, peppers, zucchini, and all sorts of wonderful things. They would can tomato sauce, pizza sauce, peppers. My godmother would stuff zucchini blossoms, my godfather would fry up okra and make pepper paste. It was a bit of heaven.
When we bought our first home in the burbs in 1987, we were blessed with a 10 x 20 foot plot on the far side of the driveway – perfect for a garden. We built a raised bed for herbs, amended the soil, and filled it every single spring. We had a bounty from May through October. I kept a journal of what I planted, where I planted it, and how well it did. By this time my godparents had moved up the road to the family home on 2 acres in Woodside. Our own bounty was supplemented, and usually overshadowed, by the harvest at their home.
When my godmother’s family home had been built in the 1950s, one of every common fruit tree was planted: lemon, orange, grapefruit, apple, apricot, peach, nectarine, plum, pear, persimmon, pomegranate, fig. Even an avocado tree. In addition to the fruit, there were prize-winning onions, artichokes, lettuce, chard, okra, garlic, peppers, tomatoes…too many things to list. When my children came to swim, as they did regularly each summer, they could pull a peach right off the tree or a carrot right out of the ground. I learned to can, taking advantage of everything, trying not to let anything go to waste.
This continued until about 5 years ago. My godparents sold the home, and my life got too hectic. I recently realized that I really miss it and that this habit needs to be resurrected. With the passing of my godfather, I also feel it is a tradition I would like to continue, in honor of him.
So, I have been biding my time. Waiting, waiting, waiting for the deluge to cease. My son actually cleared 80% of the weeds and winter growth several weeks ago during a brief dry spell, but the main garden portion was still overgrown. Finally, last Thursday he was able to finish up and headed off to the nursery for my plants.
I am starting small this year, since it’s been awhile. So there are 5 Roma tomatoes, 6 basil, rosemary, and mint. (I have several other herbs already growing in the garden.) I will be going back for 3 pepper plants next—jalapeno and Anaheim. I am dreaming of all the wonderful things I can make. Sun-dried tomatoes, sun-dried tomato pesto, salsa, pepper paste, basil pesto, mojitos, mint syrup for iced tea. And I am excited about finding new ways to use these ingredients. Suggestions will be welcome. I’ll keep you posted on the progress of my mini-garden.