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Archive for August 9th, 2007

“Grown on Our Own Farm”

Thursday, August 9th, 2007

gardenbeforepicking.jpgMom’s family had a farm when she was growing up. We had a garden a few years, and we always had fruit trees (apple, pear and cherry… most notably more pie cherries than we could pick). Sometimes we had strawberries. Most of the time we seemed far too busy doing other life tasks to garden, and honestly it was easy to buy it at the store rather than grow it.

But when we had food from our yard, dad would repeat the words of my Mom’s father, who would say “It was grown on our own farm!” And last week I said the same thing.

tomatoesinhand.jpgMy garden is teeny-tiny, and relatively wild as gardens go. Food shares space with myrtle and grass from the yard trying to take over, and a rosebush that is winning the battle for land, both at left in this photo and just above the top edge of the photo. You can see the myrtle at least at top right, and grass at bottom. The thin tiny bits in the dirt are mostly supposed to be there, my tiny and struggling herbs.

It is not all of a yard squared (which is smaller than a meter squared). I have one clump of Swiss Chard (very tasty greens, in this case with beautiful red stems), and herbs: parsley, dill, cilantro and chives. I tried to plant a little bit of spinach but I planted it too late (spinach likes cool weather).

I also have one large potted tomato bush, which is mostly for decoration. It lives in a beautiful blue-glazed pot on the top landing of our back steps, right where we pass it in and out of the house each day. This helps remind me to water it even when I get home after dark. Tomatoes really thrive on attention so this is a good strategy.

greensongrass.jpgLast week I decided to dive in and make some food from the tiny bit of produce growing in my yard. There were two small tomatoes ready to pluck, and I had to do something with them. I don’t really like fresh tomatoes much (though I remember how much I liked them on a whole-grain cheddar grilled cheese with some vidalia onion back in the day when I could eat such things). So cooking the greens with the tomatoes was a perfect solution.

I cut up both the greens and the tomatoes in half-inch bits (just smaller than a centimeter). I had a leek (related to onion but milder) so I sliced some of that really tiny. I sauteed the leek in olive oil, and when it started to soften I added the greens until they wilted. Then I added the tomato. No, I didn’t measure. I used the amount of greens and tomatoes that I had been able to harvest. The tomatoes looked smaller before cutting but bigger after cooking, given the tendency of greens to wilt and compress in the heat.

greens.jpgI let that mixture cook on low until the tomato smelled sweet rather than acid. Tomatoes will actually caramelize a bit if you give them the chance, and at that point I like them much better. I did not add any salt or pepper or other seasoning during cooking, though sometimes I enjoy some black pepper in the mix. After it was all cooked, I chopped up some of our cilantro from the garden into tiny bits, and garnished the serving plate full of greens with that.

I am starting to “get it,” I think. These were positively the best greens I’ve had in a very long time. I’ll need to do this at least one more time before growing season ends.

Oh, and the bowl the cooked greens are in? It was made by my friend Maureen O. Ryan, of Working Women Artists and the Potters Guild of Lansing.