We’re back with an edible garden update just a few short months since we planted it back in mid May. And the good news is that our little herb, fruit, and vegetable experiment was actually a success! Not only did everything live, but it thrived with very little labor on our part. Score! We were lucky to have a lot of rain fall in the late spring and early summer to establish everything, and whenever we had spans of hot dry weather we just used the rain that we saved up in our DIY rain barrel to keep things happy & green. That’s it!
We didn’t see the need to reach for any pesticides or even any fertilizer thanks to the nutrients from our backyard compost that nurtured everything since we used it to plant things back in May. So in the is-it-more-work-than-it’s-worth category, the answer is unequivocally NO! There’s really nothing like a fresh tomato or raspberry snagged in your very own yard. And our dinners are a lot tastier thanks to the homegrown herbs we now have on hand. Check out how tall our stalks of basil got (front right below). They’re practically up to my knee!
We also have more oregano, parsley, and swiss chard than we can even eat. And speaking of chard, we’re ashamed to admit that we haven’t even tried it yet! We’ve watched it grow bigger and leafier but don’t really know of any good chard recipes off the top of our heads. Do you guys have any suggestions for us? It’s a crime not to have tried our homegrown chard yet!
But lets move on to something we’ve eaten since the moment they appeared: our habit forming cherry tomatoes. We’ve been tossing them back like candy for the past month or so and we love that as soon as we pluck a few off our little plant buddy is already hard at work making new ones. It’s like a never-ending supply of sugary-sweet snacks. Here’s what they look like in the growing stage… not quite ready for eating.
And here’s where they end up right before we pop them into our watering mouths (which happened to this guy as soon as I snapped a few shots):
We actually purchased two different types of cherry tomatoes, so here’s the “golden” variety when it’s ripe. They get all vibrant and orange when they’re ready. Pretty, eh? And they look so great mixed with the deeper red ones that we also have growing nearby.
We love whipping up a super quick salad with some of our garden basil:
Just toss in a bit of feta and some italian dressing and it’s chow time…
But we can’t forget about our amazing raspberry bush that has us majorly whipped (we literally wait with bated breath for each burst of berries). There isn’t much in this world that compares to fresh garden grown raspberries.
So in summary, we highly highly recommend starting a little edible garden of your own. As long as you keep things watered while they settle in you should have a relatively easy go at it, and you can even grow oregano, basil and parsley in a pot on your windowsill or balcony. Easy peasy. Heck, speaking of peas, you can probably grow them too!
We’re also happy to report that we definitely got our money’s worth in the budget department. Our raspberry bush was just $9 at Lowe’s in the beginning of the season and we snagged all of our tomato plants and herbs for just $10 total at the farmer’s market! We’ve easily enjoyed at least $20 worth of basil alone not to mention all the other goodies we’ve eaten on a regular basis for the past few months thanks to our backyard before-dinner pit stop. Sweet.
But what about you guys? Have you been growing anything of your own this year? Do you have any pest problems or tips and tricks to share with fellow beginner gardeners like us? And what about those swiss chard recipe suggestions? Definitely spill those beans.
Laura in LA says
For recipe ideas, check out http://www.allrecipes.com. You can enter a certain ingredient, like your swiss chard, and it will pull up recipes containing that.
Carol in Indian Springs says
Beautiful! Unfortunately we have a lot of deer in our area – we live next to a state park – and they tend to feast on our plants and vegetables when we’ve grown them in the past. I may research some natural deer deterants and see if we can try again next spring.
We recently read what sounded like a great chemical-free tomato tip (maybe in Real Simple?). They suggested hanging small red christmas ornaments on tomato plants before they actually bear fruit so animals investigate those and realize they’re not juicy and delicious and move on. Then the theory is that once the fruit comes in they’ll remember the not-food ornaments and leave them alone. Has anyone actually tried this method? Any other tips for deer?
Katie S. says
Hi Sherry–we’re swiss chard fanatics! My fiance sautes it with a little olive oil & chopped garlic, then seasons it with salt & pepper. Super easy! The result is similar to cooked spinach. We enjoy it with our dinner at least 2-3 nights a week!
Thanks for the garden update! Everything looks great. I was wondering if you have trouble with weeds? Or how often (if ever) did you have to weed?
Good question! We put down a nice thick application of mulch to keep things moist and happy but the bonus of mulch is that it cuts down weeds by around 99%, so other than snagging a random sprout every few weeks there has been zero weeding. Wahooo!
We love swiss chard! My favorite way to prepare it is to roast the stems with a little olive oil and salt for 20 minutes or so. Add the leaves and roast for 5 more minutes (until they start to wilt). Then stir in a little light cream or half-n-half, top with grated parmesan, and brown for 5 more minutes. It’s delicious.
You guys should try making your own rasberry jam this summer! That way you can enjoy it all winter too. Or I once saw Ina Garten make her own jam to eat the very same day with breakfast. I did a quick Google search and there were tons of recipies!
Hey Guys! As new home owners and gardeners, we don’t have a clue what we’re doing but we inherited an English garden and an herb garden. I’m worried I’m killing everything in both gardens because I don’t know how to prune or even what is what. Any suggestions on a great gardening book for beginners or an online resource? Thanks!
Good question Sarah! Anyone have a favorite gardening book to help her take care of her English and herb gardens?
I also planted my first edible garden this year. I’ve had some disasters… like my dill and snow peas (it got too hot here, WAY too early), but my tomatoes, lettuce, peppers, rosemary and basil are flourishing. I’m growing Roma tomatoes, and they are sooooo tasty and have more flesh than the ones at the store. I was pleasantly surprised to find that my sweet banana peppers grow so much faster than the green bell variety, and I would highly recommend you pick some up for next year. Like yours, mine has been such a fun little project that I will continue it year after year.
Yummy swiss chard! I like to cook it in salted boiling water for half an hour, then strain it, put in a salad bowl and generously pour olive oil over it (like you would a salad). One can also add one chopped garlic, a sliced hard boiled egg or two sliced cooked potatoes. Take at least half a kilo per person – you’ll see how the large amount that hardly fits a huge pot wilts down to a small side dish size :) Buon apetito.
Everything looks great! I am jealous. This was the first summer we lived in our house and we were not able to plant an edible garden because our yard is so shady! We just haven’t figured out a good place to plant things yet :(
heather s. says
I recommend ‘You Grow Girl’ by Gayla Trail (she also has a website: YouGrowGirl.com).
Did any of the seeds you started from scratch work? You mentioned that you bought everything at Lowes or the Farmers Market. I had luck with my Farmers Market finds but my seeds were a huge disappointment!
Hey Heather S,
Our seedlings were a huge disappointment as well, but in their defense, it wasn’t their fault. We learned that our low-e windows were to blame (since they reflect light to keep the house cooler, our seedlings weren’t getting the full sun they needed). Lesson learned. And the good news is that we save enough energy costs with our windows that we don’t feel bad snagging little plants instead of starting things from seed. Hope it helps!
We just moved into our house in April and we got to enjoy fresh raspberries this summer – enough that I made a couple of batches of rasp. jam! (Freezer jam, couldn’t be easier.) Though I have to admit, it was run-of-the-mill to me since I’ve grown up with oodles and oodles of raspberries and have made jam since Middle School. My parents always have raspberries coming out of their ears, so we eat them fresh, make jam, and freeze them for toppings thoughout the year. One of the perks of living in the Pac. NW!
As far as gardens go, the beds already here at the house were too far gone to be of any use. We cleared the area, hubby spaded, raked, leveled and smoothed the area and we planted grass. The plan is next spring to build some nice raised beds and we’ll get our veggies next year!
This looks amazing! I’m so jealous. This is my project for next year (once we can find a dog-free place to house it).
Oh, and it’s dangerous to show fresh tomatoes & raspberries to a pregnant lady. That’s my new craving for the day.
Although my black thumb doesn’t contribute to the bounty of fresh munchies in our garden, my husband’s green one does!
We have grape tomatoes (our third year with the same plants! They keep coming back!), cucumbers, spinach, basil (I would eat basil anything!), oregano, mint, and at our lake house, a garden FULL of raspberry bushes! YUM!
Hi, I have a silly question. How are you picking your basil? Are you cutting them off at the stems? plucking off each leaf? I never quite fully understood how exactly to pick herbs in the correct manner to allow them to keep regrowing. Thanks in advance!
An easy way to keep animals away from young plants is to take some rosebush prunings (6-8″) and stick them in the ground around the stems so that when the animals come nosing around, they end up pricking themselves on the thorns and go elsewhere in the future. It has helped me many a time to keep rabbits, squirrels and birds from pulling out young shoots. I’m not sure how effective it would be against deer though.
I have 4 tomato plants: one each of beefsteak, roma, grape, and cherry. In spite of a not very warm early summer here in PA, they are ripening well and many of the cherry tomatoes never make it into the house! YUM!! I also grew a lot of lettuces in early summer and it was so fun harvesting fresh romaine and mesclun. When it cools off I will be planting another batch. I also have cucumbers, basil, and Italian parsley. Next year I want to try eggplant and maybe a raspberry plant of my own!
If you like garlic, here’s my favorite Chard-baesd pasta dish. I tend to add more garlic than required to recipes in general, but as the garlic here is raw, you may want to start with just one clove.
1-2 cups penne pasta
2-44 cups coarsely chopped swiss chard
1 (19 oz.) can cannellini beans, or other white beans, drained
2-4 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 cup shredded parmesan or asiago cheese
1 clove garlic, smashed
Salt & lots of freshly ground black pepper, red pepper flake if you like spicyness.
Boil penne about 8-10 minutes. The last minute of cooking add coarsely chopped Swiss chard, cook 1 minute; drain well.
In a large serving bowl, combine remaining ingredients.
Add pasta mixture; toss well.
Season to taste.
Uh, I’m so jealous of your garden! We live in a townhome right now… we don’t even have any windowsills that get sunlight, other than in the bedrooms, and I just can’t bring myself to grow herbs on my bedroom windowsill.
We’ve been getting loads of Swiss Chard from our CSA for weeks! Actually it finally stopped the last week, which is good – we liked the chard, but were getting a bit tired of it every week!
We first ate it in a potato soup, but I can’t for the life of me find the link. It might have just been a recipe from the BHG cookbook, you’ll have to check!
Here’s a recipe from our CSA’s recipe blog.
Here’s a collection of recipes from the much bigger CSA that our close friends are members of.
But my favorite use of it by far was throwing it into a stir fry:
Sautee up a bunch of your favorite veggies (onions, garlic, peppers, carrots, broccoli, snow peas, green beans, etc.) and throw the chard in a little later than the rest of the veggies.
Add a little sesame oil for great flavor, plenty of salt and pepper, and then at the very end add cooked rice, a hit of vinegar (such as rice vinegar), and low-sodium soy sauce; I also like to add some worchestershire sauce.
Stir to coat everything, then enjoy! This actually doesn’t take long at all, since you still want your veggies to be a bit crunchy, so don’t need to cook for long. The most time-consuming part is chopping everything.
You can use pretty much whatever veggies you have on hand (but tomatoes aren’t so good for stir-fry), and when we added the Swiss Chard, we LOVED it! Other favorite additions are: those baby corncob things, bean sprouts, and of course water chestnuts – be sure to add the sprouts and chestnuts at the very end just before the rice. PS: we also frequently use fresh cabbage, but left that out in favor of the chard in this case, or we would have had too many veggies and not enough rice!
Hope you enjoy your chard, and of course let us know what you end up making with it!
Amanda V says
That mini-salad looks so delish!! Are there plans for any new additions to the veggie/fruit/herb garden??
Easy Swiss Chard Recipe
2 c flour
1/2 c extra virgin olive oil
1/2 c water
2 Tbsp. olive oil
1 red onion (or white), finely diced
1 pound chard leaves, coarsely chopped
2 Tbsp. chopped fresh basil (or 1 1/2 tsp. dried)
1/4 tsp. salt
1/8 tsp. ground black pepper
3 large eggs, slightly beaten
1 c grated Parmesan cheese
1/2 c whole milk or whipping cream (or for a “skinny” tart, skim milk with 2 tsp corn starch)
Mix flour, oil and water in a bowl. It will be quite sticky, but press it in to a pie pan or a tart pan with a spring/pop out bottom, and refrigerate for one hour.
Preheat the oven to 350.
Add remaining olive oil to a large skillet and add onion, cooking until the onions are soft, 8-10 minutes. Chop chard leaves removing stems (towards late summer when the middle white vein gets very large remove it at well, as it tastes some what bitter). Also, leeks taste really good with this too. Add chard to skillet and cook until tender, about 8-10 minutes. Season with chopped fresh basil, salt, ground black pepper.
In a bowl combine eggs, milk/cream, and grated Parmesan cheese (feel free to experiment with other cheeses!) add the chard mixture. Scrape the mixture into the prepared tart shell, spreading evenly. Bake until filling is golden and firm: 35-40 mins.
Kim S says
Oh I am soooo jealous of your raspberries! They are my absolute favorite and I would grow them in a heartbeat, but I’ve heard that they don’t like the Florida heat. :o(
I’m jealous… between the squirrels, who shamelessly pick every single tomato, take a bite, and throw them away, and the slugs, who consume the basil at night, it’s slim pickings in my garden. I have rigged a screen enclosure for the tomatoes (nothing says “redneck” until you have used door screen and clothes pins to encase a tomato plant) and sprayed insecticidial soup on the basil, but honestly, it’s more trouble than it’s worth. From here on, I have vowed to just go to the farmer’s market and support someone who does this for a living!
Hi. Nice garden.
We grew a ton of Swiss chard one year and tried a bunch of recipes. Our favorite was some kind of orange and bacon dish (I know, it sounds odd.) The recipe is at home but I found this one on the web that sounds might similar – http://www.foodandwine.com/recipes/chard-with-orange-and-bacon.
You might give that a try.
I would highly recommend growing peas. My grandparents hat a really large fruit and vegetable garden when I was a kid, I really loved it. We ate fresh vegetables from the garden every day in summer, we hardly had to buy any vegetables or fruit at all (potatoes, cucumbers, zucchini, strawberries, cherries, apples, plums…..), but a garden of that size is too much work for most of us nowadays.
Back to the peas – there are some decorative breeds available such as blue peas, and when you build a trellis, vining peas will climb 1-2m high and could be used e.g. for hiding an unsightly downspout or utility box outside the house.
I loved eating fresh peas in summer… but there are also lots of recipes of course.
Hope my english is okay -greetings from germany!
Thanks for all the recipe suggestions guys! You’re the best. Now I’m super excited for dinner tonight!
And Jessica, as for your basil question, we just pluck leaves off which seem to break off naturally right at the stem so there’s no cutting necessary and things just keep filling out (it almost seems like our herbs like to be eaten since they appear to get fuller each time we snag a few leaves). Hope it helps!
So glad y’all had such success with your garden!
We’ve been growing tomatoes in our yard—lots and lots of them (we planted nine). Your cherry tomatoes look so beautiful. I think we’ll have to plant those next year for some more tomato variety. We also planted jalapenos, habaneros, and bell peppers, all of which produced a lot and were very easy to maintain.
And randomly, we now have a HUGE watermelon plant—it sprouted after my boyfriend spit his seeds out in the grass after eating a slice in the backyard. What luck. We have three nice-sized watermelons and tons of little ones.
We’ve had so much fun gardening for the first time this year, too. I’m so glad you updated us!
I planted tons of seedlings and our low e windows had the same problem. But, our eggplant, tomatoes and peppers somehow thrived from indoors. Strange. We had to buy transplants for everything else. Everything we put in the ground went nuts, and the herbs in pots didn’t do as great. We still had plenty of basil, oregano and rosemary, but hardly anything else survived. Next year, we’ll put those in the ground, too.
This is my favorite online resources for veggie and herb gardening – http://urbanext.illinois.edu/hort/index.html. My favorite part is the area that gives all kinds of details about specific plants – when I wasn’t sure when to harvest the broccoli, this came to the rescue. The Organic Gardening Encyclopedia has also been a lifesaver.
PS – Here’s the Chard listing! http://urbanext.illinois.edu/veggies/chard1.html
Stephanie H says
Try this recipe: http://www.realsimple.com/food-recipes/browse-all-recipes/swiss-chard-chickpeas-couscous-10000001583602/index.html
RE: Swiss chard–it can be used anywhere that spinach can. If it is young, it is great in salads. Older–sauteed as you would spinach, added to anything as you would spinach (we love it in fritattas, as part of the filling in soft tacos, added to spanakopita, soups and stews, etc. When you are at the library or bookstore, you may want to look at some cookbooks–both vegetarian and mediterranean should have lots of recipes and ideas. But basically it is a quick cooking green like spinach and can be sued wherever spinach is used. It’s really one of my favorite veggies because it is so easy to grow and use–and it lasts a lot longer in the summer.
Josh Baugher says
I highly recommend Patrick O’Connell’s Creamed Swiss Chard recipe. It’s so good!
The recipe can be found as part of this NPR story:
Chef Offers New, Funky Ways to Eat Your Greens
As a bonus, he’s the proprietor of the Inn at Little Washington, one of VA’s most famous restaurants… so you’ll be keeping it local. :)
One more thing–with basil, if you actually cut it you can keep it bushy and prevent it from flowering, which can make it kind of bitter. Just cut it right above the next place where it is leafing out. With herbs generally, it is always better to keep cutting at them to keep them bushy and productive.
Yes, I grow and use a lot of herbs…why do you ask? ;-)
I picked my first green pepper yesterday! Yum!!!
Your garden looks sooo great!
Swiss Chard is a great veggie… Swiss Chard wraps are really easy and tasty and you can pack whatever you desire into each leaf – just be sure to remove as much of the stem as possible so it’s more pliable and easier to steam. You can also chop some up, sauté it and add it to stir-fry’s, or pasta (with maybe some shrimp and/or veggies and garlic oil?) and even couscous with chick peas, broccoli and tomato sauce. The possibilities are endless… have fun creating and ENJOY!
Jane @ the Borrowed Abode says
I tackled tomatoes this year and fought with blossom end rot, as well as tomato hornworms. Luckily, removing the worms solved that problem, and a quick application of ground Rolaids to the roots solved the calcium deficiency that ruined the first tomatoes. Get to sink my teeth into my first healthy tomato tonight! Yay for organic fixes!
In other news, just passed on a “blog award” to you guys by way of naming you in my latest blog post. I’m sure you’re used to that by now!
Mark Bittman has a great recipe for kale & feta in his cookbook How to Cook Everything Vegetarian (preview available on Google Books). You can substitute chard for the kale. I’ve made it both ways and both are delicious!! And it’s really easy.
I like to sautee my chard in a little olive oil with salt, pepper, garlic powder, and a pinch of sugar (or splenda). Simple, easy, delish.
We live in Boston and our garden is out of control this year – we have gotten so much rain that our tomato and cucumber plants are taking over everything! We’re picking about 20+ tomatos a day, and 2-3 cucumbers a day too. We’re also growing strawberries, zucchini, red and white onions, lettuce, pumpkins, rosemary, and basil.
As for swiss chard, it’s one of the plants I regret not planting, as we’ve already bought it several times this summer. Here’s our favorite recipe using swiss chard – I adapted it from a Martha Stewart recipe. It sounds like a lot of work, but after you’ve made it once and you know what you’re doing, it’s about 15 minutes of prep, then it cooks for 25 minutes (during which time you can prep the garnishes) – easy!
POSOLE WITH GARNISHES
1 teaspoon extra-virgin olive oil
1 medium-size yellow onion, diced
4 medium-size garlic cloves
2 tablespoons cumin
1 teaspoon kosher salt
4 16-ounce cans hominy, drained
1 small jalapeño pepper
1 pound yellow/golden tomatoes
1 bunch Swiss chard, coarsely chopped
1 48-ounce can of chicken broth
avocado, peeled, halved and thinly sliced or diced
scallions, very thinly sliced
springs of fresh cilantro, coarsely chopped
Heat the oil in a large pot. Add the onion and garlic, cover, and cook, stirring occasionally, until the onion is soft, about 5 minutes. (Add a little chicken broth, if necessary, to keep onion and garlic from burning). Add the cumin and salt and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add the hominy, jalapeño, and tomatoes and cook, stirring for 1 minute. Add the Swiss chard, stock, and bay leaves and bring to a boil. Cover and cook, stirring, until the chard is wilted and the leaves are tender, about 25 minutes. Remove the bay leaves.
Ladle the soup into four bowls and garnish with servings of shredded cheese, avocado, scallions, and cilantro.
Amy V says
I am planning on doing edible landscaping next spring with our flower beds- can’t wait! I’m so glad it turned out well for you. We are going to be planting a lot of raspberry and blueberry bushes as well as making a separate raised vegetable garden.
Be careful not too let your swiss chard grow too long before picking it. If you leave it too long, it will become bitter. My husband and I made that mistake last year, and by the time we picked it it was too bitter to eat. Hope that helps!
April in CT says
We’ve been slowly getting into gardening. We rent and move every 4 years (hubby is military) so planting a ‘real’ garden will have to wait until he retires and we settle in one place. For now we do container gardening on our ample deck. Unfortunately I think our tomatoes this year have blight. :o( I planted 3 variietes because tomatoes are my favorite summer veggie. I’m really sad about it and so far in my reading online I don’t see a way to get rid of it. My plants are covered in green tomatoes though and maybe I’ll get a few before it gets bad!
It’s so fulfilling eating what you’ve grown, isn’t it? :)
Christie Tidd says
I used to do farmers market in Chicago selling organic herbs – for your basil, when you start to see it flower, you should pluck the top off so it doesn’t get to scraggily. You can make pesto or add it to panini, yum! If you want to freeze it, chop it up and put it in ice cube trays as basil is a bit sensitive to cooler weather. Oregano and parsley you can dry in a cool, dark area and use that throughout the winter as a dried herb. Herbs are quite easy to grow and add so much to a dish!
Hey Jessica, another tip I found for picking basil is to pluck the small buds within the leaves. This helps the plants produce more leaves in the same spot. Hope that helps!
My garden did very well this year, surprisingly the peppers and tomatoes in more shade did better. The squash and zucchini plants have wilted with all the heat, even after being watered twice a day… I’ll rearrange the garden next year!
Our garden actually got a bit smaller this year to give the dog more room to play. I still managed to fit in 10 tomato plants, cucumbers and green beans. When the kids go steal tomatoes right off the vine I feel like I’m doing something right as a parent.
One thing I would recommend if you’re going to use the same spot over and over is crop rotation (it’s important even in small gardens). Also, I add some good topsoil, sand and manure every spring and till it in. After a few years your soil will be so rich you can grow anything in it.
Jen C. says
I spent Sunday afternoon roasting cherry tomatoes and jalapenos. I had way too many of each and needed to preserve them somehow. I’m too lazy to deal with canning, and I like stuff fairly natural. The tomatoes you can do whole, drizzle a little olive oil, some salt and pepper and roast at 350 until they sink in to themselves.
The peppers are done the same way, except you know they are done when they start to brown a little.
I do like someone else posted
My fiance sautes it with a little olive oil & chopped garlic, then seasons it with salt & pepper. Super easy! The result is similar to cooked spinach.
but then I also add some suremi in there. It’s one of my favorite quick lunches.
Simple vinegar greens – great for chard:
chop up chard and boil for 5 mins,
drain and then sautee it quickly in a pan with olive oil, wine vinegar (red or white), salt & pepper.
You can save the boiled chard you’re not eating that night in the fridge and when you are ready to eat it, just toss it in the pan for the oil & vinegar treatment.
I’m not a huge chard fan, but it’s so healthy, so I try to have it once in a while. Sauteed with bacon is my favorite way to go. Everything is better with bacon, right? :)
Pick the chard while it is young…it grows quickly and you can have several baby harvests throughout the summer.
Love your garden!!!
To those who are not gardening because of shade or city living you might consider starting a community garden. We have not raised any veggies for years due to those pesky squirrels and tons of shade so this year we got the ball rolling and started a very successful community garden just a block from our St. Louis home. To say it’s successful is an understatement. We have met a lot of people that we would not otherwise know and as a group have harvested well over 800 pounds of produce. We are in love with this idea and it was so simple once we found the land.
And thanks for the chard recipes. We, too, planted it but were not loving it. It’s beautiful. We’ll try harder with some of the suggestions.
I live in a really small house with no garage (no place to store a bunch of tools)so most of the things I plant is in containers. I’ve got two yellow pear tomato plants. My husband loves it when he comes home and has fresh tomatoes sitting on the kitchen window sill waiting for him. I made pesto last week from basil I’ve grown and I’ve got several pumpkin plants that sprouted from a pumpkin I left outside for the deer to eat. I *love* growing edible things. It’s fun for me and the kids and they at least try to eat new things since we grew it ourselves.
Oh, and I have tons of sunflowers. Bumblebees, finches and hummingbirds just love them. And they’re really fun to watch.