Monday, May 24, 2010

Mixed Plate: Miss Wasabi, How Does Your Garden Grow?

I totally meant to write this earlier, as the Wasabi Garden has been puttering along as early as February when I was starting seeds in our laundry room and it was looking completely garden un-glamorous and probably more like an illicit weed stash. But efforts and a mild winter prevailed, and while I have no impressive harvest bounty to show off yet, I do have some radishes along with baby greens and perennial herbs that have picked up springtime steam.

The radness of radishes - Photo by Wasabi Prime

I think gardening appeals to the hopeful optimist in all of us. We take these seemingly inert little seeds, shove them into the ground and hope that not only will something green come out, it'll produce an edible delight that will amount to a meal. Or at least a pretty garnish sprinkling. Our backyard vegetable garden consists of three good-sized raised beds and a smattering of plastic containers that have now become designated lettuce/microgreen growers, as the caterpillar invasion from last year taught me well to keep that bounty out of easy reach. I lost a whole batch of spinach to gross little caterpillar eggs that were laid on every damn leaf, and yes, I'm still mad about that. Grr.

The first year I decided to dive into this whole veggie gardening thing, I went buck-wild with tomatoes, starting a ridiculous amount of seeds, babying them to successful healthy plants, and harvesting literally pounds of tomatoes a day. That was fantastic, but I realized I should diversify a little, plus it really wore the soil out as tomatoes can be a drain on nutrients. Fast forward a couple of years and mixed results with different vegetables, and I've come to find a few hearty staples that I like to stick with. In general my rules for veggie choices, aside from the obvious "will it grow successfully here?" question, are does it have a short growing cycle, is it something that can be frozen or prepared for storage in case of overage and of course the obvious -- will we eat the thing? If I an answer yes to all these questions, than it becomes a candidate for the highly exclusive Wasabi Garden Club.

For springtime goods, I've become a big fan of radishes and sugar peas. Radishes are just easy root veggies that grow fast and you can eat all the parts, using the sprouts when thinning down rows, to the whole root and green tops when they're ready to pluck from the ground. As for peas, I got a good tip from garden blogger and pal, South Sound Garden, for soaking the seeds overnight, then placing between wet paper towels for early sprouting and a test for viability. This worked out well, I could throw out the duds, and put the pea sprouts directly in the garden beds to let nature take its course. The photos in this post are actually a little old; the sprouts are now full-on plants and probably over two feet, in dire need of me to attach them to a webbing or some posts. When I start to see the first signs of their white blooms, I know I'll be in sugar pea heaven soon!

From sprouts to starts to om-nom-nomming - Photos by Wasabi Prime

I have some herbs that have perked up after winter's chill, like chives, thyme, mint, sage, lemon balm, and I started from seed more flat-leaf parsley and cilantro. It's a slower road going from seed, but I'm seeing larger leaves from the cilantro and parsley and eagerly await my chance to clip from them. I've also got some red leaf lettuce going in some pots, but hesitate clipping them quite yet, in fear of over-snipping. I also have some shallots and some plain old garlic cloves shoved in the ground to harvest their green tops or ramps, if you're a foodie-nerd who's into the latest trends. Putting garlic cloves that are starting to sprout straight into the ground is a great way to let nothing go to waste, as it will definitly sprout a hearty green top that you can snip and use like scallions, but with a light garlic flavor.

I actually did start several rows of scallions, but they're a bit slow to get going and look more like rows of little chives right now. I also put in carrots, beets, swiss chard, green beans, and am giving leeks another try, but for the most part, those are not in a photogenic state right now. I'm hopeful for their Mr. DeMille-worthy closeup at some point this year. Yet again, the hopeful optmist of the gardener pops up. Maybe that's a good life lesson in the labor of gardening -- aside from enjoying something you grew from seed, it's a great lesson in having faith in things that grow, whatever it may be. If you have a moment, send a wish of good luck to the little sprouts everywhere, in the hopes they grow big, strong and om-nommable soon.

Sprouts that hope to be carrots and beets someday soon! - Photos by Wasabi Prime

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  1. Denise, What a lovely post! You are inspiring me...

    I use to have a huge garden when I lived in VT and grew my own veggies for about 6 years... Now I have a small space in the sunny part of my yard, but it is not ideal - many challenges. So I settled on doing a perennial herb garden in a raised bed, which thrives. But you know me, I'm the veggie queen... so I have that urge! Who knows, maybe I'll tackle all the challenges and get going with a veggie garden... soon!

    Good luck with your garden. It sounds absolutely lovely and I am very sure you will be enjoying the bounty all summer long.


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