Thursday, June 14, 2012

Garden Gossip

Of all the pleasures that our new house has brought us, our lovely garden has become our joy and pride. Hubby spends 95% of his time (sometimes against my wish) in the garden, tending to the newly planted veggies, fruits and flowers. But my disappointment in his excessive gardening (instead of doing the dishes) vanishes when I look at how beautifully they are growing! Of course, I can't help but love the garden myself. That's the first place I visit after getting home from work. The plants take way all my exhaustion and freshen my mind. Mom and dad have made it a ritual to check up on plants first thing in the morning and then enjoy tea in their company. Plants are like babies - they need our care and love. And give us happiness seeing them grow and flourish. Here's a peek at what's growing in my garden this year. 

Swiss Chard  has beautiful ruby red stems and veins meshing through large velvety green leaves. A simple preparation of sauteed chard with onions and garlic makes a healthy and tasty side. I like it with roti as well. 

Spinach makes Popeye strong! And it's one of the most widely loved greens. I use spinach in a myriad ways - in salads, sabjis or curries, like this or this, daals, dips, pakodas and a number of other appetizers. The culinary uses of this leafy vegetable are endless.

Most people usually either love eggplant, or hate it. There's no in between. I am in the former category. I can have eggplants in any way, shape, or form. Be it chips from large eggplants, curry with stuffed small eggplants, grilled Japanese eggplant in pizzas or sandwiches, or simply bharta from large eggplants - I like 'em all. I don't know how large this eggplant will grow before I need to pluck the fruit, but there's a little eggplant peeking through the bottom leaves!

Last year was a sad year for zucchini. The golden zucchini I planted died before the first fruit was fully grown. I hope to have better luck this time. So far my 4 plants are looking good, and one of them better give me some zucchini! (Un)fried zucchini chips have been my new craze. I'll make that first thing I have a zucchini.

I have a special place for tomatoes in my heart. That was the first vegetable I grew when I started gardening in Utah and have been growing for 4 years now. Hubby wanted to plant tomatoes no matter what other veggies we planted, because they do not disappoint you. Tomatoes are extremely hardy and love bright and sunny weather. Check out these cuties! 

Poblano pepper! My jalapeno pepper suffered the same fate as zucchini last year. This year I'm trying my luck with poblano; but I hear peppers are generally late bloomers. I've been praying to the plant gods so that  I can roast my own poblanos!

Blackberries are hubby's favorite kind of berries. Our little plant is already bearing lots of tiny fruits. I can't wait to snack on them and hopefully make some jam or preserve out of the leftovers. 

We inherited lots of fruit trees and flowers from the previous owners. I was ecstatic to see the large fig tree! Mom and I have been waiting for the dozens of figs to ripen. I am looking forward to trying some desserts and flat-bread pizzas with caramelized figs.

We had no idea there was a peach tree in the backyard! The tree is fairly small and neither of us paid too much attention to it, until recently, when the green fruits camouflaging with the leaves started turning red-orange. Peach tart sounds like a good idea.

Basil has been my faithful herb. I sowed the leftover seeds from last year and they give me a big bunch of leaves every week. I love adding a few julienned leaves to pasta or making my basil-cilantro chutney for sandwiches or wraps. It adds lots of flavor and some moisture to a simple veggie wrap, like the picture below this. 

Wraps and sandwiches are our dinner favorites. Easy to put together and healthy to eat, they are quick dinner fixes. I simply use some whole wheat tortillas or flatbreads. Make a chutney by grinding basil-cilantro (2:1 ratio) leaves, garlic cloves, sometimes a spoonful of parmesan, a little EVOO, salt and pepper, and water for the right consistency. Spread this chutney generously, and add your favorite greens and veggies such as tomato, lettuce, sprouts, avocado, purple cabbage etc. My favorite among the veggies is roasted bell pepper, which adds meatiness and slight sweetness to the wraps. Simply roast red bell pepper on open flame until the skin is completely charred, cover in a container for 5-10 mins so the steam loosens the skin and then peel off the burned skin. You are left with sweet, juicy flesh. I always roast bell peppers at home instead of buying the canned ones. Wrap it all up and enjoy it with some hot sauce. 

That's about it for my garden! Have you been gardening this summer? Any recipes I should try out when I pick the veggies?

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