Last night was the very best night of the summer— tomato cobbler night! My feelings on this dish have been well-documented. This time, I had a cup of home-grown (not by me) cherry tomatoes (mine are present but unripe), but several cups of Roma tomatoes purchased recently. I’d say that the tomatoes were somewhat less glorious than homegrown, but it was still wonderful. I accidentally went a little long on cayenne and I think that made up for the less flavorful tomatoes. I did them with a very simple lemon pepper chicken breast and a less simple pickled collard greens. I’ve got a bumper crop of collards in my garden, and I had one jar of pickled collards from a previous season. Pickled collards by themselves are pretty brassy, but if you mix fresh and pickled, it’s pretty good.
About this time last year, my company had a building-wide bake sale as a fund raiser for a charity we’d decided to support. My coworkers turned out in droves, donating, and we had a really successful bake sale. But a few things were left over at the end of the day, and I brought an assortment home for my mom to try.
Can I just tell you how magical it seems to me that you can take vegetables and turn them into really awesome fertilizer for… vegetables? We have awful soil quality, in Colorado. Our soil is mostly clay mixed with some sand. It seems largely devoid of nutrients, and when paired with our unstable weather patterns (yes, there will be snow in May, just no telling how far into May it will go. Yes, it could snow again as soon as Labor Day, in the metro area, or it could be mostly lovely well into December,though there will be hard freezes in there, make no mistake. It could also be 100 degrees in mid-June, we could be dry all summer or have a stretch of unseasonably cold rainy weather. There will be hail. Nobody, including the local meteorologists, know for sure, from day to day.) it means gardening here is no joke.
I forget if I shared that, in the middle of a not-unusual late April blizzard, I got a missive from my HOA, threatening to fine me if I didn’t do something with the xeriscaped portion of my lawn. We’ll set aside for a moment that I actually already had planted decorative grass in the area (it mostly died— see “blizzard,” above, and that wasn’t the last blizzard or hard freeze of the season.) And hand-aerated, and weeded, seeded and fertilized, and mowed a couple of times, and cleared out the bed. My lawn, while not the most spectacular on the block, was far from the worst.
With all the herbs I’m growing and all the projects I’m considering, I needed a better solution for drying herbs.
My solution so far? I get a long string, tie a bunch of [insert herb here] to both ends and hang it in a dark, little-used area. In my condo, it was over the showerhead of the guest bath. In my current place, it’s over a curtainrod in a corner of my basement (but sadly in a place I suspect annoys my mother no end because of where she likes to hang laundry). It’s totally workable, but it doesn’t scale particularly well and it’s not convenient when you have someone who wants to use the guest bathroom, say, or someone who objects to your drying herbs in such a fashion.
I searched online and found lovely forged-iron drying racks with six decorative hooks (extra sets of three hooks $5 each) apparently for people who display their drying herbs in their kitchen. Thankfully, my kitchen is way too sunny to dry my herbs there (I don’t know why darkness is specified in every set of instruction I’ve ever seen— probably to preserve color), so I don’t need a decorative solution, just a scalable one.
God bless IKEA. They invented this:
If you look online, you’ll see it’s $10-ish. I’ll be honest, in the store, I paid that for two. Sixteen little clothespins per, and an octopus joke to boot. I bundled my yarrow with a rubber band and hung it from one of the little clothespins. Done and done. Compact and straightforward. I can go in and add bundles of mint, oregano, lavender, and rosemary and not overwhelm the system. I also got one for mom for drying clothes, so we don’t have to fight over it.
One of the things that makes me call myself a hippie, when it comes to gardening, is my thought that nothing should be wasted. I did a lot of container gardening, before I had a garden, and I learned a couple of useful things.
One of the fascinating things about buying a house with a garden is learning what someone else planted, and what you want to do about it.
I noticed when we were buying the house that it had a compost pile and three raised beds full of herbs, and it was part of the attraction. (Though, to be honest, I was sold on the house before we ever knew about the gardens.)