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Foodie, Gardening

Things that grow: young vegetables and basil for pesto

by Mireille Bourgeois

I think the most amazing revelation in my first gardening experience is that: things grow. You plant a seed, sometimes nothing happens, sometimes it does, sometimes you try a different method and then they grow, slowly developing a style, an interest, the obsession subsides and becomes a lifestyle, and then things grow into what they are meant to be. This simple meditation is a powerful one for me. A level of success that doesn’t really need that much intervention, a little care maybe, but really, these seeds, they will do what they will do. The squashes are growing though they have been affected by fungus disease so harvest may be low. I found that a 7:3 ratio of water and milk sprayed on the leaves (including underneath) has helped, but it is something that’s better to prevent from happening rather than managing.

The first picture to the left below shows a butternut squash which eventually fell off and died. But then another one has grown healthy from another part. The picture to the right shows a strong acorn which I actually find myself “greeting” every-time I see it. I’ve spotted three new acorns and one butternut so far. The tomatoes are wonderful, some of them are starting to turn that delicious red and it makes me ridiculously happy to see that they’ve outgrown their cages. I have to say a big THANKY YOU to Lisa Morse if she’s reading. Thanks for the FIVE tomato plants you’ve given me. I had to attached extra support to the cages so they wouldn’t fall all over each other. My plan is to make salsa preserves for the winter, I’ve counted 32 tomatoes so far!

On another note, I didn’t know I had bought giant marigolds. Apparently there are African varieties now that grow up to four feet tall. I looked on the seed package and there were no such warnings! I planted my marigolds indoors in March for them to be almost ready to flower outside, as a garden bed edging. Then they grew out of their containers, grew up to one foot tall with no buds. Once I transplanted them outside in June, they went MAD. They grew to three feet tall with huge flowers! Unknowingly, I had created a shaded flower bed. This was good for the lettuce which doesn’t like too much direct sunlight, but they were crowding my sun-loving veggies! I had to massively trim them back, and take some indoors for decoration, etc. It is a sight really, and kind of makes my planters look overgrown, but I really think their strong smell has kept a lot of bugs away. The picture below is AFTER I’ve cut a LOT away so that my squash could get some sun.

Other revelations include growing things that are expensive and exotic in grocery stores, but that can be pretty easy to grow yourself, like basil! I LOVE basil, it’s like gold. To my happy surprise, the sweet basil and thai basil I planted from seed grew very well, and inspired me to make basil pesto this week.

For an easy peasy basil pesto:

2 cups of mixed thai and sweet basil (one type of basil is ok too)
1/4 cup of pinenuts (these are VERY expensive, you can substitute for other varieties and not as expensive fatty nuts; walnuts, cashews, pumpkin seeds)
2 cloves of garlic (I put three and though it was good it’s a little much and takes over the taste of basil)
1/2 cup of olive oil
1/2 cup of parmesan cheese

Take out your food processor and process the garlic, basil, and nuts together until corsely chopped. Then slowly drizzle in the oil as it’s processing (if you don’t have a food processor with a liftable slot, just add the oil a bit at a time). Process until smooth, and well, pesto-like! Transfer in a small bowl and stir in the cheese. I divided this recipe in two small sealable containers. I  covered one of the portions with a bit of oil so the pesto won’t oxidize and turn brown (though really: who cares?) and put that one in the freezer. The other one I used for a beautiful pasta dish:

Place a carton of rinsed cherry tomatoes in a toaster oven cooking sheet. Drizzle with a mixture of balsamic vinegar and olive oil, sprinkled with black pepper, hot chili flakes, and a bit of sea salt. Roasted at 350F for about 20 minutes or until they smoosh without any effort when mashing with a fork. Mix in almost all of the half-portion pesto into about 3-4 cups of cooked pasta. Special tip: transfer pasta into cold dish before mixing in the pesto. Otherwise, the parmesan cheese will melt and stick to the bottom of the pasta pot. serve pata portions in bowls, then top with roasted tomatoes. Simple and delicious. Heavy on oil, so not exactly  a health nut meal, but overall not too bad.



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August 2012
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