Saturday, July 21, 2007

10 Green Thumbs Worth of Harvest


My posts have become somewhat of photo-marathons lately. The last couple, the chocolate ones, was mostly comprised of old, old, photos - you all know how they tend to bulk up, and there's not a much better feeling than when they actually get put to good use. But this post? These photos are pretty much all of them fresh of the press - I promise! Not much in the way of recipes, though - hey, you can't have everything at once!:)

You see, I've started a small balcony garden. Uhuh. Me. And lemme tell you: I am the kind of person that can kill cactus and succulents. Yes, that is the kind of plants you give to students so that they can have some greenery around they don't have to give much thought. I am not widely known for my green thumb, let that be said.

See that? That's chicken salad. Made with mayo, creme fraiche, chicken (obviously!) and tarragon - the one from the photo above.

So why on earth I thought it a great idea to start planting and growing herbs! flowers! even tomatoes and peas! on our balcony is beyond me. Considering my aforementioned talents. The fact that all that "thrives in direct sunlight" etc. is just wasted on me - if it's pretty and I want it on my table and that's in full sunlight? You can guess how that story ends.


What might have spurred it though, was the fact that, without me doing nothing at all, the chives that I planted last year - one of those little pots from the supermarket - showed up AGAIN this spring. One day when I looked out there, fine little grass-like straws where sprouting up. So I ventured forth, happily entertaining the idea of the great big bunches of basil and thyme and majoram and mint and (fill in the blanks with any and all herbs you've ever heard of) I'd be able to pick from my little patches of dirt. Oh yes, and Tea hasn't made it sound any less intriguing to be self-sufficient, even if only with herbs, in my case.

Whitefish with spring cabbage, peas and dill

I ordered little seedlings from a place called Urtegartneriet that sell organic, some of them even biodynamic, herbs and flowers. I dragged Martin from one plant nursery to the next to get the exact amount pots and seeds I needed and thought looked interesting. We dragged big bags of soil all the way up the stairs to our 4th. floor apartment (actually all the way to the fifth floor, seeing that's where the balcony is) Oh yes, and all that made for a great distraction in between preparing for that exam, which, btw. I managed to pass - WO-HOOO!!:) The green gods must have had a serious chat with the exam gods somewhere...

And so, I planted, I grew, I hardened, I planted out, I watered. I talked, I nursed, I checked, I looked, I moved around. I tried to pay attention to all the "likes water/doesn't like water" "needs shade" and, of course, somehow completely forgot to check how tall borage flowers and sunflowers grow, happily planting them in my little plastic boxes. They can go up to three feet/1 meter, in case you didn't know either.

But in between, the thumbs got greener and greener. If I may say so myself.


What am I growing? I think I kinda went in any and all directions and got a little bit of this and a little bit of that - which, I've learned now, is a bit silly, because it's really hard getting enough leaves for a portion of pesto with just eight little sprigs of basil.

but before we went on vacation, I did make up a great big batch of pesto - one hand-made, the other one pestle-and-mortar'ed - fun experiment, and yes, Heidi's right!

But I didn't title this post 10 thumbs for nothing - because while some of my plants are thriving, there are also the less, ahem, unfortunate ones...

The mint that I bought two different kinds of, thinking 'I need succes-stories here in my first attempt at gardening, so mint must be good'. I always heard that mint grows like a weed - it's impossible to kill! (Nevermind we don't eat it very often, but who says no to a mojito?)

Well. The mint DIED. Both of them - or wait, one of them is still there, but not in too great a shape. The first one, regular green mint, got attacked by rust, a fungus of some sort. It even evaded my attempt to rescue it (replanting and cutting it back), getting itself thrown of the roof-top while I was away on vacation. Maybe it just was suicicdal from the point go? (Sorta like Rags?)

The second one - well, suffice it to say that I think it may be attacked by rust, too. Or aphids. It somehow doesn't look all happy, yet keeps growing and growing. So I'm leaving it for now.

And then there's the oregano, that went from this:

to this: a matter of two weeks. The rain pouring down like crazy for the last couple weeks may have something to do with that last picture (root-rot?) but ARGH!

The ones that do like me, and are growing, apart from what's already pictured here, is: pineapple sage, thai basil, majoram, thyme, rosemary, lemon balm (now THAT thing is growing like crazy!!) borage, baby salad leaves, dill, lemon verbena, tomatoes, peas... and um, I'm sure I forgot something. We're not the only ones enjoying the harvest - the Piggie loves his daily dose of l'herbe mixte. Oh yes, and the bumblebees are pretty enamoured with everything, too.

I guess it is natural, that the next step from wanting to make all your own food is wishing to grow your own food.

I've especially liked growing stuff from seed - the thrill of there not being anything, and then all of a sudden, two little leaves peek up, then it grows, and grows, and grows, and all of a sudden, there are flowers, and a real, actual vegetable after that. I like getting to know each herb, how they grow, what they like and what kind of treatment they respond well to. Believe me, I'm learning, and I'm loving it!

We may not be able to make a pea purée for two, or even a tomato salad - but that's not the point. The point is watching it happen. It's about the great feeling of snipping of a couple sprigs of dill for the fish tonight, or thyme for a baking sheet full of tomatoes, destined for a couple hours in the oven. It's the scent of your hands, after you've run them across the majoram or you've groomed the tomatoes. Growing it myself is probably the only way I could ever get close to stuff like pea shots, or lemon verbena. And I feel smugly proud that I'm growing stuff that I can't just go down the street and buy. Heh.

And I'm so not giving up on that mint. Just you wait until next year...


Wendy said...

Lovely photos! I'm a first time grower too and am stunned at the results.
Don't give up on that second mint. Mine looked similar and then suddenly burst into life! Think it was just sulking.

Cathy said...

Hi Zarah - looks like you've got quite a garden on your balcony! I'm afraid I like the idea of a garden much more than the actual gardening. What with the bugs, the heat, and the garden predators that eat all your hard work, I'm not very happy working in the garden during the hot humid summer. Of course, on a balcony your precious plants are safe from voracious deer and rabbits - which is a definite advantage! Enjoy the fruits of your labor!

jules said...

lovely post. i know how fun growing your own food can be. keep up the good work!

Pille said...

First of all, congrats on passing the exam! And secondly, you and me are at the same stage of gardening :) I'll have a proper garden next year, this year it's been a 'balcony' container garden as well. I've had some successes (lots of zucchini flowers & couple of zucchinis), and some misses (coriander refuses to thrive); now waiting for my first tomatoes to turn red.. Very exciting. And yes, I kill cactuses, too. But considering it's all now done in the interest of culinary perfectness, it's a totally different matter :)

noodle princess said...

For some reason, I am wanting to grab one of those cucumber pickles with salt and pepper and eat it immediately! Love you photos.

Newyorkerbyheart said...

Hej Zarah!

Jeg har gjort dig til "Rockin' girl blogger", se på min side hvad det betyder :-)

Mange hilsner

Tea said...

I'm finally catching up on blog reading and what do I find--a gorgeous garden! Congratulations! I wish we lived closer and could sit down over a cup of tea and commiserate over our gardening (mis)adventures. My oregano also went brown (try cutting it back to the stems and see if it revives itself) and I too have killed mint (how is this possible, I don't know). But what joy when I actually does work! I'm already scheming to start earlier next year...and to figure out the deal with fertilizers. I think this may be a growing obsession for me as well!

Kevin Kossowan said...

Well done! I have a pretty well established herb garden now, and I am endlessly amazed at how much it picks up your quality of cooking having fresh herbs and inspiration at your fingertips. So keep it up!

Pragyan said...

Hi Zarah, I can almost smell the greens. Feel inspired to try to have one small garden of my own. Every year I plan to and it remains a plan! :( Lovely pics!

goodfood said...

Hi Zarah

I just stumbled upon your blog. Beautiful photos and a interesting read! I like your style and the way you write. Thank you :-).

I write about restaurants and have added your blog to my list of favourites. Take a look if you like

Best wishes

Andreea said...

i love your mini garden :)
somehow i always (and i mean always) manage to kill taragon! it goes from 100 to 0 in a matter of days.

citylivingcountrygirl said...

It must be so exciting to have your own garden and these photos are lovely! Thank you for the tips on pesto, I will have to try your method next time.

goodfood said...

I forgot to mention that I found your blog linked from Kulturchok København,
and your pondering about the loss of your step-father moved me so much, I completely forgot the time and place. This made me want to explore and "stick to" your blog.

Thanks, Zarah :-)

Zarah Maria said...

Hi Wendy! Well, the mint seriously lives a life of it's own, one day looking mighty fine, the next all wilted... But hey, it's there, still!

Hi Cathy! Oh, indeed I am enjoying it, and lamenting the lack of space. But then again, there is something nice in starting out small and out of reach of predators (other than caterpillars...)

Thanks Jules, I will!

Pille - thank you! I'm waiting for the tomatoes too - there's a couple, but with the absurd lack of sun around here, I'm doubting if they'll ever turn red...

noodle princess - thank you!

newyorkerbyheart - TAK!:) Jeg skal se at få udstyret mig med logoet og få det givet videre...

Tea - you know, you're welcome to stop by for tea any day!:)

Kevin - it really is amazing, isn't it? I'm definitely not stopping anytime soon!

Pragyan - thank you!

Trine - thank you, and you know I did :-)

Andreea - well, for me, apparently, mint is my bane... So far, the tarragon sticks it out!

CityLivingCountryGirl - thanks you - and it is really exciting! I'm already making palns for next years plants...