This time of year, especially this year with all the snowstorms across the country, we start dreaming of spring and growing plants and flowers in our gardens. Those gardens can be in the backyard, on a balcony or even in your living room. There are so many great reasons to grow food you can harvest. First off, it is fun and something visually beautiful to look at. Perhaps more importantly, if you grow something you can eat, it can taste better and be healthier for you. There are honestly many good reasons to want to grow something to eat.
The challenge with gardening is it does take some planning, some tending and when the food is ripe there is a window of when you need to harvest the food. The key is to not bite off more than you can chew. If you haven’t ever grown anything to harvest, start small. Containers can be a good way to grow a couple of vegetables. The most common “get started” plant to grow is tomato. There are all kinds of varieties, colors and sizes so you can pick what catches your fancy and works best where you live. Containers are also great for herbs. Most herbs are very easy to grow and like being crowded in containers. There is nothing better than fresh herbs in a recipe, adding flavor and health with out calories and salt. My favorite herbs are mint, basil, tarragon, thyme, dill and rosemary.
Something else to consider are fruit trees. We have had Calamondin orange trees, the same ones, for over 15 years. They live outside where they bloom and pollenate during the warmer months and then before the first freeze in the fall we move them inside to our living room. They have been incredibly low maintenance. We feed them organic, fruit tree specific, fertilizer a couple of times a year. We trim them back significantly after we harvest the fruit. And we make sure they get enough sun and water. Every once in a while they get bugs but if you catch it quickly enough there are easy ways to get them under control. Ladybugs, we have found, are particularly helpful.
What we love about the fruit trees is that the fruit matures during the winter months. Our harvest for our Calamondin oranges is in February. As it is a winter month and we are more in doors anyway, it is a fun time to harvest and can our bounty. It is an enjoyable activity over a weekend when we do other homebound activities as the fruit boils into marmalade. Once canned the marmalade can be used in so many ways beyond the usual jam and toast. It can add flavor to cooked vegetables, as a glaze for fish, as a topping for thumbprint cookies or on top of warmed brie for an appetizer. A spoonful in plain Greek yogurt is heavenly for a snack. Go to my blog for how to make homemade marmalade and for recipes that use marmalade. We also think our marmalade makes for a great gift that is unique and packed full of health.
So spring is in the air at our home as we imagine replanting our herb garden, deciding on this year’s variety of tomatoes and seeing our orange trees outdoors again in full bloom. It makes me feel healthier just thinking about it.