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Create: See Hatsie Garden

This year I tried my hand at gardening.  I didn’t say anything to you because I was hedging my bets; I have a notoriously black thumb and was pretty sure that whatever I grew would either die or be inedible.  History aside, I have a beautiful, sunny porch and wanted to try, really try, to make this whole gardening thing work.  I started simple, with tomato plants and some herbs, then read everything the internet had to say about the subject.
I planted them in May, fingers crossed.  I thwarted a couple of late freezes and finally figured out the perfect watering formula for my area, which is actually not that much because if it’s not 75 degrees here, it’s 90 degrees and raining.  I’m absolutely not complaining, and neither are my tomatoes.

It’s August now, and the height of tomato season.  Late Summer tomatoes, bright red, heavy with ripeness, intensely perfumed, and begging to be eaten simply, with salt, are one of the highlights of my year.  I am excited to show you that against all odds, I have three very prolific tomato plants and beautiful herbs!
You want to see?
My cherry tomato plant is by far the most successful.  I’ve been eating cherry tomatoes since June, and they might as well be candy.  Incredibly sweet with thin, tender skin, they don’t need anything.  And in fact, because only a couple will be ready at a time, and there’s not much one can do with two cherry tomatoes, I’ll give them a quick rinse and pop them like a grape.  They’re that sweet.

This plant is called “early girl” and was supposed to be ready 50 days after planting.  This one was the plant I was most skeptical about.  It was slow to grow, slow to blossom, and very slow to actually produce fruit.  However, as Summer drags on, this plant has shot up and is now twice as tall as it was two weeks ago.  With that are about 9 new blossoms, which hopefully will mean 9 new tomatoes.  They’re bigger, but not huge, so I’ll slice them, sprinkle them with a little salt and pepper, toast some white bread, spread it with Hellmann’s, and build the best food of Summer that there ever was or will be: the tomato sandwich.

Then there’s the Roma tomatoes.  I figured these would be fairly large, like the Romas you find in the store.  However, they’re only slightly bigger than the cherry tomatoes.  I’ll pick them when they are just red, then let them finish ripening on the counter top.  Once I have two or three, I’ll slice them and drizzle a little olive oil on top then tear a couple of basil leaves over them and call it a day.  Simple tomato salad.  Obviously fresh mozzarella is the missing link, but I don’t plan that far ahead.  And also they’re just fine without it.
I planted herbs in a long container and have them sitting on a shelf on my porch.  I originally planted cilantro, rosemary, lemon thyme, and basil, however the last three are all that remain.  The cilantro did incredible, so incredible in fact that it went to flower only about a month and a half after I planted it.  I trimmed the flowers back, and they’d show up again the next day.  In the end, the cilantro gave out and I pulled it.  Now the rosemary has more room to grow!
The rosemary is going a little crazy, although I love it.  I run my hands through it every time I water so I can smell it’s beautiful scent long after I’m done.  I used some of it for my Skillet Roasted Chicken and will have to think of more rosemary-centric recipes soon, before it takes over.  Maybe I’ll make some Rosemary and Truffle Popcorn again!
Ok, so the lemon thyme is going a little crazy too.  It’s grown over the container and has intertwined itself like a bush.  It’s so beautiful, I hate to cut it.  I used some of it in my white barbecue sauce and have plans for lemon pepper chicken, salmon, and maybe even a zippy pesto.  It’s amazing how much it actually smells like lemon; most thyme has a lemony note but this is over the top.  I love it.
Of course, there’s the old Summer workhorse, basil.  It’s absolutely the herb I’ve reached for over and over, especially after the cilantro came and went, and I love that I have it on hand whenever I think of it.  Because of this plant, I’ve been cooking with fresh herbs much more.  It’s the perfect compliment to the home-grown tomatoes, but I’ve also used it countless times in my recipes.  Towards the end of the summer, when it’s time to pack up my garden until next year, I’m going to whip up some pesto so I can enjoy that fresh basil flavor for months to come.
There’s been a couple of attempts at flowers, and while that purple petunia is still kicking (against all odds), it’s become apparent that my black thumb hasn’t completely left me.  Baby steps.
I’ve so enjoyed gardening this year and love the sense of pride I feel when I’m eating a tomato or seasoning with herbs that I grew just a few feet away.  I love not having to put basil on my grocery list. I love that I can eat lunch without having to actually buy something.  I’ve definitely caught the gardening bug, although all actual bugs have thankfully stayed away, and can’t wait to try new vegetables, herbs, and of course, tomatoes next year.
Do you garden?  What tips can you offer me, a newbie?  Tell me everything.

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