Culinary Garden

When I was a teen, I received a catalog in the mail from a company in Virginia called Edible Landscaping, and I was just hooked on the idea of growing a beautiful garden that was more than just pretty but useful as well. I started growing all sorts of unusual plants and still do so today.

NOTE: I include links to vendors where I purchase my plants as a courtesy for readers. I receive no monetary incentive, exchange, or gain by including them.

Rainbow chard

Herbs and a few fruit trees from the local garden center were the first step, but I didn’t have much luck with the fruit until I decided to grow some in pots. I’ve been growing herbs for decades, and it’s handy having fresh herbs available year-round. In fact, my solarium often turns into a greenhouse from November through April with oodles of plants. For most of the year, the 70+ potted plants live on the waterfront deck where they can attract hummingbirds, butterflies, birds, and bees, as well as enjoy the summer breeze.

One of my delights is my “old parsley tree” that I bought from a local home improvement store. I used to leave the parsley plants outside during the winter and just buy new ones the following year since they were so cheap. One year, I brought it indoors to see how long I could keep it. That was over 8 years ago! Admittedly, the younger parsleys have leaves that are more tender, so I often buy more parsley during the year. But watching this old gal thrive and get a hard trunk has been neat. By the way, Google says parsley lives only 2 years. Ha!

Look at the formation and root structure of my parsley tree!

Basil is another favorite, and even though I have basil cultivating itself in all of my other pots as weeds, I can’t seem to keep enough basil on hand. Thai Basil is the hardiest and will take over any other herb if they are allowed to coexist in the same pot. It’s great to have on hand when making Green Papaya Salad (this green papaya salad recipe is my favorite from Gordon Ramsey). However, Globe Basil is my preferred basil so I can make Italian dishes or a batch of Basil-Parsley Pesto. That uses a ton of basil, however, so I typically make pesto during the summer.

Having fresh lemons year-round is a treat as well, especially when they are Meyer lemons. I have two 5-foot trees, one 3-foot Pink Eureka lemon tree, one calamansi 2-foot tree, and my newest one – a finger lime that has grown like a rocket, but it’s too young to do anything yet. With its inch-long thorns, I warn people that it will reach out and bite. I’m hoping soon to reap the efforts of what I’ve suffered with this one!

Meyer lemon in front (yellow pot); younger pink variegated lemon in the back (red pot)

Two plants most neighbors and visitors comment about are by my driveway – my bamboo grove and my “is that a ___ fruit tree” (they never guess right). The Sweetshoot bamboo is an edible variety with shoots coming up early, early spring. Right now, I’m trying to establish this clump, so I’ve not eaten the shoots yet. But one thing for sure is that this bamboo grows about a foot a day in the spring! Growing inside the bamboo container is also the non-edible Black Bamboo that is beginning to mature into beautiful shiny black culms which peeks through the blue hue of the dulcis bamboo. The fruit tree that is seemingly decorated with orange globes is my delicious Fuyu persimmon tree. It’s not a large tree at all, and I’ve had it since 2008, but I didn’t move it to its happy place until about 5 years later. Since then, it has given me bountiful thanks through these globes of yummy goodness.

Since I cook Asian food several times a week, I thought growing ginger and turmeric would be a great idea. The problem is I love my plants so much I can’t seem to bring myself to dig up the roots and use them for cooking.

This last year, I got a kick out of trying to regrow lettuce from the store that comes in a clamshell. You know the type – it has a root ball attached to the tender leaved head. When I pulled it out of the container, I saw how vibrant and healthy the roots were, so I decided to put it in a pot and see what would happen. Lo and behold, I was getting another head of lettuce growing from the stump I’d cut off. I was able to get three total heads of lettuce from that plant. This past week, I got another head with a decent root ball, and within days of being cut back, it has already reached an inch in height.

Gardening doesn’t have to be succinct or persnickety, especially when you’re growing for fun. You don’t have to build a greenhouse or earn a degree. Explore, see what you can make grow. See if you have a greenish thumb. If not, try your hand at some other plants.