My Balance with Growing Food

My kitchen currently smells like the odd combination of garlic, apricots, peaches, and nectarcots (which are so delicious!!!). Our beloved fruit CSA started a few weeks ago. The box comes Wednesdays and we have just a few items left. Three days in and we’ve almost eaten it all. I just might need to order a bigger box. The fruit is going faster this year than it did last year because the boys are now 100% nuts about it all. They even have little fights over who will get the last of the items. We have had cherries on pancakes, cherries with yogurt, cherries with chocolate. It has been divine. Once a week this delivery provides me with an adult version of Christmas morning.

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Nectarcots, apricots, peaches

I’m crazy about both the CSAs we do, so having them as a regular part of our life for six months a year has led me to think differently about the food I grow. I’m moving towards high value, low maintenance produce. I also will make room for things that taste dramatically different fresh from the garden, that aren’t grown by our farmers, or that we eat a lot of. Like garlic.

I harvested my garlic last week. It’s now on our kitchen counter curing. Upon recommendation of my favorite northwest garden blogger, I mostly planted the variety Music. Oh my goodness. I pulled one out and could not believe how enormous it was. I’ve never seen a bigger head of garlic, except for Elephant Head. It is huge and gorgeous and now my kitchen smells like garlicy peaches.

Garlic in ground

Rows of garlic in early June

Do you know how easy garlic is to grow? It’s pretty silly. When someone asked me about mine I almost felt like I was lying saying I grew it. I basically did ten minutes of work for this yield. You just put a clove in the ground in the fall and it sits through the winter to shoot up in spring. Hardneck varieties give you a delicious scape as a bonus (garlic scape & arugula pesto!) that you get to snip off and enjoy a few weeks prior to pulling the head out of the ground. It’s about as easy as it gets.

Garlic scapes

Garlic scapes

Do you have hesitations about growing food? Starting with something like garlic this fall could be a great way to go. I also highly recommend perennial fruit (berries!) and herbs because they provide a lot of value for less work than annuals. All of my perennial herbs have probably paid for themselves ten times over. A few more harvests from our various berry plants and they’ll have paid for themselves, too. (Also, even people who don’t love to cook can thoroughly enjoy a bowlful of berries.) Cheaper produce, like carrots, I enjoy planting here and there for the kids to harvest but mainly am leaving annual veggies to our fabulous CSA farmers. Along with being more economical, we get significantly more variety than we could grow at home.

My ultimate dream is to have a permaculture edible landscape that produces a lot of unusual berries that we gorge on, preserve and freeze for the winter. (Have you heard of jostaberries, gooseberries or salmonberries? Elderberries, BOYSENBERRIES!, huckleberries, and the usual suspects, too, of course.). I also want hardy kiwi, cherries, more varieties of plums, apples, asparagus, rhubarb, and *sigh*, so much more. Maybe even chickens and ducks. If this place were ours, there would be much less grass and many more edible plants. But, our landlord was only willing to let us plant where the weed beds were, and even then, he asked us to remove the raised beds when we leave. So, for now, I’m thankful we’ve got what we’ve got, along with a lot of opportunity to dream big.

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Music! My garlic harvest

Here’s my current favorites resources and/or sources of inspiration when it comes to growing some of my own food:

Northwest Edible Life – blog, facebook

Salt of the Earth Urban Farm – blog, facebook

Paradise Lot – New York Times article, blog,

Rosalind Creasy’s Edible Landscaping website is lovely food for thought, and I always add to my dream list when I browse her book.

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The mother of all garlic. She will be next year’s seed. (My phone screen is broken, so forward facing pictures are always foggy.)

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