The Rouge d’Hiver (left) and Black-Seeded Simpson (right) lettuces are ready for the salad bowl, and they are *to die for* (as far as lettuce goes, I mean I realize it’s not a chocolate torte, but still). If homegrown lettuce is a 10 on the tenderness scale, store-bought lettuce is a 5 or 6. No comparison.
Two years ago I planted a few perennial vegetable plants, including Sea Kale (Crambe maritima, above) and Turkish Rocket (Bunias orientalis, below). Both of these plants produce edible broccoli-type florets without all the fuss of an annual broccoli plant. The sea kale spent it’s energy establishing roots last year, so this is the first glimpse I’ve had of sea kale florets. I can’t wait to try them, but the truth is I most admire this plant for the gorgeous silvery blue foliage. It’s a showstopper. The turkish rocket hit the ground running from day one, and produces prodigiously. Both of these plants came from Food Forest Farm in Holyoke, Massachusetts, which is co-owned by one of my permaculture teachers, Jonathan Bates.
As delighted as I am with the way my garden grows, it’s nothing in comparison to the sweet hours I spent with two little dumplings last Saturday morning. Miss Mouse and I went to the Garden Club’s annual plant sale and loaded up on herbs, scented geraniums (rose for me, peppermint for her), and a few novelty plants (hens and chicks for me, a hot pink geranium for her). When we got home I told her she could have her own plot in the garden, just *hoping* it would entice her to dive into gardening this year. She has been resistant to it in the past, for reasons unbeknownst to me. She’d plant a pea here, or eat a carrot there, but preferred to head to the monkey bars or play with the chickens. Apparently the promise of “ownership” was all it took. We sectioned off a rectangle of garden with string and stakes, amended it with compost and Complete Organic Fertilizer, planted her scented geranium, and then transplanted lettuce and cilantro seedlings and violets that were growing elsewhere in the garden. Once Mr. Mouse got wind of the action he wanted in too, so we made a second plot and repeated the same steps. They were so excited. At one point, my girl said, “Mama, I never knew gardening could be this fun.” My eyes almost rolled a full 360, but instead of expressing my incredulity at this statement (it’s not like she hasn’t had these same opportunities before) or my thrill at her excitement, we talked about how gardening felt a lot like creating art. Her brother was totally into that idea, using hose water and soil as his medium.
Saturday was National Herb Day, as I learned on the Herbal First Aid for Kids teleseminar with Aviva Romm and John Gallagher last Thursday night. An herb shop a few towns south of us was having a little open house, so my girl and I hopped in the car and ambled on over to check it out. We were delighted with the herbs we found (lemon gem marigolds! borage! Munsted lavender! chamomile!), the lemon balm cookies and coconut green tea, and the bulk herbs (rose for her, cardamom pods for me). On the way there and back we listened to one of our new Herb Fairy mp3s about Violet (this herbal learning system for kids is wonderful). We found a farm stand and bought a tomato plant for her and a pepper plant for her brother. When we got home she ran to the garden and planted her tomato and edible marigolds. She checks them every day.
I’m waiting for this weekend to tuck my new herbs into the patio gardens, close to the kitchen door. I relish the idea of a summer spent tending these useful plants, and harvesting them for food and medicine. Miss Mouse and I have big plans for herbal handmades. Clearly, I don’t need encouragement to totally geek out with gardening, but it sure is fun to share it with someone! Especially two very special someones.