If you’re back in the garden this month—or starting a new one—you’re not alone. The Economist reports that 45% of Britons are gardening during the lockdown, and Burpee says it sold more seeds in March than any time in its 144-year history. It’s going to be a tasty season for homegrown food.
Instead of planning meals to eat on our standard spring sailing adventure, we’ve been staying home and preparing the garden. Early seeds are in the ground (greens and peas), and cold-hardy brassica starts are being tested by cold nights. We jumped the gun a bit on starts for heat-loving greenhouse plants and have fingers crossed. It’s shaping up to be a good season.
The ins and outs of growing your own vegetables is a whole other blog, but here I pass on a few resources and ideas that may help as you’re getting your hands dirty. I’ll be sharing recipes this month that use spring crops, whether you have a container garden on your patio, raised beds in your backyard, or a weekly delivery box from a local farmer.
If you’re new to growing your own food, there’s been a burst of virtual resources to support the exploding interest in gardening. These are some reliable sources:
- Rutgers Community Gardening Series. The experts at Rutgers Cooperative Extension have put together video lectures and fact sheets, everything from starting a garden, to composting, to pest management, to harvesting. Although the series focuses on community gardens, the skills apply to backyard gardeners.
- OSU Master Gardener Short Course Series. Oregon State University is offering its vegetable gardening course for free through May 27. They also have a free Growing Your Own ebook and low-fee virtual courses on topics ranging from soils to plant pathology.
- Free the Seeds Online Gardening Sessions. The Free the Seeds community is offering a series of online skill-building workshops through September. Each month’s video is geared toward your current gardening stage, from starting seeds, to eating your harvest, to saving seeds. You can register to join the live sessions or wait and watch the recordings. Videos of past workshops from the group’s signature seed fair have also been archived online.
- Community-Supported Agriculture (CSA) programs. If you don’t want to garden, you can still eat farm-fresh produce by letting a local farmer grow it for you and deliver it to your door. This way, you support local businesses and your community food system. LocalHarvest lists many CSAs around the United States; if you don’t find something in your area, a web search should turn up options.
Planning Your Garden
Here on the blog, you can read some of my thoughts about making friends with your garden. If more in-depth reading is part of your quarantine routine, discover some of my favorite books on gardening and eating locally.
Whether you’re a newbie or old hand at gardening, I highly recommend thinking about what you want to eat as you plan your garden. Planting the crops you want on your table will help you enjoy your garden time all season, and starting what you’re willing to care for as the season rolls on will help keep gardening from becoming just another chore. You can learn more about my process for planning the garden from the kitchen in this blog post.
A Taste of Spring
I’m already harvesting from my garden, and you’re likely well into spring crops if you live in a warmer climate than my mountain community. My favorite spring crops return year after year with minimal effort on my part: walking onions, asparagus, and rhubarb; chives, oregano, mint, and other herbs; and greens we let go to seed and spring garlic rooted from cloves we missed at the end of last season. If you have the space, consider dedicating areas to these perennial, self-seeding, and fall-planted crops so that you can get a jump on harvesting next season.
As the month goes on, early crops planted this year can start to appear on your table, including greens, radishes, and pea shoots and snap peas. I enjoy many first harvests in simple meals, with no recipe required.
Twice as Tasty
The rest of this month, I’ll share recipes that use some of these spring crops, emphasizing simple preparations and adaptable meals. I’ll also highlight ways to preserve and store early vegetables and fruits. In addition, I’ve extended the Twice as Tasty Sourdough Giveaway another month. New sourdough bakers have been sharing photos of their delicious creations that are sure to make you want to join in the fun.
Need sourdough starter? Round 2 of the Annual Sourdough Giveaway has been extended through May 31, 2020. Get your free sourdough starter here. Or simply join the Twice as Tasty Challenge by becoming a newsletter subscriber; click here to subscribe.