My husband and I started backyard gardening for fun, but mostly because we love to eat. We were first-time homeowners, without children, and we had this small expanse of land (a tiny back yard) that seemed to be a perfect place for more food.
We were, and are, spectacularly untalented. I have friends who nurture award-winning quality produce. That is not us. What we do, year after year, is plant a random bunch of seeds and starter plants, and grow an undeserved bounty of food. The embarrassment of riches that comes from our yard is simply testament to the gorgeous climate in which we live, and science. Rich dirt with our own kitchen compost, plus sunshine, water and photosynthesis equals: food.
Having kids grew our casual hobby into a passion. Kids are natural gardeners: Their favorite things include being outside and digging in dirt. Perfect! When they see the literal fruits of their labor, they light up.
We’re lucky that both of our kids genuinely favor fruits and vegetables more than junk food. But I’m dubious that most kid-planted gardens’ produce would be rejected by that kid; they start and nourish the goodies from start to stomach.
One of the coolest aspects is that kids who garden (or go to farmers’ markets or visit local farm stands) know that food doesn’t come from a store. It’s not wrapped in plastic, it doesn’t have a sticker on it. Food comes from a source; its essence is nature and natural science, not commerce.
Not to be repetitive, but we are spectacularly untalented at this. And we still manage to grow more than we can eat. Salads, corn on the cob, dozens of pounds of potatoes, then with a little effort: tomato jam and pesto. One year, a pet doggie ate a 3-foot tower of broccoli. We didn’t get any broccoli that year. Another year, a microburst flattened the entire garden. Weeks later, it just miraculously bounced back with no assistance from us.
We’ve built a container system using horse troughs with drip lines, use grow bags and plant whatever strikes our fancy every year. The kids are in charge: They plant, then photograph the garden all summer long, and eat tomatoes right off the vine. Last year, we were swamped with eggplant — it’s February and there’s still plenty in our freezer. Here’s a little summer-inspired recipe to warm our bellies as we’re snowed in with a seasonal blizzard:
Pasta alla Norma
Saute equal amounts of eggplant and tomatoes with garlic and olive oil;
Salt to taste;
Serve over cooked pasta, topped with crushed red peppers, sea salt, julienned basil and grated Parmesan cheese.
Communications professional Erika lives in Boulder County and is the mother of two, a runner, a gardener and a passionate home cook. Follow her on Twitter, @stutzmane.