Wednesday, July 6, 2011

If you plant it, it will grow…

It only made sense that with my growing love of the farm-to-table movement, that eventually I’d get around to planting my own vegetable garden (I’ve been dabbling in flower gardening for the past few years – so it’s a natural progression).

Driven by the passion of some of my favorite local chefs – Matthew Pietsch at Salt of the Earth, Matthew Millar at Reserve GR and Paul Olsen at Mission Table, among others, I have returned to my long-time “lifestyle” of trying something new – this year, it was the chef’s garden!

My visual inspiration came from two primary sources, the first being JW Marriott’s restaurant in downtown Grand Rapids. Tucked in the corner of the jdek, overlooking the Grand River, the intimate seasonal garden boasts a variety of herbs and small vegetables. The thought of the culinary team stepping outside each morning to gather their bounty for the day puts a smile on my face.

The second, grandiose vision came from the movie, It’s Complicated, starring Meryl Streep, Alec Baldwin and Steve Martin. Not from the storyline itself, but from the magnificent and vibrant chef’s garden that Meryl’s character, Jane, has grown. That is my dream garden!

I fully expected that I could easily duplicate the garden from the movie – until I actually began the process!

My daughter, Mollie, and her friend, Nikki, helped me take off the garden in the south side yard – 10 x 25 is what we ended up with, although my original plan was twice, maybe three times that size. I’m sure my son, Caleb, is thankful we started small – because he was charged with the job of tilling the land, turning over the dark, rich dirt. He had been bragging about his progress in his weight training class, always showing off his “guns” so I thought this was a way for me to prove just HOW strong he really was

From then on, the garden was all mine! I spent the afternoon pulling out the clumps of grass and roots, tossing rocks into a pile for later use. By the end of the weekend, it was ready for planting and I set out in search of my favorite veggies: tomatoes (4-5 different kinds), peppers ( 2-3 different kinds), brussel sprouts (a dozen plants – much to the dismay of my father, but to the joy of almost everyone else I know), purple cabbage, broccoli, sweet corn, zucchini, lettuce (leaf and romaine) and eggplant – as well as herbs: chives, cilantro, sweet basil, parsley.

Even as I sit her on this sunny morning, my daughter stopped by for an unexpected visit. So, I took a short break from writing and walked with her to explore the growth in the garden. A handful of peppers and tomatoes are there…the zucchini have flowers, as does the eggplant. And, the corn was well past my knees by the 4th of July.

We picked some lettuce, basil and cilantro for her to take back to her place – a salad in the works! She’s anxious for the tomatoes – saying she wants to make a capresse salad (a girl after my own heart). I am already anticipating a big gathering of family and friends to celebrate the harvest later this summer. It will be grand time, without question. Photos to follow!