This time of year when the temperature and sun are held at that perfect level here in Florida we have good things happening in the garden…
With an abundance of leafy greens, tomatoes and fresh herbs out there sprouting away we find simple ways to incorporate them into our everyday meals. Whether it’s in a salad or stew, hearty omelets chock full of goodness from the garden or extra herbs being put to use in a simple herb butter.
The best time of day to harvest this bounty is early in the morning when it is cool, so our vegetables stay crisp and keep longer. We know when our kale is ready to be picked when the outer leaves of the plant are sturdy and look well established. If harvested too late in the afternoon at midday heat, much of their moisture is evaporated causing them to become limp and wilt quickly.
Tomatoes can be a bit more forgiving and less prone to wilting so these can be picked later in the day. We know our tomatoes are ready when they are rich in color with no traces of green on the skin. If we have a wet season with lots of rain here in Florida we may opt to pick them when they are just blushed with color, looking almost pink, and bringing them indoors to ripen.
When harvesting herbs such as basil we like to use sharp scissors and cut the tips of each branch to promote branching and a bushier, healthier plant, keeping our basil growing strong all season long. We love to cook with fresh herbs. The layer of flavor and freshness they add to dishes is so powerful and aromatic. If you have a surplus of fresh herbs that you can’t find use for before they go bad, mix them up in a bowl of fresh butter, form it into a log shape and stick it in the freezer to hold its form. Dashes of this herbed butter can elevate any meal.
With of our vegetable waste we either feed the animals like Rafaela, our tortoise, Emily the pig and the chickens, or we compost. We make sure to keep our compost the right mixture of veggie scraps (green items) and any dried plant materials (brown items). We also keep track of how dry or moist it is looking so we have the right ‘climate’ for the microorganisms that do the work to break down all of the scraps into good, healthy soil. Stirring often also helps to aerate the mixture to help it ‘cook’ faster. When it’s ready we use it in our garden and flower beds as a great nutritious soil that really feeds our produce to help it grow strong, healthy and full of nutrients. And that is where it all comes full circle.
Time in the garden is quiet and soothing. It gives us that special connection with our land and the sense of accomplishment that comes from growing your own food. We are so lucky to have this small piece of land to be able live this type of life where we can produce some of our own crops. It’s a simple mentality and there is always beauty in simplicity.