These days and often find myself wandering around my veggie garden. Shoeless, wearing pajamas or, on occasion, just a towel. It doesn’t matter, I just love visiting my little garden. I must “check it” ten or more times a day, which is a lot considering I only have three small beds. I don’t know if I’m easily entertained or maybe a little weird but I can spend hours poking around my tomato plants hunting caterpillars and leafing through the eggplant looking for hidden fruit. I have spent a fair amount of time hand-pollinating my cucumber plants (aka: cucumber nookie) when the male-to-female flower ratio was off. I’ve also invested a lot of time in killing slugs by hand, which has proven to be quite satisfying, if a little gross.
When I wander out to find foot-high kale leaves, colorful bunches of rainbow chard and half a dozen cucumbers hiding amongst the leaves I know my time was well spent. It’s truly an amazing feeling to walk outside and pick a salad for dinner.
Luckily for me, gardening is a healthy addiction. It takes me away from my computer, phone and other technology that I’m pretty sure is rotting my brain. In fifteen minutes gardening I can soak up my daily dose of Vitamin D, get my stretching exercise done, watch hummingbirds flit around the flowers, talk to the bees (this is quite relaxing) and fill a basket with the freshest, most delicious organic produce available. I even read that the bacteria found in soil decreases stress and I can vouch for that. I regularly garden without gloves just to be sure all those goodies have a chance to soak in and settle me down.
And once in a while you get a surprise, like the volunteer cantaloupe vine that courses through the lettuce patch or the oddly-shaped tomato that makes you wonder… what exactly is in that organic fertilizer?
Artichokes are definitely one of the coolest things we can grow here in California. They get absolutely huge and each plant produces multiple thistles, which are edible as long as you pick them before they bloom. My plants produce anywhere from eight to fourteen ‘chokes and I’ve cooked them a number of ways, but my favorite way is grilling them.
Grilled artichokes are unbelievably flavorful, healthy and require no dipping sauce. Jon’s favorite thing about them is that you can get right to the heart without all those pesky leaves holding you back. Here’s how I make Grilled Artichokes:
- Slice off top of choke and sharp points of leaves. Leave two inches of stem – it’s edible once cooked.
- Steam artichokes until almost cooked through (15 to 45 minutes depending on size)
- Remove chokes from pot and allow to cool for 10 minutes
- While chokes cool, whip up a marinade of olive oil, lemon juice, minced garlic, sea salt and ground pepper
- Slice chokes in half and scoop out the thistle and most of the thin, purple-tinged leaves
- Brush marinade all over choke halves
- Grill on high 5-10 minutes. Turn the chokes every few minutes until they are lightly charred all around. Brush on marinade as you turn the chokes, making an effort to squeeze it into the spaces between the leaves.
- You can now pull the leaves off and eat the meat or dive right into the heart. I tend to suck on the garlicky charred edges, but I have poor table manners so you can decide how far to go with that.
Anyone else out there fanatically in love with their little garden? Or are you one of those people who think they don’t have time, space or energy to garden? I don’t blame you, it sounds daunting but if you start small you will soon notice your little veggie patch spreading across the yard.
Now you’ll have to pardon me because I’ve got to get off my butt and run outside – the garden needs me!