Tag Archives: gardening

Sprouts! Update and a Recipe

19 Jun

My container garden is doing really, really well. I didn’t lose anything to transplant shock, and, after an early attack on the seedlings before I planted them, the starlings that nest in the roof beams of the porch have left everything alone (though I do get an earful from mother bird whenever I go out to water).

This is my first attempt at growing anything from seed, and I’m pretty proud of my work–work that began way back in early April. The tomatoes especially–from tiny seeds to sturdy plants that seem to get bigger every day. The jalapeño peppers and basil are doing well too, as are the two cucumber plants that survived the bird raid. I’m not sure about the lettuce yet–it’s growing, but it’s hard to imagine such delicate leaves turning into anything I can use for a salad, unless I go the trendy microgreens route.

I did decide to buy my perennial herbs from the garden center. I had oregano from seed, but apparently oregano seedlings are a bird delicacy. In addition to the oregano, I have thyme, lavender, and rosemary. The downside to purchasing was that I couldn’t find the particular varieties I wanted (Mexican rather than Mediterranean oregano, for example). But on the upside, these plants are large enough to cut from, so last night’s dinner featured our favorite salsa with oregano from our very own backyard. (Fine, our porch. Semantics).

Cherry Tomatoes

Thyme, peppers, and lavender

Lavender Buds

Roasted Salsa

With the exception of the onion, all the vegetables in this salsa are roasted, giving it a deep, rich flavor. It’s a nice contrast to a bright pico de gallo if you’re looking for variety.

  • 1 can roasted diced tomatoes (Muir Glen won our household taste test)
  • 3 cloves garlic, unpeeled
  • 2 jalapeño peppers
  • 1/2 white onion, diced
  • 1/3 cup chopped oregano*
  • 1 lime
  • kosher or sea salt

Place the diced onion into whatever bowl you’ll use for the finished product. In a skillet, roast the garlic and peppers over medium high heat until black spots develop. When cool enough to handle, slice off one end of the cloves and squeeze the softened garlic into a blender. Core and seed the jalapeños and cut into chunks. Add to the blender, and give it a few pulses to chop the peppers and garlic. Add the can of tomatoes and pulse until it reaches your preferred consistency.

Pour the contents of the blender into the bowl with the onions and stir to combine. Season to taste with lime juice and salt–I use at least half the lime and a four-finger pinch of kosher salt. Gently stir in the oregano.

When tomatoes are in season later this summer, I’m going to try roasted them myself. This will either go very well or very badly.

* Cilantro is of course the herb of choice for salsa, but I really recommend trying the oregano even if you’re not a cilantro hater like me. If you can find the Mexican variety, all the better. I wouldn’t use dried herbs in this recipe unless I was really desperate.

Oregano and Thyme

Sprouts! Update

12 May

The sprouts have really grown! The first warm, sunny weekend day will be transplanting day. I think my husband has a lot of dirt hauling in his future. (That’s ok, he likes it. I swear.)


23 Apr

This spring I decided to get serious about gardening. Container gardening, to be specific. I live on the top floor of a two flat, so my gardening options are limited to whatever I can fit in pots on the small back porch. Fortunately both the porch and the apartment in general get a lot of  morning and afternoon light. I have a beloved houseplant that I’ve kept alive for going on seven years, and the basil I purchased at a farmer’s market last summer did well, so I’m optimistic. So optimistic that I decided to start my plants from seed.

I planted lettuce, basil, oregano, arugula, miniature cucumbers, grape tomatoes, and jalapeño peppers. The cucumbers, peppers, and herbs are going strong, but I have a feeling I’ll end up purchasing tomato starts once the farmer’s market opens. (NEXT WEEKEND! THE EXCITEMENT!) I ignored the look on my husband’s face when I showed him the pots I wanted to buy for these sprouts (they’re huge, truly) and I”m hoping that once I get everything in the tomatoes and lettuce will look a bit sturdier. My seed tray is shallow, and I think the roots have reached their limit. I’m also going to purchase a few herb starts and put those in with the seedlings, since, well, I’m impatient and I’m going to want to make salsa before July.

I’m lucky that I live near some of Chicago’s largest green spaces, but the parks, even along the lakefront, are no replacement for the fields I was used to growing up in central Illinois. It’s going to be several more years (if ever) before I live in the kind of home where a backyard stuffed with seeds and plants and flowering trees will be possible. Seeing the little green bits popping up on my windowsill has been comforting, in a way.

So for now I’m going to fuss over my sprouts, make my husband haul home bags of dirt from the hardware store, and help that houseplant see its eighth birthday.