LINCOLN SQUARE — Here we are, nearing the end of June, and I've been dutifully tending my community garden plot for weeks — schlepping buckets of water, pruning and weeding, engaging in chemical warfare against pillbugs — and what do I have to show for my efforts?
After recent rains, an overall growth spurt so significant I nearly walked past our plot, I didn't recognize the lushness.
Patty Wetli discusses her ... scarce ... harvest in the "Garden in the City" podcast:
The tomato and pepper plants are suddenly bursting with yellow and white blossoms, the corn has shot up from ankle-length to knee-high and the carrots, well, they remain a deeply buried secret.
But in terms of anything being harvest-ready? These are salad days.
The greens and herbs had bulked up to the point where they looked like they could survive the loss of a stalk or two, so I snipped off a medley of chives, basil, chard, kale and arugula.
I laid out my haul on the kitchen counter. What had seemed so impressive in the garden now looked rather meager. All I saw was a meal fit for a rabbit, and a small one at that.
This is where I've struggled the most since becoming a vegetable gardener: learning to make do with what the garden has to offer up.
We've all become so accustomed to produce sections brimming with every conceivable fruit and vegetable — whenever we want, as much as we want — nature's actual schedule seems frustratingly limited and totally lacking in coordination.
Last year, I thought I'd be drowning in strawberry shortcake. The reality: I never had more than three ripened berries at a time.
Clearly I needed to adjust my expectations.
I gave my motley mix of herbs and greens a second look and challenged myself to convert it into ... something.
After scanning the contents of my cupboards, and rejecting the notion of an herb-infused Nutella dip, here's what I came up with: couscous.
I started out by thinking small. I cooked up a batch of the grain, tossed it with a splash of lemon juice and olive oil for a bit of moisture and added a couple of shakes of ground pepper for flavor. Then I stirred in some minced chives, basil and arugula.
The result was a bit bland. And green.
So I diced up some tomato and rooted around the refrigerator for cheese. Feta would have been perfect but all we had was sliced colby and a suspicious bag of shredded mozzarella.
"Is this edible or is this the bag that smells?" I asked Dave. (Don't judge. You know you've got containers of spoiled dairy in your fridge too.)
I took a whiff of the mozzarella, detected nothing that resembled the aroma of dirty socks, sprinkled a handful onto the couscous and tasted again.
Less green, still sort of meh.
A couple of dashes of salad dressing and a can of garbanzo beans later, I was satisfied with my creation.
Me and the garden, we grew dinner.
Catch previous episodes of "Garden in the City" here: