Day 9: The Garden Experiment


When attempting to make the best tasting food you inevitably find yourself looking for the freshest and best tasting ingredients. In my life, one quest leads to another, so obviously learning about new cooking methods led to learning about new food growing methods, which led to growing food in my backyard.

I grew up in tropical city, so growing anything other than flowers was out of the question space and weather wise, and unless I wanted to fill the backyard with sugar cane, my options growing up were very limited. Plus, we had a gardener, so gardening and tending to our yard was never a thing. Once I came to college in the US, I realized families here devote a considerable amount of time out in their yards and take pride in the colorful displays that adorn their lawns come spring and summer. I realized I wanted to join them in that age-long American tradition. But, after college I moved to DC and then Santiago de Chile, so space was still scarce and with my travel schedule, I left a few herb graveyards behind.

Now that we are back in the midwest, I decided there is no excuse to not have a nice garden. Thanks to the Tippecanoe Public Library, I devoured books and books about gardening techniques, soil quality, local planting time frames and hardiness levels. People at Lowe’s and Home Depot probably though I was crazy (a common theme in my life) when I came by with a list of questions about watering and drainage and pot sizes. There was even one lady that said to me, “This is Indiana, all you need is dirt, seeds and water. Things will grow.” Well, after the dead herbs all over the world, can you really blame me for being meticulous (aka obsessive) about making this work?

As soon as the eternal winter started to fade away, I began stashing supplies: Seeding mix, organic fertilizer, organic seeds, organic soil (bags and bags of it), planters in all sizes, burlap. Once my handy garden calendar said it was time to start seeding I came out in full force and planted a 6 spinach plants, 3 types of lettuce, basil, oregano, thyme, tarragon, chives, tomatoes, eggplants, peppers, cucumbers and marigolds. That doesn’t even include all the transplanting we did in the flower bed!

Either Indiana soil is truly magical, or I have mad skills. Things started sprouting left and right and now we have a jungle of tomato plants and a “Little Shop of Horrors”-like cucumber plant. Not to mention all the other stuff that has populated each and every inch of the planters. The only thing that didn’t work out were the chives. I blame the Indiana soil. I’ve got skill.

There is something amazing about clipping herbs right before you need them, or picking tomatoes one minute and having them in your belly the next. It has given me confidence and somehow validated all those hours spent taking notes (yes, I took notes) about gardening, and even the frantic e-mails I sent our local farmer about patching up the tomato plant after a bad storm.

As I continue to experiment with recipes from all over the world, its great to know that if I ever need a sprig of thyme, I can just walk out to the yard and pick it myself.