Sunday, June 06, 2010

Weekend Cooking: Sub"Herb"an Gardener

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Chuck and the family and I live in a pretty good-sized townhouse in a suburb of Dallas. We're literally a hop down I-75 from downtown Dallas, and one of our favorite destinations lately is the Dallas Farmers Market. In the interest of eating locally and saving money, we have transformed our fenced patio into a small-scale grower's paradise and we've even expanding outside the fence. We're a little more expansive than container gardening and far short of actual yard or raised bed gardening.

Would you like a tour?

This is a brand new flower bed we put in beside our front gate. The other side is a sea of ugly bushes we wish the apartment peeps would cut down completely, so we beautified where we could. This is a bed of yellow, orange, and white zenias along with "Victoria Blue" somethings and "Tiger Eye" something else's. Very technical, eh? This stuff does well in the Texas heat. That's all that really matters. And ignore the rogue cable. We have no idea what it is, but it needs to be hidden.

Here is the rest of the bed around the corner from the first group of flowers. We're planting lantana, lavendar, and there's even an itty bitty acorn squash plant. I plan to fill the rest of this space with other squash plants: straight or crook-neck yellow squash, and zucchini.

This is our herb bed. It's a tract of dirt that was filled with ivy and monkey grass before, but we cleaned it up and we have (starting from the top) a serrano pepper plant with its first bloom, chives, cilantro, parsley, basil, rosemary, and English mint.

On our first visit to the Farmers Market we ran across these mature pepper plants for $6 a piece. The one on the left is a green bell pepper with several babies onboard. The one on the right is a sweet banana pepper plant. I've already pulled six or seven banana peppers from this one, and it's got three more almost ready to go. There are tons of little pepperlings (a word?) all over, so I think it'll be pretty prolific. It was looking sad in this pic thanks to the 100-degree heat we've been having here in Texas. It's barely visible, but there's also a hanging tomato plan in the upper right-hand corner. No tomatoes just yet.

Finally, we have one of yesterday's Farmers Market buys. This is the biggest sweet potato I've ever seen in my life. They are literally the size of Greyson or bigger. We got three of these bad boys for $3.

We love our Farmers Market visits. We bought almost all of our herbs there, and this week's steals included cherries, blackberries, plums, a pineapple, and grapes, and one lone Vidalia onion. We still had leftover corn, 8-ball squash, and some other veggies from last week's visit. I love visiting with the local growers, and we're starting to recognize and get friendly with some of the sellers there.

I didn't take a picture of everything in our Subherban gardening paradise. We actually have a flat of herbs we're putting into containers so we can test out the best way to grow these plants in this gawd-awful hot weather. Stuff like more mint and basil and cilantro, thyme, lemon verbena, and even a curry plant! Chuck's hand smelled like curry all day yesterday from playing with that plant. Sadly, some little critter (probably slugs) is eating my basil we've planted in the ground, so we've gotta fix that. I have some soap spray and beer traps all ready for the little buggers.

So there you have it! We're inspired to make our place in the city as environmentally friendly as possible by planting some of what we eat the most and poking around to find local producers where we can.

You can expect to see far more about our little patio extravaganza as it grows and starts feeding us. Watch for a recipe for stuffed banana peppers (if they turn out delicious).


  1. I have never heard of banana peppers before, but love bell peppers. Are they similar?
    We once had a garden and the basil was eaten by slugs literally overnight. We caught them in beer traps as well, but, ugh, how disgusting to empty them! We only have farmers' markets very rarely, but a lot sell directly from their farm.
    Thanks for taking us around you little garden empire.

  2. Please tell me you're going to a sweet potato pie or twelve with that monster tater!

  3. Rikki, they're the type of peppers you often find pickled and put on sandwiches. They're a little spicy and very delicious. I found a recipe which involves stuffing them with a cream cheese mixture and wrapping them in bacon to bake or broil. I can only imagine this would mellow the spiciness of the pepper a bit, and it sounds rich but delicious.

    I am definitely NOT looking forward to emptying the beer traps, but I'm willing to take one for the team for my basil.

    Amanda, our oven is broken, so it looks like we'll be making sweet potato fries in the near future until the a-hole property managers get out here to replace our element!

  4. Holy COW, that is one big sweet potato.

    I haven't yet been to the Dallas Farmers Market (after four years here! Shame on me!) but now I'm all inspired to visit!

  5. I have to agree that that is definitely the biggest sweet potato I've ever seen Yikes!

    I love your garden and it goes to show that you can grow at least some food even in a fairly urban setting.

    I love banana peppers, and we used to grow them until the yard got too shady. Now we buy at the farmers market or get them from our CSA.

    Great post! I hope you show us updates throughout the summer.

  6. Holy cow, that is a huge sweet potato! It looks like you could feed your whole family with one of them.

  7. I love this Andi :D wow!! You've managed to grow so much cool stuff in your space! That's so awesome. I can't wait to hear your recipe for stuffed banana peppers :D My peppers are just FINALLY producing! And OMG I can't get over the size of those sweet potatoes, LOL...that's hilarious!

  8. Andi, you might want to check out Urban Acres at here in DFW if you haven't already. It's a co-op and I just joined recently. I'm still not sure if it's right for me, but with the growing season here you really can't lose. Enjoy your gardening!

  9. Oh, P.S. favorite thing about this post...comparison of Greyson to sweet potato :p

  10. Wow, that is some sweet potato!!! Yummmmmy! I love them with butter, brown sugar, and cinnamon!

    And your garden looks great! You've done a lot with your space. And I've done jalapenos that way (with the cream cheese and bacon) in the oven AND on the grill, which gives them a nice smokiness. Highly recommend!

  11. Your herbs look great (I love cilantro; it smells so "clean")! Definitely put the mint in containers, though. It will take over the entire garden otherwise.
    And that is Some Tuber!

  12. I love banana peppers-they add a great touch to dishes-have you tried doing a mango or pineapple salsa with them?

  13. Jen, it is truly awesome. If you go, you may not even have to eat lunch because someone is handing out samples at every turn. lol It's a lot of fun, and I think you'd love it.

    Thanks, Beth F! We do what we can with our little space. You should see how our herbs are multiplying--mostly because Chuck keeps buying more. We ate our first banana pepper "crop" last night, and they were delicious.

    Kathy, as much as my family loves sweet potatoes, it might take two. lol But half of a potato could probably be a whole meal.

    Chris, the peppers were awesome. Recipe to come!

    Kristy, I will definitely check it out! Thanks so much for letting me know about it.

    Heather, I thought we were going to have to grill our banana peppers last night. The oven is out which is driving me BATTY.

    Thanks, DS! We've moved our mint to its own container and we have a couple of containers of basil, too. Love it!

    Esme, I haven't tried that, but I will! We just so happen to have a fresh pineapple at home all ready to make a salsa. Mangos too!


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