As per usual, I’ve been Googling, this time for some new ideas to replenish or replant my baskets. I have limited gardening area, which is actually good for a lazy bones like me. I like to shop for new plants, get them into the ground, water them and watch them grow — all for pleasure. I keep it small because otherwise it can overwhelm my two-year-old attention span. I have a small patio with enough room for a few pots and some in-ground stuff and that’s just enough.
Completely unlike my sister. She’s one of those grow-your-own-vegetables and feed-the-entire-neighborhood types. She lives in Sacramento and has all the heat and sun she needs for multiple varieties of heirloom tomatoes, plus a ton of other vegetables and fruit. She taunts me (and others) with pictures of the abundance. Her tomatoes are to die for and she makes me sick.
She’s an amazing gardener. When she lived in the Tetons she built a cold frame and started her summer vegetables in the snow while all the neighbors laughed their backsides off. In a couple of months she was feeding them her fabulous vegetables with a side of crow! The woman can make asphalt grow.
We learned about planting veggies (for fun) when we were small and managed to produce some decent corn, carrots and tomatoes in our back yard in the suburbs. While I turned to house plants, she turned to veggies, starting with an enormous planter garden on her apartment roof top. (Who knew you could grow anything in Los Angeles?)
When I visit her now (always in summer for the tomatoes — despite the fact that I hate summer in the Central Valley of California), I eat myself sick on heirloom tomatoes — my sister’s flat bread pizza, Caprese salad (the food of Gods), sandwiches (plain old tomato sandwiches are divine!), Panzanella*, the list is endless. Tomatoes grow rather feebly in the Pacific Northwest and being California born and bred, I REALLY MISS good tomatoes.
When she visits me she “ooohs” and “aaahs” politely over my sweet little pots full of Creeping Jenny, Bacopa, trailing Lobelia, Creeping Raspberry, Heuchera, ferns (Thank goodness ferns grow well here — they even last all winter!), etc. Then she goes into the back bedroom and giggles hysterically (witch) while I go into the kitchen and hack up hard, pale greenish tomatoes from the nearest grocery store to top her salad.
*There are lots of panzanella recipes on the internet, but I’m a purist. I like the Tuscan “bread salad” with the basics: stale (not toasted) bread (a good crusty French or dense Italian), fresh tomatoes (lots of color makes it look nice), fresh basil, olive oil, vinegar, kosher salt, and freshly ground black pepper. From here people add all kinds of things — bell pepper, cucumber, onion, green olives, anchovies. I just like the addition of some black olives and sometimes a little red onion.