Growing and eating fresh garden food is at the top of my list for best life experiences. It is the whole experience of planning and designing the garden, the rewarding labor of planting, the patience in watching it grow and the joy of harvesting the fruits of my labor and patience. It is without a doubt the flavor of fresh food that satisfies and turns me on, knowing that the natural sugars called mannose is both responsible for the sweet taste, and also the deliverance of vital nutrients to the body. The markets are full of beautiful and colorful organic produce, but they are devoid of the like-giving mannose that dissipates after 48 hours of being harvested. The beneficial satisfaction of fresh garden food not only includes real flavor and better health, but also increases our awareness and appreciation of the dedicated, hard work by small market farmers to provide us with tasty, healthy produce.
There is nothing like fresh herbs to expand and complement the flavor of fresh garden food. My mandala herb garden has grown robustly beyond its borders, and I am now having to cut it back to make dried herbs and teas. I have an abundance of parsley, marjoram, rosemary, lemon balm, sage, thyme, oregano, curry, bay leaf, basil and mint to last a long time. I just love cooking with fresh herbs, and the health benefits of herbs are too long to list now.
I started cabbage, cauliflower, pepper and tomato seedlings early this season so these were the first to pop in the garden. I ate cabbage and cauliflower for a month until I resigned to freezing the last batches. Besides loving to eat these cruciferous veggies, I love their whole growing structure that resembles a piece of art.
As a painter and lover of color, I tend to design my veggie garden with color contrast in mind. This red leaf lettuce against the deep bronze fennel is a smashing hit.
I had a pack of Indigo Rose tomatoes that I had never grown so it was time. I started all my toms as seedlings, without marking them very well, so they all got planted together. Now they are a colorful mix of red, green, yellow and the indigo rose that turned out to be very striking.
My beans have been equally colorful with green, yellow, purple and the Dragon bean that is pale yellow and purple. The Dragon and purple beans are exotic with a distinctive flavor that cannot touch store bought beans.
We cannot grow apricots here in Florida, so I decided to plant some Loquat trees that are the closest thing to apricots. To my surprise, I like the loquats as much as apricots. The loquat fruit is not as soft as an apricot, but it bursts with a crunch and sweet, more tangy flavor. It is also a lovely tree with strong structure.
I planted three varieties of Muscadine grapes to grace my homemade arch, and they are steadily climbing as healthy vines. I already have some grape clusters. I really enjoy wine, but I have no clue as to how to make it.
I expanded the kitchen orchard to capacity, adding another banana, plantain, a grapefruit tree and more figs. Soon I will plant my long time potted Meyers Lemon and Key Lime trees to the sides of the arch. All kinds of flowers and medicinal herbs are growing in the under-story beneath banana, papaya, mango, loquat, blood orange, chaya, guava, feijoa and pomegranate trees. I cannot wait for this orchard to grow, fill out and become a magical place to enter through my grapevine-covered arch.
The winter veggie growing season here in Florida is slowing down now. I will enjoy my fresh garden food for another two months, and by July 4th, the veggie beds will take a rest until late fall. Summer in this tropical paradise is the time for abundant fruits and flowers. Avocados, mangos, papayas, guavas, pineapples, pomegranates, loquats, bananas, coconuts, grapes, berries and cherries of all kinds abound. The summertime air is filled with the fragrance of frangipani, gardenia, ginger, jasmine, magnolia, tuberose and so many flowering plants, vines and trees. I have planted my first strawberries and blueberries, and hope the visiting wildlife will share them with me when they are ripe and full.