The Kitchen Garden
“Find the shortest, simplest way between the earth, the hands, and the mouth.”
Lanza Del Vasto
Nobody enjoys fresher food or a more satisfying vision from the kitchen window than those who keep a kitchen garden. Yes, the kitchen window, for no window in the house is so well attended, with the possible exception of the writer’s window when seeking the muse.
The many great pleasures of gardening include eating tasty and nutritious groceries only moments from picking or pulling, fresher by hours than from those urban restaurants that receive produce from farmers each morning and then charge wow prices to those who eat it at lunch.
The kitchen garden is ideally situated directly outside the window above the kitchen sink. This allows the gardening cook to easily observe opportunity and challenges throughout the day. A critter, dog, bird, or child bent on mischief is quickly dissuaded from blemishing lettuce or bruising tomatoes. Better yet, menu inspiration comes easily with a quick glance that reveals what is sumptuously ready for the plate.
Some say the term “kitchen garden” refers to a spot that produces only stuff for the, um, kitchen. Nah. The kitchen garden contains plants that feed both mouth and eyes. A row or three of sunflowers, perhaps with peas, beans or squash climbing upon them, provides a backdrop as well as a perch for birds looking for hornworms or squash bugs. Coreopsis or your favorite annuals sprinkled here and there make the picture perfect.
But the main reason, the raison d’etre, is the groceries. So, what to plant? The answer is easy: whatever you eat. Seriously. Plant tomatoes, basil, fines herbes, peppers, squash, cucumbers, lettuce, spinach, and parsley—those ingredients you wish for your summer meals. If you like to eat it—plant it!
What does not belong in the kitchen garden? Those things that require a lot of space, like potatoes, corn, garlic, and the tomatoes that will make the ketchup replacement, the pasta sauce, the salsa, the pizza sauce, all of which will become winter provender in either canned or frozen state. A few fun potatoes, purple or yellow, a few early tomatoes, five or ten plants of garlic, all these are fine, but plant hundreds in the main garden.
The Heartwood kitchen garden began as a tribute to an exceptional wife. It is fronted with a low stone wall, eighty-five feet in full, curving length, that serves to retain the sloping earth behind. The slope angle makes views extra pretty and ensures drainage. Yes, it is directly behind the kitchen sink window.
By the way, the French, who call their kitchen gardens “potagers,” are way ahead of we Americans. Someone has concluded that nearly a fourth of the fruit and vegetables eaten by the French are home-grown.
That’s just not right. I have a French name but I am proud to be at least fourth-generation American. Let’s get digging! Make a kitchen garden!