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Wednesday, August 03, 2011

Home-Garden Summer Squash, Chards, and Pearl Onions Curry

It would be nice if I had the help of a gardener, somebody who knows what they are doing when it comes to growing plants. As it happens, I am an urban farmer at heart with nothing other than passion to support this fantasy. I lack the stamina or the knowledge to sustain vegetable gardening, even if the weather permits. Which it doesn't where I live. So, I make the most of the few months from April to September, knowing that a greenhouse is out of my limits for now.

Thanks to wonderful nurseries around town (one just around the corner from my house), I do get to plant some favorite vegetables and watch them grow. If harvesting the weed-like oregano and mint and fennel and rosemary and lavender from the garden gives me pleasure, it makes me ecstatic to get the squashes and green beans and eggplants and chards and lettuce and onions from the home garden.

Over the years, many simple and surprising recipes have come out of the home-garden harvest. I cannot imagine life without composting. Kids, thanks to support from their school, are well aware of organic waste and remember to dispose of it in the compost bin in the kitchen, which dutifully gets emptied into the Earth Machine in the backyard.

A big question I was asked when I was a newbie home gardener was whether it was worth it? It is hard to answer that question. Obviously depends on what we mean by "worth it". The effort vs. the cost is probably the topmost factor people like to weigh. And, home gardening is a lot of work, especially if doing it yourself.

Over the years, considering what it has offered in terms of intangible lessons and returns, I'd emphatically say it is well worth it. Knowing how plants grow, where our food comes from, how to care for the earth - composting, recycling - plant diseases, interdependence of nature's creatures, soil nutrition, harvesting, bugs and their role in the garden are at some level hands-on for the kids, allowing me to learn a lot in the process.

We still have to buy vegetables from the markets as we are not entirely sustained by our garden and we do visit the local farms for fresh produce on and off, so it is not like we are self-sufficient with a teeny patch of backyard garden.

I am rambling... back to the recipe. It came about as I went into the garden one evening and noticed the few vegetables that were more than ready to be harvested - summer squash, about 3 dozen little pearl onions and several large leaves of chards.

Mint, fennel and rosemary fresh from the garden gave the herbal base for this recipe. Some store-bought Rogan Josh Curry paste and Kashmiri Masala Paste gave the rich, spicy sauce base for the curry. Serve with brown rice, roti or naan.

Simply simmer together till vegetables are just cooked, adjust flavors to taste. Serve warm.

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