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Wednesday Food: So It Grows

herbsSettling in from my move, which then led to some sort of bronchial infection, drained all of the pleasure and interest out of my food preparing routine.  Much of that focus has shifted over to food growing. One of the reasons for the move was that my old apartment lacked any viable outdoor space for growing plants and enjoying what few nice days Chicago provides.  Now I have a large south-facing patio and a (not yet built) rooftop deck that should provide space enough to grow a considerable amount of food throughout the summers, a goal of mine for some time.

While the square-footage has improved immensely I am still restricted to container growing, which actually has a lot of benefits.  Pests and diseases can be easily controlled and quarantined, soil quality is not a problem as everything is in sterilized potting soil, sun exposure can be manipulated depending on the intensity of the season, and it’s a great way to recycle otherwise wasted tubs and pots.  One of my tomatoes is growing in a Vienna Beef Pickle bucket, while my potatoes are nestled in an old Rubbermaid storage tub.  I also use tomato and olive cans for growing lettuce and herbs.  Essentially anything that can be drilled for proper drainage can house vegetables and flowers.

Though all of my plants seem to be getting by without major incident, the unseasonably cool weather and lack of sun in this part of the world has stunted their growth and flowering.  The only ones producing at this point are greens, sweet peas, one burgeoning green tomato, and an assortment of herbs.  While the addition of an overturned half-whiskey barrel has lifted my spirits (speaking of spirits, the thing wreaks of booze), I wake up every morning willing a jalapeno or zucchini to greet me, but remain unfulfilled.

I suppose herb salads will have to sate me until I can fill the hours with much anticipated hot sauce production and zucchini/ potato frying.

I’m curious as to what other people grow?

Follow for a complete plant list…

Sweet Peas (8 plants)
Spinach (seed start)
Mesclun Greens (seed start)bleeding heart
Habanero Pepper
Jalapeno Pepper
Yellow Bell Pepper
Patio Tomato
Carbon Tomato (in a SIP bucket)
Bintje Potato (Ronniger seed start)
Red Pontiac Potato (Ronniger seed start)

Sweet basil
Lemon basil
Purple basil (seems to be dying)
Sage (has some funky white fly problem)
Upright thyme
Pink creeping thyme
Bay (2 plants)
And my only flower is a thriving Bleeding Heart.


June 17, 2009 - Posted by | Wednesday Food


  1. “Upright Thyme” and “Pink Creeping Thyme” sound like something other than what they are.

    Comment by ben | June 17, 2009

  2. I have a “wild” (i.e., some animal distributed that seed) pumpkin growing in my backyard. Despite my general neglect of the plants in the yard, the bleeding hearts are quite robust as are the poppies, daisies, cornflower, and roses. The hydrangeas aren’t doing as well this year.

    Comment by Craig | June 18, 2009

  3. I’m envious of your container garden. My apartment has no usable outdoor areas, so I’m stuck with indoor container gardening. I previously tried growing tomatoes and peppers indoors, but it was a bit of a failure. The plants were far too big to be managed, and all the tomatoes I got had blossom end rot. Everything I’ve read says that’s a calcium deficiency, despite my supplementation. I suppose the pots I was using just weren’t big enough to hold enough of a nutrient reserve.. also, light could have been a factor.

    I’m still growing slightly insane plants – I have three caper bushes and five coffee seedlings in addition to basil, oregano, and rosemary. I’ve got tea, bay, and olive seeds in a germinator. I’m hopeful, but not optimistic that they’ll grow.

    Comment by Adam A | June 18, 2009

  4. Capers and Coffee?!?! Wha? What conditions do they require?

    Comment by ebolden | June 18, 2009

  5. Well, I’m growing them both inside in Chicago now, so nothing crazy. The coffee are just babies, so I’m not sure what conditions they will need. At the moment, they just need a reasonable amount of light (not too much – they often grow under the canopy in tropical areas) and occasional fertilization with an acidic fertilizer (as in that for orchids or azaleas).

    My caper bushes are about a year and a half old. The germinating process for them is ridiculous. You soak them in warm water for 24 hours. Then you have to wrap them in a damp paper towel, stick them in a sealable bag and store them in the fridge for a few months. Once that’s done, you have to soak them in warm water again for 24 hours, then sow them. Even after that, they still germinate irregularly – a year and a half after sowing them, I had two seedlings pop up recently. Other than that, capers like a less acidic soil and lots of light. The don’t their leaves to stay wet. During the summer months, with a combination of a lot of light from the window and the fluorescent lights supplementing is, I get many capers.

    Did you grow your bay from seeds or did you buy them as young plants? I bought a few bay seeds, but the internet’s germinating advice is confusing.

    Comment by Adam A | June 18, 2009

  6. Now, are you going through all this trouble because capers are remarkably better when fresh? I must admit I’ve only had them in classic brine-soaked form.

    As for the bay, I got two baby starts at Gesthemane two weeks ago. Most of my plants are from starts because I have so much trouble with seeds and no indoor space to light them during the late winter. And as starts are relatively inexpensive it just seems more practical. But greens are a favorite to grow from seeds because they’re quick, the only down side being I have to put them out of reach from my weird spinach and bread-loving cat.

    Comment by ebolden | June 18, 2009

  7. Ah, I hadn’t heard of Gethsemane. I’ve been buying all of my gardening supplies at Home Depot or online. Maybe I’ll see if they still are selling bay.

    It’s not so much that capers are better fresh, it was more the novelty of being able to grow them myself. You still have to pickle them somehow before you eat them. I have found that the ones I harvested last year had a very pungent mustardy odor which isn’t usually very evident in store bought capers.

    Since I’ve started growing them, I’ve found that caper bushes are really cool looking. They have a woody center stem, but the branches that grow off of it are viney with silver dollar sized, dark green leaves. If you fail to harvest the caper buds, the resulting flowers are unique – they are white with an explosion of long, purple tipped stamens. If they get pollinated, they produce caper berries which are used in many countries like caper buds. I’ve been trying to get some produce some caper berries this year, but their are not pollinators inside, so it’s been hard.

    Comment by Adam A | June 18, 2009

  8. I do love growing things for the novelty of it. I brought my tomato plant inside last October, which never got enough light to begin with, and it grew around my windowsill to a total of 12 feet. That was mostly for laughs. Though I think I got 4 decent cherry tomatoes around Thanksgiving.

    Definitely check out Gesthemane. Some things are more/ less expensive than home depot but they’re real experts and the place is heavenly and huge, requiring a few hours to navigate.

    Comment by ebolden | June 18, 2009

  9. Fresh bay leaves are amazingly great.

    Comment by ben | June 18, 2009

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