Embrace Your Inner Farmer and Grow Your Dinner

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eHow Food Blog

Confession: I am a recovering plant eradicator. For years, every time I would bring a plant home, it would die within a few days. I thought I was doomed for life and would never be one of those “green thumb” people. However, in the past couple of years, I’ve found myself using a lot of recipes that require fresh herbs (which can be expensive if store bought), so I decided to put my unsuccessful past behind me and start fresh!

My newfound passion for “farming” came just in time for a Ziploc® Fresh 180 challenge, which inspired me to embrace my inner farmer and grow my own food. If you’re someone who is intimidated by the thought of gardening, I completely understand how you feel. I want to encourage you to do what I did, though; don’t let intimidation or past failures stop you from something that might turn out to be a really great (and money saving) adventure.

Have a Plan
Before getting your hands dirty, figure out exactly what you want to grow. The best way to go about this is to look at your favorite recipes and think about the meals you make most often. Start a list of herbs and vegetables you find you’re using frequently in the kitchen—there’s no point in growing an herb you’ll only use once a year or one with flavors you don’t even like. Once you have your list, head to your nearby nursery and start shopping.

Be Realistic
When I get excited about something, I want to go all out. (In other words, I go overboard). But I quickly learned that since I don’t have a huge area to garden at my home, I’ll have to put my dreams of growing every single vegetable and fruit known to man on hold for now and maybe just stick with tomatoes, peppers, and my favorite herbs.

Weather is another important component to consider when gardening. If the weather outside isn’t ideal for growing your favorite herbs, start them indoors. An easy way to do this is to fill a cardboard egg carton with potting soil, moisten it, sprinkle the soil with the seeds you purchased at your nursery, topping them with dirt. You’ll notice that once you moisten the potting soil, the egg carton will likely get wet and messy. To keep your home clean, place the egg carton in a Ziploc® brand plastic container. Once you’re ready to move your herbs outside, simply lift the egg carton out of the plastic container and replant the entire thing. No mess and no worries, since the cardboard will biodegrade in your garden.

Enjoy the Fruits of Your Labor All Year Long

The best part about growing your own food is being able to pick it fresh and cook it immediately, but remember to think ahead. Instead of letting any of your excess produce waste, or risk only using it when in season, try canning it or packing it in Ziploc® brand freezer bags and freezing it for future use. This way you can enjoy the produce you grow all year long. Do your best not to waste any of your hard work. If I pick too much basil and don’t use it all in one recipe, instead of discarding the rest of it, I keep it fresh by wrapping it loosely in a damp paper towel, placing it in a Ziploc® brand storage bag, and storing it in the refrigerator. By using this method, herbs will stay fresh in the refrigerator for up to 4 or 5 days.

So now I have a newfound confidence in my gardening skills, and I hope you’ll give it a try, too! Making my favorite dishes, such as bruschetta (recipe below), is so much more rewarding now that I’m using my own tomatoes and basil. Plus, I’ve got an extra sense of pride and accomplishment knowing I grew my own meal. And, as an added bonus, the extra money I’m saving by growing my own produce has added a few new items to my closet!

BRUSCHETTA


4 medium to large tomatoes
¼ cup chopped red onion
2 garlic cloves, minced
3 tablespoons chopped fresh basil
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
2 tablespoons olive oil
¼ teaspoon sea salt
1 teaspoon white sugar
Italian or French bread, sliced
Olive oil

1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
2. Cut the tomatoes in half. Remove the seeds and any extra moisture (this will ensure your bruschetta doesn’t get too soggy). Chop the tomatoes.
3. In a mixing bowl, combine the tomatoes, red onion, garlic, basil, vinegar, oil, salt, and sugar. Cover and refrigerate.
4. Brush bread slices with olive oil on both sides. Place on a baking sheet and toast in the preheated oven for 6 to 8 minutes.
5. Using a slotted spoon to drain the liquid, spoon the bruschetta onto the toast. Serve immediately.

Disclaimer: I was paid to develop this post and to provide related images for Ziploc®. As always, all opinions are my own.

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