A Garden is Meant for Eating

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Native plant gardening is lots of fun. I love seeing the butterflies, lizards, and birds partaking of the garden. Still there is something about getting “free” food from the backyard that is really special. Of course it isn’t exactly free with buying the seeds or plants, and then watering, weeding and caring for them. Anyway, it seems like it is free when I go out to pick the lettuce for our dinner salad. So today I thought I’d share a recipe that I made with the Swiss chard from my garden.

The recipe is Heidi Swanson’s Giant Crusty and Creamy White Beans with Greens. By the way, my daughter got me Swanson’s amazing cookbook, Super Natural Cooking for my birthday and I really like it. Many of the recipes are simple and they taste delicious. Now back to the beans and greens.

I suppose I should start with dirt. I dug the dirt for my new vegetable garden on September 13, 2009.


The challenge was to figure out how to plant a small garden in the sunny area near the back door for convenience, but also to ensure that it did not get “watered” by my dog, Milo. I thought of fencing it in, but am way too lazy to go out and buy a fence. In one of my posts about this part of the yard a reader suggested a keyhole garden:

O.K., so now I can’t resist a wild, out-there suggestion I’ve thought of trying. Because all the talk of ‘hardscape’ and veggies makes me think of a novel version of a raised bed but so much more ornamental. I ran across it while web-surfing (actually, I got caught in a serious cyber undertow…fun, though!). You may have already heard of ‘keyhole gardens’, but here’s the link: http://www.sendacow.org.uk/schools/africangardens/keyholegardens

I looked into it and fell in love with the idea. Then I modified it – completely. All I preserved was a very rudimentary raised, semi-circular bed, and the “just-do-it” spirit of those working in Africa.


The soil was taken from the back corner of my yard which has a compost bin of kitchen waste, and an area for green yard waste. The rocks came from the border in the backyard.


Within days, I had a Milo-proof garden that has been producing Swiss chard, arugula, lettuce, chilantro, and mint for months.

And now to the kitchen. Here is one of my favorite kitchen tools – a large, old wok. Next to it is the fresh Swiss chard and a small pile of garden sage that I fried up in olive oil and ate as a snack.
Here are the white beans browning in the wok. Using a wok really cuts down on the splatter. In the recipe, Swanson recommends starting with dried beans since the canned ones are often too soft to start with and end up being mushy. There just wasn’t the time to do the whole bean soaking thing, so I used a good brand of canned beans. I always rinse canned beans thoroughly before using because I don’t like the gooey liquid in the can.
G100106_0044-1And voila! Giant Crusty and Creamy White Bean with Greens, topped with fresh, shaved parmesan cheese.
G100106_0049-1Now I must confess that this kind of post is new to me and was inspired by my daughter, Lizzie. Her cookie blog, Every Last Cookie, describes her efforts to bake every cookie in the Martha Stewart Cookie Cookbook before she graduates from college. Check it out – I hope you will enjoy it as much as I do (proud mama that I am!).

4 thoughts on “A Garden is Meant for Eating

  1. susie

    Looks delicious, the recipe & the garden! We make greens & beans all the time, but my chard got mildew & is gone. Will plant again in march.

  2. Bookmarked Lizzie's cookie (my weakness!) blog. She shares your gift with words. Plan to try the cardamom crackers one of these rainy evenings.

  3. On a totally NON food note, I saw your garden mentioned in the Times!!! With a picture of the gardener! <br /><br />http://www.latimes.com/news/local/la-me-tobar12-2010jan12,0,5480745.column <br /><br />(probably everyone else saw this long ago, but I only read the Times spottily online.)<br /><br />You shouldn&#39;t be so modest–those of us who read your blog feel like insiders when we see

  4. Thanks all. Becca, guess I am a bit shy about these things. I look so serious! Anyway, glad you found it.<br /><br />Janis, Lizzie told me she saw your comment and was pleased you found her blog from mine. We really enjoy when she is home and baking cookies.<br /><br />Susie, I&#39;m surprised your chard got mildew. I don&#39;t think you have to wait until March, though with all of this rain

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