The time has come to say farewell to 2009, and HELLO 2010!!!!!!!!!!!!! I've debated various recaps for the blog, a review of the year that could include the introduction of a new president, my trials and tribulations with running, a trip to New York city, Bella Eats on the local news, Bella Eats Pie Month and many other wonderful memories, but decided instead to keep things simple and give our garden, the source of so many great meals this year, a little tribute.
Brian and I started our garden in the spring of 2007, tilling up a 20-foot by 20-foot patch of lawn on the east side of our house. We chose the location to take advantage of the southern light that hits the space for most of the day, bathing the vegetables, fruits, and legumes that we grow with plenty of sunshine. Four cubic yards of topsoil and Panorama Paydirt were delivered to our driveway, on the other side of our house, and we spent an entire Saturday hauling wheelbarrow-load after wheelbarrow-load nearly 100-feet to amend the soil and break up the dense Virginia clay. Post holes were dug and a fence was constructed, the bottom animal-proofed with chicken wire and a gravel trench.
We based the plan of the garden on Square Foot Gardening, creating 4-foot by 4-foot boxes from borate-treated lumber (which doesn't leach harmful chemicals in the soil, like pressure-treated wood) and divided those boxes into 1-foot by 1-foot squares with twine. We left 2-foot paths between the boxes to allow for easy harvesting, and covered those paths with weed fabric and organic mulch in order to keep the maintenance as low as possible. And then, the fun began.
Over the last three summers we've planted blackberries, raspberries, strawberries, tomatoes, cucumbers, every color of bell pepper, green beans, sugar snap peas, edamame, eggplant, corn, kale, yellow squash, collard greens, every type of lettuce, spinach, broccoli, brussels sprouts, red beets, onions, carrots, basil, thyme, oregano, sage, rosemary, chives, fennel, watermelon, cantaloupe and muskmelons, some of those with great success and others with complete failure. All are grown from organic seeds or plants, and we don't use any sprays or chemicals.
Early each spring we spend a weekend covering each box with organic compost to prepare the soil for the seeds and plants that will grow through the next 8 months.
Bella Terra: Preparation
The chives are typically the first green in the garden, emerging from the protective cover the previous season's growth provided through the winter.
Bella Terra: Chives for a Mushroom and Herb Frittata and Cheddar Chive Biscuits and Cheddar Chive Cornbread, among other things.
The other herbs follow shortly after.
Bella Terra: Herbs for an Earthy Risotto, among other things.
The garden really started filling out by June, with the blackberry bush loaded down with little green berries and the herb and lettuce boxes overflowing.
The Sugar Snap Peas were one of our first vegetable harvests.
Bella Terra: Sugar Snap Peas for a special Caesar Potato Salad and Spicy Pickles
In July we saw some major progress, with the garden getting close to its peak season.
Tomatoes and Bell Peppers.
Bella Terra: Beets for a Red Beet Risotto and many, many salads and roasted veggie medleys.
Bella Terra: Greens for a Greens Salad with Roasted Vegetables, and lots of sauteed kale.
Bella Terra: Cucumbers for a Guacamole-Inspired Salad.
Towards the end of July and into August, our berries, bell peppers and tomatoes exploded. We had more than we knew what to do with, but luckily froze and preserved as much as we could to get us through the fall and winter months.
Bella Terra: Blackberries for many batches of Jam, and general munching.
Bella Terra: Raspberries for more Jam, Raspberry Almond Muffins and Raspberry Buttercream Frosting.
Bella Terra: Tomatoes for Creamy Tomato Soup and Slow-Roasted Tomatoes.
Bella Terra: Peppers for Stuffed Peppers and Chile Rellenos.
Things slowed down through mid to late Autumn, as Brian and I weren't quite as on top of getting seeds and plants in the ground for a fall harvest. We have eaten a lot of lettuce and greens, continued to use fresh herbs in most of our cooking and even pulled some carrots out from underneath 2-feet of snow for our Christmas dinner.
It was a great year for the garden, and it is coming to a close on a bittersweet note. Brian and I are hoping to put our house on the market in the spring or summer, and so don't have plans to put much into the soil this year. Instead we'll be getting a bunch of pots and whiskey barrels, and trying our hand at container gardening so that we can move plants with us when we find a new place. I will be incredibly sad to say goodbye to the little patch of earth that has provided us with so much, but look forward to starting again in a different part of Charlottesville.
And now, for the final Bella Terra post of 2009...Rosemary.
Our holiday meal was a festive event this year, with my Momma and stepfather in town and 6 additional friends here to share our table. We decided on an Italian theme, with braised short ribs in a thick tomato sauce over fresh fettucini, brussels sprouts sauteed with pancetta, the carrots pictured above in a white wine and sage glaze, garlic-full mashed potatoes. And, as a precursor to the actual sit-down dinner, we had rosemary roasted cashews alongside bacon-wrapped dates. Everybody was pleased, and it was a very merry Christmas day.
These nuts are salty and sweet, earthy and spicy. They solve whatever craving you may have, and are gracing our table again this evening as we ring in a new year.
Rosemary Roasted Cashews
from the kitchen sink recipes
- 1-1/4 pounds cashew nuts (roasted, unsalted)
- 2 tbsp coarsely chopped rosemary
- 1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
- 1 tbsp brown sugar, light or dark
- 2 tsp kosher salt
- 1 tbsp melted butter
- Preheat oven to 375*.
- Place nuts on parchment lined baking sheet. Bake for 10 minutes.
- Meanwhile, mix together rosemary, pepper, sugar, salt and butter in a large bowl. Toss the warm nuts with the mixture until well coated.