Country Lore: Edible Theme Gardens

Many of my gardens have themes. I try to grow things together that I combine for cooking. It’s easy and the gardens make great conversation pieces.

A salsa garden: My salsa plot consists of tomatoes, sweet and hot peppers, onions, tomatillos, celery, cilantro and dill. All these plants grow as well together as they taste together.

A garnish garden: Many herbs can be used as garnishes, but this patch is for plants that I use only for garnishes when serving meals — parsley; pansies; chives; cherry tomatoes; ground cherries; nasturtiums; and pineapple mints, chocolate mints and peppermints.

A snack garden: Homegrown snacks are more nutritious than commercial, packaged ones. The garden changes from year to year, but can include popcorn, strawberries, peanuts, sunflowers for their seeds and a potato plant or two for homemade chips.

An ethnic garden: I usually plant a garden for the ingredients used in Italian cooking. You could do the same for other regional specialty vegetables, such as Greek, Mexican or Thai. In my Italian garden I plant eggplant, basil, oregano, garlic, thyme, rosemary and slicing and paste tomatoes.

An edible flower garden: There are many different kinds of edible flowers, from sweet to peppery tasting. Here are just a few:

  • Nasturtium: mustardy and hot
  • Garden pea flowers: like fresh green peas
  • Rose: perfumed, sweet to bitter
  • Violets and pansies: mild, like a leafy salad green

M. Eileen O’Dea
Central Bridge, New York