Tuesday, October 23, 2012

So you think you can't garden...

...but I'm here to convince you otherwise.

Over the past year or two, I have presented some really cool pics of vegetables and herbs growing in some unconventional and/or high-dollar apparatus, such as from this post:
Has anyone, in the history of humanity, ever used the terms "okra" and "iconic" in the same sentence?  If ever there was an iconic picture of okra, this is it.
However, there's really no great magic to a lot of this.  Yes, if you want to raise good eats, for the most part you have to fulfill some prerequisites, particularly some basic soil conditions (with or without it being in stock tanks) and consistent watering.  But sometimes, these things decide to raise themselves:
Do you ever gaze with curiosity upon your non-English-speaking lawn crew and wonder about the full repository of useful information that actually resides within their heads, and ponder how it got there??  The immigrants who have enough gumption to make it to America... a great number of them are shrewd and educated to a level way, way beyond their current (temporary) life stations as day laborers (with or without documentation). 

As evidence in support of this assertion, I present Exhibit A above: the only weed in my entire yard that the crew silently refused to whack down without me having to ask them to spare it.  And why the refusal?  Because the crew recognized that this weed is special:  it's a "volunteer" in the gardening definition of the word - an herb that grew from an accidentally-scattered seed.  In fact, it's one of the finest sweet basil plants I've ever grown (look at that perfect form and vibrant color!), except that I had nothing directly to do with its growth.  In this case, it did that all on its own with no planting, watering, or fertilization being done by me.
The lawn crew got it right.  This particular foundation weed was not fit for whacking.  But basil is not really used in Mexican cooking, so how did they know that??  This might forever remain a mystery.

My point with all of this is the following: 

Some great-tasting gourmet stuff is really, really easy to grow - in this example, it literally raised itself.  Basil is actually one of those easy things, but you'd never know it from looking at what's for sale in the grocery store:
This is what you're going to see if you go into any of our "better" grocery stores: hydroponically-raised or greenhouse-raised fresh basil, at three to four dollars per each little package.  Ouch - that's expensive. 

But here's the real kicker: All that cash, and yet this stuff won't taste anywhere near as good as a wild-grown foundation weed.  Mass production never yields artisan-quality food products. 
My family practically LIVES on fresh basil.  I have it growing in many nooks and crannies in the yard, which explains why the seeds escape from me like this and take root on their own. 

And here's what became of that particular lawn-crew-spared basil volunteer a few minutes after I snapped that pic above:
This is a slightly-modified Whole Foods recipe which we find to be utterly divine:
Here is the URL for this recipe.
Photo screengrabbed from the Whole Foods website. 
Regarding the sausage, I recommend one of the brands that Whole Foods sells (jalapeno variety), or, if you can't get all the way to Whole Foods and have to shop locally, look for Poffenberger's sausages, which are sold in our local HEB (but they are not always available because customers often buy out the store's entire stock).
You'll notice that I have a lot more basil in my photo than Whole Foods has in theirs.  That's 'cause we LUV it so much.  If I had to pay grocery store prices for the quantity of basil that I used in the dish, it would have been twelve to sixteen bucks, just for the basil.  THAT is just bat-sh*t crazy.  Why not grow it as foundation weeds instead??

There's only one caveat regarding basil:  It's a warm-weather plant that ceases to grow once night-time temperatures fall below 50 degrees F.  Every year, we go into withdrawal as our basil supply dries up for a few months.  Every year, I tell myself that I'm going to try to convince the police to sell me just one light from any given marijuana bust:
Remember this Chron screengrab from this post?  Do you think they'd sell me one of those things stacked on this front lawn??  Could I convince them that I need (need!!) to grow sweet basil rather than maryjane??
Alas, I do not yet have a good indoor growing alternative yet.  But I will get there.  Meanwhile, we're happy eating our weed of another species. 

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