|Pumpkins need pollination by bees|
There is something deeply satisfying when you grow your own food. The joy and accomplishment of tending to a plant from the time you see that tiny seed germinate until harvesting is something you cannot purchase in the store. Not only do we benefit from the food we grow, but so do the many native pollinators. We tend to think of flower gardens when we think of attracting bees, butterflies and other pollinators to our yards, but vegetable gardens also rely on having those native insects. Unlike those popular home garden plants that are self-pollinating such as tomatoes and peppers, plants in the cucurbit family need pollinating by bees. Cucumbers, squash, pumpkins and zucchini are cucurbits and are easy to grow in our yards with the right soil and sunshine.
Growing your own herbs is another great way to bring those bees to your yard and flavor to your cooking! It’s easy to grow most common herbs used in cooking, and growing them yourself is an exciting and cost-effective wayto have your own home grown herbs year round. Oregano, cumin, thyme, sage, chives, cilantro and others are herbs that rely on pollination for propagation. It is usually suggested to pinch off the stems to prevent flowering on these plants to create a bushier and tastier plant. If you want to seed propagate you must let them flower and be pollinated. So why not have a little of both by seeding one plant and growing another for drying to use in cooking? Drying herbs is pretty simple. Most you can just hang inside away from direct sunlight and then, when completely dried, you remove stems, break up leaves and store in glass containers.
A fun way to get kids excited about gardening is to create a themed garden. You can grow tomatoes, spaghetti squash, garlic, onion, peppers, oregano, basil, rosemary, thyme and call it the Spaghetti Dinner garden. Another great meal theme is chili peppers, jalapenos, cumin, oregano, and cilantro to have a Green Chili Bowl garden. The cheese and tortillas may have to come from the store however.
One of my favorite and very easy recipes to make is with my home grown Roma tomatoes, jalapeños and cilantro is roasted tomato salsa.
Here’s my recipe:
|Roasted Tomato Salsa|
· 10 – 12 Roma tomatoes cut in half
· 2 – 4 garlic cloves cut in halves
· 1 white onion cut into wedges
· 1 jalapeño cut in half and membrane removed
· 1 t. cumin
· Cilantro chopped
· Salt to taste
· 1 – 2 T. olive oil
Preheat oven on broil.
Toss tomato, garlic, onion and jalapeno with olive oil. Lay flat side down on baking sheet.
Roast in oven until dark brown and almost burnt. Let cool, then throw in blender with cumin, salt and other preferred spices (I use a little red chili powder). Last, mix in cilantro and lime if desired. One word of caution to wait until slightly cooled so that your blender top doesn’t fly off and make a mess from the hot contents! I speak from experience.
It also freezes well, so you can enjoy it for months to come.
There are so many good things to make with our garden vegetables and herbs, and there’s also that good feeling we get by knowing while we enjoy that delicious meal we are also helping out pollinators!
For more information on herb gardening and other gardening topics visit:
Pumpkin Plant Photo: N. Klasky
Roasted Tomato Salsa Photo: N. Klasky
Herb Drying Photo: web.extension.illinois.edu