I began my vegetable garden earlier this year so that I could have access to fresh, hyper-local produce to use in my recipes. In the three months that I’ve maintained the garden, I’ve learned a lot more than just how to grow plants, and I’ve been rewarded with more than just fresh fruits and veggies.
It has been so fascinating seeing the life cycles of some of my favorite foods – even now, I find it hard to imagine that my nearly six-foot corn plants began as seedlings no larger than blades of grass. Watching tiny strawberries materialize from the centers of delicate white flowers feels a bit like taking a sneak-peek into the secret life of nature.
It’s even been a lesson about the critters and bugs involved in creating produce (and the ones that just call my garden a home). When I water my garden at 6:30am, I am greeted by 20 or so baby grasshoppers lounging in my sage plant. With their tiny bodies and long, massive feelers, they are a perfect dose of cuteness to start my day off with.
Now, the potato beetles and tomato-pecking catbirds are not as nice visitors in the garden, but I suppose everyone has their place.
I had a little bit of a scare earlier in the month when two of my four zucchini plants would produce flowers, but no fruit, and led me to believe they were male plants. They were bushy and beautiful with green leaves the size of dinner plates, but let’s be honest – I’m in this for the zukes.
After some research, I resorted to hand-pollinating the big zucchini blossoms with a Q-tip (ooh, flower sex), and that seemed to do the trick. Over the past week, the dark green veggies have been popping up left and right!
Chocolate zucchini bread is one of my all-time favorite uses for this versatile veggie. This vegan version is naturally low in fat, as I’ve swapped the cup of vegetable oil for unsweetened apple sauce, and can be easily changed into a gluten-free treat by using gluten-free flour. Feel free to add chopped walnuts or pecan in yours!