Garden Salad Dressed with Balsamic Vinaigrette
My kids are like me. They enjoy back to basics, simple living. When I make dishes from the garden and farmyard my youngest grills me about what has been grown on the property and what has come from the supermarket. He’s always a little disappointed when he learns that every ingredient hasn’t been “homemade”.
Some meals toward the end of the growing season are comprised of mainly harvested or gathered items. This early in the season, however, we are lucky to find anything that is ready to pick and be eaten. I had an early enough start on planting seeds and getting my seedlings to grow to the right height to be planted, but our little Bantam hen was escaping most days from the roofless run that I built in the spring for the chickens. She very promptly scratched up and ate all the seeds for the cool weather crops that the boys and I had planted so I was afraid to set out my delicate warm weather seedlings. As it turns out, she only dug in what looked to her to be dry, mulchy soil beds and very respectfully scratched around established plants. She even left the leaves alone and didn’t peck at them as I thought she would. Unfortunately, it was late in the season before I was brave enough to plant them to see what she would do. Now the entire garden is mature enough for all of the hens to peck and scratch freely through the farmyard without damaging the roots or digging the plants up. The only vegetable plants they have bothered are the six inch corn plants we planted against the fence. Chickens love corn. I can’t blame them for that. But if they had just waited, they could have had the real thing.
So all we have gotten out of the garden so far is a couple of kohlrabi, cherry tomatoes, a little basil, cilantro, lettuce, and radishes. I had a beautiful two year old oregano that was flourishing next to our little duck pond and draping gracefully over the side of the retaining wall that terraces the farmyard up from the sidewalk. I was trying to weed a patch of Creeping Charley that had run amok as a result of growing next to the pond. When it wouldn’t come up I yanked harder. A second later I was horrified to see that I had pulled my beautiful oregano plant out of the ground and the Creeping Charley was left rooted in, its round little leaves smiling up at me. I’d swear I heard it laughing. On top of that, after hurriedly replanting the oregano, knowing that it grows so aggressively year after year that it may still have had a chance to survive, I ran up the steps to the farmyard to grab my weeding bucket that I had been using earlier intending to scoop up some pond water to give the plant a chance to dig in. Well, as often happens with this wishy washy brain of mine, I became completely distracted by something else, I have no idea what, that I never watered that poor, little plant. I did have a nice bunch of sun-dried oregano two days later, however…sigh…
So there hasn’t been much to eat from the farmyard but chicken eggs this summer. I did get three weeks worth of organic lettuce which saved $10 at the grocery store, and the tomato plants are loaded with green tomatoes which means lots of sauce for the winter.
But in spite of all the obstacles, I was able to gather enough produce for a salad to go with dinner one night. I made sure that every item was from the garden but the dressing ingredients. And even then I managed to get herbs from the garden included in the recipe.
My sons, especially the younger one, sat down with a look of contentment to eat the salad made entirely from food we had grown. I told them we could learn to make vinegar so that would be homemade, too, but that I didn’t think that we could successfully grow olive trees in our area for the oil. Without missing a beat, my oldest informed me that we could grow lots of corn and make corn oil, something he had already researched as a source of biofuel. Then my younger boy who is never content with the fact that I make most of our bread from scratch with store-bought whole wheat flour, suggested that we fill the backyard with wheat so we can make our own flour. Don’t think that’s gonna happen. Well…maybe if the country’s economic system completely fails and we need to go even further back to basics… Oh yeah. I guess I may be planting wheat next spring. But I’d have to do something with that little chicken first so I could plant early enough. Buffalo wings would make a nice blog post…
1 garlic clove, minced
2 tsp. fresh basil, chiffonade
pinch of salt
1/4 c. Balsamic Vinegar
1/8 c. extra virgin olive oil
Combine all the ingredients but the oil. Whisk in oil to emulsify.