Kitchen Garden: How Green Grows My Garden

how green grows my kitchen garden
Growing up we always had a kitchen garden. Nothing fancy but staples like Beefstake tomatoes, Iceburg lettuce and carrots. My mom loved tomatoes and would bite into them like you would an apple. Vegetables bought at a supermarket just don’t compare to the flavor burst.

I really should have paid more attention to what my dad did to his garden because his Beefstake tomatoes were huge, sweet and juicy.  Mmmm Mmmm Mmmm He always made gardening look so easy!

The house my parents bought had incredible rose bushes that the previous owner had lovingly grew. He had even grafted different varieties together so when they were in bloom it was a splendid burst of gorgeous colors and our house was always filled with the lovely scent of the roses we had cut.

When I had my first house I was so busy that a kitchen garden was just a sweet memory. However, the last couple of years I finally decided to make the time  and have a kitchen garden. It’s a lot of work, but we’ve been enjoying the fruits of my labors with fresh organic tomatoes, salsas, tomato sauce and so much more.

I have an herb garden in front of our gazebo which gets a great deal of use and two larger gardens for vegetables this year. I’d like to plant a cutting flower bed of Peonies, Hydrangeas and whatever else suites my fancy, but for now that’s on the back burner.

The soil here sucks—its the only way to describe it.  For the last two years I’ve spent a lot of cash on soil amendments like mushroom compost, cow manure, organic compost etc. and it still needs work. Recently, I read somewhere or heard it on a video that it takes 7 to 10 years to get the ground in shape. Ugh! Last year I learned we have a couple of black walnut trees and these things are not good for growing a vegetable garden.

Black Walnut trees contain a natural substance called JUGLONE that inhibits the growth of many plants (or just plain kills them). And it’s contained in every freaken part of the black walnut tree—bark, wood, leaves. It’s strongest in the roots. Now here’s the zinger—the roots can extend out 50-80 feet from the tree. Our first garden is 45 feet from the darn thing and there’s another one at the back about 60 feet away from the kitchen gardens.

Guess what plants are noted for dying quickly within this range? Well, of course the most popular home-grown veggies (tomatoes, peppers, eggplant, and potatoes) and my ornamental favorites like petunias, azalea, viburnum, hydrangea and rhododendron. Guess what I planted right beside the black walnut tree–two azalea bushes. UGH! I need to move them. Those darn black walnut trees even kill off Blueberry bushes too.  I thought last year that my garden yield was a lot lighter than I was expecting and I was blaming myself.  It wasn’t me it was those darn trees! It’s too late to make major changes so I’ll be adding milk to the water for my tomatoes along with making sure they get enough fertilizer from organic

Next year I think I’ll be doing Square Foot Gardening and work smarter not harder. Doing raised bed gardening with good soil from the beginning should give me increased yields while circumventing most of the problem with the black walnut tree. The last tree I cut down cost $1,000 and I’m sure this black walnut will be the same.  For now we’re just cutting the branches off and keeping it trimmed back as best we can ourselves.


Pico De Gallo

Is it summer yet? Is it summer yet? This is another one of my favorite summer recipes—Pico De Gallo. It’s a refreshing burst of flavors and it is so fast and easy to make. A delish uncooked salsa that works with tortilla chips, a garnish for tacos or fajitas or as a zesty accompaniment to eggs, fish, chicken and pork. Top your grilled burgers with it to add a fresh south-of-the-border flavor. I love using it in my breakfast burrito. Salsas go fast in our house. I make a canned cooked salsa from the fresh veggies we grow in our kitchen garden but we all love the uncooked salsas too.

I could eat this by the bowl full!!

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Pico De Gallo


  • 4 ripe plum tomatoes, seeded and finely chopped
  • 1 medium white onion, finely chopped
  • 1/2 cup cilantro leaf, chopped (or more to taste!)
  • 2 -3 jalapeno peppers, seeded and finely chopped ( Fresno or Serrano chilis can be used if no jalapenos)
  • 3 cloves of garlic, crushed and finely chopped (optional)
  • Juice of one lime


  • Combine all ingredients in a medium bowl; cover and refrigerate for at least an hour to meld the flavors.


Remember each type of pepper has a different heat so adjust according to your preference. Also, you can adjust the number of jalapenos--we like the heat.

If the peppers are really hot then use latex gloves when seeding them. You don't want to accidentally rub your eyes after cutting up hot peppers. Do not include the pepper stem.

Choose tomatoes that are ripe but firm. Tomatoes MUST be seeded and the soft gel removed. The texture and flavor will not be what you're looking for in a pico de gallo.

Some people substitute parsley for cilantro. I find it's a totally different flavor. We prefer the cilantro because it imparts a fresh flavor with hints of citrus.

Pico de Gallo tastes best the first day it's made but it's still yummy for a couple of days after. The flavor starts to mellow out after the first day.

Pineapple Salsa

With all the blustering cold snow and ice storms we’ve had lately I’ve been longing for summer and all the fresh fruits and veggies that go with it. Our winters have been almost non-existent over the last few years and I’m spoiled. Mother nature you just had to remind us who was boss but I’m tired of your hissy fits weather. Okay, I get it already! You da boss. Bring on the summer.

This recipe is the closest I’ll be getting to summer for another six weeks since that darn groundhog’s winter prediction. (sigh) So today, I’m adding a little bit of sunshine to our dinner and making Pineapple Salsa. A juicy fresh pineapple always reminds me of warm lazy days at my parent’s cottage during the summer. Ice cold fruit was always so delish on those hot days.
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This is a refreshing, sweet, colorful and easy recipe for pineapple salsa.

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Blend it in a bowl. You can serve it in the bowl you mixed it in or use individual ones.

Pineapple Salsa


  • 2 cups chopped fresh pineapple
  • 1 cup chopped red bell pepper
  • 1/2 cup chopped purple onion
  • 1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro
  • 1 medium jalapeño chile pepper. Seeds removed and finely chopped (Optional-I like the heat)
  • 1 medium sized crushed and finely chopped garlic clove (Optional)
  • 1/3 teaspoon coarse sea salt
  • juice from 1 fresh lime
  • 2 tablespoons rice vinegar


  • Blend all the ingredients in a large mixing bowl. Refrigerate for 30-60 minutes to blend the flavors.


One jalapeño chile pepper makes a mild to medium salsa. If you like heat add another one--I do.

Use fresh pineapple. Texture and sweetness is different when using canned pineapple.

Let the salsa blend the flavors about an hour before serving. It's best when served the first day.

Sometimes I've added a light olive oil and vinegar dressing to it depending on what I was serving it over.

What’s your favorite pineapple recipe?