I love where I live, but there’s no place for a serious garden outside my fifth-floor condo—just a lovely balcony that has enough space for a bistro table, a grill, and potted plants. I have tried container gardening, and I had a lot of luck with tomatoes, jalapeño peppers, and various herbs. However, despite the fact that I’m lucky to have outdoor space in the city, I dream of a small square of earth where I also could grow shell beans, okra, and eggplant.
Shell beans, like lima beans, butter beans, fava beans, blackeyed peas, and cranberry beans, have tough, inedible pods, so the beans must be shelled prior to cooking. Similar to their dried counterparts, they’re cooked in simmering liquid, but they don’t take as much time and there is no need for soaking. This week’s cranberry beans were delicious with kale, shrimp, and a side of roasted cauliflower with lemon, cheese, and chives.
In addition to the cranberry beans, kale, and cauliflower, the week 11 box contained Russian banana potatoes, Italian garlic, candy onions, assorted tomatoes, tomatillos, and big, fat ears of Mirai sweet corn.
I was a little backed up on squash, and I knew more were coming. So I roasted a big pan of all the mixed varieties I had in my fridge (zucchini, yellow, pattypan) after tossing it with olive oil, sliced garlic, and a seasoning salt that has, among other things, salt, crushed red pepper, rosemary, and lemon oil.
The assorted tomatoes made a simple sauce for pasta. I quartered them because they were a little larger than the recipe required and cooked them with garlic and olive oil and crushed red pepper.
There was a big bag of tomatillos and a handful of jalapeños. I wanted to make a pork and tomatillo and potato dish, but the recipe I’ve used in the past requires a slow cooker. Since I moved last year, I have not located where my slow cooker is hiding in storage. So, I hauled out my dutch oven and prepared braised chicken with a tomatillo and jalapeño sauce and roasted potatoes. I still have a few tomatillos and jalapeños left, so I’ll need a plan for those next week.
It’s hard to believe we’re halfway through the season, and the farmers at Nichols Farm are working to harvest and prepare crops for fall and winter storage. As I said last week, I’m not ready to think about the winter ahead. For now, I’m planning what to do with next week’s veggies: eggplant, sweet peppers, and piles of squash and tomatoes. I think I might need to bake more zucchini bread.
For all the container gardeners out there: What are your favorite plants to grow in small spaces?