A Baker’s Garden Dozen

By Sharon Kebschull Barrett

Since moving several years ago, I’ve been without a garden, until I finally got one started this year. We built a fence, laid down good soil, and put in some little plants.

My plan was to build trellises based on a design I’d read about, but I couldn’t find the right netting. Meanwhile, it rained.

The little plants grew. It rained some more. The plants were really, really happy. They got cocky. They started bossing me around.

We’re growing here, they said. And here. And here. Oh, you wanted that for a path? Nope, we’re growing there, too. You have a trellis ready now? Good luck with that, lady.

This whole summer, I have watered the garden exactly twice. And one of those times, it rained about four hours later. It’s a good thing we adore tomatoes.

So, despite the squirrels and the bunnies, the harvest has been pretty glorious. Next year, though, I’d like to be the boss. I want a garden that doesn’t look ridiculous or slightly scary. I want neat squares of veggie plants arching gracefully through trellis squares, reaching for the sky. And while I want all I had this year, that covered supper only. My dessert harvest basket was pretty empty. I was so busy being bossed, I never quite made it to the second half of my plant list.

It’s not a particularly exotic list. I get greedy for the basics of summer, wanting enough to both eat fresh and preserve. So next year, if I use every last bit of sunny space, here’s what my baker’s garden will grow:

  • Blueberries
  • Strawberries
  • Figs
  • Raspberries
  • Blackberries
  • Watermelon
  • Lemon verbena
  • Rosemary
  • Basil
  • Cinnamon basil
  • Kentucky Colonel mint
  • Orange mint
  • Chocolate Mint

For me, the herbs are at least as important as the fruit. If only we didn’t live in the woods, I’d plant a pasture-full of lemon verbena alone. My plants this year never managed to grow full enough for me to cut without guilt, but there’s no better lemon herb, perfect any time I need a dash of lemon zest. Rosemary makes chocolate amazing; mint and chocolate make my favorite flavor combination; basil sweetly tweaks the familiar taste of blueberries; and Southern sweet tea with a dash of lemon verbena and Kentucky Colonel mint sums up summer in one sip.

We almost never have “drop-in” guests, but I do seem to have a lot of last-minute dessert needs. Often that’s because I can’t quite settle on what I want to make; I plan supper well ahead when we’re having company because I’m not as good at last-minute suppers. Dessert, though, I know I can always pull together in a snap. That’s fine, but it often means less fruit, more chocolate, as it’s what I always have on hand. Herbs help keep those concoctions interesting — and even more so if they include, at last, a little home-grown fruit from a garden worth bragging about.

Recipe: Rosemary Chocolate Sauce

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