Sunday, April 3, 2011

Bathtub Gardening

One of the details that clinched the deal when we bought our house was a giant oval tub with massage jets. Little did we know that the water heater would be inadequate to supply enough hot water to fill the oversize tub even halfway up. We tried getting four large pots of water boiling on the stove first, then turning on the hot water until it began to run cold, then pouring in the boiling water, and running enough cold to get the right water level and temperature. Huge hassle. A couple of times, and that was it.

One day--long after we had given up on ever using the tub for bathing--we decided to use it for indoor gardening. I built a frame around the tub and hung grow lights. My wife, a consummate gardener, took care of the rest.

We live on the side of a mountain composed of solid granite with little if any topsoil, so all of her efforts outdoors have been extremely labor-intensive. Then there is the strong wind we get most days, and of course, the odd sudden hailstorm. For fragile herbs and salad greens, an indoor garden is the only way to grow.

At the moment, we have basil, arugula, red chard, mizuna, tat soi, and chives growing in the bathtub. But that's not all (nor nearly enough for my live-in ardent gardener). We also have a tomato plant growing by a window (and more basil--there's never too much!). And she now has several flats of microgreens on east-facing windowsills, which she transports to the deck during the day to soak up extra sun. Right now we have  micro romaine and green leaf lettuce, a mesclun mix, broccoli, and radish, with new varieties in the works. Microgreens are packed with flavor and nutrients, and make a most eye-appealing presentation, especially as a garnish. And apparently they're very easy to grow--all you need is a few recycled plastic tubs, some organic soil and fertilizer, water and sun.

The miraculous bursting forth of green plants is a glorious sight under any circumstances; knowing that these tender sproutlings are not only edible, but highly nutritious is profoundly exciting to me.
This morning I made a salad from a combination of whatever was ripe for the harvest--red chard, mizuna, micro-radish, and perfect baby plum tomatoes. Here are a few shots of the process:
Freshly harvested greens.
Stacking larger leaves for easy slicing.

Sliced, juicy tender stems and all.

Some greens are best trimmed with scissors.

See? Quick and easy!

Baby romas, quartered with a serrated paring knife.

Ready to go.

Just before tossing with a fresh herb vinaigrette.

Unbelievably tender, potent and fragrant. And this is repeatable--daily!

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