Cooking with Betsy: The Gardens and the Freezers

We’re reveling in the beautiful dog days of summer. Hot sunny days, warm sultry nights, and the gardens are lush. Tomatoes, peppers, and herbs, herbs, herbs. Rosemary, coriander, parsley, dill, basil, spearmint, oregano, thyme. Betsy loved her gardens, and her gardens loved her right back. There was always an herb garden at the summer house on the Canadian lakeshore. Her bible was the BH&G Garden Book, written in 1954. It was stuffed full of extra newspaper clippings, with dogeared page corners and handwritten comments written in the margins. Betsy is still talking with me and teaching me about gardening, through her book.

Betsy leveled up her garden game when she decided to create a huge vegetable garden in her backyard. Ted willingly tilled the soil and built the plot, marked by railroad ties and an ample wire fence to keep the critters out. Betsy crafted her gardening prowess in that huge plot. Zucchini, beefsteak tomatoes, cherry tomatoes, pole beans, wax beans, lettuces, asparagus, summer squash … if it could be grown, Betsy grew it. And it flourished! Too well!

The Freezers

Then, came The FREEZER. There was so much extra produce that Betsy needed to acquire a full size freezer just to store extra vegetables in. My father had choice words about that freezer. It seemed like the more vegetables we ate, the more she froze. We couldn’t keep up! I think Betsy was blanching and freezing vegetables every single day. She should have bought stock in Ziplock!

The frozen vegetables had to be transported to the city house at the end of the summer, so Betsy purchased another full size freezer there, too! You know where this is all going. “Freezer friction” between Betsy and Ted. He hated those freezers! Ted said they just sucked energy and cost him a fortune on the electric bill, but those gardens just kept producing more vegetables, and Betsy just kept on freezing them. Betsy purchased a second full freezer. I think the vegetable gardening finally ended because of the freezer arguments. (And maybe because of the zucchini. There was a LOT of zucchini.)


Well, we aren’t that prolific over here with our gardens at K2.0, but we do love the 5 small EarthBox gardens we’ve planted. We are successful entirely because of these EarthBoxes. Setting them up is easy. Remember the old Ronco commercial for a countertop oven? “Just set it and forget it!” Well, essentially, that’s an EarthBox.

The key to the success of these boxes is the well of water that is stored below the soil. Plastic piping allows the water well to be refilled weekly. You can never overwater, because the well has an overflow valve that spills out once the water reaches the top of the well. We lay plastic sheeting on top of the garden before planting. It prevents weeds from growing and it guards against moisture evaporation. We use heavy gauge plastic contractor bags with large binder clips to hold them down. Plus, the boxes are on casters, so they can be wheeled around the yard for access to direct or indirect sunlight. Score! They are the only reason we have a decent garden, because I definitely didn’t inherit the garden gene.

I don’t think a single cherry tomato has made it from this plant to the kitchen counter. They’re just too delicious! There is nothing like eating a fresh picked tomato that is warm from the sun.

Cooking from the garden

Last night we made a simple chicken with peppers and mozzarella, using peppers and herbs from the garden.

The chicken breasts were marinated in white balsamic vinegar with minced coriander and thyme, then sprinkled liberally with southwest seasoning, covered with a split banana pepper and topped with mozzarella cheese at the end of baking. Wow, were those peppers HOT! Roasted onions and green beans rounded out the meal. On the side: something I spotted on Pinterest: “Skittles Salad!”

#nofilter! YES, it WAS as good as it looks! All the fruits get chopped to tiny pieces so you really can taste the rainbow of summer’s bounty. Red grapes, strawberries, clementines, pineapple, mango, kiwi, blueberries. So good. Next summer we’re planting berry bushes, for certain.

Tonight might have to be a repeat of the Rosemary Mustard Chicken we made last week with fresh grown rosemary, because it was that good! And fish tacos on Tuesday, using fresh coriander!


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