Look what we grew in our courtyard garden!

©Caron Eastgate Dann, The Crayon Files, 2017

We don’t have a garden as such, but there is a small L-shaped area through sliding doors, big enough for a collapsible washing line, a table and four chairs, one long narrow garden bed and some pots. The horizontal stroke of the “L” is what we call “the badlands”: a few small trees for privacy and just enough of a “jungle” for our cat to believe she is wild and free (when really, she’s an indoor cat who has the run only of a very small suburban courtyard).

But oh what we can grow in this tiny space. I decided to do a quick sketch of some of our autumn produce: three types of tomatoes, red and green capsicums and chillies.

We have so many tomatoes, I’ve been making our own tomato sauce to freeze; so many chillies, they’ve also been picked and frozen for use all winter; and a few luscious capsicums so crisp and dense they seem like a different species to the spongy articles found in supermarkets. Our potatoes are coming on, and we hope to have a bumper crop by winter.

In addition, the courtyard is packed with herbs: rosemary, basil, thyme, curry leaves, mint, parsley, and an olive herb with spiked green leaves that truly does have the aroma and taste of actual olives.

If anyone can tell us how to grow coriander, please advise. We’ve failed dismally!

By the way, the sketch is done on Ampersand Clayboard with Prismacolour pencils. I wanted to do a simple picture that reminded me of some 1980s cook books I have.

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A funny thing happened on the way to the garden…

The first lettuce from our own garden

The first lettuce from our own garden

All my adult life Ive steered clear of gardening. Despite my mother being a keen green-thumb and growing our own produce, such as potatoes, mint and parsley, when I was young, I’ve always thought it wasn’t my ‘thing’.

Then a funny thing happened. A few years ago, I started watching a half-hour Saturday evening TV show called Gardening Australia. I still wasn’t into gardening itself, but I began to appreciate the peace and beauty of home-grown plants, particularly, as I’m a bit of a foodie, the edible kind.

In April this year, we moved out of the city to a suburb that is almost rural, to a street in which people take gardening seriously. And although we’re in a townhouse with only a very small courtyard, we’ve started a garden.

We’ve got lettuces, radishes, sweet corn, tomatoes, garlic, chillis, herbs such as rosemary, thyme, basil, parsley, coriander, chives and more. My husband has even started a small and joyful flower garden in one corner.

Because I’ve been watching Gardening Australia attentively for so long, I’ve found that I’ve picked up quite a bit of gardening knowledge without realising it. Soil types and planting widths and watering tips: no longer are they useless information to me.

On Friday night, we had the first lettuce from our garden the star of a salad for dinner. Nothing ever tasted so good—bursting with flavour, nutty, buttery almost, and crunchy.

Lettuce2I teamed it with simple fare: tomatoes and multi-coloured capsicum (not our own, yet); and seared scallops and prawns with my hot butter-garlic-chilli-lemon pepper dressing on a bed of steamed basmati rice.

Best meal I’ve had in ages!