First Balcony Garden Harvest

01On Thursday I had my first ever balcony garden harvest. This was my first time growing vegetables, and the whole experience was enriching and fun (and tasty!)

Here is what I gathered (with their Italian names too):

03Chicory (Cicoria Zuccherina)

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05Another type of chicory (Cicoria Spadona)

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07Broccoli rabe (Cime di rapa)

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08Turnips (Rape)

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Two tiny turnips

Here’s what the plants looked like in the beginning:

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11My dream is to have a big vegetable garden and grow a lot of the food I consume. What I lack right now is land.

What I have is a balcony, so in September I decided to start gardening in the city using the space I have available.

By gardening, I mean growing vegetables. I’m not really a flower person, and I have to make good use of the space anyway.

I’m a beginner (I’ve only had herbs before), so I did some basic research online and I went to the store and looked for some seed packets that said the seeds could be planted in early September. I bought some small planters and soil.

I started small and didn’t plant that much. I grew two kinds of chicory, broccoli rabe, turnips, and parsley. Everything was organic.

The plants grew and did fine in the cool weather. When the seedlings first came up it was so exciting, and it really cheered me up to wake up every morning and see all this green on the balcony, and watch how they grew a little more every day.

Fast forward two-and-a-half months. On Thursday the forecast called for snow in the afternoon, our first bout of really cold weather, so I figured it was as good a time as any for my first harvest!

Well, the first if you don’t count when I was a little kid and grew radishes and carrots in the backyard and learned how much the rabbits like to snack on your hard work.

“Harvest” is a bit of a generous term for what I did, but gathering the plants felt great and I loved the concept of food going straight from the “farm” to the table.

Before lunch I gathered the short chicory, washed it, added oil and salt, and minutes later it was on the table as a salad, which was eaten after some pasta.

After lunch I gathered the longer chicory, the broccoli rabe, and the turnips. I should say the turnip tops, since there were only two tiny turnips under the soil. The parsley’s still out there. It doesn’t seem to mind the cold.

All of that was prepared as part of dinner. The broccli rabe and turnip tops shrunk down to very little after cooking (with oil, garlic, peperoncino, and salt), and the chicory made a small salad.

So, it was a very modest harvest and was all eaten in one day. Did I mention I could use some land? Spring is a great time to plant vegetables, and I’ll try to maximize the balcony space and plant more then.

Some people with big gardens plant vegetables and the garden produces so much that they can’t give it all away. The neighbors run in the other direction when they see them coming around the corner with boxes of cucumbers. I might regret saying this if it ever happens, but right now that kind of garden sounds fantastic.

What really tickled my funny bone was something I read in Barbara Kingsolver’s book Animal, Vegetable, Miracle, which I recently finished. She had a big garden which produced bountifully, and come summertime they were hauling in pounds and pounds of tomatoes, zucchini, squash, and much more every day. The zucchini was especially plentiful. The problem was, the neighbors were also growing zucchini and you couldn’t give the stuff away if you tried.

Kingsolver came home one day and noticed a bag of zucchini hanging from her mailbox, left there from a fellow zucchini-grower in the neighborhood. Instead of getting irritated, she thought “that’s a great idea!” and bestowed the neighbors with her own bags of anonymous “generosity”.

I’m not there yet but one can dream.

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2 Responses to First Balcony Garden Harvest

  1. Audrey says:

    Congrats on your first harvest! I’m a garden dreamer too, but am without a balcony here in Bologna. Right now I’m making do with a window box of aromatics and volunteer at a garden outside the city center when I can.

    • Michelle says:

      Thanks Audrey! I was surprised you don’t have a balcony, but maybe the architecture is a little different in Bologna- I’m not that familiar with it. That’s great that you can volunteer at a garden… happy planting :)