Sharing produce a boon for gardeners

GARDENS Suzen2

by marlys good

And how does your garden grow? Just fine thank you, echo avid gardeners Suzen Yarborough, Dallen Smith and Lenny Yenny.

Yarborough’s garden is so prolific she’s provided her family, friends and neighbors with all they can eat, and is now taking the excess to the Community Outreach thrift shop for the food bank.

There’s horseradish, kale, squash, peppers, cucumbers, garlic, cucumbers. You name it, Suzen probably grows it. And it‘s all pesticide free.

“I don’t use chemicals of any kind on anything in my yard,” Suzen says. “I pull my own weeds.”

She has gardened for years, but went pesticide free when her daughter was diagnosed with cancer several years ago. “I wanted to grow all kinds of vegetables, pesticide free, for her. And I love knowing that I’m giving my kids and grandkids vegetables that are so healthy.” With the bountiful harvest, Suzen adds, “I’m getting my neighbors healthy, too.

“My niece from Billings came down and took a bunch of kale home. She makes kale chips; she said they are delicious and they are good for you.”

While there has been much talk about late gardens, and hail damage, Yarborough said she “started it early, probably earlier than most, and it took right off.”

Admitting this year’s garden is too big, she said it consumes hours of her time every day. “I get heat stroke and have to stop,” she laughed.

She is a gardener, but has never preserved or canned the fruits of her labor

“I just share the wealth,” she said with a smile in her voice. “I give it away.”

 

Kale Chips

1 bunch kale; 1 Tbls. olive oil, 1 tsp. seasoned salt.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line a non-insulated cookie sheet with parchment paper.

With a knife carefully remove leaves from the thick stems and tear into bite-size pieces. Wash and thoroughly dry kale. Drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with seasoning salt.

Bake 10-15 minutes – until the edges brown but are not burned.

(Broccoli is also delicious this way. Cut into flowerets, drizzle with oil, sprinkle with seasoning salt and pepper. Bake at 400 degrees for 15 minutes.)

 

Smith grows a picture perfect garden, with all the popular veggies, beans, corn, potatoes, carrots, tomatoes, cucumbers, zucchini (“Roll up your windows and lock your car doors or you’ll be getting some,” he laughs) along with rhubarb, strawberries and raspberries.  “Strawberry/rhubarb pie is my favorite,” he said.

This year he installed a drip line that runs on a timer and his garden flourished; he has far fewer weeds, which translates into fewer hours spent in the garden.

With eight children, Smith said there’s not usually much left over to preserve, but if there is extra they do some canning. “Last year our potatoes lasted us through the winter.”

He enjoys his garden, explaining, “Lots of times it’s fun to get out there, fun to see stuff grow and do well, and it’s a way to get rid of some of the stress.”

His kids help plan, weed and harvest. “Sometimes, just like when I was a kid; it’s joyful, sometimes it’s a chore for them.”

His favorite fresh food? ”I love that fresh corn on the cob.”

 

“Don’t buy it; come here first,” Yenny tells her children.

The gardening enthusiast always grows enough to keep her family, friends and neighbors supplied with fresh produce and has even put ads on Internet’s Free Share when plants over-produce.

“The growing season was different this year. It started off good, then got cool, so the plants grew great big, I don’t know why. The zucchini put on all kinds of fruit, then it would stop, the fruit would rot and you’d have to take them off. Now it is doing beautifully.” In fact, she added, everything is earlier, doing beautifully and is very prolific. The tomatillos have taken over the yard, the rhubarb is thriving, the Swiss chard “renews” itself again and again, raspberries have been plentiful, the mint, sweet basil and oregano fill the garden will their scents.

Yenny planted eggplant for the first time this year. “I put in a lot,” she laughed. “You know you put in one or two, and you get one or two. You can fry it, make egg plant Parmesan, and this year I made pizza rounds. You cut it in rounds, put on some pizza sauce and put it in the oven; take it out, add some cheese and put it back in the oven.”  Easy and very good, she said.

The longtime gardener uses no pesticides. She has lots of ladybugs in the garden, but “they are good. Praying Mantis kill a lot of bugs, but we don’t have them here. Back home (she’s from the east coast) I purchased some and we had them all over the garden.”

Yenny just plain enjoys gardening; it’s rewarding, but it’s also a lot of work. “My husband (Chancey) enjoys it too. He is my biggest helper; he’s out there right alongside me.”

Yenny cans and preserves “everything. Tomatoes are my favorite; you can make all kinds of things” Her spaghetti sauce includes lots of veggies and spices, and they could vary from batch to batch. Ingredients might vary, “but it always tastes the same,” she laughed. “One year the tomatoes were scant so I took tomatillos and ground them up and put them in with the tomatoes. I use whatever I have.”

She dries the herbs to use throughout the winter.

One of her favorite recipes includes the fresh mint.

“You take chicken pieces and fry them in a little oil (no flour, etc.). Then you take them out of the oil, and put in a whole big bunch of fresh mint (washed and dried) into the oil; cook it until it’s crisp then put the chicken back in.”  Delicious with the crispy mint, she said.

When the Yenny clan gathers for its traditional Sunday dinner, the table is sure to be heaped with veggies fresh from the garden. Pop something on the grill and voilå, “dinner’s served.”