the backyard harvest

by wickenden on flickr.com

I am not a good gardener, but the backyard does produce a small spring harvest, without our attention, year after year. Long before the wisteria was even thinking about making leaves, catmint was pressing up into plump mounds. A widening patch of lawn has turned green – no thanks to the blue grama, its blond eyelashes still curved shut. Shin-deep garlic chives and oregano have jumped their borders in order to bring the idea of ‘pizza’ to the act of mowing the lawn. You can hear the rosemary buzzing from across the yard, lying prone under its load of flowers and bees.

April is the one month that we get to offer any crop to our real gardener friends, whose hard-earned harvests we devour most unreciprocatedly. The truth is, our fistfuls of herbs cannot begin to repay their summer generosity of sun gold tomatoes and watermelons and peaches, but they do offer a taste of spring at a time when spring is everywhere to be found except on the dinner table.

tarragon salad

Tarragon Salad with Grapes and Feta
adapted from this recipe by Jamie Oliver

Tarragon is an easy to grow, drought-tolerant perennial, whose feathery greens look great as a landscaping element. Its peppery lance-shaped leaves have a flavor reminiscent of licorice, or fennel. It’s one of my favorite edible plants in the backyard because of its versatility: it can be used as a salad green, as a bright element in chicken salads, potato salads, and vinaigrettes, and adds a fragrant note to cooked foods, as well.

4 big handfuls of tarragon
1-2 cups red and green grapes, sliced in half lengthwise
a chunk of (local) feta cheese
2 shallots, peeled and very thinly sliced (optional)
extra virgin olive oil
champagne or white wine vinegar
salt and pepper

If you are using them, place the sliced shallots in a small bowl with a couple tablespoons of vinegar, a pinch of sugar, and a pinch of salt. Set aside to marinate while you’re making the rest of the salad, or at least fifteen minutes.

If the tarragon is very young and tender, lightly chop the sprigs with a very sharp knife. The leaves bruise easily, so do this gently. If the stems are at all woody, remove the leaves and discard the stems.

Put the tarragon into a large salad bowl, along with the sliced grapes. Add the shallots, and sprinkle on some of their vinegary marinade. Drizzle with a little olive oil and lightly toss. The salad should just barely glisten with olive oil – go easy on it. Season with a little salt and pepper, and crumble the feta over the top.

Want to veganize it? – Try some toasted walnuts instead of the cheese.

Serves four lesbians.

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2 Responses to “the backyard harvest”


  1. 1 denise August 25, 2009 at 8:46 am

    This looks fantastic! I’d never have thought of using tarragon as a salad green. Thank you.


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