Essays from
Giving Ground


I think this article of mine first appeared in a decades-ago Organic Gardening and Farming publication, but as we leaf through the brightly colored pages of always- thriving plants in the seed catalogs this month, such old news can be dusted off and may serve as a useful reminder. My thesis was, "If you can eat your garden pest controls, then you're surely using natural, organic methods!"

Many herbs can be interplanted, or companion-planted, throughout your vegetable garden, to take advantage of natural repellent qualities in the herbs, and to increase your vegetables' resistance to rodent, insect, and viral infestations.

Garden planning to maintain the levels of humus, nitrogen, minerals and pH values in the soil is the first step in "bad- bug prevention." Rotating crops from year to year discourages build-up in the soil of harmful insects or bacteria to which one plant may be particularly susceptible. And healthy plants can often sustain minor damage and still bear "fruit."

But making judicious use of strongly scented herbs, in the garden, and in the kitchen, will confuse your garden pests and delight your dinner guests!

Confusing the Pests:

a) Plant little islands of strong herbs such as dill, basil, garlic and chives throughout the garden to confuse insects' senses, preventing them from seizing immediately upon succulent garden vegetables.

b) Onion and garlic juices and extracts contain powerful antibacterial agents, which can help combat diseases on cucumbers, radishes, spinach, beans and tomatoes.

c) Peppermint or spearmint repels mice; onions interplanted with other crops discourage red squirrels.

d) Plant chives or garlic near lettuce or peas to repel aphids; nasturtiums near broccoli repel aphids too.

e) Nasturtiums near beans protect against certain bean beetles;  near squash and melons, against striped cucumber beetles. Nasturtiums or mint keep white cabbage butterflies away from cabbage plants.

Delighting the Guests: Dill, Onion, Cheese Bread

2 cups sifted all-purpose flour

2 tsp. baking powder

1 tablespoon sugar; 

1/2 tsp. salt

1/4 cup butter, cut into 4 parts

1 cup grated sharp natural Cheddar cheese (1/4 pound)

1 tablespoon grated onion

1 1/2 tsp. dried dillweed or dill seed, (use more if you have fresh)

3/4 cup milk

1 egg, slightly beaten   

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Lightly grease 9x5x3 inch loaf pan. Sift flour with baking powder, sugar and salt into a large bowl. With 2 knives or pastry blender, cut in butter until mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Stir in cheese, onion, and dill, to mix well. Combine milk and beaten egg;  pour into flour mixture all at once. Stir quickly with a fork just to moisten flour mixture. Turn into prepared pan. Bake 40-45 minutes or until cake tester or toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. Serve warm with soup and salad. Makes one loaf.

This recipe doubles successfully; serve one loaf in the evening fresh from the oven with soup, and the second loaf toasted at breakfast the next morning. This makes wonderful sweet/savory toast, and toasts up a little like camp toast.

Nasturtium-Cucumber Sandwiches

My Mom often made these in the summertime as the savory offering at English tea.

Slice any savory bread thinly. Spread with mayonnaise. Layer onto the bread peeled, thinly-sliced cucumbers with whole nasturtium leaves. Top with sandwich bread, and serve as part of luncheon, sandwiches cut in halves diagonally. The cucumber slices and bread cool down the peppery bite of the nasturtium leaves, and the whole sandwich is delightful.

Copyright 2015 by Pam Thompson

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