I was ready to start an herb garden since most herbs are incredibly easy to grow and rather expensive at the grocery store. With a little care, herbs can flourish past your expectations, and the best part is that you only pick off what you need to use! No more moldy rosemary or rotting cilantro in the bottom of the refrigerator!
Mint, shown above, is famous for taking care of itself. My mother gave me these pretty planters, and I dedicated this one to two small mint plants I bought at Home Depot. Mint spreads and spreads, so it's a good idea to keep it alone in a pot. Every day Collin and I come outside and pick a few sprigs off for tea, or just to munch on as we walk out for the day. My favorite thing to do is pick off a handful of mint and lemon balm (below), bruise with a wooden spoon in the bottom of my french press, fill with boiling water, and steep. The french press is the perfect vessel to brew the fresh tea because you can strain out the leaves, and the tea is refreshing, organic, and caffeine free!
This picture is my double-decker herb planter, an idea I got from some issue of Martha Stewart (I can't remember the month or find the article, but credit goes to Martha!). On the left side is sweet basil, on the right is lemon balm, and cilantro goes alone on the top. Lemon balm spreads like mint, so I kept it from the cilantro, which is much more delicate and moody. The top pot can easily be removed from the planter if my basil and lemon balm look like they need more sun. Cilantro hates to be hot, so it stays in the shade always. It's looking pretty pathetic in this picture because I picked all the mature leaves for the recipe you'll find below!
These sweet pink roses were rescued from the trash cans at FTD - a member of my home church works there and brought all of these dying roses to be adopted instead of being chucked. I think they were leftovers from Mother's Day. Appropriately enough, my mom planted these for me and sent me home with them. She gave me the healthiest ones and kept the dead ones for herself because she likes the challenge. Haha!
This is another gift from my mom - a baby maple tree. Growing up, the giant maple in our front yard was always my favorite tree. Legend has it, at times I claimed it was my best friend! I named the tree Sally and have always taken a particular interest in keeping it safe from trimming and such. Well, this past March, my brother won and convinced my mom to build a tree house in Sally. I accepted the fact that I'm grown and married and didn't argue too much, but my mother and brother saved a seed during pollen season and planted this baby Sally for me. Now I can take a piece of her wherever I go!
This is a before-and-after shot of some dahlias Collin and I bought at Home Depot. At the time, they were almost out of their planting season, so the three bulbs were on sale for $3.50. We planted them and believed that those dirty, dead looking lumps would grow into flowers, and we were right! In just two weeks they have already grown so much, and we can't wait to see some gorgeous orange blooms later this summer.
We also have a pot of some flowering vines I don't remember the name of (I bought them three years ago in Athens and they're still going strong!) with some coral Impatients. I also have a HOT pink hydrangea I received as a parting gift from my boss at Paper Affair when we moved from Atlanta, and I'm doing my best to read and learn how to cultivate it into a strong, blossoming bush over the next few years!
Now the fun part: my very own recipe for Fresh Mango Salsa!
- 1 large mango, diced
(Make sure your mango is ripe! Almost all grocery mangoes have crunchy yellow flesh instead of a juicy orange. It should have some red/orange on the skin and should give to a little squeeze. If you have a hard time dicing mangoes, like I always did, here's a very helpful article)
- 1 large tomato, diced
(I always make this recipe in the summer because no good comes from tomato shopping in the winter. Your tomato should be heavy and deep red, dicing a tomato that's still pinky-white inside is depressing!)
- 1 small onion, diced
(You can do half an onion if you're not big on biting into raw chunks of onion. I am!)
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 small jalapeno, seeds removed, finely diced
- 1/2 red bell pepper, seeds removed, diced
- 1/2 green bell pepper, seeds removed, diced
- 1/2 cup chopped cilantro
(I used the cilantro I picked from my herb planter - what a great feeling!)
- juice of 2 lemons
(I try not to use bottled lemon juice for things like salsa because it's so direct and fresh.)
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
1. Combine all the ingredients into one quart-size mason jar, or two pint-size mason jars. I like to chop one ingredient at a time on my cutting board and dump into the jar as I go. This keeps my working space open and minimizes the number of surfaces I get dirty. I chop peppers first, onions, garlic, then mango. I cut the tomato next, and drain the mango and tomato juice together off my board into the jar. I chop cilantro next, then slice my lemons in half and squeeze them right into the jar. Sprinkle a little salt. Keeps things simple.
2. Screw the lid(s) on your mason jar(s), and shake. Don't shake too much and wear yourself out. You just want to mix your ingredients. If you shake too long your mango will start to fall apart and you'll lose the good chunks. Leave the top on, and put your salsa in the refrigerator for at least an hour. This will chill the mix and allow the flavors to combine into one cohesive salsa flavor.
You'll be amazed how much better this salsa tastes than the store-bought mango kind. Crunchy, fresh, very bright. Sweet and a tiny bit of heat. I eat this for lunch most days with nothing else... but you might want to double or triple the recipe if you're making it for a crowd because it goes fast!