A green space for urban gardeners

Veggies sized right for a small- space garden; plus, a recipe using the teeny Thai eggplant

DSC01009Adaptability. To my way of thinking, it’s the most important tenet of urban gardening.

Translation: assess your space and find plants that work within said space.

I have a 5 x 12 foot balcony, so I can’t plant towering fruit trees or endless rows of corn. I can’t grow the huge purple aubergine so fabulous in eggplant parmesan, but I can grow the tiny but mighty Thai eggplant, which thrived nicely under the southern exposure in a big clay pot last summer.

After incorporating small-sized edibles into my container garden, I still have room left over for plenty of flowering plants. I also manage to carve out a place to sit and enjoy the serenity of my own private slice of nature.

In my last post I mentioned the small-fruit tomatoes and small veggies slated for this season’s garden. I also will devote space to my herb collection once again, and I look forward to enjoying their full range of flavor in the dishes I prepare.

Here’s a recipe from last season that I prepared using the following items from the garden: kermit hybrid Thai eggplant, various cherry tomatoes, jaloro yellow jalapeno and Thai basil. Enjoy!

Red curry stew
1 can (13.5 oz) coconut milk
1 1/2 tsp red curry paste
2 tbsp lite soy sauce
4 tsp light brown sugar
1/8 cup chicken broth

2 boneless chicken breasts
1 cup sugar peas
2 small yellow jalapenos
1/2 small red bell pepper
4 medium Thai eggplant
6 – 8 small-fruit tomatoes
1/4 cup Thai basil

In skillet: brown chicken breasts lightly on both sides, remove from heat and let rest. Clean pan then add coconut milk, curry paste, sugar, broth, and soy. Simmer over medium heat, stirring constantly.

Rinse veggies, and slice, halve or quarter till they are all approximately the same size. Add all but tomatoes to pan, simmer for about 5 minutes.

Slice chicken breasts into similarly sized pieces and add, along with tomatoes, to stew. Top with basil and warm for 1 additional minute. Serve over jasmine or brown rice.

Oh, if you don’t have a particular veggie on hand for the recipe, just adapt it!


PRAIRIE PICK: Remember the One Seed Chicago contest I mentioned in an earlier post? Entrants were asked to choose one from among three prairie plant seeds (purple coneflower, bee balm and nodding onion) native to the Chicago area as the One Seed Chicago winner.

The victor, bee balm, was announced yesterday at the Green and Growing Fair (an urban gardening event) held at the city’s Garfield Park Conservatory.

Everyone who cast a vote online will receive a sample of the winning seed and I can’t wait for mine to arrive, especially since bee balm was my choice.


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  UrbanTravelGirl wrote @

YUM!! This recipe sounds delicious, and I can’t even cook. (I ALSO don’t even have a windowsill garden, but perhaps Avis will be kind enough to share some of her specially grown Thai eggplants with me! Just kidding.)


  Pam’s English Garden wrote @

Avis, Thanks for the delicious recipe. I will adapt it using the vegetables from my garden. You never cease to amaze me with how much you grow in your small space. Pam x

  Jo wrote @

The recipe sounds delicious. I’m always amazed how much food you manage to grow on your balcony, but to have ornamentals growing too and a place to sit, wonderful.

  Fly Girl wrote @

Umm, why didn’t you post thisBEFORE I went grocery shopping? I want to make this for dinner! And why can’t you stick a towering fruit tree in the corner of the balacony? Just make it a skinny one.

  City Diggity wrote @

I’ll regale everyone with the humorous story of my adventure trying to grow a meyer lemon tree in my condo one of these days!

  linda wrote @

I love curry, and your recipe sounds so delicious Avis!

I’m amazed at how much you grow on your balcony – looking forward to following your exploits again this season!

  Stephanie wrote @

The curry recipe looks good. For me, I have to add a bit more curry power 😉

Good luck on your herb garden! I am sure they are going to give you some sensory appeal also 😀

  Wendy wrote @

ooh, the recipe sounds great. Love the way you maximize (and beautify) the space you’ve got!

  Crelatia wrote @

Thank you so much for sharing your gardening experience and recipes!
I’m new to gardening in Chicago as I moved into my first apartment with a balcony in Feb. Now the balcony has cherry tomatoes, strawberries, several types of lettuces, herbs, and peppers scattered about. It’s so good to know that there are others out there growing successfully!

  City Diggity wrote @

Well, you’re christening your new Chicago balcony in a big way!! Bravo on all the things you’re growing. You’re way ahead of me at this point as my seeds are just sprouting. Happy gardening!

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