Gardening INTV for Redenta's!
MAY 15 2017
This week we are talking with local Dallas entrepreneur, writer, musician and veggie gardener Stephanie Casey, who shares her passion for healthy food from 'dirt to plate' on her website Real Fine Food. We met Stephanie a few years ago when she got her start vegetable gardening - in our interview below she shares her insights and progress.
Redentas: We love checking out your posts at Real Fine Food on Instagram - especially your veggie harvests - it seems to be quite productive and successful! You started your first veggie garden a couple of years ago about this time of year, right?
Stephanie: CORRECT - this is my third year. I started by getting some self-assembly, raised bed frames and taking dirt advice from you guys, namely getting the proper dirt mix to get started. I’ve focused on keeping my dirt healthy these last years and I still have fertile, wormy earth so I guess I am doing something right! I also took a class or two you offered when I was getting going. That year, it was mostly starter plants and a few things from seed. I had never grown food before and killed most houseplants I ever tried to maintain (i.e. thought I was green thumb less).
R: Starting anything new can be intimidating and overwhelming. What did you find most helpful in the beginning? What do you wish you would have known back then?
S: The biggest hurdle was just…doing it. Going for it. Committing to getting the foundation going with the beds and good, healthy earth. I thought, everything may die, I might have no skill at this but I want to try…
Honestly, I’d say there isn’t anything I wish I had known because an important part of the process is learning by doing. Truly a hands-on activity. Supplemented with gardening classes, talks and google searches!!
R: What have become some of your favorite things to grow?
S: Lovage, of course. A most wonderful herb. And several basil varieties (I use it all year round as a major green in my kitchen). I am also into the plants that keep on giving in various ways - fennel (fronds as it grows and, ultimately, the bulb), borage for leaves and flowers (and bee attractant), sweet potatoes because you can eat the leaves as they grow before they are pulled for potatoes. And I also really love growing my own basics - potatoes, onions and garlic.
R: What are some surprising or new things you did not know about before?
S: It’s fun to learn how much of a plant is edible and what a neat taste and texture variety each offers at various growth phases. For example, you never see broccoli leaves at a grocery store. But I clip them to use as you would any green (salads, with eggs, wilted in pasta, etc). The sweet potato leaves are another great example of that.
R: Are there any new plants that you are hoping to try?
S: I really REALLY need to get into asparagus. Because it takes a year to get established, I have resisted. But, every year, if I would have started, I’d be eating fresh asparagus now. People say it’s the most incredible thing, fresh picked. I’ve never had it garden fresh.
R: Besides checking your plants and harvesting, about how much time do you spend a week 'working' on your garden?
S: The garden is pretty well set up now that the only significant time, outside of watering and daily peeks, are turning over beds for new seasons. Which doesn’t take much time. Maybe some hours on a couple of days. :) So, I’d say, averaged out to 52 weeks, maybe an hour or less, total, with watering or planting new things / turning over beds. And I only have two tools. haha. A spade and a shovel. And my two paws.
R: That is great and encouraging! Would you like to share any final words of encouragement for any wanna be or newbie gardeners out there?
S: I can say that after just this short time, I’ve learned so much - the plants let you know what they need with their appearance and behavior. Those signals become clear and obvious with daily observation and care. And it’s cool that I can ID plants by their sprouts after just a few growing seasons!
Also - I can’t imagine not growing food for the rest of my life. In addition to adding beauty and serenity to my routine, the flavors, nutrients and textures of home grown food are incomparable. I pick from the garden right when I am preparing food - it doesn’t get fresher than that. The whole plant is tender with that quick pick turnaround so, for example, stems of greens and heads of okra are all tender and edible. And so delicious! And I control what’s in my dirt (no chemicals, no depletion of minerals, etc) so know exactly what I am eating and that it’s the best it can be. :)
R: Thank you so much Stephanie! This has been fun and very inspiring! - And for our readers, you can follow Stephanie's adventures in food and gardening on her Instagram account and her website Real Fine Food.