I have tried my hand at gardening, something in which my dear mother excels. Growing up, I remember she had a fabulous garden kept in an apartment owned and surrounded by lots of Italian ladies. They all couldn't understand my mother's green thumb. Their plants seemed weak and hardly gave enough tomatoes to fill a pot for spaghetti sauce. All the while my mothers plants were filled with big plump tomatoes. And her herbs, chard and many other plants always kept our summer table full and well fed.
The neighborhood women would yell from the patios in colloquial dialects, discussing the French lady's success amid their sad looking harvest. One day I remember our landlady asked my mom "How you maka da tomato's so bigga?" My mom's answer was simple; don't clean your garden like it's your living room. The truth is the neighbors would spray away all the soil to have clean looking paths between plants. That washed away the top soil. Whereas my mother left it alone, keeping a somewhat rustic and a little unkempt but quite healthy garden, in comparison.
Since I moved to NYC so many years ago, I forgot what it's like to feel dirt under my nails, not that I ever really got them that deep in the soil. I was lazy but did give my mom a hand in her little plots when she needed me to do some heavy lifting. This year I unsuccessfully tried planting patio tomatoes, but did have a bit of success with herbs, even though the mad squirrels would dig them up (they really are nuts!).
My mom's garden this year boasts beans, herbs, her favorite Swiss Chard, and now some fantastic Japanese eggplants. So I took eggplant home recently and added it to my meal, which was Yellow Fin Tuna with vegetables, a' la plancha – along with a mix of my herbs and what I mustered from my larder to make a nice herb and nut sauce to go along with my wonderful summer meal, from the garden to my table.
Pignola and herb tomato sauce.
Yellow fin tuna with vegetables a' la plancha.