There's a saying that goes "Gardening requires lots of water - most of it in the form of perspiration." That quote makes me laugh, mostly out of total understanding. Last Fall, my husband and I bought a house that came equipped with a huge backyard and you guessed it: A garden. The space was abandoned for years and needed a lot of love so when spring came we went to work: composting, weeding, tilling, fertilizing and then eventually planting. As we waited for our seeds to sprout, I dreamed of all the dishes we would create with our harvest. I envisioned entire meals prepared with nothing but our organic fruits and veggies (and maybe some store-bought meat of course). Thoughts of homemade salsa, summer fruit salad and stir fry dinners made my mouth water while prompting my utter impatience.

Flash-forward 7 months later and here we are still battling the insects, weeds, hungry birds and a bundle of our own mistakes. We planted our favorite fruits and vegetables with no regard to how they would grow and interact with each other. Pumpkins, cantaloupe and cucumbers took over on their enormous running vines. Our pole beans and sugar snap peas had nowhere to climb. Our romaine lettuce quickly bolted in the summer heat and turned bitter. Against my better judgement, we even planted some veggies that aren't as commonly grown in Alabama, like artichoke. I was so excited a few weeks ago to see one of our plants producing a familiar large spiky head that I had previously seen only in our local grocery store. I immediately had big plans to eat that thing! Shrimp-and-Artichoke Salad, Pan-Seared Chicken with Artichoke Pasta, Artichokes with Roasted Garlic-Wine Dip... all dishes in the running (nevermind that I only had only ONE potential ripe artichoke to use).

Shrimp-and-Artichoke Salad
Pan-Seared Chicken with Artichoke Pasta
Artichokes with Roasted Garlic-Wine Dip

The week got busy (as they tend to do) and a few days rolled by without tending to the garden. By the time I finally went out to claim my prize, I saw that the artichoke bud had completely opened up into a beautiful purple bloom. I'd obviously waited too long to harvest and missed my window to chow down. My disappointment quickly turned to awe as I surveyed the strange-looking flower that reminded me of a sea anemone you might find dancing with the current, deep underwater. The flower was a beautiful reminder that growing your own food keeps us connected to nature and forces patience. With more hard work and a little luck in the future we should have another chance to eat a homegrown artichoke but for now I guess I can't be too upset. Most of our garden mistakes don't look quite as pretty as this one.

Are you a gardener? What kind of dishes have you made with your harvest?