The Irish have always grasped the important connection between the garden and the kitchen and often have a nearby potager, or kitchen garden. Translated directly from the French, potager means literally a soup pot of vegetables, and dates back to the Middle Ages, when monks and nuns planted gardens behind wall-high hedges that served as retreats for meditation as well as a source of vegetables, culinary and medicinal herbs, aromatics and flowers.
- A potager can be as small as one square foot or a container.
- Start by making an inventory of foods you enjoy during the spring, summer and fall, focusing on crops that you can’t always buy fresh—fancy lettuce and mesclun mixes, for instance, are easy to sow and quick to grow.
- Fresh herbs pack lively flavors, often taking the place of salt in recipes, and edible flowers serve as pretty garnishes.
- Start with rich, organic soil. Supplement with organic compost, usually found at garden centers, to give plants a boost.
- Companion planting, such as edible marigolds planted near tomatoes to repel pests, builds on symbiotic combinations for a healthy partnership both in the garden and on the plate.
- Mail-order seed sources offer a wide selection, or go to local nurseries for heirloom tomatoes and ornamental edibles like rainbow chard and Tuscan kale.
- Ultimately, the kitchen garden will inspire you to celebrate fresh flavors. Think of yourself as a food artist, building color in the garden and on your plate.