Container gardening has become obsessed with colour. In this recipe, form and texture leap out of the pot because, in the absence of other colours, we can take a deep breath and appreciate the rich complexity and the wonder that green brings.
Emerald green is colour guru Pantone's colour of the year for 2013 for its vibrancy, complexity, and underappreciated potency in the garden.
We often take green for granted. It's the anchoring colour in the garden, typically dismissed as a background set piece for the colourful prima donnas in the spotlight. It's only when we're confronted with nothing but green that we realize it is probably the most complex and enigmatic colour in the spectrum.
Green is both the colour of fresh, young, healthy life and of decaying sickness. Seedlings are bright green as they emerge into a new world and mould is green as it layers and rots. With a colour this paradoxical, the design potential is endless.
I celebrated shapes in this recipe. The kale is an esthetic superstar that dominates the composition with its tantalizing shapes. Kale is also intensely healthy and one of the tastier and more versatile ingredients here.
Chives add architectural appeal with their dense vertical lines. If you want to emphasize the vertical aspect, plant onions; though less dense, they're fatter and won't fall over as easily. When designing with edibles, pounce on any straight lines you can because they are few and far between. Rosemary offers a host of tiny straight lines jutting off in every direction.
When it comes to design, few edibles rival Triple Curled parsley. It grows into a bell-shaped mass of jagged edges and folds. The oregano isn't much for form, but its fuzzy, button-shaped leaves bring a textural contrast.
I chose green bell peppers knowing that I wouldn't be able to let them fully ripen (unless I wanted a red visitor to the mix). A green bell pepper is simply one that has been picked before it fully ripened into colour. I added a habanero because I like its shape. Its fruit will be orange, but they take so long to arrive that they won't affect the colour scheme.
Bell Pepper Green Bell
Bell peppers are grown for their tangy flavour and have negligible heat. All the colours start green and ripen into an ever-broadening rainbow of cultivars. You can use green peppers almost anywhere, from fresh in salads to cooked in stir-fries to barbecued with other veggies or meats. They're easy to grow as long as they have plenty of heat. Don't expect supermarket-sized fruit, but they will get larger as the plant does.
Rose Mary Tuscan Blue
Native to the Mediterranean, rosemary is a staple flavouring herb in cuisines around the world. It provides robust flavour to almost any protein dish. Tuscan Blue is a stately, upright variety with sea green foliage and profuse violet flowers. Nip off the new growth to use in your cooking, as it has the most flavour. In Canada you can bring rosemary indoors in winter to eventually grow into an impressive specimen.
Native to the Amazon, this cute little pepper looks innocent but is the hottest naturally occurring pepper on the planet. The small, wickedly wrinkled fruit needs to be approached with caution. Add it to any dish you want to make borderline unbearable. Give it lots of heat and watch nervously as the five-cm-long chilies turn from green to orange as they ripen. If you bring it indoors over winter it will get quite large.
Parsley Triple Curled
Historically, Triple Curled parsley has been famous as a garnish, while its more flavourful Italian cousin has taken the culinary glory. Its fresh, crisp taste makes it excellent in many dishes, however. Add it to meat dishes, vegetable dishes or tabbouleh. It freshens the breath after eating garlic and onions. It's not very drought tolerant, and the new growth is most flavourful. Pinch it regularly and it will get bushy, dense and gorgeous.
Kale is a non-heading type of cabbage that thrives in containers and loves cool spring and fall temperatures, which intensify its flavour and colour. It's easy to grow and is loaded with vitamins and nutrients, especially vitamins A and C. Try making kale chips by dehydrating bite-sized pieces. From a design perspective, the texture that curly-leafed kale brings to containers is irresistible. There are red and purple varieties as well.
Excerpted from Edible Container Gardening for Canada Rob Sproule is the co-owner of Salisbury Greenhouse in Sherwood Park (salisburygreenhouse.com). Reach him by email at rob@ salisburygreenhouse.com or follow him on Twitter attwitter.com/SalisburyGarden