One of the great joys of cooking is growing your own ingredients. There’s something so satisfying about being able to go out to your garden, pick fruits and vegetables that flourished under your love and care, and then bring them into the kitchen to create a fantastically fresh, delicious meal.
Growing up, my parents used to plant a garden filled with vegetables like summer squash, okra, and tomatoes every year. We also had a backyard that was filled with various fruit trees and berry bushes. My parents actually still have quite the garden and it seems to grow bigger every year. So as I grew up, I always envisioned having a backyard like this, filled with fresh produce for the picking.
However, living in the Bay Area has had a way of, shall we say, re-aligning those visions. Instead of an expansive backyard filled with fruit trees or a garden with rows upon rows of vegetables, my current garden consists of a few small planters on a cozy balcony. But amazingly enough, this small space still gives me such joy!
My balcony garden is, of course, filled with herbs used in Thai cooking. I have planters of Thai Basil to be used when I make dishes like fragrant green curry or clams with roasted chili paste. I have baby seedlings of Holy Basil and I can’t wait until they grow large enough to use in wonderfully spicy drunken noodles and all kinds of stirfries with holy basil (pad grapow). And I’ve just planted seeds of Lemon Basil, which is used to transform khanom jeen nam ya from an awesome spaghetti dish into a mouth-wateringly delicious noodle curry, among other dishes.
In addition to these varieties of basil, I have the cutest little kaffir lime tree. It produces just enough kaffir lime leaves for me to make the boyfriend’s favorite stirfried bamboo shoots, prik king stirfries, and curries without stripping it of all its leaves. It actually just produced its first bud and I am eagerly waiting to see what it turns into…
It’s so nice to have these fresh herbs right outside my patio door, especially given how hard they can be to find in stores. With a little more space, I would love to try my hand at growing galanga, krachai, and lemongrass, among other Thai peppers and herbs. But for now, I’m pretty pleased with my cozy little balcony garden.