The backyard food forest has been taking off the last month or so. The seeds planted in late June have been growing rapidly, which is exciting. I have some great examples of simple permaculture methods on display out back. The runner beans are climbing through the fruit tree branches for support, while they give back to the trees by fixing the nitrogen in the soil. The squash is spreading a nice, low canopy over the ground, keeping the soil moist for both the beans and fruit trees.

This summer my budding food forest is leaning more on the annual side. There are several perennials out there: artichokes, herbs, strawberries, raspberries, blueberries, fruit trees, currants, hostas, yarrow, echinatia, etc. But there is also a lot of land to cover in one short season. I am avoiding bare earth by planting annuals like lettuce, broccoli, beans, crookneck squash, acorn squash, nasturtium, and zucchini on those open spaces to protect the soil, add mulch in the fall when they die off, and just prevent weeds from growing.
Over the Fall I plan to put in lots of tubers and bulbs, which is always such a fun surprise in the Spring. I find myself thinking “Oh – I had totally forgotten about those tulips…” and it’s a nice reminder that there is actually a break in the seemingly never-ending grey, rainy Portland winter days. Next Spring I plan to make another big run to One Green World and bring in more layers to the food forest with edible vines, shrubs, etc.
As I get excited in my seat thinking about the plans to come, I forget that I need to focus on harvesting all this produce from the annuals in the backyard! What the hell was I thinking planting more than one zucchini plant? There is enough swiss chard for a small army. After an evening of watering, the prolific broccoli finally threw me over the edge! How in the world could we consume this fast enough?
My husband Jay saved my sanity by setting out to harvest all the broccoli heads while I went to work online searching for a new broccoli recipe. The great new recipe I found is from, which is one of those recipe sites where people rate the recipes after trying them out. It’s called Brown Rice, Broccoli, Cheese and Walnut Surprise. Gee, I wonder what’s in it? :) It was a pretty healthy meal and very tasty, especially if you are using good cheese and not processed junk. If you are looking for something new to use up your broccoli, give it a try.
The best part about our meal that night, and the whole reason I wanted to post about it today, was to share how rewarding it was to be able to supply the better half of the ingredients from our own backyard: broccoli for the main dish and lettuce, tomatoes, and bell pepper for the stellar salad. That’s what it’s all about, afterall.

If you have any great recipes of your own, share them or just links to them in the comments section. I would love to discover some new recipes for my never-ending zucchini supply, the stock piles of swiss chard, and the steady supply of eggs. Plans are already in the works to can cucumbers and tomatoes, so I should be fine in that department.

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Written by Renee Wilkinson