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Cooking with Love

What to Plant and When

Brooke Hagerty

(5/2015) This past winter season was indeed a hard one to handle. Hit and/or miss snow storms, absolutely frigid temperatures and dreary days were pretty much the norm for January and February; and then along came March. Ice, snow storms, 65 degree days, 50 degree days and then on the first day of spring we were hit with 6 inches of snow only to see it melt away two days later! Mother Nature has certainly not given us an easy task when it comes to spring time planting this year. I have spoken to some local farmers and they have all indicated that berries are going to be hard hit in our area because they are so tender. Our average daytime high for this time of year should be the upper 50's and to date (March 23) our daytime high has been in upper 30's to low 40's with the occasional 60 degree days. Talk about a split personality!!!

All in all we are very fortunate in the Mid-Atlantic to be blessed with 3+ growing seasons for the novice gardener. The month of April is a great time to get your garden ready for outdoor plantings such as berries (blackberries and raspberries), broccoli, spinach, kale, lettuce, onions, peas and cucumbers. You can also start inside your tomatoes and peppers.

But how exactly do you get your garden started? At the very beginning of course! Start by first clearing out all of the winter debris from your garden spot. You will need a heavy duty rake, a hoe and a shovel plus a whole lot of energy! You might find some "leftovers" from last years garden and if you do I suggest get down the the core of the stem and give it room to grow. You never know what might come back! Deciding what you want to grow is based on just a few criteria; what you like to eat and how much time you have to devote to your garden throughout the season. A great resource for gardening by the month is . You type in your zip code and they give you a twelve month planting calendar for both outside and inside gardening.

Personally my garden this year is going to be bigger and better than ever as my husband I and recently moved and now have access to 120 feet of planting area. This is a huge step up from my container garden from last year. This year we are planning on some of my all time favorites and I hope some of yours as well! Slicing tomatoes and sweet peppers are getting their start in my make shift green house and will then make their way to the beds by mid June. Heartier veggies such as cabbage, kale, eggplant, onion and asparagus will get the first plantings followed closely by baby spinach, lettuce, peas and cucumbers. Good Lord willing and the creek don't rise we will be eating our own home grown veggies by June!

One of the things I love most about growing my own food is the "absolute freshness" that comes through with each and every recipe. And during farmer's market season if I am not growing it myself you better believe that I will be getting my produce from my local producer to ensure the "absolute freshness" that I love so much! Now that is not to say that you cannot get great produce from your local grocery especially when you are talking about items that are not grown locally or that may take more gardening know-how than you have. Some of my personal favorites are jicama and daikon radish.

Two of my favorite recipes combine items that I plan on growing myself and items that I am going to purchase from the professionals; Jicama Slaw and Daikon Radish and Cucumber Salad.

Jicama Slaw Recipe (from Iron Chef Bobby Flay)


  • 1 large jicama, peeled and finely shredded
  • 1/2 Napa cabbage, finely shredded
  • 2 carrots, shredded
  • 1/2 cup freshly squeezed lime juice
  • 2 tablespoons rice vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons ancho chili powder
  • 2 tablespoons honey
  • 1/2 cup canola oil (I do not use)
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped cilantro leaves


Place jicama, cabbage, and carrots in a large bowl. Whisk together the lime juice, vinegar, ancho powder, honey, and oil in a medium bowl. Season with salt and pepper, to taste. Pour the dressing over the jicama mixture and toss to coat well. Fold in the cilantro. Let stand at room temperature for 15 minutes before serving.

Daikon Radish and Cucumber Salad (from Rachael Ray)


  • 1/2 cup rice wine vinegar
  • 3 tablespoons sugar (I do not use)
  • 2 tablespoons light oil, such as canola or safflower (I do not use)
  • 1 pound daikon radish, peeled and thinly sliced
  • 1 English or seedless cucumber, thinly sliced
  • 1 red bell pepper, seeded and very thinly sliced
  • 1 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
  • 20 fresh basil leaves


In the bottom of a medium bowl, combine vinegar, sugar, oil. Add daikon, cucumber, bell pepper, pepper flakes. Toss and combine. Cover and chill until ready to serve.

When ready to serve, tear basil into pieces and add to salad. Toss salad to incorporate basil and serve. (I prefer to roll my basil leaves like a cigar and chiffonade them into strips)

As always, should you have a question, an idea for an article or are in need of my personal chef/catering services please contact me at Be sure to check out my website,

Until next month, Happy Eating!

Read other articles by Brooke Hagerty