Since I first joined Cooking Light years ago, I’ve done an about-face on food and gardening and a fresh take on enjoying what we eat. After ten wonderful years in marketing at Cooking Light, I gave up the suits for rubber boots. I talked about food, researched food, traveled to great food events and ate at wonderful restaurants with notable chefs…but had a full suitcase and an empty refrigerator. Childhood memories of picking fresh berries on our farm left me wanting a taste of that again. I decided to cut the cord on the Blackberry that never left my hand and put down roots for a blackberry patch. I marched into a retail nursery that year, wanting to start with the basics and learn everything about plants, while getting certified with Master Gardeners. Little did I know when I told the handsome manager who skeptically eyed my resume, “I want to grow my own food. I want to start seeds. I want to tear up my lawn to plant a veggie garden,” that we’d soon be married and growing together on his nursery and farm.
Today our life at Maple Valley is what you’d imagine it is: exhausting and exhilarating. Our vegetable garden feeds us—and the curiosity of the Cooking Light test kitchens staff. We pick lettuces for lunch salads and plant fig trees for future preserves. David and I pore over colorful tomato descriptions and swear with a vengeance that we will not grow 92 varieties again this year—and then promptly plant 120! Has our love of food encouraged us to garden to enjoy so many varieties and flavors? Or has our love of gardening and basket-bursting harvests directed what’s on the dinner table? However you come into a “Pick Fresh” lifestyle, from a love of recipes or an interest in growing the ingredients, David and I hope to share encouragement and inspiration with what we’ve learned at Maple Valley.
Grow your own tomatoes on your patio. Get dewy squash blossoms from your local farmer’s market. Try your hand at a raised bed garden or interplant a few veggies in your landscape. Choose the bundle of radishes at the market or pluck one from your garden soil. Starting with fresh ingredients can make the simplest meal the most stunning. And, you get a taste of satisfaction, better nutrition, and sunshine, all in one bite.
Mary Beth Burner Shaddix