At the beginning of this blog I talked about my dad, Pedro Juan Padró, who has always been a gardening inspiration of mine. Being of Puerto Rican and Mexican backgrounds I’ve felt a strong connection to my Native roots and to the earth. After all, Latino culture is ultimatley sustainability culture. I read the book Earth and Spirit about the nourishing properties of plants in Puerto Rico to gain a better understanding of native plants to la isla. It was an interview styled read with an index of natural remedies at the end. I highly recommend it if you’re curious about the nourishing properties of plants and Puerto Rican culture.

For my first harvest I yielded the most Amish Paste tomatoes. The Black Krim did well, but the Amish Paste seemed to prefer the intense heat on the roof, while the Black Krim liked the shade. With the tomatoes I made pasta sauce, salsa, salads, and stir-fry (scroll to the bottom for eye candy). I’d describe the Amish Paste as a small tomato with a thick meaty texture; great to make pasta sauce or salsa with. The Black Krim, on the other hand, is similar to a beef steak tomato you’d find in the grocery store, but fancier looking because it’s an heirloom. A thick slice is great for a caprese salad, or a veggie burger ;)

The second highest yielding plant was the lone jalapeño. I only had one jalapeño plant on the roof, but it did very well and put out quite a few jalapeñoes – much more than I needed. With this plentiful jalapeño harvest, I made jalapeño poppers (scroll to the bottom to get jealous), used it to season stir-fry, and to spice up salsa. I have to say that these jalapeñoes were hotter than any pepper I’ve had, perhaps because it grew in relatively harsh conditions, so I made the rookie mistake of not wearing gloves. Please don’t be like me and wear gloves or else you will be dipping your hands in milk and crying.

The third highest yielding plant, was mesclun (followed closely by it’s pot-mate the wild arugula). The mesclun really grew quite quickly and is a plant that adapts to many environments; i.e. this baby went from living under my clothing rack, to thriving on the roof, back indoors, and currently is living in a ground-level garden in Bushwick. Traditionally, mesclun and arugula are eaten when they are “bite-sized,” but I let them grow wild and chopped them up to “bite-sized” pieces. The mesclun grew quickly and it evolved from green to hot pink – which makes for beautiful salad pics! The wild arugula also grew fast and, due to the extreme heat on the roof, it started to flower and get a very woody/spicy taste. Although beautiful, be sure to remove the flower from the argugula, so it doesn’t go into a dormant state. I liked to add the arugula to the pasta sauce to give it a slight woody kick. The more neutral tasting mesculn balanced out the woody/spicy taste of the wild arugula very nicely for a delicious salad combination as well.

The other plant that did very well is the Genovese basil. It was surprisingly difficult to grow starting off, but once it was established (and after some fertilizer) it thrived. I used the basil for pasta sauce, as a garnish, and to make pesto. The Mojito mint, on the other hand, did well outside but quickly died off when I brought it indoors recently. It had a good run and I’d like to grow mint again next year. I used the mint to make many deliciously refreshing teas.

The earth is sacred and there are no words to express what the garden has meant to me in the midst of COVID and in a world full of uncertanties. It has grounded me, nourished me, inspired creativity, and sometimes it forced me out of my room. I’m happy for the time I had with the garden and what it taught me about the importance of self-sufficiency and sustainabiliy. I like to think about how the garden created a little ecosystem filled with bees, spiders, praying mantis, butterflies, and grasshoppers. A special place for us to share on our rooftop.

Since these photos were taken I broke the garden down. Some of the plants live in my room, but most of them live in my heart. Let me be cheesy, I know. I’m looking forward to next year when I find a new place to nest and create a garden in. Until then I want to find creative ways to keep the blog alive. Cheers and happy gardening.

︎Mercedes Padró