Food-Lover's Garden: Grow Your Own Cocktails
Mix up summer drinks with these fresh herbs and veggies.
Celery: Try Tall Utah celery, which grows easily in planters and will taste great in a Bloody Mary. Harvest just the outer stalks at first; the inner stalks will continue to ripen and will be ready to pick within 14 days.
Lavender: Hearty Hidcote and Munstead lavenders are well suited for containers. Muddle 1 to 2 tablespoons of lavender and mix an aromatic drink with vodka, elderflower liqueur and a splash of lemon juice (be sure to double-strain). Lavender needs no love -- you can use poor soil, forget the fertilizer and skip the water, and it will still thrive and bloom twice a season.
Cucumbers: Marketmore cucumbers make a refreshing, slightly sweet addition to summer drinks; muddle one into a gin and tonic, or simply drop a few slices into ice water. Cucumber plants are prolific producers. Start just one in a whiskey barrel with a trellis, and you’ll have plenty of cukes all summer.
Lemon verbena: Add fragrant lemon verbena leaves to simple syrup, or rub one or two around the rim of a cocktail glass for a burst of flavor. Pick lemon verbena leaves in the morning, when they have the highest concentration of oil and are the most flavorful. Water the plant well, and it will grow until the first frost. Hang-dry extra sprigs to use throughout winter.
Mint: Spearmint is ideal for mojitos; it's not candy-sweet like peppermint. Try adding whole leaves to pitchers of iced tea or muddling them in individual glasses for a more intense flavor. It's fast growing, so it's best confined to containers. A 12-inch wide planter of mint will yield a generous bunch every week.
Use your home-grown produce to make a Fresh Mint Martini.
Heading to the supermarket with a shopping list is one thing, but leaving with what you need is another entirely. Yes, they stock charcoal; but should you buy briquettes or hardwood? Your buddy loves shrimp; do you get large or jumbo? For every summer essential, there seems to be a confusing variation — cilantro or parsley, whipping cream or heavy cream. Here, a cheat sheet to a half dozen shopping conundrums. Remember it the next time you hit the store and you'll come out a winner.