Wine Garden? What is a Wine Garden? And why would it grow in Vegas?

We’ve been fortunate this summer.  We didn’t see triple digits until the middle of June which (I guess) meant that the garden I try to grow each year actually grew! Coupled with an unusually high humidity, my perpetually brown and wilted thumb has actually been green!

“Great, Irene. You’ve got a tomato. So?”

What that means is that I have more than just a tomato.  In the edible vegetable realm, I actually have peppers, tomatoes, and cucumbers. Actually, I have the cucumber plant from hell, but that’s a different discussion. I’ve never seen a cucumber plant try to eat tomato plants and citrus trees before.  There’s a 50s B horror movie going on in my garden!

But I digress.

The most important part of my garden this year are my herbs.  While it’s true that my salad vegetables have grown beautifully, they’ve served as a shade to my herbs.  Rosemary, thyme, tarragon, basil, lemongrass, garlic, parsley, and oregano were all

Italian Parsley

Italian Parsley

planted specifically for wine pairing in mind. Mint – my perennial nemesis – is my iced-tea herb.

Let me explain.

When using wine descriptors, the names of herbs and other vegetation is nearly always invoked.  Specific foods are recommended for pairing, and you can be sure that these foods are not boiled then served with wine.

The other day I decided to have a steak.  The steak was a small sirloin, which I pan-fried and finished in the oven.  The seasoning was simple – salt, pepper, and some fresh thyme from the garden.  Along with a glass of an inexpensive “drinker” Cabernet and a salad consisting of tomatoes and cucumbers from the garden, it was a nearly perfect summer evening meal. One of the descriptors for Cabernet Sauvignon is “thyme,” and fresh thyme helps to emphasize this characteristic.  And that means that even an inexpensive Cab – one that still has a decent pedigree, that is – can be something special.

Last week, a Caprese salad – garden tomatoes, garden basil, mozzarella, Pasolivo olive oil, and gray salt – was the

Cucumber Blossom

Cucumber Blossom

perfect pairing for Pinot Grigio.  What could be better on a hot, sultry Vegas day?

Tending this garden has been an exercise in love, fun, and now frustration.  As the temperatures have started to soar, the only thing that’s keeping everything alive at this point is the fact that it’s actually humid, regular watering and feeding, and lots of luck.  If we get back to the notorious “dry heat” that Vegas is known for, many of the herbs – with the singular exception of the Rosemary – will die or go dormant.  The mint will continue no matter what.

No doubt my harvest will be finished by next month and I will begin to clear away the plants and decide what will go out there next.  Flowers? More herbs?  Only time can tell, but you can be sure that whatever is planted, wine will be in mind!


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