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Pandemic Playbook – Plant A Garden

Feel like everyone in your house is ready to climb the walls? Bursting with energy and don’t know what to do with it? One idea to combat quarantine fatigue: Plant a family garden — it’s not too late.

A quarantine garden gives you and the family a sense of pride and belonging through an activity that yields nourishing and healthy foods. A garden provides your family with food, exercise and fun. A much-needed reprise from isolation indoors.

First, gather everyone and make a plan. Tomatoes, corn, herbs, and squash? Check. Sprinkle of flowers? OK. Where? Survey the yard and decide. Now, spend a day preparing the area and tending to the soil, together. Then devote the next day to planting your seedlings.

Your pandemic plantings can encourage the kids to exert energy positively and productively .... and on a regular basis. Plus, you get to eat the fruits (and vegetables) of your labor.

Which brings us to the next family activity: Meal planning with your bounty of home-grown goodies.

In celebration of all the tomatoes and basil getting planted right now, here's the recipe for a simple Caprese salad that the kids can make on their own:

1/ Gather three-to-four large, ripe tomatoes. Cherry tomatoes en masse work nicely, too. Wash and slice. Scatter on a plate. They don't have to be placed in any sort of a uniform way. Messier is better.

2/ Get fresh mozzarella or regular block mozzarella and slice or tear with your hands in smallish pieces.

3/ Grab a handful of basil leaves. Wash, dry and tear with your hands. Scatter over the tomatoes and moz.

4/ Lavish with some good extra virgin olive oil.

5/ Sprinkle with sea salt and give a good grind of black pepper.

6/ Variations: If you want to add some extra flavor, it's always good to drizzle on some nice balsamic vinegar. At Starling, we LOVE to add avocado to ours. Grilled chicken with this salad is great, too, if you want some extra protein. The options are endless.

7/ Bon appétit.