ELLEN ECKER OGDEN is a cookbook author and kitchen garden designer.
Fresh out of art school, I planted my first garden marking the perimeters with four sticks and a ball of twine. With a sharp-edged spade, I removed a thick layer of rugged turf, dug up the stony soil, then shoveled on the compost. Using the same four sticks and twine, I measured out long, straight rows before planting seeds for basil, lettuce, and arugula sprinkled them with water, and walked away. I thought this might be a good way to feed myself. I would stretch the truth to say the garden thrived.
There was a constant battle with the weeds, and the garden hose didn’t quite reach, so the plants were frequently thirsty. Yet the thrill of dashing to the garden just before dinner to clip a few leaves of frilly Lolla Rossa and crimson Bull’s Blood Beet greens for my salad kept me at it. I reveled in fewer trips to the grocery store in favor of wandering into the garden with bare feet and a harvest basket.
We had a farm stand and market garden in Vermont, which grew into a seed catalog called The Cook’s Garden. This led me to cooking school in Venice, Italy and the Ballymaloe School in Shanagarry, Ireland where I learned that a kitchen garden can be so much more than simply growing food. It can open up the senses on so many levels.
My articles and garden designs have appeared in national magazines including Garden Design, Better Homes and Gardens, Country Living, Organic Gardening, Eating Well, The Boston Globe, The Herb Companion, Vermont Magazine, and Vermont Life, Victoria, Horticulture, Martha Stewart Living and Garden Design, as well as The New York Times and Country Gardens. I’ve been the subject of cover stories in Country Journal, Boston Herald Sunday, and the Boston Globe magazines, and a guest on HGTV’s Baroness of Basil.
I currently teach kitchen garden design and offer cookbook writing classes.