One of the principles that we incorporated into the garden this year was that of Companion Planting. The Wikipedia definition says it well: “Companion planting is the planting of different crops in close physical proximity (in gardening and agriculture), on the theory that they assist each other in nutrient uptake, pest control, pollination, and other factors necessary to increasing crop productivity.” Certain plants help deter pests, others provide nutrients for each other, and mixing up your plant varieties means that the pests have to work that much harder to demolish your entire crop!
One of the better known companion plantings is known as the “Three Sisters” of corn, beans, and squash. The corn is a heavy feeder on the soil, so the beans provide nitrogen at their roots to help replenish the soil. In return, the corn provides a pole for the bean vines to climb up, and the squash provide shade to retain moisture in the soil, as well as protection from pests with their spiny leaves. In our garden, we didn’t mound the corn and beans above the squash, but I think our beans would be doing better if we had – the squash grew SO fast that it dwarfed the other plants quickly!
A few other examples of companion planting would be basil/tomatoes/peppers, mint (in a pot)/broccoli, scallions/lettuce, beets/carrots, marigold/tomatoes. I definitely noticed there were less destructive worms in the lettuce near “smelly” things like garlic and scallions!
I was a little bit stumped last night on how to prepare the squash in a semi-new way, and in a way that would accompany fish. But I found a recipe at Cooking Light for Vegetable-Steamed Orange Roughy that turned out perfectly! I used green beans, onions, and squash, but I think just about any vegetable combination will work. I also made pasta tossed with fresh garlic, parmesan cheese, and olive oil, which rounded things out nicely.
Vegetable-Steamed Orange Roughy (original recipe found here)
~3 yellow squash, sliced into quarters
1 onion, chopped
Large handful of green beans, cut into 1-2″ pieces
2 garlic cloves, minced
~1/3 cup water
Chopped fresh lemon thyme (or thyme + 1 tbsp lemon juice)
~1/2 tsp salt
few grates of fresh pepper
2 (~6 0z) orange roughy fillets
Heat a bit of olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Saute the onions for about 2 minutes, then add the squash, garlic and green beans and saute for another 2 minutes.
Reduce heat to medium. Add the water and about half of the thyme and the salt. Arrange the fish on top, and sprinkle with the remaining thyme and salt and some pepper. Cover with a lid, reduce the heat a bit, and steam for 12 minutes or until fish flakes easily with a fork.