I was daddy’s little girl growing up.  I was his constant shadow — anything he did, I’d do, anywhere he went I’d follow.  He’d tell me stories of his past, about that far away place I knew so little about.  “I was only 17 when I went away to work on the farms…we’d have little to eat…there’d be snakes in the bed…” I’d listen to his tales with fear imagining giant cobras lurking beneath his bed.  My eyes widened.

You see here?” He’d point to a deeply embedded scar on his leg — “I got these from leeches.  I’d work in the rice fields all day long and there’d be thousands of leeches everywhere.” I touched the deep grooves around his shins.  “Do they still hurt?” Sometimes.” He’d say.

I could see the ghosts lingering within him, though however dark his past may have seemed he always kept his knack for gardening.  After 7 years of working on a farm, it becomes part of you; a part that you try so hard to forget yet at the same time you can’t let it go.  After moving into our first home in America that was one of the first things he did: start a garden.  Together we’d clear the grass, break up the dirt, till the soil and plant the seeds.  I admit, I was mostly in charge of fetching glasses of water and picking out the grubs and squishing them with my shovel but it quickly became something I’d look forward to doing with dad every season.

He’d plant all sorts of things: squashes, wintermelon, cucumbers, peas, mustard greens — he would take fish carcasses and let them ferment in the sun.  Once the mixture was putrid and broken down, he’d mix it in with the soil.  It horrified me, as I screamed and held my nose tightly every time he pulled the “magical” mixture out.  We harvested a 38 pound wintermelon that year.

My father had the ultimate green thumb, there was no doubt about it.  Each year our harvest would be so full and bountiful we’d often give most of it away because there was no way in hell we’d be able to eat it all.  So it was only natural for me to carry on my dad’s green thumb by making helping Collin start a garden in our first home.  To be honest, my thumb is anything but green.  Collin actually calls it my black thumb since I tend to kill all plants I buy.  (It often makes me question my abilities of becoming a good mother but we’ll save that for another day.)  The point is, I found two veggies that seem to be fool proof: Radishes and Salad Greens.  I literally threw seeds in the ground, kept them well watered and BAM!  Six weeks later, I have freshly grown vegetables: (Wells) Farm to table.

I paired the radish and arugula with some tangy and creamy herbed goat cheese, coarse kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper on top of a crunchy wheat crostini – fresh simplicity at its finest.  What plants seem to grow well in your gardens?

Ingredients for Radish Arugula Goat Cheese Crostinis

(Serves 2-4; Total Prep Time: 10 minutes Total Cooking Time: 10 minutes)

  • 6 Cherry Bell or English Breakfast Radish, thinly sliced
  • 1/2 cup fresh Arugula
  • 4 oz herbed goat cheese
  • 4 slices wheat bread, toasted and cut into 2″ circles (about 2 circles a slice for a total of 8)
  • coarse kosher salt and pepper

To assemble crostinis, spread about a nickle sized dollop on each crostini.  Top with a couple slices of radish, arugula and sprinkle with a pinch of kosher salt and pepper.  Serve immediately or refrigerate until ready to serve.



  1. grace b. says: 12 Apr ’11 • 13:58:26

    your greenish black thumb is not the deciding factor on whether you’ll be a good mother or not. you’ll be fantastic.


    • Joy says: 12 Apr ’11 • 16:01:10

      Thank you gracie :) hahaha Collin always raises a judging brow at me when I’ve killed my latest plant. I recently bought an air plant which I was told was “Kill proof” — you basically just have to keep it moist but didnt need any watering at all. 4 weeks later, I killed it by leaving it out in the hot sun one day. Oops O_O

  2. Jean says: 12 Apr ’11 • 14:37:54

    Joy, this is lovely, lovely and did I say lovely? I enjoyed the sweet story about your father and of course, I can’t stop looking at your beautiful photography. Your images are so alive. Beautiful!


    • Joy says: 12 Apr ’11 • 16:01:54

      :) Jean you always tickle me pink with those sweet comments of yours! Thank you for that, no wonder I’m such a ham!

  3. sue says: 12 Apr ’11 • 16:24:18

    i absolutely loved this entry.. even more so cause it hits very close to home. ESPECIALLY the fish carcass part. lol!! my dad has green hands – he can cut a stem from anything and make it flourish. if my mom needs a vegetable, she buys it once, saves roots/seeds/whatever and my dad grows it for her. his latest addition is three papaya trees grown from seeds he brought home from guatemala. thanks for sharing…. made me relive my memories, too!


  4. Sukaina says: 12 Apr ’11 • 16:42:54

    Joy, the more I read your posts, the more I admire you and your family. I have a feeling you are going to amke a wonderful mother. Let’s hope it’s not all based or gardening abilities because I have never even attempted gardening to know if I have a green or black thumb. Your photos stun as usual.


  5. Linda says: 12 Apr ’11 • 17:37:07

    Joy, could you be any more amazing?!?!? Love the story, love the pictures and the dish sounds absolutely amazing! Beautiful!!


  6. Peggy says: 13 Apr ’11 • 00:41:37

    Well those radishes look stunning! So glad they came out well!

    We (meaning, I) started our first garden last year, and the only thing that really grew were our green beans (and they were delicious), but everything else pretty much died or were ransacked with insects (gross!).

    This year, we’ve got a new plan of attack, and most everything has sprouted beautifully – so now we’re just crossing our fingers hoping they will grow to “adulthood”. =)

    P.S. Yes, wedding planning is driving me crazy and I see myself becoming Bridezilla (especially when I have conversations with my mother about the wedding, hehe) – but we’ll make it happen!


  7. [email protected] says: 13 Apr ’11 • 12:05:23

    One of my favorite ways to eat radishes :-) I love the picture of the three toast rounds with the radishes on either end, it’s stunning!


  8. Snippets of Thyme says: 14 Apr ’11 • 00:54:51

    Wonderful story. Passing on stories of pain and suffering is so important so the next generation can appreciate hard work. I too made a goat cheese spread for some radishes over the weekend. It will probably be posted in @ 4 days. I loved the combination and didn’t think I liked radishes.


  9. Brian says: 15 Apr ’11 • 02:53:25

    A lovely take on a crostini. Always looking for new ones to try and I think I’ve found it!


  10. Xiaolu/6Bittersweets says: 17 Apr ’11 • 17:11:41

    Love the freshness of this and the dark setting in the photos. What a great snack!


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