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South Central Gardening: Grow a Thai-inspired Cook's Garden

Brought to you by Lowe's Creative Ideas

Eating gluten free? Try this Thai-inspired cook's garden along with a recipe from Lowe's South Central region garden contributor Dee Nash.

Aromatic Thai basil sports purple flowers.
Smaller eggplants are better for Asian recipes

Because I'm gluten and dairy intolerant, I've learned to love Asian food, especially Thai, so I always grow vegetables and herbs to craft my favorite recipes. This way I don't worry about cross-contamination in restaurants, and fresh vegetables straight from the garden taste heavenly. Here are some tips to start.

Tip 1: Build a raised bed, like this quick and easy garden kit from Lowe's.

Tip 2: Grow plants you like to eat so you'll want to tend them.

Tip 3: Start small. Don't overwhelm yourself. One bed of beautiful vegetables is so much nicer than three beds of worrisome weeds.

For a cook's garden that sings of Thailand's mountains and clear lakes, plant basil, onions, garlic, hot chili peppers and eggplant. Add three tomato plants simply because they taste so good. My favorite Thai recipe follows below.

Raised beds like these are easy to build.

Thai Basil Eggplant

4 tablespoons canola oil
½ block tofu, sliced and halved, or chicken breast or lean pork cut into small pieces
1 Thai chili or Serrano pepper (preferably red)
1 teaspoon red chili paste
2 tablespoons brown sugar
5 eggplant, cut into bite-size pieces
1 onion, sliced and cut into halves and separated
2 teaspoons fish sauce
1 teaspoon gluten-free tamari soy sauce (or regular soy sauce if not eating gluten free)
1 generous handful of fresh basil
Jasmine rice or brown rice

Heat oil. Add tofu and spices. Brown tofu on all sides until crispy. Add brown sugar to caramelize. Stir in vegetables and a small amount of water, if necessary. Add fish sauce and soy sauce and cook until vegetables are tender and spices appear blended. Add basil and cook about 5 minutes. Serve over rice. (Jasmine rice is especially nice, but brown rice has more fiber.)