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This Is the Root of My Obsession

Updated on June 3, 2021
JoanieMRuppel54 profile image

Gardening is my escape and my passion. Learn how to grow some vegetables right in your own backyard.

Jalapeno peppers
Jalapeno peppers

Gardening - My Obsession?

I just finished reading The Roots of My Obsession, a collection of essays by famous gardeners and decided to write my own short essay, as if it was included in the book.

My first memory of loving something green that grew is from elementary school where we put seeds in paper cups and when the seedlings were a few inches tall, we got to bring them home. I remember feeling quite proud that this plant was mine as we brought them home in the late Midwestern spring. My brother, who was 4 years younger than me, got upset at something on the day we were walking the plants home and threw his plant down on the ground and bam, it was gone. I was mortified and gave him a good lickin’ right there and then on the path home from school.

Was this the start of my love for growing things? I’m not sure but it sticks in my mind like yesterday and it was over 50 years ago. When I was a teen, I remember asking my parents if we could have a garden. They liked the idea and said we would have to turn the dirt all by ourselves with shovels. Thank goodness for that good Midwest soil as my brother and I (yes, same brother!) toiled with some resulting sore muscles and our first garden plot. We planted tomatoes, green peppers and mint. These were the staples for a special summer recipe I grew up eating – stuffed peppers and tomatoes.

As newlyweds, my husband and I first lived in a townhouse with no green space available so my girlfriend’s Italian father generously gave us some of his garden space to grow our own vegetables. We would faithfully make visits on the weekends to check on the progress of our little garden. I remember Mr. M had the biggest tomatoes I’d ever seen on homemade stakes and I dreamed that someday, mine were going to look like that too!

When we did move into our first home, we quickly tilled up a small garden and got to planting. Our inspiration came from Mr. M and my father-in-law who grew up on a farm and all his life had a very large backyard garden. When I was in labor with our first child, my husband told me stories of the strawberries in "Grandpa's" garden to keep my focus during contractions. Five children, three houses and forty-one years later, we are still “growing” strong.

Feeding My Soul

Just like many of the essays in The Roots of My Obsession stated, when I garden, I am solely devoted to the weed I’m pulling, the seed I’m planting, the vegetable I’m harvesting, or the compost I’m spreading. The issues of the day are for later. This time is between me and nature. This is especially important to me because I lost my gardening partner and my mind has many responsibilities - but not when I’m in the garden. I wonder how that magic comes about but I’ve not yet found an answer so it is a wonderful escape, if you will, that continues to feed my soul.

Sometimes a cardinal will perch closely and sing to me letting me know my husband agrees with what I have done to our garden. Sometimes I ask him for help that often comes in the form of a friend who does the tilling for me. Sometimes I travel around my yard, almost finished with one chore and then my attention goes elsewhere - trim the asparagus, transplant the strawberries, start the herb seeds, trim the hedges, dig out some compost - so the list grows longer and longer with many items completed but always many more to go.

I do not have a beautiful English garden to tend or know the botanical names of the flowers I grow; I cannot feed a village but cherish the wholesomeness of food I have grown. And I know that my health and wealth are a big part of that small plot of ground that produces goodness to feed my body and nourish my soul.

Inspirational Moments in the Garden

Peach blossom
Peach blossom
Purple Pepper
Purple Pepper
Morning glory
Morning glory

Stuffed Peppers and Tomatoes

  • 1- 1 1/2 pounds ground beef
  • 3 large tomatoes
  • 3 large green peppers
  • 1 cup rice, long-grained uncooked
  • 1/2 cup parsley, chopped
  • 1/2 cup yellow onion, diced
  • 1 teaspoon salt, or more if desired
  • 1/2 teaspoon pepper, or more if desired
  • olive oil, for drizzling


  1. Brown ground beef with onion just until there is no red remaining, drain fat. Salt to taste. While meat is browning, place uncooked rice and chopped parsley in large mixing bowl.
  2. Cut off tops of tomatoes and scrape out insides being careful not to puncture the skin (a grapefruit spoon works great). Add tomato insides to rice mixture, stir. Cut off tops of peppers and scrape out the peppers, discarding insides. Place empty tomatoes and peppers in the middle of a 9 x 13 baking dish.
  3. Add meat mixture to bowl and stir all ingredients well. Sometimes I add more fresh tomatoes (cut up) or a small can of diced tomatoes if there is not enough tomato substance in the mixture.
  4. Fill each pepper and tomato with mixture and place any extra filling around them in the dish. Add a 1/2 inch of water all around, drizzle olive oil over tops of peppers and tomatoes, cover loosely with foil and bake at 350 30-40 minutes or until rice is done.

Cook Time

Prep time: 40 min
Cook time: 40 min
Ready in: 1 hour 20 min
Yields: Serves 4-6 people

Stuffed Peppers and Tomatoes

5 stars from 1 rating of Stuffed Peppers and Tomatoes

Using garden fresh ingredients in this dish enhances the value of the meal and is one of our comfort foods in the summer.

This recipe has been passed down through four generations of my family.

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

© 2016 Joanie Ruppel


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