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Winter is time to test indoor gardening skills

It might not look like the dead of winter, but summer is definitely over. I miss the days when I could run out to the backyard to pick a couple handfuls of plump Campari tomatoes, a few fresh basil leaves and a colorful myriad of jalapeño, Serrano, Thai dragon and habanero peppers, then implore my wife to whip up some of her signature spicy ragu.

We have a few Tupperware containers full of that sauce squirreled away in the freezer, but the tastes of the sunny season are mostly just memories now.

Without that flavorful harvest on hand, I began casting about for ways to garden indoors. Unfortunately, we don’t have the luxury of renting a home with a temperature-controlled greenhouse or even an indoor porch. That left the sun-drenched kitchen windowsill, which limited the size of the plants I could reasonably expect to cultivate.

After an hour of Googling, I came across four DIY gardening kits that looked to be compact and creative: coffee, oregano, oyster mushrooms and watercress. Just what would I cook with that jumble of vegetation? A coffee-braised, oregano-spiced oyster mushroom casserole topped with a sprinkling of watercress?

Sure, whatever; I didn’t care. I just wanted to enjoy fresh, homegrown produce again. So, for the next three weeks, I cared for my new charges according to the manufacturers’ specifications, which produced varying results.

Though these kits ultimately didn’t come close to mimicking the bounty of my garden, they did keep me in the rhythm of caretaking. On dark mornings when I was wishing I were outside weeding, watering and harvesting, they made me feel like it was summertime again.