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Last year, high in the mountains of central Mexico, we saw coffee plants growing wild along the roadside. Looking at the skinny branches loaded with clusters of coffee cherries (the fruit that contains the coffee bean) I thought wistfully how nice it would be to have a homegrown supply of my favorite drink.

After reading that the FDA has recalled seven coffee products sold in the US because they may be contaminated with melamine, that private coffee garden sounds better than ever! In the interest of accuracy, I should point out that the FDA warning is for a line of instant coffee products… not old-fashioned coffee or coffee beans. Whew.

 A more positive reason to brew your own cup of  coffee before leaving home: Good Earth Coffee’s Brew at Home Pledge. I have to admit that I was not initially impressed with this idea — I thought the simplest way to reduce the 28 billion disposable coffee cups thrown away each year would be to take your own mug to the coffee shop. Right? But a little research revealed that about 70 percent of coffee shop customers fail to do that. I know I’m one of those people.

My favorite reason for coffee at home: You can use the leftovers as a deliciously aromatic watercolor. I am always surprised at the differences in the colors different coffees produce… Kenyan is a robust dark brown, while some of the Central American blends are a lovely rusty red.  This coffee angel is painted with three coffee blends (Kenyan, Costa Rican and Hawaiian) and it’s easy to pick out the three separate shades of brown. I simmer a little leftover coffee (1/2 cup is plenty) in a saucepan for five minutes to concentrate the color strength. Then you can use it just like traditional watercolors.

Coffee is the engine that propels us out the door each morning to squeeze in an hour or two of gardening before the workday begins. Today’s task was preparation of the largest bed for the remainder of 54 young broccoli plants. The Perfect Man has finished planting the leaf lettuce. Another week of early mornings, and our winter vegetables will all be under way. This is the nicest season for gardening in the Deep South; already the insect populations are dropping off. With no squash borers or cabbage moths to contend with through the cooler months, gardening life is good.

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