Cook, retiree loves the garden

Home cook and gardener Earl Kurtz of Goose Creek.

Lillian Kurtz suggested her husband, Earl, for a good home cook to profile because his hobby is year-round vegetable gardening. The garden supplies most of what they eat.

It turns out, there's not much that he doesn't grow, as I found out. The best part is that he loves to share the harvest (and his enthusiasm) with friends and neighbors.

Name: Earl Kurtz Age: 75 Family: Wife, Lillian; and dog, Mitzi

Occupation: Retired Navy chief radioman; and from DuPont

Residence: Goose Creek Q: Have you always liked to cook? What sparked your interest?

A: I have always had an interest in food and in my travels around the world, an increased interest. I spent six years in Europe (1967-73). Every country has a different take on food. I've been all through the Pacific, too: the Philippines, Japan, Hong Kong; and Panama.

Q: Your wife says you cook a lot from your garden. How large is your garden and when did you start?

A: 125 feet by 19 feet, but it seems to be getting wider.

I started gardening in 1973. It's a great form of exercise and relaxation. One of the biggest joys of gardening is that I get to share the excess.

Q: What are you growing now and the rest of the year?

A: Corn, eggplant, tomatoes, cucumbers, beans (butter, lima and field peas), peppers, yellow and zucchini squash, acorn squash, cantaloupes, okra and herbs.

Green and wax beans, green peas, sweet onions, carrots, red and Yukon Gold potatoes, cabbage (red, regular and Chinese), collards, kale, rutabaga, turnips and lettuces.

Also, blueberries, and Asian pears and pecans.

Q: You must eat a lot of vegetables and not spend much money on food.

A: It used to be we would get two steaks for dinner. Now we get one nice steak and it's enough for both of us.

Q: You have developed some of your own recipes. For example?

A: I have a book of recipes on the computer, with 15 or more categories. Most all of them I've developed. Some I've copied and changed. There are several hundred recipes.

If I do one thing in cooking, I try to eliminate white flour and sugar and substitute whole wheat flour and honey.

Q: Also, you have cooked for clubs and churches. So you know how to cook for a crowd. How did you get into that?

A: Friends ask me to help and it just carried on from then.

Q: What's the largest group you've ever cooked for? What did you prepare?

A: For the Elks, a drug-awareness fundraiser, a spaghetti dinner for 600.

A favorite recipe: Ratatouille

Ingredients 1 cup sliced onion

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1 cup yellow or green pepper strips

1 cup red pepper strips 10 garlic cloves, minced

½ cup Parmesan cheese 4 teaspoons dried oregano

4 teaspoons dried basil ¼ teaspoon salt

¼ teaspoon pepper 1 small eggplant, peeled and sliced thin

2 cups sliced zucchini 3 medium tomatoes, sliced thin

Directions Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a skillet, saute onions, peppers and garlic for about 4 minutes. Remove from heat.

Combine cheese and spices and set aside. Arrange half each of the eggplant, zucchini, tomatoes, onions and peppers into a 9x13x2-inch pan misted with nonstick spray.

Top with half of spice mixture. Repeat with remaining vegetables and spice mixture.

Cover and bake 40 minutes. Uncover and bake 10 more minutes. Serve warm or room temperature.

Note: Can be refrigerated and then cooked. Vegetables may be varied.

If you would like to sug- gest a good home cook to be profiled, email with “Good Cook” as the subject line. Briefly describe the person's talent and how you know him or her, and provide their phone number or email address so we can contact them.