This past Tuesday I got into some excited conversation with two volunteers over the successful creations made in the kitchen with ingredients from the garden. Grace has consistently been impressive in the kitchen this summer and dutifully gives reports of, among others, her fried chicken she deboned herself (a smash success), her swiss chard soup (a liquid-chard failure), and her pies (if they taste as good as they look when she packs them for lunch at Bellair, I’d guess they’re pretty scrumptious). I myself have only recently been branching out in my cooking. I’ve always consistently baked or tossed veggies in a skillet with dressings and seasoning for dinner, but my recipes are imaginary and made up of whatever spices my roommate has in her shoebox of herbs. I was finally able to add to the conversation between Grace and Taylor on Tuesday about what we made over the weekend, however; my contribution was breaded eggplant chips using produce from the farm. Most exciting of all, in my opinion, were the pickles that some volunteers made from our very own Boston cucumbers in the Community Garden. Soon the potluck idea was borne, and we all agreed to bring a dish to share on Sunday (today). The turnout today was great and the food even more impressive.
I think our grandparents’ generation would be proud to see us youngsters exchanging recipes and eating real food made from scratch.
The menu consisted of:
- homemade bread
- Pita chips and homemade tzatziki sauce
- sautéed collards with oil and garlic
- chickpea salad with feta
- beet salad with goat cheese and pistachios
- freshly picked tomatoes
- lemon cucumber from the garden with pesto and parmesan cheese
- black eyed peas and rice
The consensus was that Sunday potlucks should be a thing. Grace and I agree!
Besides eating and enjoying the sun, we also had time to stake the tomatoes and peppers-they’ve long outgrown their wire towers and needed some taller stakes to climb.
We also picked the seeds from the cilantro for replanting.
Our squash is starting to fruit, and Grace and I have been patiently waiting for an ever-enlarging squash to turn the promised red of it’s seed package. We might lose this waiting game, as this guy is now the length of my forearm.
Being a novice gardener, I’ve encountered a few plants that have serious personality and gumption. For example, there is the tomato plant whose stem broke almost clean through, the root half and the branching second half attached by only by a few hardy green tendrils. Yet this plant is green and flourishing, all the water and nutrients dutifully carried over the narrow tendril bridge to the fat tomatoes.
Another garden “miracle” is the squash plant that has climbed one of our sunflowers. I imagine this particular squash plant to be the one that insists to be on top of the pyramid when you decide to do gymnastics at a slumber party and steps on everyones hands and faces as they’re scrambling to the top. I’m curious to see whether we’ll see a fat squash someday soon hanging in midair.
I’ve been reading Omnivore’s Dilemma by Michael Pollan, and the first section of his book is on corn. He talks about corn’s fossil fuel footprint in a different context than the one I experienced in Kingsolver’s book. Kingsolver focuses on the gas footprint of food transport, while Pollan focuses more on how the fertilizer used on corn crop is a chemical artificially made in a process that uses electricity as a catalyst to combine nitrogen and hydrogen (which is supplied by coal, oil, or natural gas) under immense heat and pressure. Where before fertility was determined by the natural production– and limitation– of nitrogen fixation by bacteria feeding on plant sugars made via sunlight, fertility now operates outside of the bounds of a natural and inherently self-checking process. And considering that corn is more an economic commodity nowadays than the maize once treasured by ancient Aztec people, we really see fertility controlled by capitalism, which opts for miles of monoculture with an extra large side of chemical fertilizer.
Now that I understand industrial agriculture’s two-fold fossil fuel footprint (third-fold, fourth-fold?? Who knows, I’m only halfway done with this reading list), I am even more thankful for little organic garden plots like the community garden. The garden looks even healthier to me now as I realize it’s not weighed down by the invisible baggage of a huge and negative carbon impact.
Eat local and organic, folks. If you aren’t, you should know that when you drink your next veggie or fruit smoothie, you’re really sipping on fossil fuels.