Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Tom Sawyer's Garden

As the planting started in Maya’s Garden, I played Tom Sawyer.

While Maya, Carlos, Brian, and Greg laid out Bed #1, first drawing tidy little square boxes in the dirt to delineate each variety of vegetables and then lines within those boxes to indicate the seeds would be placed, Davan---Maya’s Dad---took over my kitchen to make us dinner. I poured myself a glass of wine.

Carlos says our garden is not truly a square foot garden, which requires an engineer’s soul to devise, but French Intensive, or a double-dug raised bed, garden. Those smart French people, with their narrow urban backyards, came up with this method to yield the most produce for the least area. Double dug, with added humus, the soil is fluffy to a depth of 2 or more feet allowing the roots to grow deep and (hopefully) give stupendous yield. As the larger plants grow tall, they can then be interplanted with smaller more delicate ones, such as spinach or baby lettuces.

Maya has drawn a chart of the bed, showing what has been seeded in each section. So far, we have Italian green cauliflower, carrots, micro greens, leeks, and swiss chard. Each section of the chart is dated as to when the seeds were planted and how many days will pass before harvest. (For example, the cauliflower was planted on 9-27-09 and should be ready in 75 days.) For the most precise placing possible, Maya and Carlos used a nifty little syringe-like tool known as a seed dispenser.

We are not giving the cauliflower much hope. The seeds were brought from Italy to me as a birthday gift several years ago. I somehow then buried them in my garden shed rather than the ground. The packet expiry date was 2006, if I am translating the Italian correctly. Maya and Carlos dropped the seeds into a cup of water, theorizing that those that sank to the bottom are still alive. Those belly-upped at the top of the water are dead ducks. If they don’t sprout, I’ll sneak in some cauliflower seedlings and no one need know the tragedy hidden below.

Since our cats always like to help with the digging process, Brian & Greg covered the bed with a fine mesh tomato netting. It lets the sun and water in, but keeps predators out. Some types of manure are just inappropriate for a kitchen garden. When the plants are large enough, we’ll remove it as the cats are finely attuned to nature and will not dig where there is a growing plant.

With everyone having so much fun playing in the garden, I poured myself another glass of wine. Gardening is easy when it is done right! Three days since planting, the micro greens are already beginning to sprout.

Dinner by Davan
Buy one Jaherdale Squash from Flowerdale’s Demonstration Garden. (But, any solid yellow or orange squash should do, perhaps Japanese kabocha). Find a large stock pot hidden somewhere in Carla’s Country Kitchen. Put 16 oz of vegetable broth and a can of lite coconut milk into pot with freshly ground sea salt and pepper.. Using olive oil in a sauté pan, sauté gently, one large, finely chopped yellow onion, add ½ inch fresh grated ginger, two or three small cloves of minced garlic & continue sautéing until all the ingredients are soft but not colored. Then plop them into the stock pot with the liquids. Add a bit more olive oil to the pan, sauté squash cut into one inch cubes until soft. Stick sautéed squash into a blender and puree. Plop that into the stock pot. Simmer lightly to heat. While the stew is heating, fry plantains-- cut on the bias into about ½ inch segments-- in vegetable oil. (Davan says peanut oil would have been better, but he could have fooled me.) Plantains should be fried until golden on each side. They only take a minute or so. To the stew, add some of Davan’s mother’s home roasted cumin and a bit of mild flavored pepper. (I was pouring another glass of wine here rather than watching, but I think he either used a few drops of some generic hot sauce I had in the refrigerator or a few sprinkles of crushed red pepper from my cupboard.) Add a tablespoon or so of minced thyme from the herb garden. Top the squash stew with some parsley, if you have it. Serve with a crunchy French bread and the plantains on the side. Another glass of wine, Voila! A perfect Sunday evening.

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