Saturday, June 23, 2012


WE HAVE BEEN "HELPING" IN PAM AND DAVID'S COUNTRY GARDEN. They have beds of vegetables and flowers, and we've been working on both. Thinning the beets and lettuces to give them more room to grow really means helping myself to delicious salads and side dishes. Thinning the beets means Mary gets her antioxidants. (Thanks for your generosity, guys!) 
 This morning I cut off the beet greens for dinner later, and divided the beets by size. Everything smaller than a hickory nut went into my fruit smoothy, and added a lovely magenta color and a sweet, earthy taste. A fruit smoothy has become my summer breakfast. I put an orange, an apple, a banana if I have one, a carrot, a slice of ginger, peanuts, flax seeds, brewers' yeast, yogurt, and ice cubes in a blender. That's the general recipe, but can vary depending on what I have on hand. Sometimes I'll add strawberries or blueberries, or use a pear instead of an apple.

 I'll peel the larger beets (easy, since the skins are still so tender) and dice them into the lentil dish I'm making in the crock pot. It's a variation on a recipe Chandra gave me, but I'm out of sweet potatoes—a key ingredient, so I'll add another brightly colored, sweet tasting root crop instead. All my boys like to cook, but my oldest is the source of most of my Indian recipes. I'm sure it will be delicious. I can smell the garam masala, fragrant in the kitchen.

It's been so dry lately. Today, it finally rained, but here in Birdland we only got a few drops. It didn't even sink down into the ground, and so I'll have to water again tonight. Pam and David's country garden got almost an inch, and the earth was so rich and moist when I pulled up the beets and a few lettuces. It's amazing how a few miles can make such a big difference. In the summer, the thunderstorms are small, playing hopscotch across the Midwest. Earlier in the year, they mean business—huge cloud banks slowly rumbling their way Eastward—and will give us a good soaking. This time of year, it's hit or miss. 


The green fields belie the drought conditions. The corn is green, yes, but if you look closely you'll see the signs of distress in the plants. The leaves are beginning to curl to preserve moisture. Instead of relaxed blades of green, the leaves have rolled themselves in tubes, and stand straight up in a prickly posture—more like pineapple plants than cornstalks.

In Pam's garden I pick peas, which are abundant. She has planted “sugar snap snow peas,” the best of all possible worlds. You can steam them or eat them raw. I plan to do both. The next row over is another variety, but I'm not sure if it's more snow peas (not sugar snap) or just regular peas. A few pods are swollen, almost ready to shell, but some are still flat though very big. I'll have to call to ask what kind she planted, and whether I should go ahead and pick them for steaming or just let them go a little longer. The broccoli has sent up small, auxiliary heads where the large heads have already been cut.

 The lettuces and beets are still so abundant that I can harvest several meals just from thinning them giving more room to grow. The potatoes are blooming, larger pink cousins to the tomato flowers—you can see the family resemblance. I sit for a moment considering the tassels on the sweet corn, stalks only half as high as the corn growing in our fields.
 I walk over to the smaller plot of tomatoes, red cabbages and Brussels sprouts. I adjust a tomato plant that was trying to grow out of its cage and then peer into the cabbage plant, leaves cupping to curl protectively around the head that is forming. 

 And just like that I understand why they say babies come from cabbage plants. 

Look deep into the center! See the mysterious, fertile dark? Two leaves open to reveal the crowning of the head. From the moist, dark, earth will come something shining and wonderful. Here is why I think we should honor our sacred connection with the food we eat:

Because we all come from the same place.

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