…until the last frost! We’re coming down the homestretch to spring, to digging in the dirt, to sowing seeds. But we’re not there yet so, as I mentioned in a previous post, I’m still depending on CBC Radio to keep me sane until the snow melts, and, specifically, this morning, it was a Spark interview that I enjoyed with my morning coffee – an interview with Ingrid Fetell and her research into the “aesthetics of joy”.
I felt she made a convincing case for the importance of designing for joy but it’s probably because I already believe that we need more joyful spaces – more places that lighten our mood, make us smile, engage our hearts. It’s why I designed my kitchen garden the way I did.
Believe it or not, but I’ve gotten flack for my kitchen garden. I’ve been told it’s not efficient, it doesn’t make the best use of the space, and some parts are too tight to work easily in. These things are all true, to a certain extent, but only if the goal of my kitchen garden is to produce the most amount of food in the allotted space with the least amount of effort.
Hear that sound? That was the sound of joy being sucked out of my garden!
That’s not my goal for my kitchen garden. My goal always has been for it to bring me joy - in the looking at, the working in, and the eating of.
I designed the garden with raised beds because I like tidy edges; with bamboo trellises because I like the feeling of walls; and with lots of flowers…because I like flowers. These things also allow me to control the type of soil I use, provide support for tomatoes and climbing vines, and attract pollinators, but that, to me, is secondary to the joy it brings me to see these elements.
I decided to lay down gravel for the paths – I love the crunchy sound it makes when I walk on it and raking it smooth reminds me of those Japanese sand gardens. Okay, so it’s an inexpensive and easy to lay surfacing material – that’s so not the point.
I plant things we love to eat fresh – peas, radishes, tomatoes, lettuces, beans. These are almost all consumed during the course of the growing season because to me, the flavor of food harvested right from the garden, sometimes still warm from the sun, brings me intense joy. Frozen beans eaten in the dead of winter don’t always produce that same intense sensation – although the Romano bean I grew last year tasted better after being frozen, which was a joyful discovery (Ingrid talks about surprise being one of the elements in creating joy).
And the other thing that gives me joy in my kitchen garden, when the snow is white and thick on the ground, is the designing of it. Below, is this year’s plan for the garden. I hope you enjoy it as much as I do!
I had a revelation this morning while eating breakfast – I love greens and eggs together! I’d thrown two fried (organic) eggs onto a flour tortilla, tore up some of my macrogreens (including a good bunch of dill), and rolled it all up. It wasn’t pretty (so I didn’t take a picture) but it tasted so lovely – creamy eggs with a little buttery crispness on the edges, herb-y dill, the spring-fresh flavors of the mesclun greens – and it reminded me that some of my favorite food combinations have to do with eggs and greens.
There are so many ways to have them – omelettes and quiches are typical but my favorite combinations usually involve fried eggs and a robust green with some kind of bread-like base. My absolute favorite version is a thick slice of toasted rustic multi-grain bread, rubbed with a clove of raw garlic and drizzled with olive oil; on top of that, dandelions, raw (if young and fresh) or sauteed (if getting on a bit) and spritzed with a tiny bit of lemon juice; on top of that, 2 eggs, preferably from my mother’s chickens, fried in butter and liberally sprinkled with freshly ground black pepper and slightly coarse salt (or even smoked salt, for a whole other layer of goodness!); and finished off with a sprinkling of green onions or chives…I’m drooling even as I write!
I’ve made other versions – scrambled eggs and spinach wrapped in a tortilla, scrambled eggs on mesclun on a buttered rye crisp, spinach or arugula substituted for dandelions in the above dish – it’s all depended on what I have on hand and what I feel like eating. Not being a big carb-eater, I’ve sometimes shocked my sister, a woman who feels that bread really is the staff of life, by not having any in the house for weeks on end so I’ve sometimes had to use potatoes or mushrooms as a stand-in. I think because the greens and eggs combo is such a flexible one, and almost a ‘doh’ kind of recipe that I don’t notice how often I eat it…and love it.
…Until the last frost and I’ve decided I like my greens a little less micro and a little more macro.
You might recall that several weeks ago, based on the ravings of many gardeners (and eaters), I planted some microgreens. Well, I have to tell you that I’m not sure what all the fuss is about. Did I plant the wrong kinds of things? Should I have fertilized them? The Sugar Snap peas were lovely – succulent, sweet little hits of spring – but everything else just tasted kind of grassy. It’s not until now that the cilantro and dill have really come into their full flavor, and, while the basil developed it’s flavor early on, I couldn’t bear to cut it down never to have it return, so I’m growing it large enough that I can pick a leaf here or there. The mesclun mix too, I’m treating as a cut-and-come-again – it seemed too much of a waste, otherwise.
So that’s my brief foray into microgreens. For me, growing them is worth it if I have lots of extra seed that needs to be used and if the plant is a more succulent type (like basil or peas or sunflowers) and if I really, really need a hit of spring. Otherwise, I prefer to treat my greens as an indoor cutting garden – snipping bits for garnishes, and not having to replant every two weeks.