The unbearable intensity of homegrown food

July 20, 2007 in Gardening, Humble Garden, Local Food

(Recipe is included below)

I have had the joy and luxury of being able to put in a garden this year and tend it from germination through to a clamoring jungle of vegetable being. Because it is in raised beds and because it is organic, I managed all my weeds by picking each, one by one. Next year I am going to lay down plastic to help with weed but more importantly water management. Neither of these things have been too onerous, its just nice to optimize the system.

As a result of the daily weeding and now the daily tending of my high rise cucumbers, spaghetti squash, zucchini, pumpkins, and watermelons, I have come to feel rather maternal towards these plants. As they shift from the growing phase to the production phase, I am having to deal with the twinge I feel when I harvest a vegetable.

In some ways its not about empathy toward the plant, after all harvesting doesn’t mean killing the plant, I am just removing one of the fruiting bodies which have evolved to disperse the seed. I, in my own monkey ways, am serving the plant.

No, its more about how I have come to feel about the garden as a whole and each relatively integrated component. I have spent so much time with each and every plant that I imbue each fruit or vegetable with this aura of increased value. It is almost unbearable to think that this thing, this vegetable, which I have spent so much time getting to grow will be eaten in a few short bites.

Sure, the legacy of each bite is exactly the objective of the garden – the healthy organically fed bodies of my children. Each vegetable will not only feed their bodies but also their minds as I expand their experience with new vegetables that are substantially more fresh than anything we buy in the store.

It remains unbearable on some existential level, a dark quiet one that is too much ego and needs to get over it’s self.

When I was picking a few early beets, I was flooded by all of this. I wasn’t ready for the intensity of the local, backyard gift of nature.

The only honest way I know how to honor the work I have done and the struggle each plant had to live and thrive is to serve these vegetables to my family in the freshest and most authentic or creative way I can so that they can “get it” too.

We will celebrate the bounty of the harvest, that gift of co-evolution, with each bite.

Mindful eating of mindfully grown foods, intense man.

Homegrown organic beets and greens served over beet juice infused polenta, dribbled with a beet, garlic, apricot gastrique

Ingredients:

  • 2-3 small early red beets and greens
  • polenta (use your favorite recipe)
  • 1/8 tsp lemon juice
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon roasted sesame seed oil
  • 1 teaspoon chopped garlic
  • sea salt, sprinkled

Directions:

Rinse dirt off beets, cut off greens, leaving some stem so that you are not cutting right next to the beet root and also leaving on the tap root.

Scrub all dirt off the beets and put in water that comes to a simmer (not massive rolling boil) and cook until just tender.

Meanwhile, separate the stems from the greens, rinse the greens again and put in a zip-lock bag with a moist paper towel and into the fridge.

Dice the stems into 1/4 inch bits and put into the water for the polenta.

Simmer the diced stems for 15 minutes or so to extract as much flavor and color as possible. Add lemon juice at the end of this simmer.

Make your polenta with this water as per the package directions. I did the instant 3 minute stove type polenta. If you do a really long recipe you may lose the red color of your beet water.

Roll greens up into a “cigar” and slice to make thin spirals of greens.

Put oils in medium heat saute pan, add greens and then the garlic. Saute until wilted.

Make the beet, garlic vinegar, and apricot gastrique (recipe below).

Slice one or two beets (or all three, up to you), layer on polenta round, add wilted greens and then dribble with gastrique. Sprinkle with sea salt, to taste.

Beet, garlic infused rice vinegar, and apricot gastrique

Ingredients:

  • 1/4 C beet water (from boiled beet roots)
  • 1 tablespoon apricot jam
  • 1 tablespoon garlic-infused rice vinegar

Directions:

Add the beet water and jam to a medium hot saute pan. Incorporate the jam into the beet water and reduce by about a quarter. Add the vinegar and then allow to reduce slightly more. This will not thicken but you do want it to not be mostly a watery concoction.

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