Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Body Spirit Art Intellect

Why garden?

Because it satisfies the senses: does it taste good (body), does it feel good (spirit), does it look good (art).

There's another aspect to gardening, that people tend to equate with "real" or "good" gardeners: do you understand it (intellect).

Intellect is gardening knowledge; all the things about planting that concern the science of the effort: What is the variety? How does it behave in my zone? Are there any reasons not to plant it— zone, effect on the native ecology, interaction with other plants (either positive and detrimental), is there enough light, how big will it get?

I’m quite impressed at gardeners, especially novice gardeners, who can identify a scientific name by the look of a plant, who know what variety they are planting, and can compare one variety’s behavior against another. I’ve always joked that my garden is “Darwinian”— only the fit survive—or worse yet, laisser-faire. I've been gardening for more than 20 years, but I'm not sure how much I know about gardening. Garden bloggers in particular intimidate me terribly-- they seem to know so much stuff!

You can get joy from gardening that is visceral and emotional. One puts in a bed to fix the shape; or put in a plant to change the profile or enhance the color. My garden has a beautiful design, but I didn't "design" it. It's just twenty years of living in a space, and moving things around, kind of like the living room furniture. It just takes a little longer with plants. If the color or size works in the spot I want to fill, I’ll try it. If I want to try growing some new thing to eat or preserve, I'll try it.

But it’s hit and miss, with plants cycling through because they were the wrong choice made for the wrong reasons, or wouldn't grow here, or maybe I just didn't like them. (The morphing of my garden can be seen here.)

A benefit of this is that the plants that have survived are indeed hardy, with some spectacular successes. But a lot of the garden areas never quite get there because I haven’t really considered what they need, from a more scientific viewpoint. Thank goodness, because then I get to try something else.

Cooking is the same way. A flavor combination will pop into my head-- how about cinnamon and hot? Basil and raspberry? And I'll try it out (I seldom look up recipes first-- someone has always thought of it before me, which takes all the fun out of it.) This one is an exception, since it's baking. I confess it was inspired by kelly at MyFolia, who was bragging on Twitter about eating these. So I looked up a recipe to try my own. Couldn't quite find one, so I adapted.

Rosemary Peasant Bread

adapted from Make and Takes

• 1 packet dry yeast (or 2 1/2 tsp) with 1 T. sugar; or use the self-starting kind with no sugar
• 1 1/2 c. warm water
• 2 T. honey
• 2 tsp salt
• 2 c. white flour
• 1 cup whole wheat flour
• 1 cup corn meal
• 1-2 tsp. fresh Rosemary plus more for topping
• Olive Oil, Corn meal, Melted butter and salt

Dissolve yeast in the warm water and sugar. Add flour, salt, and 1-2 tsp Rosemary and stir until blended. No kneading--the dough is quite sticky, you won't be able to knead it. Cover with a moist cloth and let rise for 1 hour or until double in size.

Remove dough. It will be sticky. Coat your hands lightly in oil for taking out the dough and shaping it. Place it in 2-3 rounds (about 6" diameter each) on a cookie sheet lightly coated in oil and sprinkled with corn meal. Cover with a towel or greased plastic wrap. Then let it rise another hour.

Brush each round with melted butter and lightly sprinkle with more Rosemary and sea salt. Bake at 425 for 10 minutes, then reduce temp to 375 for 15 minutes more.

Eat it with
Squash baba ganoush
from Jeff Smith's Our Immigrant Ancestors

Butternut or acorn squash, about 1 to 1 1/2 pounds, roasted
1 clove garlic, crushed
1 1/2 tbsp tahini
1 tbsp lemon juice
2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
sea salt
cracked black pepper


1. Place the squash in a bowl, along with minced garlic, tahini, lemon juice (or vinegar), olive oil, sea salt, and crack pepper. Combine and taste. Adjust the seasonings to taste.a

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