The garden suggests there might be a place where we can meet nature halfway.
— Michael Pollan
If you've never gardened before, but you would consider yourself a DIY-er/craftsperson/maker or what have you, there may be some things about gardening that are very different than other kinds of projects. To build a garden entails some kinds of making that are very ordinary and along the lines of any other plan–>materials–>product kind of project. But in other ways, it requires craft and technique that are completely beyond other kinds of skills. But, to build a garden is not to simply make something. It is to embark on an un-finishable
So I have a friend named Dan. I met him through work. Dan is in his early 70's. For the past––I'm not EXACTLY sure on the time here––30+ years, Dan has grown tomato plants from seed beginning in the very early Spring. And when he hears that you have even a passing interest in the garden, he comes by with three plants––one of each of the varietals he grows––along with a laminated sheet of paper with information about each of the plants. Dan is the definition of good people. And I love my three little tomato plants.
One of the first big projects I completed when I bought my house was digging a large garden in the backyard, and we just barely made it in time for a summer full of tomatoes, cucumbers, okra, eggplant, peppers, and squash. The 20 x 30' patch somehow wasn't big enough for both eating and canning, so when spring rolled around again, I set out to expand our patch. Gardens are never finished, after all! (Check out our tutorial on how to hand-dig a garden here.)
The only thing I wasn't interested in expanding, though, was my water bill. Since we get on average 4 inches of rain per month during the growing season here in North Carolina (Apr–Nov), it was time to let the clouds handle the water supply rather than the city. Since this is mostly a money-saving project, I kept my budget really low because I preferred to have the materials pay for themselves as quickly as possible.
Read on for how to make a rain barrel on a budget!
You can barely imagine what the world was like in the proto-suburbs of the Pacific Northwest for a child who had traveled there––entirely on his own, with his mother at home and his father awaiting him––from a small Tuscan village. This was before "a small Tuscan village" was even a thing on the radar of America at large. And it was before America had its culturally and politically dominating century. It was before anyone knew what the Pacific Northwest would become, foodwise.
And yet, that is where Angelo Pellegrini settled. His childhood of 12 or so years in Tuscany gave him an uncanny experience to bring to pre-depression America, including an adult life that coincided with the Cold War in which his heritage could not have been less relevant. He was born at just the right time to enjoy America in a way that few others had. But he was also born just a bit too early to have been the celebrity he would have been if he had emerged in the age of Alice Waters and the Food Network.
For my whole life, the idea of foraging has had a romance that I can't quite put my finger on. Way before it became a punchline about hyper-local hipster foodies, to be a forager was a signal of a deep wisdom about the land. To know what could be eaten was to have access to riches that were all around us. In a world beset by industrial foodways, foraging is a reminder that the world can sustain us (or at least some of us) without our machines, if we would simply let it.
The trouble with foraging, though, is that unless you grew up in the style of Katniss Everdeen or the Girl of the Limberlost, most of the earthly wisdom and insight needed to forage well is beyond you. And this is definitely a wisdom that you need to gain through practice. Ideally, some Italian-born wood elf––someone like Angelo Pellegrini or Angelo Garro (who at least is still alive)––would appear to teach a willing learner how to gather and find and hunt out the best things available on the earth. But that's pretty unrealistic. So, the only thing to do is to just do it––after all, if we start small, build up some confidence and awareness, and then keep going, before long we might rediscover some of that lost knowledge so that we can pass it along ourselves.
So, from the experience of one free food fan who hopes to be more, here's how to get started as a forager.
"Brassica" has become my new favorite word. It is the Latin word for "cabbage" (or also, "cauliflower"), as well as the scientific name for the genus of plants that includes green, slightly bitter, slightly salty, members of the mustard family. The brassicas are the dominant representatives in the dark green vegetable world: cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower, kale, collards, mustard greens, kohlrab , Brussels sprouts, turnips, rutabega, rapini, and that amazing and unsung hero of the Asian grocery, gai lan or Chinese broccoli. They are durable and variable plants, defined by their green leaves and bright yellow flowers. They are, without
I've always been a big fan of eating good food. But I also can't leave well enough alone, so eating led me to cooking, and cooking led me to gardening.
Originally a means to an end, now there are few things that give me greater happiness than stepping out the back door in the middle of summer and walking across my backyard to the roughly 20' x 30' patch of dirt full of rows of tomatoes, cucumbers, okra, squash, and greens.
When I first bought my house and decided to transform the patch of grass into our home garden, I didn't own a rototiller, but I did have a $20 shovel, an internet connection, and a spare can of elbow grease. After compiling the ideas from several gardening sites and testing it out on my half-acre slice of North Carolina, I had myself a beautifully productive vegetable garden.
Here's a brief primer on how you can hand-dig your own patch using the time-honored technique of "double digging."
In the late 1990s, there was the brief phenomenon of How Are You Peeling?, in which some guy realized that fruits and veggies sometimes look like faces when they unevenly spurt from the calyx of their flowers. Calendars and email forwards ensued. You remember.
Then, Carl Kleiner, the mastermind behind those amazing photos of ingredients from the IKEA cookbook, decided to play with the above idea...but, you know, make it way better.
Yeah, I know. The idea of grilling vegetables isn't new. Everyone who does outdoor cooking knows those hot grates are a perfect space to heat and char up some sides to go with that main course, or that some Tuscan grilled veggies, a bit of cheese, and a loaf of bread makes a perfect summer meal for two.
But what about taking grilled veggies seriously, opting for thick, meaty cuts that make you forget about grilled meats altogether?
I work from home, meaning I never keep regular hours, and can always/never been at work. And though I do try, it also means I rarely eat regular meals. Most often, I split my nutrition into six or eight tiny, half-meals...or, you know, snacks. And sometimes, I need those to be crispy, salty snacks. And rather than stuff my self with no-good-for-you, processed junk foods all day, I try to satisfy those cravings with something a bit better for me.
Like veggie chips. And now, with this awesome collection of recipes from Chow, I'ma just make my own in bunches, and munch all week.