Raising Kale in a Raised Bed

laying out the garden
When I was a kid in England, I was well fed from vegetable garden my aunt and uncle planted each year on their ‘allotment.’ They had married at the end of World War II and just about everyone grew vegetables either on their own property or in a shared community space. It was one of those acts of keep-calm-and-carry-on patriotism that most certainly contributed to the Allied victory.

As we discover that small (and local) is indeed beautiful, the time for such kinds of community enterprise is most certainly here…again.

The photo shows our church community garden getting started. While it is small as veggie patches go, just 10 cinderblocks arranged in a rectangle 2.7′ x 5.2′ on a bed of ground cloth and cardboard, filled with bagged cow manure or compost, it has been planted intensively with kale, broccoli, onions, tomatoes, peppers, squash and marigolds around the rim (to keep the bugs at bay). The directions for the raised bed garden are from The University of Florida IFAS Extension and it came together quickly with four pairs of hands and a lot of enthusiasm.

As an experiment in community gardening, it has attracted more curiosity than volunteers willing to get their hands dirty (though I’m hopeful that may change). And even though the squash sort of ran away from home and the peppers got all leggy, I’m calling it a success nonetheless. Every few days for the past couple of months, we have harvested some kale and broccoli and occasionally a tomato or onion. Obviously, one cannot rely on a patch this size to supply one’s vegetables needs — our CSA does a great job of that. But it does demonstrate what is possible with very little effort and a small plot of soil. May you be so inspired.

Food in My Kitchen

Emalee veggies

See this basket?  All of it came from my friend, Emalee’s backyard, a no-till vegetable patch established in 2012 with compost from the city of West Palm Beach (you have to provide the truck, some muscles and a wheelbarrow) and still going strong.  I came home with Japanese eggplants and tomatoes in abundance.  What to do?

This morning, I started chopping and slicing and sautéing, O Mio Babbino Caro playing in the background, and by noon, I had the base for a Vegetable Korma — I’ll add the yoghurt just before I serve it — and a caponata from the Kripalu cookbook series (a good way to preserve tomatoes and eggplant).  The curry was going to be our lunch, then my spouse called from the dentist to say he needed to have an all liquid lunch.  So, I quickly turned some broccoli, CSA and home-grown, into a soup.  Here’s the recipe for the Broccoli Garlic Soup:

Two cups of tender, washed broccoli stalks
4 cloves of garlic mashed
2 T.  olive oil
1/3 – 1/2 cup of water
Sea or kosher salt to taste

Put everything into a heavy saucepan, cover and cook until most of the liquid has evaporated and the broccoli stalks are tender but not mushy.  Time varies, but about 7-10 minutes should do it.  Pour it into the blender jar.  Add water to just cover and puree until smooth.  Serve room temperature with a dollop of yoghurt on top.   The broccoli prepared this way is delicious as a side as well, and I have Dr. Andrew Weil to thank for the basic recipe.  I’ve used it for green beans and broccoli rape, and it’s simple and good.

I realize that many people, e.g. the single mother of two in A Place at the Table , the documentary about hunger I’ve been writing about, do not have ready access to fresh, local produce.  And that’s something that can change as more people start-up community gardens in  urban ‘food deserts’.  But there is also much she could do with staples like lentils, black beans, and chick peas, if there was somewhere she could go to learn.   Great nutrition for her kids and herself at very low-cost prepared without fancy pots or gadgets, now that’s social action through food, and well worth working on.   

Since seeing the documentary, I’ve been surfing around looking at food bloggers, especially those with a social conscience, and yesterday, I hit a bonanza.  The Giving Table.  I like their slogan, too: Doing Good With Food.  On April 8, bloggers were invited to add content to their sites in recognition of hunger in America.  http://www.givingtable.org/food-bloggers-against-hunger  There is a ground-swell of passion for solving this intractable problem and it gives me hope.