Saturday, December 31, 2016
Since last I wrote to you, we have gone through one season, (Fall), and are well into the next, (Winter). The garden is largely in a state of hibernation, though as recently as the past month it harbored a supply of Chard and Kale as well as Carrots that provided the first course of our Christmas dinner, Carrot soup. Bear in mind, that while there is a temporary lull in our human use of the “potager,” it continues to be a source of food and shelter to myriad birds, and at least one pesky rabbit. We all need food and shelter.
In November, when working outside became impractical because of the cold temperatures, I began looking for ways to satisfy my gardening urges while staying indoors. One of the most fun things I did – and a huge affirmation of everything we gardeners live for – was to go see the movie, Portrait of a Garden, the debut documentary by Rosie Stapel. It is the story of the restoration of the oldest “kitchen garden” in the Netherlands, on an estate that dates back to 1630. The camera follows the owner of the property, Daan van der Have, his mentor, the 85 year old master gardener, Jan Freriks, and a small army of devoted assistants through a full year of planting, pruning and harvesting. It is very inspiring for even the palest of green thumbs, and I encourage everyone to see it, either on the large screen or on the internet. Look for screenings online, or ask your local theater to organize one.
Over the years, I have become accustomed to receiving the first gardening catalogues with the first mail delivery of the New Year. That may still be true for some catalogues. This year, however, I noticed that a number of catalogues arrived in the days leading up to Christmas. It seems that someone in the gardening world finally realized they were missing out on the biggest shopping season of the year. They remedied this by sending their catalogues at just the moment that gardening folks were ready to spend money on their hearts desire – new seed, and all of the hope that they contain. What better to buy at Christmas than the makings of the garden that will keep one occupied in the months to come? In recent days, I have read that Purple Cauliflower is predicted to be the “hot” vegetable in this years’ garden. How such desirability is determined, I don’t know. For me, I will welcome any of the seeds I plant that honor me by germinating and growing. This begs the question, what do you look forward to growing in your garden in the coming year? One would do well to start planning now. After all, there are only 78 days until Spring!
Lest I be accused of getting ahead of myself, here is a recipe for Black-eyed Peas, that African-American households have been serving for generations to ensure luck in the New Year, which is now only a couple of hours away. Begin by soaking a 16 ounce bag of Black-Eyed Peas overnight in water sufficient to cover them entirely. Look over the peas to ensure that there are no “undesirables”, or small stones mixed in among them. Once completely re-hydrated, rinse the peas in fresh water, and fill the pot with enough water to cover the peas completely. Cover the pot and place over a medium flame, high enough to bring the peas to a slow, low boil. While the peas and water are heating up, roughly chop a medium to large onion and add to the pot. Likewise, add two or three cloves of chopped garlic to the pot, along with two or three chopped carrots and a bay leaf. Traditionally, in the south, one would further flavor the peas by the addition of a piece of salt pork, or a ham hock. I find that a smoked turkey leg or wing works equally well. Simmer the peas, covered, for several hours, until the peas are tender. Take care to make sure that they stay well covered with water. Add additional water if needed to keep them covered. Season the peas with salt and pepper, to taste. Add pepper flakes if desired. Serve with white rice. Have a Happy New Year!!!