At my previous home, I had a fabulous vegetable garden. After 8 years of begging Toby to build me a garden plot (he’s more of a flower guy than a vegetable guy), he finally gave in. He expertly crafted a large, raised garden surrounded with a deep-in-the-ground, chicken wire fence, complete with posts, fresh composting soil, and gnomes (Norman and Noam). That first summer, I planted cucumber, a variety of squash, tomatoes – big and small, onions (nothin’ better than a fresh onion), and banana peppers. It was perfect and I loved it.
Not because of the vegetation, though (I don’t have a green thumb). It was perfect because there is just something “right” about digging in the dirt with your own two hands, walking out your back door to see if anything’s ready yet, and then, when the time comes, proudly picking produce off the vine to eat or share. Mmmm… Mm! It’s the way it was meant to be.
I remember glancing over at my new garden as Toby was deciding to go to sem, and feeling the first pangs of potential loss. I could take my gnomes with me, but my perfect, little garden had to stay. I had only been able to use it for one summer. I was so disappointed.
But one year later, I have a new garden. Three, in fact.
The first is my community garden plot just ¼ mile south of our apartment. It’s small, but raised and surrounded by chicken wire to keep the city rabbits out. I found a few stray strawberry plants, which have since grown into an official strawberry patch, albeit small. I’m also growing tomatoes, onions, and trying my hand at broccoli and English peas.
The second garden is my “porch garden” – which is a series of pots and troughs scattered about our cement slab and stairs. They hold my herbs (chives, cilantro, parsley, basil, mint, and rosemary), more tomatoes, and lettuce in the spring, peppers now.
The third, and most interesting garden is the seminary grounds itself. One of our city’s policies is that vegetable gardens are not allowed unless sanctioned by the city (my aforementioned community garden plot is an example of a city-sanctioned veggie garden). What are allowable, however, are “ornamental” plants. In other words, plants that are a part of the landscaping design.
The seminary’s head groundskeeper, Gail, has brilliantly worked the system. Following the rules of the city, she has cleverly included fruits and vegetables in every part of our campus landscaping. What were once flower gardens and ornamental landscaping are now a magical mix of beautification and sustenance. All over campus you can find something to eat and it’s free for anyone to take.
I’ve found asparagus growing next to the radio tower, along with okra (which I am currently experimenting with). Rows and rows of sweet peppers and onions in the woods. Hot peppers in the medians and the various flower pots. Lettuce by the chapel. Tomatoes just about everywhere. Newly planted pear trees near the welcome center and more fruit trees along the soccer field.
Last year there were tomatoes along the far fence of the soccer field and spinach at Truck Park. There was zucchini squash behind the apartments. There were watermelons and yellow cherry tomatoes behind the Historical Institute. I’ve found kale, swiss chard, tons of basil, as well as every other herb you can think of and even some I’ve never even heard of, like lovage.
Today, my kids and I visited all three of “my gardens” to collect ingredients for a favorite Tabouli recipe from a friend. The recipe calls for three kinds of herbs and tomatoes, all of which we found around campus.
Here is the recipe. I encourage you to try it sometime and think about all the places in the world these simple ingredients can grow.
Boil 3 cups of water and 1 tsp salt. Add 1 ½ cups cracked wheat. Cook for 3-5 minutes (stirring). Remove from heat, cover pan, leave 1 hour.
In a large bowl: ½ cup cooked, small white beans; 2 tomatoes, chopped; juice of 2 lemons, 2 Tbs. chopped chives; 2 tsp. chopped mint; ¼ c. chopped parsley; 3 Tbs. olive oil.
Add cracked wheat, black pepper to taste, stir. Serve hot or cold.