As spring progresses, the colors of flowers, foliage, herbs, fruits and vegetables become more vibrant. While surveying the ripe produce at the grocery store, I am reminded of how far much of it has traveled to get here and wonder if it was exposed to chemicals or radiation. It is from this thought that I find the inspiration to plant a small garden.
It would consume my life to try and grow everything—it’s best to home in on a few plants that I know will flourish in our soil and climate. Years of trial and many an error have limited my choices to corn, lettuce, spinach, squash, beans and the glorious tomato. Herbs like sage, chive, mint, garlic and thyme are already established and thriving perennials along with their wild friends: dandelion, fiddleheads, sorrel, purslane and others that make surprise appearances. It can be easy to plant some annual herbs commonly used in the kitchen such as parsley, basil and cilantro. Then there are the fruit bushes, edible flowers, nut trees and Jerusalem artichokes. I didn’t realize we were so lucky until I listed them.
Even if all you have is a window box or potted plants, you can grow something that will help your culinary budget while pleasing the palate with freshness and vivid flavor. It will also be organic, meaning it is grown without pesticides or chemical fertilizers.
When was the last time you bit into a big, juicy tomato, and it tasted even better than it looked?
In the city, start small with potted plants. I also recommend supporting your farmers markets, which source organic, local produce.
As American Indians, I think we need to nurture and reap the fruits of Mother Earth. The stewardship of the environment is ours to teach.
½ cup good extra-virgin olive oil
2 cups fresh basil leaves
½ cup (or more)
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 cup fresh grated
Salt and pepper to taste
Use a food processor or blender to make into a thick paste. Put the olive oil in first, then add the remaining ingredients. Now transfer into a container and cover with about a tablespoon of olive oil. Refrigerate until you are ready to use on a pasta primavera, chicken or mixed-vegetable salad or sandwich. You can also freeze the pesto in ice cube trays to use small amounts in potato salad.
Dale Carson, Abenaki, is the author of three books: New Native American Cooking, Native New England Cooking and A Dreamcatcher Book. She has written about and demonstrated Native cooking techniques for more than 30 years. Dale has four grown children and lives with them and her husband in Madison, Connecticut.