On March 21, a radiantly sunny Saturday, friends and neighbors gathered, masked, at the home of David McKay and Suzanne Koliche in Nevada City. I also attended this first spring workshop offered by Sierra Harvest celebrating 100 gardens installed.
Edy Cassell, Coordinator of the Gardens and Gleaning programs for Sierra Harvest, led our class. The McKay’s garden was installed last July. In the fall David and Suzanne planted their first winter crops. Theirs was the 100th garden that Sierra Harvest installed.
“As a new gardener, I feel a sense of awe and wonder to see plants developing from scrawny starts to hearty dishes on the table,” Suzanne commented.
One of Sierra Harvest’s many programs is installing gardens for community centers, apartment complexes and the backyards of families throughout the county. Edy, along with a crew of volunteers, has installed more than 108 gardens over the past eight years helping a lot of folks get their hands in the dirt. It includes necessary fencing, mentoring for two years, seedlings, raised beds and soil to get the garden growing. It is really quite phenomenal and an important step towards better eating habits and exercise as well as getting families/communities sharing an outdoor project.
As Edy turned over the cover crop planted months ago, she explained how it enriches the soil and helps with water absorption and retention. She smoothed out the bed, and everyone in the class took turns planting seedlings. Raking the wood chips away from the garden bed into the walkway, she explained how they can absorb the much needed nitrogen from the soil and should be kept in the walkways. We also discussed other ways to improve one’s soil and minimize pests.
Sierra Harvest welcomes applications any time though they have quite a few commitments for this spring. Most folks don’t necessarily think of fall as a good time to put in a garden, but it is actually one of the best times. Fall vegetables require less maintenance and watering over the winter and are an easy way to get started.
Anyone interested in this program can get more information or apply to participate on their website. There is a cost involved, but about 30% of the people who apply qualify for a scholarship. Sierra Harvest’s many fundraisers during the year raise money for these scholarships.
“During COVID-19, I have been reading about a National Geographic sponsored project, called The Blue Zones,” said Koliche. “The research team studied specific pockets of longevity throughout the planet and tabulated factors that seem to promote a long life. Among those habits that healthy centenarians share are daily physical exercise of working in a garden and eating greens on a routine basis.”
This super simple soup has become a winter/spring favorite for our family. It’s especially great if you serve friends or family who avoid dairy as this creamy soup relies on coconut milk for its base. It is inspired by a recipe from Deborah Madison’s book called, “Vegetable Literacy.”
Two Tablespoons butter
One cup or more chopped leeks, white part only, washed well
One third cup cilantro leaves
One head of cauliflower, about 1 ½ pounds, outer leaves removed and cut into medium size flowerets
One half teas ground turmeric
One to one and a half tablespoons curry powder (to your own taste)
One teaspoon salt
One (15oz) can coconut milk, plus enough water to make 4 cups
Juice of 1 large lime
Chopped cilantro or snipped chives for garnish
Melt butter in a soup pot on medium low. Add the leeks, and sauté for 3-4 minutes. Add the cilantro and cauliflower and stir to coat with the butter. Cook for about 5 minutes, then add the turmeric, curry and 1 teaspoon salt. Pour in the coconut milk and water. Raise the heat to high and bring to a boil. Simmer, covered, until cauliflower is tender but not mushy.
Add the lime juice and let soup cool; then puree and reheat. Can be served cold as well. Maybe add a garnish of chives or additional cilantro. Makes 4 to 6 six servings.
Patti Bess is a freelance writer and cookbook author. She lives in Grass Valley.