Visiting David Holmgren’s property as an intern I had a distinct experience of abundance and harmonizing with the seasons. This was specifically related to food and eating. Modern food culture is one of instant gratification, at any given moment those with access and money can have just about anything they want. I make this distinction because some (in this case referring to U.S. Americans) do not have access or enough money and must default to even more artificial but forceful wants and needs that are satisfied by fast food and other non-nutritive gratification of hunger.
If I want seafood, bananas, or specialty coffee I need only visit a single grocery store and most of my food desires of the moment can be fulfilled. The question “What do I want for dinner?” becomes very real and sometimes a dilemma in the face of infinite options. If I can dream it up then it is likely that I can fulfill that dream. We are encouraged to think and feel about food in this way, whether for a seared tuna steak with arugula salad, a fast food burger or Thai curry.
I arrived at Homgren’s small sub-urban farm in late spring, fava beans were in full production. So much so that we ate them at least once a day. (Prepared into amazing meals.) During the first week I noticed an underlying agitation or impulse to eat things that I wanted but we did not have. There were a few bulk items but mostly we ate what was grown, raised or stored: Fava beans, olives from a neighbor, tonnes of fresh salad greens, eggs, canned fruit, goats milk, cheese, herbs…
After two weeks of fava bean (broad bean) abundance, the fava production slowed down and artichokes came on in full force. I missed the fava beans, but the new addition to meals in the form of artichokes was fantastic. (As an aside, I’m still trying to breed a variety of fava beans that fares better in the summer heat here in Colorado.) We were not eating based on what we wanted in the moment, but what was available in the moment. And what was available was the result of good design and knowledge of what could grow. The meals were truly seasonal; eating became much more than the fulfillment of hunger, it was an interaction with a garden landscape designed for abundance in all seasons.
Fast forward to the present moment and dinner: an asparagus saute fresh from the garden of all perennial and spring greens.
Lemon Asparagus Sauté
Asparagus – Main ingredient
Sorrel – Diced fresh leaves for lemon flavor
Lambs Quarter – Fresh Leaves
Chives – Fresh diced
Garlic Greens – Fresh diced
Butter – (Store bought, grass fed cows.)
Lightly saute the garlic and sorrel in butter and salt, add asparagus. Add the rest of the greens and pepper to taste.
(Note: Permaculture encourages us to provide for as many of our needs as close as possible while also encouraging community through exchange and circulation of those essentials that we need from others, in this case: salt, pepper, butter.)
Meet the ingredients:
Asparagus: The journey of the main ingredient for this dinner started several years ago when I was digging up a section of irrigation line and encountered a huge bunch of wild asparagus. The crowns were well formed and I transplanted them around one of my pear trees, where they now thrive.
Sorrel: This sorrel came from a root cutting given to my by one of my garden mentors. Lance was growing French sorrel in huge clumps among his small orchard. Sorrel has a great lemony tang that can entirely replace lemon in a recipe.
Garlic: If left in the ground unharvested, garlic grows into a clumping grass-like bunch of greens which can be harvested and diced adding a fresh garlic flavor without needing to store bulbs.
Chives: Chives fill the edges of the rock border along the path, and thrive in the warmer wetter micro climate.
Lambs Quater: This common garden weed rivals spinach for nutrition and in early spring is bursting with flavor. It reseeds itself, so no effort required.
It may seem daunting to think two years ahead for an amazing fresh spring meal and out of reach for those without land to grow on. However with only a small bit of space, once established, all these ingredients require minimal maintenance: the joy of perennial gardening. I can look forward to this season and the flavors that come with it. What I want and what is available and abundant are in alignment.
The best time to plant a tree is 10 years ago, the next best time is now.