Time seems to speed up around this time of year, the foreshortened days and the early sunsets, the ticking countdown to the winter holidays. We love a thoughtfully curated gift selection as much as anyone, and of course we are honored to feature local artisans in the gift shop as well. But we are also big fans of a handmade gift, and to that end, we'll be sharing some of our favorite projects and recipes designed for gifting and hosting here in the next few weeks.
Our first offering in that vein is this recipe for Sweet Lime and Chili Salted Almonds. These nuts are wonderfully snackable, and whether you give them as gifts, or serve them as appetizers, they hit a sweet/salty/savory spot that can really tie a party together. I like to serve them with a few curls of lime zest from a cocktail zester nestled on top, the bright green zest a welcome pop of color, flavor, and aroma. They're also magic on a green salad . . .
The garden right now is full of young tender starts and seedlings, perfect for just such a foraged salad. Some of these plants were started or seeded intentionally, and others have offered themselves up on their own initiative as the weather has cooled and the ground has been moistened. This year, Maché and lettuce, red mustard and kale, arugula and cilantro and parsley, have all been popping up in the vegetable garden. On a recent morning, we spent several hours transplanting some of the young seedlings that grew in the path back up into the prepared beds. Other seedlings had sprouted up in more reasonable places, and could be left where they had seeded themselves. This is one of the joys of the garden, these green gifts that offer themselves up so freely. There is not often room, or time, to let all the vegetables go to flower and seed, but we do make a practice of allowing just one or two of each leafy crop go to seed each growing season. That's how we get these little seeded volunteers. Each kale plant can make a mass of seedlings, literally hundreds of seeds that fall to the ground and sprout to become these welcome offerings. It's fascinating to watch the ways that nature dances; making far more seeds than are needed to reproduce the individual plants. Some seeds will be eaten, and some fall in inhospitable places. Some will moulder in their seedcase, still on the plant. Still others will fall to the ground and sprout. Often, the sprouts are crowded so closely together that the plants would not reach their full height potential if left un-thinned. Without the intervention of hungry gardeners, the birds might help to do this work of thinning; birds adore young vegetable seedlings, as do bunnies. How could we blame them? The young sprouts are so tender, so luscious. Still, despite all the pitfalls that a seed might encounter on its way to becoming a new plant, there is such an abundance of seedlings in the volunteer garden. We dig them up from where they have seeded in pathways or dense clusters, too thick to thrive, and tuck them back in ordered spacing in the fresh smoothed soil of the garden beds. Still, there are so many. So we give them interim homes, in 6-packs or in small nursery containers, and bring them to our friends who also garden. I asked a friend who also gardens recently, if she wanted any of these kale seedlings, and she said she'd love some.
A slippery slope; I brought her kale and mustard and clarkia and scabiosa seedlings, all volunteers that were crowding my own garden. When I arrived with the flat of seedlings in hand, I laughed to see that she had her own patch of volunteer brassicas popping up. "But I wanted some of yours," she laughed. "With your magic garden dirt on them."
I knew just what she meant, that feeling that the plants themselves carry some of the essence of the people who give them to us. I took a few sweet pea starts from her garden, in the same vein of intentional garden connection. They may or may not be the same varieties and colors that I have reseeding all over my own home garden. But either way, they will carry some of her sweet garden magic back into my own space. I like to imagine the tender, tiny threads of the seedling roots, stretching energetically down the mountain, all the way back to her garden, and "my" kale roots stretching between our two houses too. Touching roots and hearts. May our gardens and our lives be full of this generous connection, may we foster spaces where we all have enough to share and give freely. I am watering the garden now, in between storms, in the hopes of just such a kind, green revolution.
By Jessica Tunis