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Counting

July 16, 2011

How do you measure success, or what makes you “rich”? Some people count their coins, or belongings: how much money they make, the size of their house(s), the car they drive. Others count their blessings.

In the ecological world, richness is defined by diversity. A calculation exists for the “species richness” of an ecosystem. Generally the greater the diversity, the healthier a place is and the longer it can persist in the face of disturbance.

Summers at our place have always brought a different kind of counting, not financial or scientific. It was a little game we often played at the dinner table when I was a kid: Count how many things came from the garden. The number typically got more impressive as the summer months went on.

Barley with broccoli, salad, and Bell's

This past week Dave and I made a recipe using barley for the first time I can remember (pretty much a superfood: high-fiber, high-protein, can lower cholesterol, reduces the risk of heart disease, and is nearly fat-free. Shockingly, it tastes great too.) While we were waiting for the barley to cook, I put together a quick salad with the mushrooms from last week’s Logan Square market, which amazingly hadn’t spoiled yet.

As we sat down to eat, this time I counted the locally grown foods: Broccoli and onions from Nichols Farm in Marengo, Illinois (only 60 miles from Chicago); two-year cheddar cheese from Wisconsin; mushrooms from River Valley Kitchens, just north of the Wisconsin-Illinois border; and baby lettuce, thinned from my dad’s garden this past weekend. A total of five! Not bad.

I believe we set the record for our Homewood garden one night in late summer when my mom had made a hearty and very diverse minestrone soup. We counted I think nine ingredients from the garden. Potatoes, onions, tomatoes, carrots, zucchini, and even turnips (my dad’s least favorite root vegetable, but a couple years they grew like gangbusters– whatever those are) must have all went into the pot.

It seems like a small moment, this household record, but then how do I remember it clearly so many years later? I sat at the table, impressed by all these vegetables that we grew right in our own backyard, feeling proud. Thinking wow. What a success.

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3 Comments leave one →
  1. Fuzzy! permalink
    July 16, 2011 4:30 pm

    Since we joined the CSA. We have been getting a box of veggies and fruties? to our door every Tuesday at 5am. I have not eaten a piece of meat since…the juicy burger of last Sunday. We have cooked Maryellens baked onions, Baked kale chips (GREAT AND TO DIE FOR!) Spinach salad with peaches and pecans, Corn and avocado salad, Escarole and Beans, Roasted beets with peach and goat cheese salad, a whole bunch of whole wheat blueberry beet muffins, Apple and blue cheese salad, Penne with garlic and broccoli, and today we are eating a yummy veggie omelet with braised potatoes with Tarragon.

    We are looking into the local community garden and we have even consider hydroponics at home. I will keep you posted in these two projects but let me tell you that you are lucky to have a garden in Homewood. We wish we were able to grow more things by ourselves…maybe we will move to a house next year…(there is a cute one down the road) and Issaquah is a lovely place to have a garden.

    Now it is ON! I shall see if I can break the record sometime in the next 10 years! I shall have 10 items from my future existing garden.

    • July 19, 2011 9:44 am

      Wow. Yeah I would say you guys have been doing some cooking!! CSAs are very exciting and I’m glad it’s working out so well. Where are you getting the recipes? Or is Adrienne just making them up?? 🙂

      My coworker tried making kale chips and said they were very good. Blueberry BEET muffins? Sounds interesting and I bet they were very colorful.

  2. July 26, 2011 8:04 pm

    We had a lovely garden when I was growing up. It was divided into four plots that took over most of our yard. In addition to a wide assortment of veggies that spanned from green beans to pumpkins, we’d grow all of the tomatoes that my grandma would turn into her world-famous sauce over the course of the year. Since my grandparents died, my parents have stopped planting. They say it’s too much work for something that you can just buy. Even though I never ate much from the garden, I’m still bummed about it. Helping my grandpa in the garden is one of my fondest memories of him. It’s sad to think we’ve lost that tradition as a family. Plus, the sauce has never been quite the same.

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