May 26, 2014

garden spirit

May 26, 2014
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Those who garden here know the sub-arctic weather remains unstable until the second week of June. At one moment the sky is clear and the temperature may climb up to thirty Celsius (86 F). Then, all of a sudden, colors become saturated and air cools down to its dew point; next, frozen crystals, as small as marbles and large as tennis balls, beat the ground. It makes the summer season short and horticulture a challenge. Nonetheless, urban farming is popular in Helsinki.

The city provides about fifty areas with thousands of land parcels; sometimes they have a small pavilion or cottage built in. Additionally, environmental organizations, residential associations and housing cooperatives offer land for community gardening. This year I rented half an acre lot only three minutes bike ride from our home.
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After a month of shovelling, raking and uprooting undesirable invaders, I’ve grown to appreciate soil as a good teacher. It is demanding but, also, rewarding. I have taken a special interest in the resilience of weeds. Judging by their success to compete with pampered vegetable seedlings, they are far from being inferior. The idea of a plant as a nuisance reflects human purpose and bias; in nature’s scheme, wild and feral species may also serve a useful function. Many of them have medicinal value. Their adaptability to diverse and adverse circumstances is admirable. They reproduce profusely and may bear quantities of seeds that travel distances by the means of feathery parachutes, or attaching themselves into clothing or animal fur by tiny hooks, burs and cleavers. They may also stay dormant for years until they find a favorable condition to grow. Many multiply from broken bits of stem or root; even after drying up, they may regenerate. If left unchecked, they will dominate the environment, and rob water and nutrients from crop plants.
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Horsetail which grows abundantly in my garden is an old remedy for liver and urinary disorders; it contains large amounts of silicon, tannin and potassium. The roots have a nutty flavor but, oh, they are so persistent and long that you never get them entirely out! The moment you look elsewhere, they have already shot a new sprout.

Dandelions are known for their propensity to purify blood and reduce fever. They are rich in vitamin C and A, calcium, iron and minerals. To salads, the leaves add a strong flavor. You can also make fritters (pakora) by coating the flowers with a spicy batter!

Nettle is my favorite ferine by far. Although it has not (yet!) pushed into my garden, it has occupied my neighbor’s compost, and provided us many mouth-watering meals! Use it like spinach.
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For a reason, yoga philosophy compares unfavorable qualities to weeds. The heart is the seat of consciousness and sacred matters. As soon as it fills with ulterior motives, the natural upliftment of spirit is hindered. Therefore, sad-vargah or the six enemies of the mind – lust, greed, anger, envy, fear and delusion – are to be nipped at the earliest stage. They are interrelated and arise from a contact with lower modes of nature – passion and ignorance – through contemplation and activities, and entangle the soul in the intricacies of karma and the cycle of birth and death, samsara, making us both, disinterested and indifferent to enlightenment.
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When the seed leaves are young, it is difficult to tell if a plant is genuine or spurious. You have to let it grow and exhibit clear marks of botanic classification before uprooting it. Sometimes you have to dig very deep in order to track the starting point; many times it is impossible to find the origin. You can't cheat by pinching the foliage off and leaving the underground core untouched because, sooner or later, it will develop a new stem and leaves. In fact, the base problem becomes even more aggressive and arrogant, stealing nutrients and space from legitimate creepers. Weeds take away and turn against the real interest of the soul, although they may play a productive role in pursuing materialistic values in their natural habitat.
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Working in the field is heavy. Having done non-physical activities for the past year and a half, I welcome muscle pain and exhaustion. It triggers solid sleep and healthy appetite. Contrary to my assumption, it has made me eat lighter and less. I crave for fruits, juices and salads; rice, dal and vegetable dishes appear too sumptuous. One meal a day seems enough. In the afternoon I may roll parathas or make other pastries.
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This spontaneous recipe for vegetable tarts expresses the garden spirit. You can make the crusts beforehand and top them just before serving. Use any vegetables available.
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Thank you.




19 comments :

  1. Beautiful food! I wish I had a garden...

    Cheers,

    Rosa

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  2. Really beautiful. Thank you so much.

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  3. Thank You! Beautiful as always :)

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  4. They have got to be the most adorable little tarts. I'm going to make this for an upcoming camping trip--it will be a fun little treat. Happy Nesting.

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    1. Thanks! I recommend that you try them once before cooking for the trip because they are very delicate and, I’m afraid, may break in the wilderness! You may want to make the crust more solid by omitting the sesame seeds, and using only wholegrain flour and less butter. Although you may have to adjust the recipe, the idea works well for camping. You can take the shells and sour cream in separate containers with you, and grill the vegetables on the spot just before eating! Have a nice trip!

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  5. Thank you Lakshmi for the wonderful post.

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  6. Wow Lakshmi! I am so happy to read your post. Beautiful analogy and lovely fresh vegetables. What's that dressing in the mug?

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    1. It's sour cream sauce that comes under the vegetables.

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  7. i wish i had a garden too :(

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  8. AnonymousMay 29, 2014

    Oh, Lakshmi, how I want to move to a country that supports local agriculture and encourages its inhabitants to actually garden and reap the spoils from the earth. I am a tad jealous that you were able to harvest nettle because I've been on a hunt for them in my urban residence in New York City but with no luck. Please, have one of these tarts in my name...xoxox from NYC

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    1. Finland is like a village in comparison to New York. As a matter of fact, there are almost twice as many people living in NY than in this entire country. Helsinki is the most densely populated town of only 600 000 persons. It’s much easier to organize community gardening here!

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  9. I second you when it comes to field work. I too have noticed changes in my eating habits when my physical activities are at a peak. I tend to eat less. Is it just us or is it a natural phenomenon? I have a good space for a garden at my place and weeding takes me a lot. Once the monsoons enter in June I bet weeding will be a tasking activity. Pictures are inspiring Lakshmi. They cool my eyes.

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    1. Pratiba, a lot of eating is emotional. Generally, physical work requires less mental strain than other activities. Often it is mechanical and the mind can “relax” at the same time. You don’t have to think about each movement; once you decide to do something the body will execute the order. For someone who constantly stays focused, it is a nice change. Recreation is a part of balanced lifestyle because the mind needs rest, too. Unless it’s well trained, it will freak out if kept in a too short leash. When the legs are tired, you fall asleep, but when the mind is exhausted, you become overwhelmed and anxious, and attempt to relieve the tension by extensive eating and snacking on sugar. Mood, appetite and sleep are interrelated. It is a well known fact that sports boost the serotonin level and contribute to the sense of well-being and happiness! I don't think it's just you and me who benefit from occasional gardening.

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  10. Lakshmi - love, love, love the new logo. Simple yet absolutely gorgeous.

    Lovely fresh vegetables. I always wanted to have a garden of my own. I started a herb nook last year as before that my job required me to be all over the globe during weekdays. Hoping to expand the herb nook someday.

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  11. Oh Lakshmi what a beautiful analogy with the yoga philosophy.
    My garden has been taken over by dandelions, which I painstakingly weed. Their roots are so deep. I did not know you could eat them though!

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    1. Dandelions are super-healthy. Many people don't like the bitter taste though.

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  12. Hari Bol!
    Thank you for this wonderful dough recipe.
    Actually, i didn't made tarts. But I use the dough to make a kind of mini pies. I just add more butter and creme to have a more wet dough.
    I filled them with home-made fresh paneer mix with greek yogurt, butter, lot of herbs (coriander, dill, persil...), and salt.
    Devotees loved them a lot. And they were totally amazed by the taste dough. I also made crakers with the remains, they were very good!
    I will try soon your recipe of buckwheat rotis with avocado.

    Thank you so much for your inspiration!I love how satvic and transcendantal are your recipes, I'm sure Krishna eat very very very nicely at your home.




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    1. Nice to hear that you and other devotees liked the pies!

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