What's in Our Garden?

My son at age 4.5, helping me plant herbs and kale in Spring 2013

My son at age 4.5, helping me plant herbs and kale in Spring 2013

Welcome to our new series – What’s in Our Garden?

Here at FLOAT: Chinese Medical Arts, we are passionate about our backyard edible gardens, and we want to share photos, ideas and recipes with you!

Each week, we’ll be posting photos of what’s growing in our home gardens now, what we’re harvesting, what we’re struggling to keep alive, and the recipes we’re using to cook what we’ve picked.  (Today I’ll be talking about passion fruit!)  We also welcome your comments and invite you to share with us what’s growing in your garden.  I have been inspired by my favorite blogger, SouleMama, who has been posting a series called “This Week in My Garden” all summer.  So, a big tip of the hat goes out to Amanda Soule.

We get a lot of questions from patients about how they can work, raise a family and still eat healthy, organic, real food.

We think the best way to do this is to grow your own food and shop at your local farmer’s markets.  (I’ll be taking you through a typical day at my favorite farmer’s market in a blog post later this week.)

I grew up in New York City in an apartment building, so I still wake up some mornings in a state of happy shock that I actually have a garden with a 10 month growing season, and not just the local patch of grass we referred to as Tip-Toe Park (owing to the piles of dog poop).

 

ChardKaleEggplant

Chard, Kale and Eggplant

Garden Options

Some people have their entire garden in containers on a patio or indoors near a window.  Others use a plot of land in a local community garden.  Another great option is the Tower Garden, by Juice Plus+, an aeroponic 5-feet-tall vertical indoor garden that fits in even the smallest apartment.  If you want more information about this, please send an email to frontdesk at floatchinesemedicalarts dot com or ask us about it at your next office visit.

If you aren’t into gardening but you like to eat locally and with the seasons, getting to know your local farmer’s markets is the way to go.  If you live in Southern California, here is a useful guide:  http://projects.latimes.com/farmers-markets.  Those of you who live in colder climates may have a shorter outdoor growing season, but you may still be able to find mostly year-round farmer’s markets, and/or subscribe to a CSA (Community Supported Agriculture).  Tell us what works for you!

In our garden, we don’t use chemical pesticides or fertilizers, but rely on compost and natural methods of pest control.  We never grow genetically modified plants, focusing instead on heirloom varietals that require more maintenance but produce delicious, interesting crops.

We also love to cook; I do much of the planning and cooking for my family of four, and Jacqueline is quite a well-known food blogger and recipe-writer (http://sweetbeetandgreenbean.net).  Heidi, our office manager, has been gardening and cooking for years and often brings flowers or herbs from her garden to display at our front desk.

Involving Kids

Growing your own fruits, vegetables and herbs is one of the most affordable, healthy and holistic ways to feed your family.

It’s also a great way to get picky toddlers and older children to get involved in cooking: when they pick it and help prepare it, they are so much more likely to eat it!  Even organic, heirloom seeds cost just pennies, and you don’t need to have an enormous back yard (or even a back yard at all!) to grow your own produce.

 

My son making a dish of his own creation (in the slow-cooker) with just-picked carrots and maple syrup

My son making a dish of his own creation (in the slow-cooker) with just-picked carrots and maple syrup

 

My kids are 3 and 5, and they are part of the reason I have become so passionate about our garden.  There’s nothing like getting your hands in the dirt, and falling into the zen rhythm of plucking off dead leaves.  It’s one of my favorite ways to decompress after a long day.  When I realize my kids have stopped whining and shouting at each other, I know they must be busy in the back searching for zucchini.  Gardening has also become an amazing way to teach them about where their food comes from, and how to have respect for the Earth.  I have been inspired by the ideas in Sharon Lovejoy’s book “Roots, Shoots, Buckets and Boots: Gardening Together with Children.”

 

My kids, last summer, with a giant zucchini they picked

My kids, last summer, with a giant zucchini they picked

 

My son has taken to picking mint and ginger and making his own creative tea when he has a tummy-ache, and my daughter likes to pick lettuce and feed it to her stuffed animals.  They also love love love to help me prepare meals.  When I’m not in a rush, I welcome their help, and give them simple tasks to do (“Go pick some basil and spinach, please,” or for my 5-year-old, “cut these carrots, please”).  When I am in rush, I have to remind myself that my kids’ pace is slower than mine, and though it may take an extra 30 minutes to involve them in making dinner, they will be more likely to eat it and rave about it if they’ve helped prepare it, from garden to plate.

In the upcoming weeks and months, we will be featuring photos of an area of our garden along with a recipe we made with stuff we picked from it.  Please post a comment in the comment section if you have a specific type of dish you’d like to see, or a plant you have questions about.

So now let’s get to the pick of the day, along with a recipe.

Passion Fruit in the City!

This week, my kids and I harvested the first ripe passion fruits of the season.  Passion fruit are super easy to grow (they do require some  pruning!), and they love full sun.  They will climb on anything, so training them along a fence is the best way to go.  We put our passion fruit plants in from seedlings in March 2012, and they started producing fruit about 4-5 months later.  We had some yummy ones last summer, but this year the yield is about three times as much, and the fruit seem to be ripening more predictably.

Here are some not-quite-ripe passion fruit growing on the vine along our fence:

Unripe passion fruit on the vine

Unripe passion fruit on the vine

 

And here they are, ready to eat, in my hand:

Ripe passion fruit

Ripe passion fruit

Here is the fleshy fruit part inside:

 

Passion Fruit flesh

Passion Fruit flesh

 

And – the other amazing benefit of growing passion fruit vines are the spectacular flowers we started seeing along the vines this past Spring!  This one just bloomed yesterday:

 

Passion Fruit Flower, bursting through on the vine in our garden today

Passion Fruit Flower, bursting through on the vine in our garden today

 

My son will tell anyone who visits our garden that you know the passion fruit are ready when “they’re purple and pruny and look like an old lady’s skin.”

According to Chinese Medicine, passion fruit is cooling and slightly bitter, and is said to calm the Shen (in other words, it has calming and sedative effects).  Which is always a good thing for a harried mama.

If you’re not growing your own passion fruit, look for them at your local farmer’s market or specialty store, especially in the summer.

I missed the chance to snap a photo of the Passion Fruit Ambrosia, but I’ll give you the recipe my 5-year-old came up with:

Passion Fruit Ambrosia (Serves 2)

1 c. organic plain yogurt (ideally, from grass-fed cows)

1 ripe Passion Fruit, sliced in half like a lime

1 T honey or maple syrup

1 T unsweetened shredded coconut

Put the yogurt in a bowl.  Scoop out all of the fruit and yellow fleshy bits (you can eat the seeds!), stir into the yogurt along with the coconut and honey or maple syrup (which helps cut the tart flavor of the passion fruit).  Yum!

What’s growing in your garden, if you have one, and what are you making from it?

Post by Abigail Morgan, L.Ac, mother of two, licensed acupuncturist & herbalist and owner of FLOAT: Chinese Medical Arts.  All photos by Abigail Morgan, L.Ac, all rights reserved.

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2 thoughts on “What's in Our Garden?

  1. Abigail,

    It was wonderful to see you at Ali’s wedding! It’s equally wonderful to follow your blog via your Mom’s FB page. Enjoyed reading “‘What’s in our Gardens’. Your children are adorable and seem to be quite the gardeners. I will have to try the Passion Fruit Ambrosia – sounds yummy. Just bought some Chobani coconut yogurt which may be a good addition, even though it does have more sugar in it that the plain yogurt.

    xo JoAnn

    Like

    • Thanks, JoAnn! Great to see you too! Thanks for following the blog, and let us know what you think when you make the Passion Fruit Ambrosia! xoxo.

      Like

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