I have been somewhat of an herbalist since I was a small child. Plant names and properties have always come as second nature. While I struggle with the names and faces of people (sometimes people I have just met can go undistinguished an hour later), I have a recall for plants that sometimes baffles. It is almost like I have a memory older than myself when it comes to leaves and weeds.
Like Juliette of the Herbs (see the clip at the bottom of this post), I have planted many a garden—across the globe—and while each garden has its own story, every garden I planted has included rosemary. After a brief “settling in period,” this elegant (and evergreen) shrub grows tall and wide in the Alabama climate. There is an Old Wives’ Tale about perennial plants: “The first year it sleeps, the second year it creeps, the third year it leaps.” It’s true. I have two rosemary shrubs in my home that I took as small diggings from the garden of my last house—our old production office at Lovelace Crossroads. Five years later, those bushes thrive and have spiced many a lunch, dinner, and, yes, cocktail. Come back this afternoon for our Rosemary Infused Vodka recipe .
Apples, sweet potatoes, autumn squash, turnips, rutabagas, leeks, and greens of every shade—I await the fall garden and all of its bounty each year with as much eagerness as the changing of the leaves and the relief from blistering Alabama summers. Root vegetables are at their prime this time of year and their heartiness is a beautiful accompaniment to braised meats. A meal of slow-cooked beef or pork alongside a simple roast of beets, potatoes, and turnips is my way of welcoming the season. Autumn squash, with its wonderful versatility, may find its way into a bisque or pie. And no fall meal is complete without a serving of greens—collards, mustards, turnips, kale, cabbage, spinach, etc.—served braised, sautéed, or dressed in salad.
When you are raised in a community with a large farming population, the seasons take on a deeper meaning than a simple change in temperature. It is true that for agriculture, to everything there is a season –every vegetable has a growing season, every time of the year has beautiful moments and challenges to overcome. For most families tied to the land – much like the earliest humans – the sky is a clock and a calendar; the sun’s path across the sky, the length of each day, the location of sunrise and sunset – these things are actual signs of things to come and preparations that must be made. So, the upcoming Autumn Equinox will be a time of reflection upon the year’s successes and failures and a moment of celebration of the harvest cycle.
There are two equinoxes each year – one in March and the second in September. Technically, these are the days when the sun shines directly upon the Earth’s equator and the length of the day and the night is roughly equal. The Autumn equinox symbolically marks the beginning of autumn and the end of summer. From this moment, temperatures typically drop and the days begin to get shorter than the evenings. The sun begins its shift toward the south and the birds and butterflies follow it in their migrations. For us, September and October mean that it’s time for broccoli, greens, root vegetables, and apples. It also means that summer crops should have been stored and put up for the coming winter.
Last week, during a photo shoot at my house for our new Indigo + Carmine pieces, my son Zach took time from his busy day of new fatherhood and running his growing catering company to make us lunch: a simple, delicious pizza piled with tomatoes.
This summer has been hard on my garden. Many of my herbs have simply withered away, and my tomatoes have been scorched in the harsh sun. Between the drought and my absence in travels, I’m surprised (and thankful) I’ve managed to gather a few heirloom tomatoes.
A few weeks ago, we took to the streets of Florence to spread wildflower seeds guerrilla-style. We tossed our homemade seed “bombs”, seed encapsulated clay balls, into alleys and onto vacant areas – hoping to add more color and beauty to our community.
With the amount of rain that we have been receiving lately, every growing thing has been sprouting up and up toward the sky. Yesterday, retraced our steps to see if our dispersed wildflowers were making progress. There were no full blooms yet; however, we are starting to see small dots of the color purple in Olivia’s yard.
Living in a community that has an abundance of farmland and agriculture, one might not think that ‘guerrilla gardening’ is exactly required. However, like any community, The Shoals is dotted with the occasional abandoned lot and neglected space in our downtown area. And we are of the opinion that most any space can benefit from the addition of colorful flowers.
During my visit to Berlin for the Hello Etsy conference, I noticed an abundance of green spaces and gardens that were situated on vacant lots throughout the city.
After our fall visit to the Southern Foodways Alliance Symposium, we learned about the South’s Forgotten Locavores, market bulletins, and how these newsletters helped heirloom varieties of vegetables and plants survive generations.
We subscribed to Alabama’s Farmers and Consumers Bulletin shortly thereafter and are happy to report that we received our first issue just in time for spring cultivation. Old- timey Tennessee Red Cob Corn and Cow Horn Okra will be great additions to my garden. Continue reading
After a few months and a busy holiday season, I’ve finally begun to process the experiences of my momentous trip to Oxford, Mississippi, for the Southern Foodways Alliance Symposium. I left the event full of delicious food and copious amounts of knowledge. More specifically, Elizabeth Engelhardt’s talk, “Tales from the South’s Forgotten Locavores,” filled my hungry mind with questions on how I can contribute to the preservation of heirloom fruits, vegetables, and plants.
In follow-up to our EcoSalon post last Friday on Punks + Pirates, Alabama Chanin (AC) held a Facebook chat with Richard McCarthy (RM) of Market Umbrella to explore his interesting perspective on cultural assets, punks, pirates and the Spanish Armada. I was first made aware of Richard’s work at the Southern Foodways Alliance Symposium last October. You can watch the entirety of Richard’s very engaging talk here, read my post at EcoSalon here, and join the conversation in the comments section of this post.
The text below recaps the questions and answers that surfaced during our hour-long chat. Like our Facebook page and join our mailing list to take part in future conversations.
In the spirit of “The Best Of” week as we move towards New Year’s Eve, I had to recap some of the best meals of my year – and they were plenty (despite my detox).
2011 started with a trip to Blackberry Farm’s Taste of the South with an amazing array of chefs and artisans. The weekend is somewhat of a blur – perhaps because of all the wine tasting with Angie Mosier, and Charles and Kristie Abney. I remember a biodynamic wine that was a glowing, beautiful orange color. (Charles and Kristie – if you are reading, can you remind me of the name of this wine? I would love to share it with others!)
Pardis Stitt will not let you leave her house, restaurant, or presence without a “to-go” box. And I know this may come as a surprise, but one of the best meal moments of my year was eating freshly cooked homemade chips and charred onion dip from Bottega in my car, on my way home to North Alabama. The recipe for this deliciousness can be found on page 23 of Bottega Favorita: A Southern Chef’s Love Affair with Italian Food. I have not been able to replicate the perfection of that afternoon in my own kitchen – must have been the “Pardis Love” that made the difference.