" You ask me where to begin
Am I so lost in my sin
You ask me where did I fall
I spend my days doing quite a lot of volunteer work for many different organizations, but without a doubt one of my favorite jobs is being a docent for the Cleveland Botanical Gardens. Our Botanical Gardens are award winning and lovely, with an incredible rose garden, a healing garden for seniors and one of the most gorgeous herb gardens that I’ve ever seen. I must confess that I love them all and never tire of wandering among them, but it is the Hershey Children’s Garden that I love the best. In the garden there is a huge fountain that is actually a sundial and on very hot days the children splash and play among the jets like billy goats while their mothers relax on benches in the shade, easily able to keep their eyes on the happy kids .
In this garden there are patches of fresh herbs and a playhouse with a sod roof. There’s a very happy berry patch surrounded by espaliered fruit trees and a vegetable garden and a pond with a little dock and lots of carp splashing around. A wonderfully huge tree house above it is filled with books and you can curl up safely in the branches eat your lunch and dream the afternoon away. I love to lie face down on the little dock with the children , tease the fish and afterwards play hide and seek among the stately wizard pines whose boughs drape towards the ground like Merlin’s robes!
The Hershey Children’s Garden is designed to be a teaching garden of the highest caliber and it is here that our children learn all about their food and where it really comes from. It’s magical to watch as these kids, some who have never seen a garden let alone an apple tree, pick the sweet ripe berries and taste them for the first time. They pull radishes, lettuces and crunch the fresh carrots that still have the earth clinging to their roots. They taste the wild ramps that grow on the back hill in the spring and are amazed by their sweet oniony taste .
One of the pathways through the garden leads to my favorite place of all, which is the compost pile. Ours consists of three bins that demonstrate easily how the compost is made from beginning to end and I adore the look of amazement on their faces when we come to the third bin and they realize that this is a simple demonstration of how dirt is made. In this garden our children can play in the dirt to their hearts content and leave with a rich new understanding of their place in the world. As playful as it is, this garden is truly the most important of all the beautiful places found in our Botanical Gardens. It is situated on a piece of land the size of a city lot and enough food is grown here to easily sustain a family of 8. It is a shining example of what could be done to build sustainability from the ground up instead of reliance on foods that are brought to us packaged and completely unknown.
Through the mechanics of food science we can grow our vegetables hydroponically, but there is no substitute for the taste of a vegetable or piece of fruit that has been freshly harvested from richly nutrient filled soil. The wines that we drink, the vegetables that we eat and even our meats are all fed by the minerals and vitamins that come straight from our earth. I love it when I drink a glass of Bordeaux and can literally taste the soil that the grapes were grown in. I adore the taste of a potato minutes from the earth, brushed , unwashed and baked slowly in the coals of a campfire. Dressed with just a bit of butter and truffled salt there is no sweeter , earthier taste to be found anywhere.
Today in honor of the robust and wanton sweetness of Gaia, I’d like to offer you my recipe for leek and potato soup. It’s different than most because the vegetables are roasted allowing them to be caramelized and sweet.
You will need:
10 cloves of garlic
About 20 Yukon Gold fingerling potatoes diced/ use your judgment and add more if they are smaller
2 tablespoons of raisins
2 large leeks , sand removed and sliced into rings, greens included
1 bunch of fresh ramps, lightly brushed , not washed
1 tablespoon of truffle oil
1 cup of chopped fresh herbs, sage, marjoram, parsley, rosemary, thyme
2 quarts of chicken or vegetable stock
1 cup of hard cider
2 pints of half and half
Salt and pepper to taste
Rogue River Creamery Smoky Blue Cheese to garnish
Chopped fresh chives
Take the garlic, potatoes and leeks and lay them on a baking sheet, salt and pepper them and add some chopped fresh rosemary if you like. Drizzle with olive oil and roast until tender but be careful not to overcook.In a soup pot bring the stock to a simmer and add the raisins, herbs , hard cider and truffle oil. Simmer gently for about 10 minutes and add the roasted vegetables. Cook for at least another 15 minutes and then add the half and half to taste. Using an immersion blender, puree the soup until it’s a consistency that you like. Add more liquid if necessary. Heat through and pour into a soup bowl or tureen, garnishing with the crumbled blue cheese and fresh chives.
This soup is wonderful served with a hearty whole grain bread with fresh butter and a simple glass of wine. Thats all you'll ever need. Well, almost all you'll ever need...
Heres a bit of Jon Anderson to keep you warm on this beautiful spring eve.....
Now, why don't you fly over to Roxana Villa's beautiful Illuminated Journal. I can't wait to read what she has to say about the fragrance of earth!
All pictures are the property of Beth Schreibman Gehring