As days gradually get longer and warmer, I start thinking about the new food-growing season in our back yard, sundeck, patio, and window ledges. Our dependence on imported food, both from off island and beyond, has become so acute, it’s putting us at the mercy of global corporations and giant retailers for the very nutrition that we all need to sustain us.
That does not have to be the case! You can grow a wide selection of food in the smallest of spaces. The satisfaction of picking sweet, sun-warmed cherry tomatoes off the vine or even citrus fruits fresh from the tree, are second to none. Yes, you can grow citrus fruits here on our sunny patch of island in the West Shore, especially if the tree is in a sunroom or outdoors on a sheltered south-facing wall.
Here at our Professional Cook Training program on the Camosun Interurban campus, we are all working with various departments and groups within the college, and beyond, to grow more of our own food that will provide sustainable ways to access food options for students, staff and the community at large. The pleasure of growing food, and then sharing it with family and friends in our community, is one of the oldest social and economic practices known to the human race. Food unites us. Since the very beginnings of agricultural activity, people have embraced an intense desire to share their bounty for commercial and social gratification.
At a recent workshop of the BC Association of Farmers Markets that I attended, we discussed the importance of markets, and historically, how these agricultural producers connected and developed entire civilizations across the globe throughout human history. Today, however, in the world of global commerce, our connection to this vast marketplace—that is, to those who have grown, harvested, and produced our food—has become disconnected. Unless you are buying local, you have no idea who or how your food was produced.
I firmly believe, as a starting point, that we all have the power and the means to grow something in our personal space, no matter how small, whether it be a single tomato plant in a sunny window, fresh herbs, using one of the any affordable indoor growing systems on the market, to a full permaculture garden from which you can share and trade with other gardeners. Children love to see things grow and many of them will eat those plants that they have tended and nurtured. I encourage and challenge everyone to get out there and grow something this season. You certainly will not regret it!
“The first gatherings of the garden in May of salads, radishes and herbs made me feel like a mother about her baby—how could anything so beautiful be mine. There is nothing that is comparable to it, as satisfactory or as thrilling, as gathering the vegetables one has grown.” – Alice B. Toklas
GARDEN FRESH SALAD IN PARMESAN RING
This is not so much a recipe; just a few guidelines to allow cooks to build their own combinations and spectacular creations.
30-40g Good quality Parmesan cheese, shredded
Cracked black pepper
- Preheat oven to 175⁰C/350⁰F.
- Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or ‘Silpat’ silicone sheet.
- Create bands of shredded parmesan approximately 20cm/8” x 4cm/1½ “, leaving room for them to spread on the sheet. They should not be too thick, only 2-3mm max.
- Bake 10-12 minutes until uniformly golden brown.
- Remove from oven and allow to cool slightly, 2-3 minutes before shaping over a rolling pin or narrow bottle until completely cool, work quickly as they will stiffen up as they cool and become brittle. NOTE: if they become too stiff, place back into the oven for 1-2 minutes.
- Once cool and rigid, the rings can be stored in an airtight container with a tight fitting lid.
To assemble, place ring on the plate and fill with your favourite salad ingredients. Play with shapes and textures, leave various lettuce leaves whole for height and root vegetables can be cut long or ‘spiraled’ to add colour and volume. Fresh herbs can be left whole or chopped coarsely for extra punch.
Dress with your favourite vinaigrette style dressing, and serve with crusty artisan bread.