Letters from the Garden: Harvest

Dear Sangha,

Yesterday I went out to the garden planning to pick a moderate amount of Chinese cabbage to eat for the week. When I got there, I looked around and realized that a lot more than cabbage needed to be picked. I grabbed a couple of five-gallon buckets and started filling them with veggies, and then hauled them to the kitchen, where our Tenzo, Kiku, was expecting a moderate amount of Chinese cabbage to eat for the week. That is not, however, what she got, because then I went back to the garden and filled up two more buckets and a milk crate with more veggies and brought those back to the kitchen, and then I went back to the garden and picked even more. By the time I finished, I was worried that Kiku wouldn’t let me back in the door with any more produce, because now she has to deal with it all! Today she kept looking at me suspiciously like I might bring back more.

A bucket of cabbage and a baby bok choy

We’ve already been eating garden salads for a couple of weeks now, and they are incredibly delicious. All that spinach we planted in March is now big enough to eat. It’s hard to describe the difference between store-bought greens and greens that came out of the ground the morning before lunch, but there’s a difference. These taste like the mountains that grew them—earthy and minerally, strong and sweet together.

When we do the meal chant, I find it resonates differently with me when I know the people, tools, animals and plants, air and water, sky and earth, turned in the wheel of living and dying whose joyful exertion provide our sustenance this day. Working in the garden has brought me intimate with all of it, from the tiny seedlings to the weeds and the bugs, helping everything grow and being helped by it. Eating the fruits of our labor is just another deep intimacy, emphasizing how literally none of this is separate.

The cold frame has overflowed…

I did promise seasonal recipes in these letters, so here is your first one. It’s for vegetarian Caesar dressing, which is a requested favorite around here. It’s deliciously sharp and holds up well to strong salad greens like spinach, arugula, and mustard greens, of which we now have a bounty. Truthfully, though, it’s delicious on everything. I made a big jar of it last week, and it disappeared pretty fast.

Vegetarian (or vegan) Caesar Dressing

Put everything in a blender and give it a good pulverize. Taste and adjust until you arrive at the right stage of briney, garlicky pleasure.

  • Olive oil – about 1 cup for a reasonable amount of dressing, multiply as desired
  • Garlic – two or three cloves, roughly smashed
  • Vegetarian Worcestershire sauce – a good few dashes, adjust to taste
  • Lemon juice or red wine vinegar – a couple of tablespoons, go easy at first and adjust to taste
  • Dijon or brown mustard (just not the yellow kind) – a small squirt
  • Soy sauce or tamari – a splash
  • Sour cream or (vegan) mayonnaise – a spoonful
  • Parmesan cheese, grated (optional) – a small handful
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Missing you all, wherever you are. You can always reach me at ahzmgarden@brooklynzen.org.

Lots of love,
Sansei


Letters from the Garden: Warm Days, Warm Nights, May 23

Letters from the Garden: Permission to Be, May 8, 2021

Letters from the Garden: Work Week, April 17, 2021

Letters from the Garden: Planting Good Seeds, April 3, 2021

Letters from the Garden: Dharma Blossoms, March 20, 2021

Letters from the Garden: The First Birdsong, March 6, 2021