Last week, after the early snow and the horrific power outages that crippled the Northeast corridor, I went to the gardens to see if there was any damage. Fortunately there was none.
I needed to pick what was left of the harvest. Green tomatoes, ripe ones, and so many kinds of peppers. I picked 2 bushels of tomatoes. Sr Margaret will jar them and use during the cold winter months. I also picked as many peppers as possible and I am drying them at home.!
The strawberry bed had been somewhat neglected, hidden under asparagus ferns or weeded out accidentally. I prepared a bed after reading up about how to on the link below. I carefully transplanted them, leaving the runners intact. I planted them in rows and not too deep or shallow. I hope the spring finds them alive!
So coincidental that tonight the post on Facebook from Father James Martin, SJ pertains to my feelings in the garden. After hours of work I feel I have little to show for it. https://www.facebook.com/FrJamesMartin Evening prayer:
In today's Gospel, Jesus talked about the mustard seed that grows into the great plant. I know that the mustard seed is one of the smallest of all seeds. Sometimes, God, my efforts feel like that--tiny, insignificant, worthless. But I know that it is you who make something of them, and bring them to fruition. Today I offer you all of my little mustard seeds: all the things that I tried to do today for others, all the efforts that I made on your behalf, all the times I chose to love. Tonight I offer you those seeds and ask you to help them grow, which they will, in your own time. And even if I never see where and when they blossom, I know I will enjoy their fragrance in your kingdom.
In July the Mirabelle Plum tree on the grounds were laden with tart fruit
Mirabelle Plum Tree
One day I took home some of the beautiful golden plums and made a Tarte Frangipane Mirabelles .
Here is the recipe:
Tarte Frangipane Mirabelles - Almond and Mirabelles Tart
Note: you can substitute mirabelles with any stone fruit that you favor. If you are not baking gluten free, replace the rice, millet, sorghum flours and cornstarch with 1.5 cups of all purpose flour and omit the xanthan gum.
For the crust:
5 tablespoons (70gr) unsalted butter, at room temperature
3 egg yolks
1/2 cup (80gr) superfine sweet white rice flour
1/2 cup (60gr) millet flour
1/4 cup (30gr) sorghum flour
1/4 cup (40gr) corn starch
1/2 teaspoon xanthan gum
2 tablespoons to 1/4 cup cold water (optional if the dough seems too dry)
For the filling:
1 stick (115 gr) butter, softened
1/3 cup (115gr) honey
1 cup (100 gr) ground almonds (blanched, slivered, whole, your call)
1/4 cup (60gr) heavy cream
1/4 teaspoon cardamom
1-2 cups pitted mirabelles plums (or your preferred stone fruit)
Prepare the crust:
In a mixer, whip the butter on medium speed until light and airy. Add the egg yolks, one at a time and beating well after each addition. Mix until incorporated. Add the salt, and all the different flours, and the xantham gum and mix briefly. Add some water, one tablespoon at a time if the dough feels too dry. Dump the whole mixture onto a lightly floured (use more rice flour) board and gather the dough into a smooth ball. Flatten the dough into a disk, wrap it in plastic wrap and refrigerate for an hour.
Preheat oven to 350F and position a rack in the center.
When the dough is nice and cold, roll it out on a lightly floured board or in between two sheets of plastic to fit your prefered pie pan. If the dough tears while you roll or/and transfer into the pan, just patch it with your fingertips. Line the dough with a piece of parchment paper, fill with pie weights or dy beans and par bake for 10-15 minutes until almost completely baked. Remove the weights and parchment paper. At this point you can refrigerate the baked crust for up to 3 days before using.
Prepare the almond filling and mirabelles topping:
Place the butter, honey, ground almonds, and the eggs in a large bowl and whisk until smooth (can also be done in a food processor). Add the cream and cardamom but stir in it instead of whisking not to emulsify it or it will rise while baking.
Arrange the mirabelles halves at the bottom of the pie crust and pour the cream over them. Bake 25-30 minutes at 350F. Drizzle with a bit of extra honey if desired when still warm.
Throughout the summer I found myself drawn to New Jerusalem two to three times a week. All I had to do was to put on my used and dirty overalls that I kept on a hook in my garage, load up the back of my car with a big bag full of tools, Off, sunscreen and drive the 20 plus minutes from the safe suburbs to urban North Philadelphia. Summer months brought sweat and sunburn, dirt under my nails and many mosquitos! But there was so much to do.
I was hot and itchy many days but couldn't stop weeding, digging and watering. I felt a need to prove myself for some reason. I knew only about shade plants, hostas, lilies, bee balm, and annuals.
But now I had agreed to help with over 25 raised beds. The gardens were planted with kale, collard greens, (I had never really eaten them by choice), and beautiful and colorful lettuces of all types. There were beds of green beans, beets, carrots, asparagus peppers, eggplants and so many tomato plants. Seedlings had been donated by the Philadelphia Horticultural Society (PHS).
There were snug balls of purple cabbage nestled in beds
I have been searching for "something" to fill my life. Is it mid-life crisis? Although I work part time in a professional job I find that I search for some connection with the earth. I had a small vegetable garden in my shady back yard many years ago. It gave me such meaningful opportunities to teach my 3 growing children about nature and nurturing and to appreciate where our food comes from.Vegetables were gradually replaced with perennials and herbs. I do love my flowers and shade plants but something was missing.
In April I was introduced to New Jerusalem Now in North Phialadelphia. New Jerusalem Now is a residential recovery program. It is a nondenominational spiritual community of mutual help engaged in a process of human development open to all you need it and wish to be part of its mission. Founded in 1989 by Sister Margaret McKenna the mission is to facilitate transformation in recovery from drug and alcohol addictions for marginalized populations by providing an affordable spiritual and holistic approach to enhance the quality of life.
There in the abandoned adjacent lots are onsite organic vegetable gardens tended by the residents, volunteers and eaten by the residents and staff and distributed to the community.
This is my story of my time in the gardens, the solitude I find there, the frustrations, the learning process, the presence I am to the residents and the solidarity I find with them as we all try to nurture ourselves and each other, to heal and grow from the dark toward the light.
“Recovery is about the radical change from death to life, from darkness to light, from self-will to God's will. It involves the mystery of conversion and the aspiration to fullness of life in God. It requires risk and mutual support and the sharing of practical spirituality and wisdom. God must be the sole principle of this new way of life, this reordering of chaos." -Sister Margaret McKenna, founding member and current director