First Harvest: Rhubarb and Chives

Recipe: Rhubarb Chutney

I brought my first harvest home from garden class last week.  Chives and rhubarb – both planted by previous year’s classes – may not sound like much. But to me, it is a bounty and a harbinger of all that is to come. Expect to hear a lot more about the garden’s yield, between now and our last class in November.

Last spring, in Seattle, I joined a CSA and became a loyal farmer’s market shopper. I put a few raised beds in my front yard to grow salad greens, strawberries, peppers, tomatillos, and tomatoes. But I knew I wanted to do more.

So when we moved to Boise, I was thrilled to stumble upon the Peaceful Belly Victory Garden class in my search for a CSA. I applied to be part of the 2011 class as soon as they started taking applications.  The class consists of a group of about 30 of us, working under the direction of our instructors from Peaceful Belly. We meet once a week at the community farm in Hidden
, 12 miles out of Boise, for a two to three hour session. And we each do at least a couple hours of homework in the garden outside class.

Class started in March. We ve been learning to plant, weed, apply compost tea and run our irrigation system. It’s been a wet and cold spring here, so we’ve slogged through a lot of rain and mud.  And I am so psyched to be a part of it.

Local eating is my favorite form of rebellion. It’s impossible to learn much about food politics and not realize that any amount of local eating is one the most important things anyone can do to reclaim a little ground from the giant agribusinesses.

Embracing local eating doesn’t mean you can’t have your favorite ethnic food – I actually saw this claim in a major food magazine a few months ago – nor does it mean you can never have a cup of coffee again. I believe you can make a difference without going to extremes.  (I’m still drinking coffee, and eating chocolate, even though coffee and cacao beans travel many miles to get to me in
North America.  And I make Indian food all the time. But I don’t buy tomatoes from South America in the dead of our winter. If it grows here, I commit to eating it in season, and doing without
otherwise. Mostly.)

And if trying to be more of a locavore brands me an elitist, liberal food snob, fine. Ironically, all it really means, (to paraphrase Michael Pollan), is returning to the way my decidedly blue-collar grandparents ate.

Both sets of my grandparents had large gardens. Every year they planted, harvested and put up food, on their suburban lots, while managing full time jobs and pursuing a myriad of other interests.  With families to feed during the depression and World War II, this was simply how people lived, and a habit my grandparents kept up, well into their seventh decades.

At my parent’s house we had tomatoes, corn and peas year round, out of bags and cans. At Grandpa Mike’s I learned to pick corn out of the field, and I loved to watch Grandpa Con braid garlic. Grandma Marie specialized in tomatoes and Grandma Blanche never had less than three varieties of potatoes in her garden.

But I really didn’t learn much about food gardening from any of them. But thanks to Peaceful Belly, and the town of Hidden Springs, I’ve got a second chance.  If nothing else, I am certain, judging by this rhubarb chutney, that at least we are going to eat very well this year.


4 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by thriftywoman on May 10, 2011 at 3:31 pm

    The rhubarb chutney looks yummy! I’ve never even thought of trying to grow rhubarb.


  2. I love this. Your class sounds fascinating. I like your philosophy – I’m also still happily indulging in coffee and have no plans to give it up, but going locavore where I can. (And your About section made me smile, until recently we were also carting our dogs around in the SUV and now we’re carting the kids around in the minivan. Not the greenest vehicles, but oh well …)


  3. Hi there. I’m reading your blog for the first time and am loving it.It sounds like we share a similar food philosophy. As a newbie organic veggie gardener I’ve taken some gardening classes but nothing as in depth as you described…very cool.


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