If you walk down the steps of our apartment, past the two doors on the end of our street, then you come to a long hill. One side of the road is lined with trees and the other is filled up with houses carved into black, crumbling Puddingstone. In the middle of the hill, you’ll find the Lower Crite Gardens fenced off by a short wire fence. The garden sits in between two small brownstones. The neighborhood has worked for years to keep the the space available. There is a pathway that winds its way up from the Lower Crite Gardens to the Upper Crite Gardens, where you’ll find bees and a peeling, turquoise building used for farm sharing classes and community meetings.
Our garden plot is at the front of four rows, closest to the street. I spent the afternoon there pulling weeds and hauling loads of compost. When I was finished, the neighbor came over and showed me around his garden plot. In the middle of his garden there are 3-5 foot kale stalks leftover from last year. He said that he dug a hole at the back of his garden and found remnants of old buildings. I asked one of the other neighbors about the history of the gardens and he heard a few places burnt down on the hill during the 1960s and nobody ever rebuilt them. And in an article I read, I found that our garden is one of projects that stemmed from a community effort, spearheaded by Augusta Baily, to preserve open spaces in the neighborhood.
At dinner with our friends the other night, I find myself telling them about all of this – ee, yikes! I can really go off like this sometimes. I like to know the details, especially when it comes to history. I can go on about Augusta Baily and why she was interested in open spaces. It can get really out of hand if I’m not careful. But it’s stories like these that help me find meaning in my surroundings. I can walk out the door and say, hey, old Augusta Baily was over there working on getting these gardens up and running.
The soil has seen forty years of gardeners, all coming and going with their own stories. I wish I could travel back in time and ask the people who worked in the garden before me about their lives – What were their hopes and dreams? How does the world look from 1960? I’ll never know the answer to these questions, but I can enjoy the bits and pieces of stories that make it through time. I feel like there is one thing I know about them – that we all share this love for seeing things grow from seed to stalk, digging our hands in the dirt, and feeling like a part of something greater than ourselves.
– Spring Onion Pesto & Olive Bread –
I’ve been spending more time in the garden lately. Our neighbor showed me all the places to find fresh mint and spring onions. They grow between the garden beds, along the walkways. Almost every time I’m in the garden, I pick up mint and spring onions to bring home to cook into something. It feels nice to have an ingredient I can pick up right down the road. Sometimes when I’m making dinner, I’ll run to the garden to grab some to throw into a dish. Our basil plants are slowly growing, so I thought this would be a nice way to use all the spring onions that a lot of the gardeners think of as weeds.
1 cup spring onions, packed
3/4 cup walnuts
1/3 cup olive oil
generous pinch of salt
2¼ tsp active dry yeast
2 cups warm water
1 tbs raw sugar
3 tbs olive oil
1 tsp salt
5 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1 cups whole wheat flour
½ stuffed green olives
To Prepare the Pesto:
1. Add chopped spring onions to food processor. Pulse until finely ground. Add walnuts and pulse until it forms a smooth paste. Add olive oil and salt. Puree until smooth. You can add additional salt, olive oil, or nutritional yeast for extra flavor.
To Prepare the Olive Bread:
1. This recipe makes 2 loaves of olive bread, so you can have one for tonight and one for tomorrow. In a large bowl, mix together yeast and ¼ of water. Mix in 1 cup of sugar until it dissolves. Let stand for 10 minutes. Then mix in leftover water, as well as the olive oil and salt.
2. In a medium bowl, thoroughly mix together the flours and salt. Once the liquid mixture has stood for 10 minutes, add half of the flour to the mixture. Slowly work in the remaining flour mixture and olives until a loose dough forms.
3. Transfer to a floured surface and knead for 8-10 minutes. The dough should be smooth and elastic once it’s done. If your dough starts to stick to the surface, then add more flour.
4. Place the dough in a large oiled bowl and lightly brush the top with oil as well. Cover with a damp kitchen towel and let rise until doubled in size, 1-2 hours.
5. Remove the dough from the bowl and punch the dough down on a floured surface. Divide the dough in half and form into round or oval loaves. Place them on an oiled baking sheet and cover with a damp kitchen towel. Let rise for another hour, or until doubled in size.
6. Preheat the oven to 375°. Run a sharp knife along the top of the bread. If you want to make a fun pattern, then you can also make cuts that stem from the center, which will make your loaf have a fun leaf design on top. Bake for 40-45 minutes in the center of your oven until the loaves are golden brown. Let cool on a wire rack before serving.