Filed under: Guerilla Gardening, Salad, winter seasonal food | Tags: beetroot, broccoli, dried apricot, fennel, ginger, hazelnut, orange, pear, red cabbage, sesame oil, winter salad
This city is drowning in snow, but I can feel the spring edging closer. The days are longer and the little birds have started chirping, and the sunlight feels warm on my cheeks. It reminds me of the fact that the summer will come.
Last summer we built a secret garden in one desolated spot in Helsinki, amidst old trains, rose bushes and general junk. It became a tiny paradise, with the biggest mangold leaves, abundant mint and sky – reaching branches of dill. And those rows of huge carrots and beetroot! It was a common effort by many brave guerilla gardeners, who did learn about the miracle of growth in the process. We were loved by the media, frequented by all kinds of visitors, from art students to radical activists and old ladies interested in gardening. Not to mention Helsinki’s recent dominant pest, the Urban Bunnies, a feral, red – eyed, formerly domesticated little nuisance.
I remember those early summer evenings, dry, light and warm, lugging the heavy watering cans and letting the plants drink. What a delight is water for the dusty earth and for yourself, after a hot day. And I isn’t it strange, how the little grey, inconspicuous – looking seeds turn black soil, water and sunlight into edible green leaves and colourful tubers? If you never grew your own food, how could you possibly appreciate that? No one can control that magic! We can help and enhance it, but it happens by its own will. For new life to grow, there needs to be first death and decay, and what is living now, will finally be compost that feeds new growth. A difficult lesson to learn.
Harvest party pictures courtesy of Päivi Raivio, thanks!
If I could stay in that moment, in the secret garden, with the heavy watering cans, I would. But time’s current is a force that only takes you forward. The green growth will take its own way, and is not stopped by blocks of concrete or urban sprawl. When you open your fist, what you grabbed, a rock, a leaf, a piece of soil, has been pressed down to a diamond, a beautiful memory. That is for your keeping, for ever, even when a secret garden is too small a dream.
But they are sleeping there, under the blanket of snow, the little seeds. Soon, soon, it will be their time, to sprout and make a green revolution. What revolutionary dreams do they dream? Stay tuned to the channel…
The Odd Salad
We recently had a meeting to plan some urban gardening visions. A member of our group suggested on our mailing list, in English, that we could share “an odd salad”. That caused a major confusion: Some people thought he meant “a strange salad”, some people thought the expression referred to a potluck dinner in general, and some people even somehow got the idea he meant a mixed – gender sauna, because there was also talk about heating up the sauna at our meeting place. Finally, I think everyone understood what the expression means, but the “odd salad” was indeed delicious and the sauna very hot too.
Salad with Dried Apricots and Broccoli
A head of broccoli
two handfuls of dried apricots
half a leek
50 g hazelnuts
3 tbsp walnut oil
1 tbsp sherry vinegar
1/2 tsp salt
2 tsp maple syrup
a pinch of black pepper
Soak the apricots overnight in water. The following day, separate the flower heads of the broccoli, and steam them just a couple of minutes, until they are a little tender. Cut the leek diagonally into strips and very quickly fry it in oil. Slice the apricots and toast the hazelnuts on dry pan. Chop the hazelnuts roughly. Whisk together the ingredients for the dressing and toss the salad, decorate with chopped hazelnut.
Asian Beetroot Salad
This is a version of a dish a used make out of our guerilla – gardened beets last summer.
1 big beet
1 big orange
3 tbsp sesame oil
2 tsp soy sauce
1 tsp crushed garlic
1 tsp grated fresh ginger
2 tbsp lemon juice
Slice the beetroot thinly, and steam for a few minutes until tender. Slice the orange. Mix the ingredients for the dressing and toss the salad. This salad is much improved if you have time to marinate it for a while.
Pink Salad with Fennel and Pear
200 g red cabbage
1 bulb of fennel
2 tbsp raspberry vinegar
3 tbsp olive oil
3 tsp honey
a pinch of fleur de sel (or any other salt..)
Slice the cabbage and fennel very finely. I used a cheese – slicer, but you could use a mandolin as well. Cut the pear into thin slices. Whisk together the ingredients for the dressing, and mix the cabbage and fennel in a bowl. Pound the cabbage and fennel a bit, or give them a squeeze with your fingers. Mix in the pear slices and the dressing.
I went skiing the the other day. I took my skiis, walked past the cars, shops, trams, people and the hustle and bustle of the city, until I arrived on the seashore. The sea has frozen over thickly in these past cold weeks. It was a strange foggy day: the world had become a monochrome in black and greyish white. The snow was white, the sky was white and the frosty treetops were half hidden by white mist. Skiing in that vast flat expanse of whiteness made me feel like inside a glass of milk (well, vegan milk..). Then the sun started to set, and everything got a lovely pink sheen.
I skied past the island that is my secret place for summer evening swims. It has a dodgy old pier and there is hardly anyone there but for some sheep, so it is nice and private. It looked so different now with the snowy trees! It was easy to forget that the city was breathing right behind my back. I was the only moving, colourful, rustling little presence on the vast expance of white ice.
For I while, I played with the idea that I was brave Mr. Amundsen skiing towards the South Pole, though the fact that it was only – 15ºC didn’t quite match my fantasy. Also, I lacked a pack of gorgeous blue -eyed huskies and a sleigh. Is my notion of antarctic exploration perhaps slightly over – romanticised? Anyhow, any explorer knows that the rations are very important for endurance. I bet Mr. Amundsen did not have as nice rations as I did: freshly baked scones and hot herbal tea!
Pear and Ginger Scones
I’ve never baked scones in my life before. I found a recipe in everybody likes sandwiches, which is a beautiful Canadian blog. I modified it a little. I also learned from the internet that it is important that the margarine and the milk are cold, in order to avoid the baking powder to start to work too early. You should also try to keep the kneading of the dough to the minimum. I used fresh grated ginger in these scones, but the surprising thing about fresh ginger and baked goods is that somehow the taste just disappears in the oven. So if you like ginger, feel free to add some.
1 dl shredded coconut
2 dl all purpose flour
1 dl graham flour
1 tsp salt
1 tbsp sugar
3 tsp grated fresh ginger
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
a pinch of bourbon vanilla powder
1 ripe pear, diced
1/2 dl dried cranberries
1 tsp ground cardamom
50 g vegetable margarine
2 dl oat milk + 1 tsp for topping
2 tsp demerara sugar for topping
I toasted the coconut on a dry pan, in order to enhance the flavour. It burns easily, so watch out! Then I combined the dry ingredients in a bowl, cut in the margarine and mixed with my fingers until I got a crumbly mixture, and folded in the diced pear and cranberries. Then I blended in the oat milk. I patted the ready dough onto a lightly floured surface, so that it was about 3 cm thick and cut round shapes using a form. You could use a glass etc. or just cut triangles.
I baked the scones in 200°C 15 minutes. Ideally, the scones should be devoured fresh from the oven plate, or at least eaten the same day. Wrap them into a shawl if you want to bring them with you out to arctic environments. I was pleasantly surprised with my scones: I always thought that scones are somehow dry and boring, but at least these ones were moist and tasty.