As 2021 draws to a close and I sharpen focus on the time and resources that I have to honour family and friends, the wide funnel of relationships, memory and interactions that coloured the year narrows substantially.
Very quickly — automatically in fact — the list of people to whom I gift authentically creates itself.
My financial resources are finite. Time is precious. My circle of aquaintences is large, but my circle of unconditional love and affection is as small as it is eclectic.
Longtime neighbours who chat over the hedge with regularity, recalling the names of my children and their most recent adventures.
Neighborhood children who frequent our garden, digging where they shouldn't, picking immature fruit and berries when I'm not looking (often), dismembering tomato and pepper plants over and over (and over) while perfecting the two-handed-harvest, and saying the funniest damn things.
Fellow gardeners who show up unconditionally to work quietly, or pot-up tomatoes and peppers to donate to community gardens.
My home team who taste test, edit and advise with enthusiasm, week after week.
Close friends for whom the door is always open without fear of judgement, and whom I can ask for help and receive it without question.
Mentors and colleagues whom I could never repay in any usual way.
Beautifully, eccentric artists and performers without whom the world would exist in black and white.
The childhood and unconditional friends and partners of my children.
My beautiful family.
These people are the salt of the earth — those whom conventional wisdom would describe as the kindest, best or noblest of one's individual society.
Year after year they receive garden to table gifts made by my hand and my heart. Gifts that embody the best of my time, creativity, ingenuity, frustration, sadness, joy and victory.
To me, there is no greater gift to give. There is no greater gift to receive in return than genuine appreciation.
Every pint of apple and pear schmear that leaves my kitchen, carries with it the love and intention paid during many hours spent watering, pruning, harvesting, and canning.
Every quart of cured olives promises the commitment to good health that was invested over 15 months in soaking, rinsing, brining, turning, and infusing the rock hard and bitter drupes with the alchemy of transformation.
Every bottle of Heat Wave Gin imbues the recipient with renewed commitment to the environment, gifted by the heat-stressed gooseberries, currants and plums that dropped to the ground before their time.
Every jar of ground roasted garlic gifted to a friend, contains 14 months of struggle with drought, heat waves, atmospheric rivers and marauding squirrels and raccoons.
Every remnant candle-wax dipped pinecone that friends use to ignite fires to keep them warm or cook food, carries with it the memories of our massive aging pine tree, and of many candlelit meals.
This day before Christmas Eve, the day on which our family celebrates the holiday, I am up early finishing this very short post, with a very full heart. The house is quiet. Dave the veggie dog is asleep at my feet, and I am checking my list one final time.
To you I extend my sincere appreciation for following along to whatever degree you have these past 12 months. I appreciate your comments, and questions, and suggestions for relevant content. Thank you.
You too are the salt of the earth.
I leave you with my sincere wishes for a happy, healthy, sustainable and beautiful holiday season, and invite you back next year as we work together to grow food and community, and make a big green beautiful dent in the universe.
And finally, I share this last-minute, quick as a wink garden to table gift idea for a holiday or any day host, neighbour, teacher, family, or friend. Herbs from the grocery store work just as well as home-grown.
Herb Salt or Sugar in a Blink
Sea salt or white sugar
Fresh dry herb of choice (firm herbs like rosemary and thyme work particularly well)
Whiz equal parts(ish) by volume herbs and salt/sugar together in a food processor or blender, adding more of any ingredient as you like until it looks and tastes as you hope.
Place in a recycled bottle or canning jar, or thrift shop shaker and label with suggestions for use. Note that herb sugar is best stored in the fridge or cold pantry, as it can melt or become sticky when too warm.
Herb and Aromatic Suggestions
Rosemary and lemon zest (no pith)
Lemon verbena or lemon balm leaves
dried tomato skin
Stevia leaves (with salt, for a beautiful kettle corn sprinkle)
Dried porcini, shiitake, chanterelle, or morel mushrooms
Black and white truffle
Fennel fronds or seeds
Suggested Serving for Herb Salts
Dry brine salmon
Dry or wet brine chicken, pork, beef or chicken
Season vegetables for roasting, along with olive oil
Flavour pickling liquid
Place in a shaker on the table
Serving Suggestions for Herb Sugars
Use to make simple syrups for ice cream
Use to sweeten cold or hot tea
Sprinkle on shortbread or cookies before baking
Flavour cheese and custard bases
Use as plain sugar replacement in any baking
*Always check for allergies before gifting or consuming herbal concoctions, and be sure to list all ingredients on labels.
Until next time. Happy winter gardening.