My favourite dish to make lately has definitely been the ‘food forest salad’. When the inspiration comes, I head to the kitchen and grab one small, one medium and one large lightweight mixing bowl and some scissors. Harvesting from a garden is such a heart-warming adventure, especially here at CGC’s Urban Food Forest as we have no deer!
At home, a family of deer pushed under the hard plastic fencing of our garden and gobbled up my bush beans, soya beans, spinach, raspberry leaves, orach, and more. We have now fixed our fence, but in the meantime we’re a little low on our own fresh greens. This is high on my quality of life list and I’ll admit I tend to get pretty cranky if I have to go to the grocery store for ‘overseas stuff’ I know I can easily grow at home! So I am extra thankful that I work in the food forest garden these days as I can still eat some fresh food that I helped to grow.
I like having the different sized harvesting bowls so I can separate the pickings into one large bowl for salad greens; one medium bowl for herbs and one small bowl for edible flowers and berries. That way, when it comes to rinsing the harvest and putting it all together into a salad, I have the greens below, herbs sprinkled in the middle, and flowers and berries on top – it is so pretty!
These days, there is a plentitude of perennial arugula in our food forest so this is where I usually head to first. With the timed irrigation in the food forest, the soil is maintaining a moisture level that the plants just love – especially the arugula that is growing under our native hazelnut. With the moist soil the leaves are also bigger than the arugula I have at home so I can harvest more greens and faster. For colour and variety I then add purple orach leaves and kale which are all conveniently located beside the pathways, and that basically completes the large bowl. When we designed the food forest we made sure that it had lots of access trails for harvesting food, which I am now very thankful for as it saves my back from awkward bending positions and reduces the amount of trampling on the soil.
The medium bowl is where I think about my health at the time and try to gather what herbs I think I may need. I always pinch holy basil leaves as we have an abundance of it and it loves all the hot spots near the pergola in the garden above the painted mural wall. Holy basil is a popular plant in India used in Ayurvedic medicine as a healing tea, ‘tulsi tea’. I also love the anise hyssop for sweeter tasting salads, and for the ‘extreme’ sweet salad I would add stevia leaves (only need a few). Our stevia is so sweet tasting I can really see how it is a sugar alternative. I always add fennel as I love the look of the feathery leaves and chives as they are best fresh.
I also have a special appreciation for parsley as I think it has helped me tremendously with spring allergies. I used to pick parsley from the garden each time I felt my immune system was going down and allergies acting up. This year and last year I have had basically no allergies!
For the berry/flower bowl, I basically pick whatever is in season, these days we still have gooseberries, some amazing bright orange goji berries, wintergreen berries (which taste like root beer), and evergreen huckleberries. For flowers we have blue borage flowers and bright yellow arugula flowers.
As I garden for Ceres Edible Landscaping and at home, I am getting more inspired about how awesome it truly is to have gardens that grow such fresh, nutrient rich food. For me, the main challenge to growing my own food is having the time to do it (not only the deer challenges).
This year I have really appreciated herbs, perennial greens, and berry bushes as they seem to take less time to maintain than annuals. Not only for salads, but for every meal, I can snip some herbs and turn frozen perogies into an herbaceous sensation or plain yogurt into a bowl oozing with appreciation for fresh raspberries.
In the picture: Goji berries, evergreen huckleberries, borage flowers, arugula leaves and flowers, fennel leaves, chives, holy basil, anis hyssop, broccoli tops, raspberries and purple orach.
Ceres Edible Landscaping offers organic horticultural services from garden design to maintenance, utilising the principles of permaculture. Book a consultation for guidance on creating new gardens, renovating old ones, or adding edibles. Call Nora at 250.748.8506. We’d love to work with you!