Is a lawn “beautiful?” Is a vegetable garden “ugly?” Or is it the other way around?
It depends who you ask.
A press release plinked into my mailbox from the folks with Food Matters Manitoba last week announcing their second annual Manitoba Garden Makeover Competition. It’s urging Manitobans to convert their lawns into an “edible landscape.”
Imagine landscapes with colourful basil, red peppers, rainbow chard, or white apple blossoms, and the best part is, once their beauty fades, the feast begins, it said.
All good, except for one thing. I don’t want to imagine the near-collapse of civilization it will take to get most of us turning lawns to vegetable gardens.
A lot of us could probably feed several families for the winter on what our big lawns could produce. But we’re not giving up our patches of inedible green easily.
The lawn, after all, is a way we show our class and status. Leisure theory sociologists, who coined the term “conspicuous consumption,” say lawns first emerged on properties of the well to do in Europe. Showing you were so rich you had land you didn’t need to grow food on set you apart from the labouring underclasses. With increasing food security, and the time it eventually afforded more of us, we imitated. The richer we became, the bigger our lawns grew.
Maybe that’s why my neighbours thought I was hard up a few years ago. Lacking much of a backyard, I dug up most of our front for a garden. I hadn’t heard the term ‘edible landscape’ then. I just wanted a ‘cottage garden.’
- More ‘RecipeSwap: Food day in Canada
It didn’t turn out quite as I’d hoped, though. I worked at it, but didn’t like the look of sagging tomato cages and cabbages on the front yard. I had vibes others felt the same. Now the veg grows in the (fenced) backyard.
The lesson learned? Tidiness, not just tomato sharing, is key, if lawn digger-uppers want to keep lawn lovers happy.
Lawns end up looking the pits if you don’t put loads of water, fertilizer and work into them too, of course. And you can’t feast from your lawn the way Food Matters Manitoba envisions.
My money is on it being a long time yet before gardens edge out the lawn. It’ll take a lot more than a contest anyways, and it’s more than a matter of time, skills or motivation, as Food Matters Manitoba asserts.
It’s a matter of taste, and not just of peppers, basil and swiss chard. I know a lot of gardeners and I’ve seen what they’re growing. The ‘edible landscape,’ among all those lawns, flowers, water ponds and wind chimes, is a rarity.
Tomato and Zucchini Gratin
If you do grow a garden and have loads of tomatoes and zucchini coming in about now, here’s a tasty dish to try. Its long cooking time allows the flavours to blend together.
Crispy bread crumbs:
- 3 tbsp. butter
- 1 c. coarse fresh bread crumbs
- 2 anchovies, chopped (optional)
- Fresh herbs to taste
- 2 green zucchini
- 2 tomatoes
- 2 peeled potatoes
- Freshly ground salt and pepper
- 3 tbsp. olive oil
- 1 c. grated Canadian Swiss cheese
Prepare the crispy bread crumbs. In a large skillet, melt the butter and cook the fresh bread crumbs until crisp and golden. Add anchovies and fresh herbs, mix well and set aside. Preheat oven to 400 F. Cut the three vegetables into 1/4-inch pieces. Layer the vegetables alternately in the dish, starting with the zucchini follow with the tomatoes and the potatoes. Repeat these layers with remaining vegetables. Sprinkle with salt and pepper and drizzle with olive oil. Cover the dish with aluminum foil. Bake in the middle of the oven for 35 minutes. Increase oven temperature to 425 F. Uncover the dish and bake another 15 minutes. Position the rack in the upper part of the oven and turn the oven to broil. Top the vegetables evenly with cheese. Broil until cheese is melted and slightly golden. Remove from the oven and sprinkle with crispy bread crumbs.
Tips: In Provence, this dish would be called a “tian,” which describes food baked for a long time in a shallow, earthenware casserole. You can vary the vegetables to your taste, using tomatoes, winter squash, peppers, eggplant, etc.
Preparation time: 25 minutes
Cooking time: 1 hr., 5 minutes
Yields: 6 servings
Source: Dairy Farmers of Canada
Waldorf Berry Salad
An exciting twist on a classic summer salad. Celery, toasted walnuts, apples, mixed berries, all tossed in a creamy dressing — using half-and-half cream, sour cream and Greek yogurt.
- 1/4 c. 10 per cent half-and-half cream
- 3 tbsp. sour cream
- 3 tbsp. Greek yogurt
- 1 tbsp. fresh lemon juice
- 1-1/2 c. diced celery
- 1 c. toasted walnuts, lightly crushed, divided
- 1 red delicious apple, cored, quartered and diced (skin on)
- 1-2/3 c. assorted berries, (such as blueberries, blackberries, raspberries, or quartered strawberries, if large)
- Black pepper
- 8 to 10 whole butter lettuce leaves
- 10 to 12 celery leaves
In a large bowl, stir together cream, sour cream, yogurt, and lemon juice. Stir in celery, 3/4 cup of the walnuts and apples. Gently fold in berries. Season to taste with salt and pepper. In a bowl or on a serving platter, arrange lettuce leaves and gently spoon salad on top. Garnish with remaining walnuts and celery leaves.
Tips: For tender and sweeter celery, peel the back part of the celery rib with a vegetable peeler; this really changes the flavour and nature of celery!
Preparation time: 20 minutes
Yields: 6 servings
Source: Dairy Farmers of Canada