at home in... w| Gerald Zhang-Schmidt

Look Closer, Learn More, #GetAtHome In This World

Tag: garden

Vegetable Patches - and Lotus Pond

Roots Across Places – Home. Gardens.

The great explorers of yore went out to “discover” more of the world, their entourage and later followers brought back plants. In fact, in many cases, the very reasons they ventured into the unknown were plants: spices or tea, for example.

Chilli in China

Chilli in China: the soil may be different, the plant is recognizable

People migrate, they bring seeds for their prized food plants with them, too.

Wherever people live, as long as it’s a place where anything can grow, they are likely to tend to some gardens. Or so, things have traditionally been, and increasingly are again.

The more I’ve traveled and followed my interest in chile peppers and cooking, the more I have been seeing how much gardens and gardening connect not only people and the places they call or make their homes, but also connect people across various places.

Even more so than the cooking, which is an accessible “other,” but oftentimes presents problems when “exotic” and enticing turns into “strange” and maybe even gross, the gardens and their products tend to be universal (and/or known) enough to give a certain level of comfort and familiarity, at the same time at which they are distinct and different enough to be fascinating.

When and where I lived in China, there was the chilli, and I could have been sharing stories about my own growing of the same.

There were tomatoes, perhaps beans or peas. Then again, there was also sesame, which isn’t quite instantly recognizable to the Northern home-gardener.

There were salads, other leafy greens, cabbages which, even if somewhat different when it comes to their exact varieties, are recognizable enough by type.

Pumpkin-like plants might not just have included the pumpkins we know in Europe and the USA, but also the “winter pumpkin”/wax gourd, bitter melon, and similar Western exotics/Chinese staples – but walking past a field with pumpkins and seeing the farmer, flower in hand, playing bee to the plant’s other flowers, was a thoroughly familiar scene.

Didn’t matter much that the farmer, in this case, was Chinese; he could just as well have been anywhere else where anyone grows pumpkins… and it’s an interesting matter to think about.

We have become so alienated from our food, which should be one of the most familiar things. And at the same time, it’s something so good to think about, know of, learn more about, grow and cook, and share stories and seeds.

There’s life in that.

Whether it looks the same as where you come from, or different.

Vegetable Patches - and Lotus Pond

Vegetable patches – and lotus pond for lotus root (and seed) harvests. Not the usual garden/field scene in Europe ;)

Preparing Pumpkin

Lessons of … a Pumpkin

The dead of winter, turning of the sun… pumpkins from the fall garden still stored in a cool place, a memory of the last garden year.

First, the pumpkin plants almost get destroyed by slugs.
Then, they took over the patch of the garden where they were growing.
Finally, quite a few pumpkins were to be harvested.

The very smallest of them are the same size as those that get sold in the supermarkets – at quite a steep price. Reason to walk, contentedly, past the baskets advertising them, with a slight shake of the head and a content smile.

Off into the kitchen, a nice-sized pumpkin from our own harvest under the arm.

Preparing Pumpkin

Cutting and peeling half of it, it becomes noticeable that it’s getting too much for the pumpkin (and carrot and rice) porridge that was to be made. Real abundance strikes, shows how it’s better, and at such times much easier, natural, to share – or to make yet more pumpkin dishes, until they are not a treat anymore but a threat looming on the horizon.

Not all would be cut up and used that time, in fact… and so, a next day, there was pan-seared pumpkin with chilli to accompany some rice, too.

There were still the scraped-out innards of the pumpkin, waiting to go onto the compost along with the peels – but how about taking out the seeds?

Something to roast, and immediately have one more light food. A snack? Salad garnish? An addition to bread? Or just seeds to carefully dry, keep well away from the flames, and have more pumpkin growing next year? There’d be a few trees in the garden it would be fun to have them grow up and into, after this year’s pumpkin in the brambles…

Pumpkin in Brambles

Life goes on, and as the garden rests, and we are between off-season and continuation (but with a  different focus, perhaps), the next year’s already on the mind. The present needs mindful attention about the now. But also, the cycles that turn take some thinking forward, and the life that slowly passes is better paid heed…

Garden Fields on Xiangtan University's Campus, Hunan, China

Roots to Home – Gardens, Foods, Places

I’ve often heard it said that people who migrated to other lands brought with them their seeds and their songs. Even in these times of globalization, food continues to play a major role in making identities. It is particularly in the straight line from garden to kitchen, and particularly with vegetables, that connections both to a home and between places are created. No, not just created: grown.

Garden Fields on Xiangtan University's Campus, Hunan, China

Garden Fields on Xiangtan University’s Campus, Hunan, China

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