Growing the community

Leanne’s life: down in the weeds

I have remarked in previous blogs about Leanne how happy she always seems to be and today was no exception. I found her weeding … and happy in spite of this Sisyphean endeavour. She had taken her eyes off the ball last week and, given the recent rain, she was now paying the price. In fact, she was finding it hard to tell the weeds apart from the plants. She pointed at the corn she planted a couple of weeks ago: “look at that,” she said, “I can’t tell what’s corn and what’s weed.” Kyle Levier, he of Fulcrum Farm, is Leanne’s mentor and he’s getting her to keep a weed catalogue. Her “weed of the week” is amaranth. She commented that a weed is just a plant in the wrong place. She pointed to a dock and told me that although it’s a weed its long tap roots bring nutrients to the surface. “Sure, it competes with the cash crop but this all about balance,” she said. It’s the same with amaranth (see picture below). She doesn’t want it growing among the tomatoes but the Aztecs used its seed as a grain staple so it does at least have its uses.

She is warming to her theme. She pulls out another plant. “This is purslane,” she says, showing me a plant with small elliptical reddish tipped leaves and reddish stems. I took some home with me and later I read that it has seven times the beta-carotene of carrot and six times more vitamin E than spinach. You toss it in salads or add it to soups. You learn something every day. I am reminded of A A Milne (he wrote Winnie-the-Pooh) who had Eeyore say that “weeds are flowers too, once you get to know them.”

She’s getting ready to plant a load of brassicas: red cabbages, cauliflowers and broccoli as well as leeks. She’ll be missing this week’s market but she’ll be front and centre on Boxing Day when she will have baby beetroot, zucchini and zucchini flowers, and radishes if, as she says, “they get their act together.” Beetroot is a spectacular and much under-appreciated vegetable. It’s often around at Christmas time when there are also peaches. So, here’s an easy salad that you can knock up using beetroot and peaches.

Beetroot and peach (or orange) stacks

Bake a few beetroot: first scrub them clean, don’t peel them but trim off the dangly bits. Poke the skin with a fork to let out any steam when baking. Put them on baking parchment on an oven tray and bake at about 170°C. They’ll take about 30 minutes and you’ll know they’re ready as they will feel soft as you poke a sharp knife into them

Let them cool and then you can just slide the skin off them: it’ll make your fingers red but it’ll do you no harm

When they’re cold slice them horizontally and slice a peach (or an orange) and stack up alternate layers of beetroot and peach

Top off each stack with a blob of goat’s cheese and a walnut and drizzle with a touch of olive oil

Then you just eat it … very tasty but beware: it is quite filling

Note on Greek mythology: Sisyphus was a mythological Greek King or Corinth condemned to an eternity of rolling a boulder uphill then watching it roll back down again. The term “Sisyphean” means never-ending. Like weeding.

Follow Leanne’s work, and the other things that SAGE is doing, on Instagram and Facebook.

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