10 January, 2011

Food for Thought from Your Garden

We live in an age of information overload goes without saying. If there is still any doubt just look at your smart phone and what it can do. Or at least what it is supposed to do. There are literally thousands of "apps" for most phones. A quick look at them however reveals that most are duplications of gadgets or processes that are already on our phones or in our dashboards. For instance at least twice a week I sync my Blackberry with Outlook so all me appointments and deadlines are together. Yet several rocket scientists decided to create appointment calendars for Blackberries. Yet they are not compatible with Outlook. There are GPS apps for phones that already have GPS capabilities built in.
There are even apps now for gardening. Apps that you can use for information on plants you may see at a botanical garden. Do you see the same disconnect to the outside world here that I do? How strange would it be to walk through a botanical garden or garden center come across a cool flower and then immediately search for information on your smart phone?
This brings me to my point of the day, simplicity. Every management and time expert guru pushes the acronym KISS for Keep It Simple Stupid. Few however end up practicing what they preach. For example an activity as sublime as barbecue it is very easy to get all knotted up determining which recipe to use for ribs. There is one book on BBQ with more than 500 recipes for ribs alone. A closer look reveals that despite there being 500 recipes, rubs, and sauces it comes down to four basic needs each time. They are ribs, rubs, sauces and smoking chips (or chunks). Further study of the 500 rip recipes reveals that the ingredients in almost all the rubs are based on this system of four. Same for BBQ sauce, marinades, etc.
Just for the record the four ingredients I see the most are garlic, oregano, tomato and, salt. There are many others that could be grouped into fours as well but the topic here is four not eight or twelve!
Could it be that ancient cave dwellers knew something we did not? Is there something more to four ingredients and say the four directions of the wind. I would say compass but I do not believe Ogg and Orga had such luxuries. If you adhere to Darwinian Theory it would make since that Ogg and Orga were the first BBQ pit masters since they were the first to cook with live fire for sure.
I fell Simon and Garfunkel put it best in their hit song Scarborough Fair when the melody went: parsley, sage, rosemary and thyme. Move them around, change an ingredient or two and you get the message, simplicity. If you are panning an herb garden this summer consider what you cook the most, what aromas you enjoy the most or what colors you enjoy the most. Pick four and see how far that gets you. See how far that gets you this winter! I would love to have access to my herb garden right now but it is buried under snow. I do have however four pots of herbs in the dining room window.
It just so happens that I only have room for four pots of herbs in that window. I hope my cousins Ogg and Orga are somehow aware of this fact and quite pleased with their influence upon me several millennia since their clubbing food to death. These four inhabitants denying themselves hibernation are rosemary, thyme, chives and oregano.
Simon and Garfunkel cannot get me on copyright charges since I have only half of their suggested mix. But I will give them a footnote just in case. These four are the superstars in my herbal potions. Basil is a glaring missing in action here I know. However basil does not perform well indoors over the winter. Plus basil, extra virgin olive oil, garlic and balsamic vinegar are everywhere anyway. Again you can see the power of four!
Four can suffice just about any garden need as well. For example a salad garden need not bee an entire back yard production.
The four salad stars are, greens, tomato, cucumber and………… (add your own fourth part here)
Root crops for the cellar: Onions, potatoes, beets, carrots.  Does anyone see these four doing double duty as soup?
Tomatoes: plum, pear, slicing, and salad
Vines: cucumber, melon, winter squash, summer squash
And just in case you haven't noticed there are four groups of four here. Four gardens with four crops. Not a potager per se' for the gourmet but a solid base from which to start.
Now it would be easy to add to the list of four but it may be getting picky.