One of the most fun and most rewarding projects I did last year was initiating a community garden.
Every year we organize a neighborhood plant swap and plant sale, which is great, but I thought it would be nice to have something more permanent. A small vegetable garden that would show people from the neighborhood how much food you can grow in a small space and how little work it actually involves if you do it the permaculture way.
I presented the idea in our plant group and everybody was immediately enthusiastic. We got a piece of ground behind the football cage at the playground, and within weeks, we made it happened. To prevent the regrowth of weeds, we covered the ground with cardboard, put raised beds on top of that and filled them with clean soil. We sowed, planted, mulched, watered and the garden flourished.
We shared many harvests and at the end of the season decided to add couple more beds. The garden became a place where we get to know our neighbors better, where we share knowledge and a good laugh. The kids playing football like to come and see what we’re up to. They ask:“What is this?” and we let them pick and taste.
Now is the time to make plans for a new season. We have harvested the last kale to make place for new sowings. I made a kale salad with apples, hazelnuts and orange dressing.
You might think that raw kale is something people eat because they believe it’s good for them, not because they actually enjoy it. But let me tell you: we had to stop our son from eating his sister’s portion before she got home. Really. It’s a great tasting salad. And it is good for you.
Kale salad with orange dressing
Bunch of kale, about 170 g (6 oz.) after removing the ribs
50 g (1/3 cup) hazelnuts
1 juicy apple
80 g (3 oz.) hard cheese (I used Dutch cheese with cumin, but use anything you like)
3 tbsp olive oil
2 tbsp white wine vinegar
60 ml (¼ cup) fresh orange juice
1 tsp Dijon mustard
1 tsp honey
Whisk all ingredients for the dressing together. Roast hazelnuts in a dry pan on a medium fire stirring frequently, until slightly browned and smelling “nutty” delicious. Let them cool.
Remove the ribs from the kale and tear the leaves into bite-sized pieces. Quarter and core the apple and slice quite thinly. Cut the cheese in cubes of about 1 cm (½ inch).
Put the kale in a large bowl and massage it gently (this will tenderize the leaves). Add apples and dressing, mix well. Scatter cheese and hazelnuts on top. Serve.
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