February 23, 2011

did you eat your veggies today?

Zürich is full of surprises, little ones. Yesterday I happened upon a community garden, bordered between the city and the forest, on the hill East of downtown. My first thought was wow, how unexpected, yet beautiful (especially in the snow)and my second thought was, I want one! The garden is arranged in small plots, each with a miniature house properly sized for holding a couple of chairs, farm tools and a grill. It must be an unbelievable site in the blooming season. The snow and brisk breeze gave it a quiet and peaceful feeling. I didn't see anyone else in the garden, just one beautiful red fox, who slipped away before I could snap a photo of him. I came home with a red nose and chilled fingers and was desperate for something warm, comforting and full of veggies, so I made sausage stuffing. It was a delicious meal, although it would have been better if I had grown the vegetables myself. Perhaps next year when I figure out how to get one of these little plots and then learn to garden.
This is Zürich so don't expect to garden at your leisure, there are rules!
1) you have to have something planted by June 1st and keep it planted all summer long
2) you can only plant tall crops where they will not shade a neighboring plot
3) If the plot becomes unkempt you will be given 2 weeks notice to clean it up, if you don't it will be reassigned.
4) you must keep weeds down
etc, etc, etc
I have seen a few other community gardens, mostly out of the train window, but this one is special. Sandwiched between the city and the forest, and terraced on a hill, it draws you in and pulls you through it's stone pathways and grassed lanes.
This image on the left, which appears to be lettuce is actually Brussels sprouts. The German word for them is Rosenkohl, which is really only a touch more appetizing than Brussels sprouts. I'm not sure what the vegetables in the pictures below are, but perhaps one of you can educate me. This was my favorite little garden. The stone pathways and the terraced gardens make it both beautiful and inviting. The plot is small, but the garden is big.
Swiss food culture, although ladened with butter and sausage, is extremely healthy. The Swiss have no choice but to "eat locally." Almost all of their produce is grown in the country, a country that is roughly the size of Vermont and New Hampshire combined. The same is true of their meat, eggs and dairy, it is all produced within Switzerland. The meat is more expensive here than in the states, but I'm happy to pay a few extra dollars for chicken that doesn't come from an enormous, chicken factory in Iowa. I also don't have to be worried about eating genetically modified organisms because the Swiss extended the ban on all GMOs until 2013. Did you hear that Genetically Modified salmon has been approved by the USDA and might make its way to markets in the US? It is called AquaAdvantage Salmon - sounds appetizing huh? It grows 2x as fast as normal salmon and is reproductively sterile, and it will not be labeled as a GMO so you won't know when/if you are eating it. How is that okay? stuffing recipe and ingredients: adapted from Food and Wine
- 20 cups of bread - this is a wonderful use for stale bread
- 1/2 stick of butter
- 3 carrots
- 5 celery ribs
- 1 onion
- 1 leek
- 4 - 6 good sized sausage links
- 3 1/2 cups chicken stock
- salt and pepper
- fresh thyme

Preheat oven to 350
Cut the bread in 1" cubes, place on a baking sheet and toast in the oven until they are lightly browned. While bread is toasting, melt the butter in a pan, reserve 1/2 in the pan and pour the other half into a bowl. Saute the carrots, celery, onion and leek in the butter until the onions and leeks become transparent and begin to brown. Place into a medium sized bowl. In the same saute pan, cook the sausage. I remove the casing of the link and chop up into small pieces. Once the sausage has cooked through and has begun to brown add the veggies back to the saute pan. Sprinkle with salt and pepper, add the thyme and 1 cup of the chicken stock. Let it cook for 5-8 minutes, or until the chicken stock has begun to evaporate. Poor the veggie-sausage mixture into a bowl, add the toasted bread and then the remaining 2 1/2 cups of chicken stock. Mix until the bread is evenly coated. Place in an oven safe dish and brush with the remaining butter. Place in the oven for about an hour, or until the top is crispy.
This was the only plot that seemed forgotten, so I'm going to claim it as ours. The mini-haus could use a bit of a fix-up, but I think a little paint on the shutters would be an easy and effective first step. We would need some help with the garden, which is where our friends Crem and Jeremy come in - it's always good to know some farmers!
It seemed appropriate to enjoy the stuffing with the Food Issue of the New Yorker. It's an old issue, and I had already read it, but I was in a vegetable-garden-cooking state of mind and decided it would be worth rereading.
I hope you are as inspired as I am to plant and grow your own food. Until we can snag one of those garden plots I am going to work on planting some herbs in window boxes. Have a happy, veggie-filled, Wednesday.

I just found this very timely article in the New York Times about kitchen gardens. I'm going to buy an avocado, eat the flesh and plant the pit today!


  1. I love this! It's perfect...those little houses are amazing. You've got to sign up for a plot...I can help you from afar!
    P.S Those unknown veggies: the pic on the left is a radish and the purple ones that are sort of alien-like are kohlrabi--both little root vegetables.

  2. I know, I'm dyiiiing for one of these, and you will definitely have to help from afar. How funny that those are root vegetables considering I was just reading the article in the Food Issue of the New Yorker about root vegetables (second to last picture). Ever since reading it Zach keeps telling me he wants roots vegetables for dinner .

  3. What a charming spot!

    I was going to guess a rutabaga but I guess radish is also a good guess :)

    I'd recommend giving Brussel Sprouts a second chance - I recently did and am acquiring the taste for them :) I saute them with slab bacon cut up into small cubes until they are brown and softened. Spoke with a friend yesterday who puts them in a 400 oven tossed with olive oil and sea salt for 20 mins.

    Good luck with gardening!

  4. Cooking Brusselsl sprouts with bacon is a great suggestion, considering it can make anything tasty!!

  5. tal! i love this!! and thank you for the article!! also yay brussels sprouts, xmas inspired you!
    big kiss!

  6. The bacon recipe is a great one! Tal, there's a great recipe in Alice Water's Simple Foods book (I think she recommends boiling the sprouts, which is an easy way to cook, but I always throw them in the broiler for a few minutes after to crisp them up).

  7. Hi there!

    Your blog is beautiful - you are a talented photographer! Just FYI, I don't think that fruit-bearing avocado trees will grow from a seed. I'm pretty sure that to get a good tree you have to use grafting, and that they don't mature for 6-8 years. Plus, you'd have to have it in a pot inside, because the trees wouldn't make it through the winter in Zurich!

    Congrats on getting married - it looks like you are doing really well.