A garden is a lovesome thing, God wot!
The veriest school
Of peace; and yet the fool
Contends that God is not–
Not God! in gardens! when the eve is cool?
Nay, but I have a sign;
‘Tis very sure God walks in mine.
-Thomas Edward Brown
I used to love this poem, when I was little. I know … it’s overblown, it’s stilted, it’s very Victorian, but I thought it was great. I learned recently that the poem spawned a word, “godwottery.” Godwattery refers to a) gardening in an elaborate and affected style, or, b) affected use of archaic language. I love that! I love the word, I love the idea, and the gentle teasing quality of the whole arrangement.
My parents gave me a small part of the yard to make a garden in. I used to plan it furiously. I had a little garden book. I drew pictures, I researched seeds. I visited the Cloisters in New York. I read overwrought victorian poetry about gardens. I was never quite as good at actually planting the garden, though, or weeding it, or taking care of it. I did make a nice little space, for a while. Where we live now, we have a tiny yard, and an even tinier space set aside for a garden. We grew tomatoes for a few years, but we’re giving the soil a break, and this year we’re planting herbs and small greens. I’m thrilled! I’ve always loved a tangled combination of greens and herbs in any food. Not carefully planned out, but all thrown wildly together, so you get a small taste of each, and it forms a beautiful, complicated whole. I love the way this works year round. In winter you have kale and spinach, winter savory and rosemary. In summer chard, more spinach, basil and thyme. In fall, small, bitter greens, sorrel and sage. In the spring – you have a big jumble of small spicy sassy plants. Chervil and tarragon, tiny beet greens, arugula, lovage, summer savory. (I was never the most organized farmer – this is more my bright idea about how things might fit togehter! The names are a pretty part of the plan!)
I love recipes that combine a wild mix of herbs and greens. Soup meagre, or small salads that combine a few herbs and greens. You can mix them with butter, or toss them with pasta or mashed potatoes. Or bake them into a tart! Which is what I did! I combined baby arugula, baby spinach, basil, summer savory, tarragon, chervil, parsley, bull’s blood beet leaves, lovage, and chives. Most of these things we’re growing; some I bought. It doesn’t matter! It all tastes good! You can use whatever you like – whatever you can find. The only other flavoring I used was a clove of roasted garlic. And the crust has some ground pecans – a nice nutty combination with the herbs. I think it turned out very nice – every bite has a new combination of flavors. It’s possible to distinguish one or two, now and again, or just to enjoy them as they come.
Here’s footage of Louis Armstrong with Royal Garden Blues
2 cups flour
1/3 cup pecans – toasted and ground
1 t salt
lots of black pepper
1 stick (1/2 cup) butter – frozen
Combine the flour, nuts, salt and pepper. Grate in the butter, stopping to stir it in lightly with a fork every few minutes. Mix till it resembles coarse crumbs. Add enough ice water that you can pull it altogether into a workable dough. Wrap in foil and chill for at least 1/2 hour.
When you’re ready to bake the tart… Lightly butter and flour your tart pan. Roll the dough out to be just larger than your tart pan, and about 1/4 inch thick. Transfer it to the pan, and press it down, folding the edges over the rim just slightly. Cut off the extra dough and make it into Isaac crackers. You can chill the whole tart pan/dough combination at this point, for about 15 minutes while the oven preheats to 400. Prebake the tart dough for about 10 minutes, till it’s no longer shiny and looks a bit set.
1/2 cup milk
1 clove garlic – roasted or toasted, then smushed or minced
1 cup grated sharp cheddar or gruyere (or any other cheese you like)
2 packed cups greens and herbs. Any combination you can find. It will vary from garden to garden and season to season. Use what you like! I did 1 cup baby arugula and baby spinach, and the rest herbs. Cut them up very finely. I didn’t want to put them into a blender with the eggs, because I didn’t want it to be one solid smooth green tart. But I didn’t want large pieces of anything either. You can try it any way you like!
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
Whisk the eggs in a large bowl. Whisk in the milk. Add the garlic, and whisk it in. Stir in the cheese and herbs. Add salt and pepper.
Pour into the pre-baked pie shell.
Bake at 400 (preheated) for about half an hour, till it’s all puffed up and starting to turn brown in spots. Let it cool a minute before you de-pan it. Slice and serve. It’s good at room temperature, too!