A SAGE intern’s life: planting, planning and pesto
SAGE is Sustainable Agriculture and Gardening Eurobodalla and Leanne is the SAGE intern. SAGE is committed to a vibrant local healthy and sustainable food economy. The Intern Program is one part of that commitment.
Every time I talk to Leanne I am blown away by her enthusiasm for what she’s doing. The beetroot, shallots, radish, coriander, iceberg lettuce, silverbeet and celery that were just poking their heads above the ground a month ago are growing like triffids. But it’s hard work keeping on top of the weeds especially with the recent and welcome rain. More evidence of Leanne’s hard work can be seen in a heap of compost that is disguised as a heap of what looks like straw. This compost is made of seaweed that she gathered from the beach and cow poo from the dairy farm where she lives.
Leanne noted that the mulberry tree at the SAGE garden is fruiting. In fact, that’s not what she said. She said, “the mulberry tree is pumping” which I took to be a technical term but I understood what she meant. That was enough for me and we got a good harvest of mulberries which we stewed with a pear and some ginger and raw honey (don’t cook the honey, put it in after the fruit is done). I used it to make a crumble. Magnificent and another benefit of SAGE.
Above: Looks like straw, but it isn’t
Every two weeks Leanne and I write a blog for the SAGE website and every two weeks she says, “I can’t believe it’s two weeks since the last time.” This time I turned up at the SAGE gardens to find Leanne busy planting seeds with Georgie (last year’s SAGE intern) looking on in much the way that there is always a Council workman leaning on a shovel watching the others doing the work.
She was planting coriander seeds: she has sold most of the coriander that she planted a few weeks ago. The rain that we have had has been very welcome but the soil is compacted and needs to be turned over. Leanne is wishing that the garden fairy would bring her a walk-behind tractor because this would save time. “Time is precious,” she said “there is always something to be done and at the beginning of the day there always seems to be lots of time. But then sunset comes and you realise you haven’t done what you wanted to do.” She says that she is beginning to realise the importance of planning. Market gardening is very different to recreational gardening or even, perhaps, community gardening. It’s a continuous process and nature is a hard taskmistress.
Above: Leanne (gotta love that hat) hard at work supported by a more relaxed Georgie
The alternative to the tractor is the broadfork. This is not an enticing proposition; the soil probably needs going over with a broadfork 2 or 3 times. I tell her that it is character-building. She looks at me in a way that suggests that this is not the sort of character she would like to build. But she’s planting more coriander seeds. There’s obviously a market for coriander: I mentioned that I like coriander pesto (there’s a recipe below). She has her work cut out. There is a large area of ground to be prepared. But I get the sense that she loves what she’s doing.
This week she started to plan for her long table lunch in March. This is an event that will showcase her vegetables and it is likely to be a massive affair. SAGE has a reputation for serious long table meals when it puts its mind to it. Leanne is part of a small group that’s busy planning menus and estimating numbers and quantities. I will certainly be there and I do not expect to go hungry. Keep your eye open for more details.
1 packed cup of coriander, roots and all: you can use every bit of the coriander. With basil, you have to pick the leaves off, not with coriander 3 tbsp pine nuts (you can use peanuts or cashews or, probably, any other nut) 60 gm grated parmesan ½ cup extra virgin olive oil 2 or 3 cloves of garlic salt
Georgie adds lemon juice as well when she makes this.
Bung everything in a food processor and whiz it up until it’s smooth. That’s it.
You can freeze it in ice cube trays and use it later.
Follow Leanne’s work, and the other things that SAGE is doing, on Instagram @thesageproject.