OK, so I’m not reinventing the wheel here with this spinach salad, but I just had to show you how one person can make a difference in healthier eating, not just in her own family, but in a whole community. Several years ago, my friend Dorothy knew nothing about organic gardening but that changed after she read a library book on the subject. She put that knowledge to practice and has cultivated the most prolific garden in her sunny front yard for at least six or seven years now. She generously encourages neighbors to pick some of the vegetables, herbs and flowers and even provides them with scissors to do it.
Look how big this swiss chard is already – and this photo was taken nearly a week ago in central New Jersey!
A few years ago Dorothy took her knowledge to the local schools and created gardens right on the school grounds for children to learn where vegetables really come from and to encourage healthier eating. It’s only early May and already the plants are way ahead of my backyard garden. Lettuces, spinach, arugula are ready to pick. Chives are in full flower. Radishes are ready for harvest and lots of herbs too.
The mint at the school grows in abundance, and is used by the owners of The Bent Spoon ice cream shop in town, who churn most of the profits from their mint chocolate chip ice cream back to the school gardening project. It’s a win-win situation for everybody, especially those of us who love The Bent Spoon’s ice cream.
But Dorothy’s gifts don’t stop with the gardens. I wrote about her in the early days of my blog before I had many readers, so it’s worth repeating myself now. Dorothy is a holistic health care practitioner, and also can take credit for helping people with addictions of any kind - cigarettes, alcohol, food - move past them and live a healthier life. Through a program called Suppers For Sobriety that she conceived while working on her masters degree in counseling, members can learn how to move past their addiction and turn around years of damage to the body and spirit. It all starts out one supper at a time. According to the website, SuppersforSobriety.org, the format includes preparation of a simple, stability-promoting meal, a brief meditation or stress management exercise, time to share, and the Suppers forum, which involves readings of materials that may help people in recovery find the help they need. Some meetings also include outdoor walks or cooking lessons.
The only requirement for membership is the desire to lead a healthier life in body, mind and spirit, Dorothy says. "If you can make a pot of coffee, you can make a pot of soup."
This year I’ve have seen lots of people’s front yards with raised garden beds and “Lawn To Food” signs inside them. If you want to learn more about how to grow your own food, go to the “Lawn To Food” website for lots of information on planting a garden.
But before you do that, have a look at the gardens, both in Dorothy’s yard and at one of the schools.
Strawberries almost ready to pick:
Beautiful red leaf lettuce and bibb lettuce:
Flowers too – like these pretty roses.
and beautiful irises
And this beautiful chive flower that isn’t usually considered as a cut flower:
And a bunch of them makes a lovely bouquet.
Thanks Dorothy for the great baby lettuces I’ve been enjoying this week, the spinach too, and the chive flower bouquet.
(I don’t like the traditional hot bacon dressing used on spinach salads. I just use a simple vinaigrette, so that’s what I’m giving you here.)
Wash fresh spinach and spin dry. Hard boil an egg, chill and peel. Cut the egg into quarters.
Wash and slice fresh mushrooms. Slice part of a red onion. Put the spinach, onion and sliced mushrooms into a salad bowl and toss with salad dressing. Reserve some of the dressing to pour over the egg. Arrange on a plate or salad bowl and nestle sliced egg around greens. Top with shavings of parmesan cheese and freshly ground black pepper.
3 parts olive oil
1 part vinegar (red wine vinegar is what I used here)
a small dab of Dijon mustard
a small drizzle of honey
Whisk everything together in a small container (or shake in a jar) and pour over salad.