During World War II, 20 million victory gardens helped feed America. Today's gardeners are in it for the ultrafresh food, of course, but also for the pleasure and health benefits of digging in the dirt. Here, a guide to modern seed-sowing.
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Farm to Bottle
Courtesy of Belvedere
Vodka Belvedere's new Bloody Mary vodka needs nothing more than tomato juice: It's infused with black pepper, horseradish, bell pepper, chiles, lemon and vinegar. $35.
Mario Batali's zucchini fritters include rocambole garlic, a super-pungent hardneck variety.
Avocado, Orange and Jicama Salad
Feta is a fun, briny addition to this salad's Mexican mix of jicama, avocado and cilantro.
Gardens: Edible Education
Visitors can literally chew the scenery at these vegetable and herb gardens cropping up at botanical gardens across the US.
© Robin J. Carlson
Atlanta An old parking lot is now a garden with an outdoor kitchen where local chefs teach cooking classes.
New York Mario Batali's Edible Garden, at the New York Botanical Garden in the Bronx, is named for two of his restaurants: the Otto Pizza Garden and the Babbo Beets, Garlic and Greens Garden. Cooking demonstrations begin this month, featuring recipes like Batali's fritters with zucchini and rocambole garlic. nybg.org.
San Francisco Arcimboldo's Edible Garden (named for a 16th-century painter) features classes and cooking demos.
Gardens: Can Farms Save the World?
Chef Dan Barber explains the link between good farms, delicious food and a greener planet.
© Andrew Hetherington
The irony of the environmental movement is that agriculture has long been considered a separate issue. Environmentalism always carried with it the assumption that to use the land was to degrade the land. Of course the idea that land can be kept pure by separating it somehow—nature here, farming there—is foolhardy, at best. We would be better off looking for ways to use the land wisely, toward a kind of agriculture that is both inspired by and inseparable from nature.
Last week I gave a talk, and a surly guy in the back row (I could write a book about surly men who sit in the back row) told me that the food movement—led by people who champion sustainable ingredients—had hit its peak. I told him I thought he was exactly wrong. "We're at the beginning," I said. "The food movement will only grow, because in order to answer the current ecological crises, the way food is produced is going to have to change really dramatically in the next several years."
Which is when he said, "Yeah, well, it's certainly not going to be led by a gourmet chef!" I told him he was probably right—I felt bad for the guy—but I lied. I actually think chefs (and anyone who cares about good food) will continue to lead this growing environmental movement, because, unlike those early eco-puritans, they're motivated by the pursuit of pleasure. Their mission is about being greedy and consuming things that taste good—because foods that truly taste good are, by definition, good for you and for the planet. Chefs are arbiters of taste, and in a world where agribusiness and fast-food behemoths claim the mantle of "farm fresh," our role is not small.
Gardens: Green Cleaners
These herbal-scented sprays and soaps come in eco-friendly bottles.
Mrs. Meyer's produces powerful, all-natural cleaners like this spray, which has a subtle rosemary scent and works on all kitchen surfaces. $4; mrsmeyers.com.
Naturally antiseptic birch bark extract is combined with essential oils of basil and blue sage in Caldrea's earth- friendly, multi-purpose cleanser. $12; caldrea.com.
The detachable bottom of Replenish cleaner contains enough concentrate for four bottles; just replace an empty soap capsule and add water. $8; myreplenish.com.
Photos (l to r) courtesy of: Mrs. Meyer's, Caldrea, Replenish.
Gardens: New Floral Designs
Courtesy of Kennth Cobonpue
Kenneth Cobonpue's flower-inspired Bloom chair is sewn entirely by hand. From $2,285; unicahome.com.
© Antonis Achilleos
This hand-painted six-gallon cooler is an improvement on the Igloo. $174; eleganttabletop.com.
Courtesy of A+R
Wooden stakes for identifying different plants in a plot have a cool, minimalist style. $14 for a sheet of 4; aplusrstore.com.
© Antonis Achilleos
Beautiful, lifelike paper flowers are low-maintenance—and good for the scent-averse and allergy-prone. From $35; thegreenvase.com.
Courtesy of Mikasa
Mikasa's new Garden Palette Bouquet plates look like they were painted with watercolors. $50 for a 4-piece set; mikasa.com.
Gardens: A New Crop of Shops
Dig Weed whackers and wine go hand-in-gardening-glove at places like Santa Cruz, California's Dig, which hosts a weekly pop-up restaurant in its greenhouse. This avocado, orange and jicama salad (left) is from artist MB Boissonnault.
© Carole Topalion
Pitchforks & Tablespoons The Austin shop sells everything from gardening tools to wines by the glass.