Gardening 101

Full disclosure: I am a complete novice at gardening. I think the last time I actually grew something was in one of those elementary school experiments, the seed in the Dixie cup sort of affair. So I’m very excited to be starting a garden. Well, sort of a garden – I think this year it will be limited to some large containers on the front porch. My gardening expert (aka my favorite [and only] stepfather) tells me that to have a garden in deer country I need a 9 foot fence. My boss and organic farming expert laughs and tells me that’s a minimum – a deer can clear that from a standstill…. NOT something the HOA will be excited about, I’m sure. So I’m wondering, will these deer actually walk onto my front porch? The brazen way one was staring at me through the breakfast room window last week, it wouldn’t surprise me in the least!

But I’ve decided to give it a shot anyway, so yesterday I visited Growing Hope, a wonderful organization in nearby Ypsilanti that is all about “helping people improve their lives and communities through gardening and healthy food access.”


I signed up to become part of the “Seed Starting Squad,” which means I’m starting 2 flats of seeds for their use, but in the process I acquire some very necessary knowledge and a light stand, something I will certainly need as I probably will have to start a large number of my plants indoors.

Now I need to decide what I will grow for our family consumption. Katia, of course, votes for tomatoes, as many varieties as possible. Max and I are hoping to grow some Asian veggies – eggplants and greens, mostly. And Kolia will probably be happy with anything that’s not mushrooms or eggplants and allows him to get filthy and wet in the growing process.

So stay tuned as the Baker Tang gang tries their hand at gardening….

Video Recommendations

I’ve been exploring the TED website, the self-styled “clearinghouse that offers free knowledge and inspiration from the world’s most inspired thinkers”  and have found a lot of thought-provoking talks – here are a few of my favorites on food, where it comes from (and where it should come from), and what it means (or should mean) to us:

Dan Barber: How I fell in love with a fish

Dan Barber’s foie gras parable

Ann Cooper talks school lunches

Michael Pollan gives a plant’s-eye view

Stirfried Pork with Bamboo Shoots & Broccoli Stems

I generally try to buy local, fresh ingredients, but once in a while we will buy something more exotic, such as bamboo shoots. If you live near an Asian market, look for the vacuum-sealed packages – the bamboo won’t carry the taste of the can with it. If you want to stick with local ingredients, omit the bamboo and double the amount of broccoli stems – this is a great recipe for using up those tasty leftovers from dishes that just require the florets. Looking for something vegetarian or vegan? Substitute pressed or baked tofu for the pork. Want a quick veggie stirfy – omit the port entirely.


  • 1/2 lb pork – look for less lean chops, preferably from pastured pigs – cut into 1/8 x 1/8 x 1.5″ shreds
  • 2 T oil
  • 1 T fresh ginger root, minced
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 4 oz cooked bamboo shoot, cut into matchsticks approximately 1/8 x 1/8 x 1.5″
  • 4 oz broccoli stems, peeled and cut into matchsticks approximately 1/8 x 1/8 x 1.5″
  • salt, to taste



  1. Combine the marinade ingredients in a small bowl, add the pork shreds and combine thoroughly, allowing to rest 15-30 m. Drain off excess marinade.
  2. Heat the wok over medium high heat, then add 1 T oil, heating just until it shimmers.
  3. Explode the ginger and garlic just until fragrant, then add the pork shreds and stirfry quickly just until no longer pink. Remove to a plate.
  4. Add the other 1 T oil, heating just until it shimmers, then stirfry the bamboo shoots and broccoli stem pieces just until crisp-tender.
  5. Add the pork back to the wok, stirfry quickly to combine.
  6. Season to taste, and serve.