Dig For Peace

Dig For Peace

Living in a country where every inch of land is at a premium,  I feel truly thankful for my vegetable garden.  A ‘moestuin’ or ‘volkstuin’ as it’s called in Dutch.  (tuin meaning garden). If I were in the UK, it would be called an ‘allotment’.  My vegetable garden is not in my postage-stamp of a backyard. It’s a mile and a half away. It’s a swath of property that I rent yearly from a lovely older couple named Co and Sjannie.   While my backyard measures about 30 feet long and 18 feet wide, my vegetable garden is about 300 feet by 30 feet.  A virtual field by Dutch standards.  In my garden are a big wooden tool hut and a shabbily built but good-sized greenhouse made with scraps of wood and old single-paned windows, most broken at this point.  (Note to self:  Fix the greenhouse this fall).   My garden is part of a group of gardens, 30 or so, all rented out and in various states of use.  On the property are a few farm animals that the Co owns; a fat horse,  5 or 6 lively goats and a dozen or so sheep.  My kids love to help him feed the sheep and brush the horse.  In exchange for all the rhubarb in my garden, he gives me a steady supply of fresh eggs from the beautiful brown hens he has running free in his backyard.  They are simply the most delicious eggs I’ve ever tasted; large with rich bright orange yolks. 

In our gardens, we all participate in this Urban Barter System.  Someone with a good crop of leek will exchange with someone punished with lettuce.  Cabbage plants are traded for strawberry plants.  When someone’s crop of string beans fails, we all chip in to share our own crop.   In this little social eco-system everyone gets what they need and nothing goes to waste.  

What’s wonderful about this unique situation is the pride you get from knowing that what is set on your  table comes from your own hand.  Earth that you tilled. Seeds that you planted.  In recent years the term “Locavores” has been coined.  This meaning eating what is fresh, local and in season. What’s more local than your own back yard?     Sure, it’s a lot of work digging in the dirt in the fresh air rather than sitting in a stuffy office and then running to some big corporation

Rebecca's Harvest

supermarket . (To buy vegetables  shipped from who-knows-where and sprayed with who-knows-what?)  But it is so rewarding.  When I see my kids eating tomatoes fresh off the vine or arguing with my youngest over when to pick the corn, I know it’s  worth the effort.      Besides, what ‘s better than the smell of a carrot just pulled from the ground, or the taste of a fresh picked raspberry, or the sweet-tart crispness of an apple right off your own tree?  Not too much, that’s what!  

During and after World War II,  many countries, in order to alleviate farm worker shortages in the agricultural industry, made efforts to support their citizens to grow their own fruits and vegetables.  Thus the term ‘Victory Garden’ was coined.  While many farm workers went off to fight the war and the much of the remaining crops used for food for the troops, thousands of families on the home-front turned over plots of grass in their own back yards and started growing.  The plan was simple,  use existing land  and labour of the homeowners.  To support the war effort, home gardens started appearing everywhere. Tilled rectangles of neatly rowed vegetables sprung up in suburbia.  In the middle of cities; rooftops, windowsills, and vacant lots turned into green goodness.  Not only did it support the war effort, for families it meant so much more. Besides the obvious nutritional value of fresh grown fruits and vegetables, it was a way to work together for a common goal. It was a learning experience for children and it saved families money in a time where every penny mattered. 

Nowadays, with more and more of this earth’s agricultural land being used to support  bio-energy and a growing population, is it possible that we can one day revisit the concept of the Victory Garden and subsequently, a barter system?

Tonight we’ll be having the below recipe, using a nice butternut that came from my garden.

 Pumpkin Risotto

2 tablespoons olive oil

1/2 pound fresh pumpkin or butternut squash, peeled and cut into 3/4-inch dice (1 1/3 cups)

2 medium white onions, finely diced

3/4 cup dry white wine

1 1/2 teaspoons freshly grated nutmeg

About 1 teaspoon freshly ground  pepper

1 teaspoon salt

7 cups vegetable or  low-sodium chicken broth

5 tablespoons unsalted butter

1 1/2 cups arborio rice (about 11 ounces)

3 tablespoons finely chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley (optional)

1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese, plus more for serving


  1. Heat the oil in a non-aluminum medium saucepan or wok. Add the pumpkin and half of the onions and cook over moderately high heat, stirring frequently, until the pumpkin is just tender, about 7 minutes. Stir in the wine, nutmeg, white pepper and salt and cook, stirring occasionally, until most of the liquid has evaporated, about 12 minutes. Remove from the heat and let cool slightly.
  2.  In a food processor, puree the pumpkin mixture until smooth. Transfer to a small bowl. 
  3. In a medium saucepan, bring the vegetable or chicken stock to a boil over moderate heat. Reduce the heat to low and keep the stock hot. 
  4. In the same non-aluminum saucepan or wok, heat 2 1/2 tablespoons of the butter until it begins to sizzle. Add the rice and the remaining onions and cook over moderately high heat, stirring with a wooden spoon, until the onions are translucent, about 7 minutes. Immediately stir in 1 cup of the hot stock and cook, stirring constantly, until all of the liquid has been absorbed, about 2 minutes. 
  5. Reduce the heat to moderate and gradually add 3 more cups of the hot stock, 1 cup at a time, stirring and cooking until each cup is almost absorbed before adding the next, about 15 minutes. Stir in the pumpkin puree. Continue adding the remaining 3 cups stock, 1 cup at a time, stirring and cooking as above, until the rice is tender, about 10 minutes longer. The risotto will be quite loose. Stir in the parsley and the remaining 2 1/2 tablespoons butter. 
  6. Spoon the risotto into 6 warmed soup plates and sprinkle the Parmesan on top. Serve immediately.

One Response to “Dig For Peace”

  1. Millie Says:

    I remember when you took us to see the garden. Give you credit for all the work it takes, but it is certainly well worth it. I know we had tomato plants this year and the taste of the fresh stuff just can’t compre with what you get in a store. Plus you know what was or wasn’t sprayed on them… so much healthier Kudos to you both for the garden and the blog. Love reading it.