A View from Field Notes Farm
I am in the process of learning to deal with weeds. Weeds are a daily part of my life. They emerge across a healthy bed of carrots. They sprout after a fresh rain. Sometimes, they engulf an entire planting of fennel. What we call ‘weeds’ are really an evolutionary result of favorable conditions aligning for a plant to emerge. A ecological system inevitably has room for the plants we try to control out of existence. Through harsh and desolate conditions these grasses, flowers and shrubs settle in.
We have been discussing recently at Field Notes Farm how the emergence and existence of weeds exists across all scales of living. Small towns, big cities, sports teams, and community groups seem to host those few individuals who create a stir and have everyone talking about why they are making a stink. In political races, candidates present themselves without a nod to how the public expects them to diplomatically communicate. In the market economy, some idea plants itself across a wide open field (ex. Swedish fish flavored Oreos). Are these individuals a result of their own off-beat decision making? Are they autonomous actors of their own free will? Hardly.
Like weeds, they have burgeoned from environmental conditions surrounding them. Their structure and pattern is unique to their own being – some weeds like to creep with many new anchoring roots and some shoot straight up, but they are shaped by the resources available and the response of their surroundings.
I can see this play out in my individual experience. At the end of the day, a thought passes through my mind about how much and how efficiently my work was done that day. It lingers and hangs on my mind. Despite all that may have been accomplished, my condition of exhaustion and the pulse of a society that values checklists and getting things done creates a gap for this “thought-weed” to poke through. Some weeds are totally beautiful surprises. A compliment from a stranger, like finding a raspberry bush in the forest, can have me singing all day,.
Weeds are inevitable in a living community of continuous change. I expect them to be here. We’ve come around to a management approach unconcerned with annihilation and complete removal,. Instead we focus on perennial, complementary and competitive patterns. We concern ourselves with how to make livable conditions for the crops in tandem with the neighboring weed. A robust community contains life in many forms and patterns, including the weeds pioneering the gaps.
There are many fine things which we cannot say if we have to shout.
– Henry David Thoreau
Adapted from NYT Cooking
2 pounds eggplant
2 tablespoons lime juice
2 to 3 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 medium onion, peeled and chopped
3 cloves garlic, peeled and finely chopped
1 fresh hot green chile like a jalapeño, or more to taste, thinly sliced (discard seeds for less heat)
1 pound fresh tomatoes, chopped
½ teaspoon turmeric
1 teaspoon kosher salt or to taste
½ cup chopped cilantro, thin stems included
2 teaspoons garam masala
Prick the eggplant with a thin-blade knife. Grill over or next to very high heat, turning as necessary until the skin is blackened and the eggplant collapses. Or broil, or roast on a heated cast-iron pan in the hottest possible oven. It will take about 20 minutes.
When the eggplant is cool enough to handle, peel (this will be easy) and trim away the hard stem. Chop or mash in a bowl, with lime juice.
Heat the oil in a skillet over medium-high heat; add the onion. Cook, stirring often, until the onion is golden brown, about 10 minutes. Add the garlic and chiles and cook for another minute. Add the tomato, turmeric and salt. Cook until the tomato is soft, 5 minutes or so.
Stir in the eggplant purée and cook, stirring, 3 to 5 minutes. Stir in the cilantro and garam masala and turn off the heat. Serve hot with warm chapati bread or pita, or over rice.
Eggplant and Cherry Tomato Curry (Ringra tametar nu shaak)
From Made in India, by Meera Sodha
3 Tablespoons canola or peanut oil
1 large onion, chopped
1 fresh green chili, finely chopped
1 ½-inch piece of ginger, peeled and finely grated
4 cloves of garlic, crushed
1 pint cherry tomatoes, halved
1 ½ teaspoons salt
½ teaspoon ground turmeric
1 ½ teaspoon cumin
1 ½ coriander
2 Tablespoons tomato paste
1 teaspoon sugar
2 large eggplants, quartered, then cut into ⅛ -inch thick pieces
Put the oil into a wide-bottomed, lidded frying pan on medium heat. When it’s hot, add the onion and cook for 6 to 8 minutes, until soft, translucent, and turning gold. Add the green chili, the ginger, and the garlic, and cook for a further 3 to 4 minutes, stirring frequently, before adding the halved cherry tomatoes, then put the lid on the pan and wait for the tomatoes to soften (this should take around 10 minutes).
Stir in the salt turmeric, cumin, coriander, tomato paste, and sugar. Mix together, and when the mixture is looking paste-like add ⅓ cup of warm water, followed by the eggplant. Carefully coat the eggplant in the tomato mixture and pop the lid back on the pan.
Cook for 15 to 20 minutes, on a low to medium heat, until the eggplant is tender, falling apart, and soft enough to cut with a wooden spoon.
Check for spices and salt and adjust as necessary then serve with a spoonful of yogurt, a sprinkle of coriander, and a pile of naan.
Monica’s Joke Corner: What is Serena Williams’ favorite time of day? Ten-ish