Judging by our lobed and fissured tomatoes and mottled fruit, we grow beautifully imperfect food at Stonegate Farm.
Imperfect in the idealized, Apollonian sense, that is, but oh-so-perfect in the fabulous flavor, nutrient density department.
Heirloom tomatoes: Cracked, fissured, bruised and swollen to perfection.
Organic is really a euphemism for misshapen beauty, or the Eastern aesthetic philosophy of wabi-sabi, where imperfections, transience, and asymmetry have more value, and are “more perfect” than perfection.
In Japan, for example, where the modern CSA movement, called TeiKei, began, wabi-sabi is central to their aesthetic philosophy. The more crazed and cracked the teapot, the wonkier the pear, the greater its integrity, beauty and value.
Sweet, multi-colred cherry tomatoes are more vain than their larger cousins
There is something beautiful in transience, in the faltering impermanence of living things, be it an over-ripe Shiro plum or even us.
Our closest approximation is Virgil’s Lacrimae rerum, or “tears of things,” but try and use that (or worse, quote Virgil) when selling anything in the new and improved West. So much of Eastern philosophy is simply lost in a land where the newer, shinier and more Botoxed the better.
Organic beauty has always been more than skin deep; in fact, its skin is often deeply flawed. With no toxic, petroleum armor to protect it, organic produce must fend for itself, relying on the skilled coddling of its growers.
Our first tomato harvest of the season. Set back by oppressive heat and rain, they’ve finally come through.
Much of what we grow wouldn’t pass visual muster at the local Price Chopper, where isles of pesticide-infused sameness prevail. But our wabi-sabi veggies, greens and orchard-grown fruit–even the weathered siding of our century-old barn–have a deep and resonant beauty that you can’t get from mass production.
It’s no wonder the Japanese, with their non-western paradigms, created a partnering system between consumers and organic farmers, where they not only cooperated with each other, but also with the lovely imperfection of the natural world.
They say that when you learn a new language, you acquire a new soul, and the language of organics is about working symbiotically with nature’s quirks and variations, not against them.
Maybe growing local and organic creates not only better food, but better philosophy. –Mb
Prayers of peppers
Grown in perfect summer
(flawed vegetable haiku)
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“I must have flowers, always, and always” said Claude Monet, and, like him, Stonegate Farm is under the spell of a kind of wild, floral alchemy this season, with organic cut flowers having their magical way with us.
My daughter, Daisy Marlena, 11, with an early-morning harvest of Celosia ‘Ruby Parfait’. We think they make a beautiful bouquet.
With radiant blooms busting out all over, I think – even in his near-blindness – Monet would have fumbled for a fistful of horsehair brushes and gone at it, particularly the luminous, raveled clumps of nasturtium, which still grow so beautifully underneath his famous allée at Giverny.
There would be more for him to take in, of course: dark-plumed amaranth and velveteen sunflowers, towering above it all with watchful Cyclopian eyes; the blue, upright bristle of anise hyssop or the radiant chromatic whorls of long-stemmed zinnias.
A handful of multi-colored Benarys zinnias.
All of this color and form goes to my head (have you noticed?), but why not farm for beauty? If you’re looking for earthly transcendence, you’ll find it in flowers.
A bucketful of beauty at the farm, waiting for its arranged marriage
I’m up early, and usually make a bee-line (along with the bees), to the flower farm where, even in the half-light before the sun stretches through the trees, the blossoms are filling the air with fragrance. Besides the smell of dark espresso, that’s all I want my nose to know.
Harvests from the flower farm always happen in the early morning, before the blossoms fully unfold, so that they’re as fresh as possible for the CSA shares. With shears and buckets, they’re carefully cut just above a new leaf node, with a quiet “thank you, you’re beautiful” snip, and arranged into the week’s bouquets.
Our honeybees do their pollen dance around the eye of a sunflower.
It’s hard to go wrong with any of these, and they all cast a spell, but the neon buttons of pink gomphrena paired with the molten, lava-lamp purples of celosia is one of my favorites.
There is one flower above all that has my heart, however, and that’s my daughter Daisy; lovely and sweet, she is all flowers to me. –Mb
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