“The way we eat represents our most profound engagement with the natural world.”
-Michael Pollan, Omnivore’s Dilemma
Food. Eating. How many of us truly realize just how important eating a meal is to our overall health? One of the most important and impactful things we do in our lives happens every day, multiple times a day, and for most of us, eating is mindless. That can be okay if we are in the habit of putting the right things in our bodies.
Every since I was young, nutrition was a hot topic in my family’s home. My mom received her certificate in Natural Health many years ago, and because of that, she took the valuable opportunity to share her knowledge with our family and teach us how to take care of our physical self. These principles have been reinforced in recent years as my whole family has gradually had to cut out all dairy and gluten from our diets. I’m a bit older, out of college, and I’m cooking 80% of my own meals, so my interest has increased all the more.
I’ve enjoyed reading several books about the subject. A few of my favorite’s include Dr. Andrew Weil’s Natural Health, Natural Medicine and Michael Pollan’s Omnivore’s Dilemma.
In the western world, I believe the purpose of food has been lost. On the most surface level, eating is meant to sustain us and keep our bodies healthy and strong so that we can perform our every day tasks with ease, energy, and reach our fullest potential. Dig a little deeper, and I believe eating is also meant to connect us to the creation we live in and give us a greater appreciation for how it sustains life. Instead, we live in a world where food is almost treated as pornographic (ever seen the #foodporn?). It’s appalling.
Don’t get me wrong, there’s nothing wrong with indulging sometimes. Food is also meant to be cherished, enjoyed, cooked, and used as an avenue to strengthen relationships gathered around the table. Many of us just celebrated the perfect example of this: Thanksgiving. But the key to that sentence was one word, sometimes. What ever happened to moderation? With the introduction of fast food (and many other factors), this concept has quickly deteriorated. This makes it even more important to educate ourselves about what we’re putting in our bodies!
So how does this relate to my handy-dandy palate garden?
As fall began and the temperature slowly started to drop here in Tampa, that meant I’d be able to start spending more time on my little apartment balcony. To my very happy heart, it came to my attention that this is one of the best times to plant herbs in Florida, and as I’ve been cooking more and more, having fresh herbs at my fingertips sounded like a fantastic idea!
I roped my dad into helping me one weekend. Home Depot was our first and only stop, we set everything out on the driveway of my parent townhouse, and our daddy-daughter DIY project began!
- Two Wooden Palates (both graciously given to us for free in the garden zone of Home Depot)
- Hand saw
- Mesh (for the bottom of the pockets)
- Garden soil and herbs
Step One: Reframe
The first step was deciding which palate would be the garden and which would be used for scraps. Then, we began to reframe the garden palate. As you can see in the final product, we ended up with eight compartments/pockets. Using boards from the other palate, we framed up each compartment to be two boards deep.
Tip: Use the drill to drill holes through the layers of boards before hammering in the nails. The nails will go in much smoother and the boards won’t split.
Step Two: Seal ‘Em Up
Once the frame was ready, we sawed more boards to fit as the bottoms of each of the compartments and used very small nails to carefully nail them in place.
Tip: One very important thing was making sure there was some room between the boards so that when the plants are watered, the water can drain out.
Step Three: Lining the Pockets
Once the palate garden was transferred out onto my balcony, it was time to line the pockets and plant the herbs!
I lined each pocket with the kind of mesh normally used in hanging potted plants. It was so easy to cut with a pair of scissors!
Tip: Line the bottom of pockets or flower pots with mesh or rocks to help water drain and roots breath.
Step Four: Plant and Water the Herbs
Lastly, I put on my gloves and filled each pocket, almost to the brim, with potting soil. Then, I gently scooped each herb out of their plastic pots and nestled them into their new home. Finally, I watered all of them generously, admired the finished product, and smiled.
From the Top Down (like reading):
- Assorted Succulents
- Italian Parsley
- German Thyme
- Spicy Oregano
- Sweet Mint
Using my palate garden has been wonderful. With an afternoon of DIY effort, my dad and I made a fun memory together and I’ll have months of fresh herbs for my meals.
Education doesn’t mean you have to stop indulging or celebrating. It doesn’t mean you have to stop eating meat, eat completely organic, or start a body building regimen. All of these things are separate entities. By all means if you decide, after doing ample research, it will improve your health to live a vegan lifestyle or begin a strict exercise routine, you should do that!
All it really takes is a little bit of mindfulness about what’s going in our mouths on a daily basis and you’ll be amazed at the huge difference it truly makes.
Pollan, Michael. The Omnivore’s Dilemma. New York: Penguin Group, 2006. Print.
Weil, Andrew, M.D. Natural Health, Natural Medicine: The Complete Guide to Wellness and Self-care for Optimum Health. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 2004. Print.