Below is an excerpt from my book Gardening Nude. It features a lovely couple, Susan and Larry Kasprowicz and their story about front lawn vegetable gardening, plus an awesome recipe for salsa concentrate which is delicious.
One of the most inspiring “naked action’s” I learned about was done by a lovely couple, Susan and Larry Kasprowicz. Their actions touched me profoundly in their desire to improve both their physical and nutrition-based health. Both Susan and Larry understand that being healthier involves more than belonging to a health club. It involves participation in the community and in the greater world. Planting a fruit and vegetable garden is a healthy way to relieve stress and eat well. It is also healthy for the environment. It is much better to grow or buy ‘local’ produce rather than waste all the resources it takes to ship our food from far- away places.
Susan and Larry have been married for 25 years. They live in an older home in a small suburban community near Chicago, Illinois. Their backyard vegetable garden suffered when expansive maple trees totally covered the area with shade. Both Susan and Larry, avid vegetable gardeners, were perplexed when their garden produced smaller and smaller vegetables, and sometimes no vegetables. Shade was the problem. Not willing to cut down the maple trees, Susan decided to relocate their vegetable garden to the front yard.
Yes, I know, the front yard is traditionally a place for more formal gardening. Susan and Larry’s garden is far from boring! Even though It is filled with vegetables, the garden is beautiful, creative, well organized, and decorative. This is a fun and relaxing spot to experience a nice afternoon. They took a risk and created an inspiring and beautiful space for all to share because of Larry’s health issues.
Larry is a remarkable survivor. He has Type II diabetes and has survived colon cancer, so eating nutritionally is very important for him. However, that is not
all that ails Larry. He has interstitial lung disease, sometimes called fibrocystic lung disease, complicated by emphysema, as well as congestive heart failure (CHF) and atrial fibrillation. Atria fibrillation means Larry was born with a hole in his heart. By the time he was diagnosed, he was in his 60s. Attempts to repair it were not successful. CHF is a byproduct of that experience because his lungs and heart have trouble working together.
Obviously, Larry’s health is not what it used to be and he needs the physical and emotional therapy of planting a garden. Susan and Larry know that having daily exposure to nature makes a big difference for Larry, and therefore he is able to make a difference for the world. He is able to keep active and busy so he can keep his heart and lungs functioning well. Working in the garden also gives him the healthful benefits of outdoor activity, like increased levels of energy from serotonin exposure and regular exercise.
Visiting with Susan and Larry in their garden was so inspirational. Susan dotes on Larry, who has to carry a small oxygen container with him wherever he goes. Together they laugh, they create beautiful masterpieces, and they work to keep Larry’s health in a better place. Together, in their garden, they are whole as they dig in the dirt and are in touch with the Earth. This is a place to share and be meditative, to enjoy the friendship and love they have for each other. And it is healthy—they are “gardening nude”.
During the off-season, Larry continues to stay active. He starts seeds for his garden in the heated garage under special grow-lights. Susan helps, but is guided by Larry’s advice and direction. Susan says, “About 75 percent of what we grow starts out in the garage. In spring, the plants are moved in and out with the weather to harden them off. That keeps Larry busy from March through early May, and he’s always proud of the results. Occasionally, we set out early tomatoes on St. Patrick’s Day and surround them with water-filled tepees to extend the growing season.”
Susan walked me through her attractive garden and pointed out the bounty. Tons of tomato varieties—Roma, Celebrity, Early Girl, Black Plum, Park’s Whopper, Heirloom Polish and Heirloom Pineapple Tomatoes. They are tasty; I tried as many varieties as I could. Delicious! Incredible! Fantastic! I’m particularly fond of their heirloom Polish tomatoes. The tomato is firm with a red-pink hue and the flavor is an explosion of juicy sweetness.
They also grow jalapenos, serrano peppers, cucumber, rhubarb, basil as well as a large variety of perennial flowers including datura “Moonflower”, sedum, echinacia, hydrangea, butterfly bush, hibiscus, Russian sage, porcupine grass and buffalo grass. They dry, can, and utilize every inch of their garden for the off season. For example, Susan prepares an incredibly healthy Salsa Concentrate made of olive oil, peppers and garlic which she mixes in many dishes year ‘round.
Susan and Larry grow much more than they can consume, and they enjoy sharing their bountiful garden produce—both vegetables and flowers—with their neighbors.
Planting a garden in your front yard can be a health solution for many people. The physical activity, daylight exposure, and ability to produce your own organic food are big benefits. If you do not have the perfect location for a garden, follow Susan’s determined example to help improve Larry’s health and build a garden wherever you possibly can. Be creative, like Susan and Larry, build an incredible vegetable garden in your front yard or on your easement property. If you do not have the space, mix a tomato or two in with your perennial beds or plant a vegetable pot on your balcony. Many communities have public garden areas for your utilization. Call your local city office and ask about renting a plot.
Build a garden in an interesting and unusual space and brighten up your community. What’s important is that you get up, get off that couch, and get outside into the natural environment for better health. You can do it!!!
Susan’s Famous Healthy Salsa Concentrate
A healthy, vitamin-filled, concentrate Susan Kasprowicz says is easy to make!
• Jalapenos, serranos, or any combination of flavorful chiles to equal 2.5 pounds
• Purified or bottled water (no hard or softened water please)
• Twenty large garlic cloves, peeled
• Kosher or Pickling Salt (no iodized)
De-stem and wash chiles, but leave whole. Place in a stainless steel pan with water just to cover. Bring to a boil and cook about 15 minutes, until chiles are tender. Cool in the water; drain the liquid, but reserve it.
Using the “pulse” function on a food processor or blender, process the whole chiles and peeled garlic until well chopped.
Add pickling or kosher salt to taste (at least a half-teaspoon, for its preservative properties), and stir in reserved chile water to make the consistency of jam.
Store in glass or plastic containers and refrigerate or freeze.
Susan recommends –
Double the recipe if you like. She says it keeps a long time in the refrigerator, but freezing is fine as well.
Susan sometimes freezes ice trays half full of the concentrate and keeps the cubes in a plastic bag to add to soups and stews.
She also adds the concentrate to canned tomatoes, chopped onion, cilantro, and lime juice to make table salsa. You can cook it using canned tomatoes, onion, cider vinegar, and sugar to make a picante; add it to salad dressings and sauces; or make a salsa verde with onions and tomatillos.
The possibilities are endless!
Today’s post is a reprint from my green lifestyle guide book “Gardening Nude”, this particular feature is found in “Chapter 5: Examples From Real Life.” You can order my book on Amazon if you are interested in learning more about living a green lifestyle and other people who have changed their lives for the positive.