September 23, 2020
Joy and serenity. That’s how Meredith Thomas uplifts my life within moments.
On a delightfully cool, misty morning in October 2019, she invited the CTG team to ease our cedar pollen-impacted raspy throats with both Meyer lemon and loquat tea. Both were yummy!
Her organic garden philosophy hasn’t changed since we first visited her and husband’s Walter Stroup Jr.’s Allendale home in 2012.
What’s changed, of course, are some designs and plants, along with a diagnosis with two autoimmune disorders. Meredith explains, “I was told that they were progressive and incurable. And that I needed to take certain pills. I lost my energy. I lost my vitality. So, I started looking for healers and healing things. And that included plants. I was already fermenting, but I went more deeply into the healing qualities of various plants. And I’m happy to report that now, I no longer have the disorders in my system.”
Back when we first met her, she’d dumped lawn for pea gravel and raised beds to grow organic, healthy food for her children. She hauled scavenges from wood to stones and built her soil with compost, an on-going process.
This time in mid-October, director Ed Fuentes and grip Steve Maedl met summer’s burgundy amaranth and sunny cowpen daisies, shading newly sprouted winter herbs like arugula and cilantro along with upcoming vegetables.
Meredith’s intimate garden connection means that she thanks every plant as she picks it and brings it to the kitchen. That morning, she’d topped cooking rice with freshly plucked fig leaves. “They perfume with the most amazing, complex smell. It’s like vanilla and spicy. I also make tea from fig leaves,” she told us.
Every plant multitasks, including evergreen, fruiting loquat and winter-deciduous flowering passion vine used as fence screening diversions. She decocts leaves of both for teas; passion vine’s leaves make a calming bedtime tea.
She’s learned to forage wisely with respect for the wild foods that some consider weeds, like dock, cleavers, and chickweed. When they show up, she doesn’t banish them from orchestrated beds: she eats them!
A favorite is self-seeding lambsquarters, including Chenopodium giganteum ‘Magenta Spreen,’ a delicious summertime spinach-tasting green for sun to part shade, drought to deluge.
Meredith harvests from the front yard, too, where she invites neighbors to share. Pollinators and birds also welcome her neighborly food forest since she changed the curb side appeal (amended since last year’s CTG visit).
Along with fruit trees in a miniature front yard orchard, she tries new understory plants like Jerusalem artichokes (sunchokes). Summertime flowers attract pollinators. The tubers can be harvested and eaten fresh, roasted, boiled, or steamed.
She frames the front door with a fig tree and hardy Mexican herb papalo that adds an aromatic, strong flavor to summer salads.
On the other side, she added healthful Moringa, native to India.
When I first met Meredith, she’d gotten into fermenting. Since the house is small, eventually she built a dedicated fermenting space.
Harvests from the garden make it into fragrant, white vinegar-based cleaners, fermented foods of all kinds, tinctures, and bitters.
The past few months have encouraged many first-time gardeners to discover the satisfactory process of growing plants. Meredith sums it up perfectly: “It’s that energy of the plant and it’s the engagement with the plant that for me has been a great healer. Not just from what I’ve ingested but being in contact with them.”
Follow Meredith on Facebook and Instagram.
Many thanks to Freejay MacLoud for providing his music.
Watch Meredith’s story now!
Thank you for stopping by! See you next week, Linda