Saturday, May 15, 2010

Lawn to Food and a Spinach Salad

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OK, so I’m not reinventing the wheel here with this spinach salad, but I just had to show you how one person can make a difference in healthier eating, not just in her own family, but in a whole community. Several years ago, my friend Dorothy knew nothing about organic gardening but that changed after she read a library book on the subject. She put that knowledge to practice and has cultivated the most prolific garden in her sunny front yard for at least six or seven years now. She generously encourages neighbors to pick some of the vegetables, herbs and flowers and even provides them with scissors to do it.

Look how big this swiss chard is already – and this photo was taken nearly a week ago in central New Jersey!

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A few years ago Dorothy took her knowledge to the local schools and created gardens right on the school grounds for children to learn where vegetables really come from and to encourage healthier eating. It’s only early May and already the plants are way ahead of my backyard garden. Lettuces, spinach, arugula are ready to pick. Chives are in full flower. Radishes are ready for harvest and lots of herbs too.

The mint at the school grows in abundance, and is used by the owners of The Bent Spoon ice cream shop in town, who churn most of the profits from their mint chocolate chip ice cream back to the school gardening project. It’s a win-win situation for everybody, especially those of us who love The Bent Spoon’s ice cream.

May 2010 209 But Dorothy’s gifts don’t stop with the gardens. I wrote about her in the early days of my blog before I had many readers, so it’s worth repeating myself now. Dorothy is a holistic health care practitioner, and also can take credit for helping people with addictions of any kind - cigarettes, alcohol, food - move past them and live a healthier life. Through a program called Suppers For Sobriety that she conceived while working on her masters degree in counseling, members can learn how to move past their addiction and turn around years of damage to the body and spirit. It all starts out one supper at a time. According to the website,, the format includes preparation of a simple, stability-promoting meal, a brief meditation or stress management exercise, time to share, and the Suppers forum, which involves readings of materials that may help people in recovery find the help they need. Some meetings also include outdoor walks or cooking lessons.
The only requirement for membership is the desire to lead a healthier life in body, mind and spirit, Dorothy says. "If you can make a pot of coffee, you can make a pot of soup."

This year I’ve have seen lots of people’s front yards with raised garden beds and “Lawn To Food” signs inside them. If you want to learn more about how to grow your own food, go to the “Lawn To Food” website for lots of information on planting a garden.

But before you do that, have a look at the gardens, both in Dorothy’s yard and at one of the schools.

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Strawberries almost ready to pick:

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Beautiful red leaf lettuce and bibb lettuce:

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Flowers too – like these pretty roses.

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and beautiful irises

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And this beautiful chive flower that isn’t usually considered as a cut flower:

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And a bunch of them makes a lovely bouquet.

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Thanks Dorothy for the great baby lettuces I’ve been enjoying this week, the spinach too, and the chive flower bouquet.

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Spinach Salad

Printable Recipe Here

(I don’t like the traditional hot bacon dressing used on spinach salads. I just use a simple vinaigrette, so that’s what I’m giving you here.)

Wash fresh spinach and spin dry. Hard boil an egg, chill and peel. Cut the egg into quarters.

Wash and slice fresh mushrooms. Slice part of a red onion. Put the spinach, onion and sliced mushrooms into a salad bowl and toss with salad dressing. Reserve some of the dressing to pour over the egg. Arrange on a plate or salad bowl and nestle sliced egg around greens. Top with shavings of parmesan cheese and freshly ground black pepper.

Salad Dressing:

3 parts olive oil

1 part vinegar (red wine vinegar is what I used here)

a small dab of Dijon mustard

a small drizzle of honey

salt, pepper

Whisk everything together in a small container (or shake in a jar) and pour over salad.


  1. Dorothy is an inspiration, Linda, and so are you. What a fabulous project, Lawn to Food — what a better place the world would be if we all did that. Those raised beds are amazing! She sounds like an angel, sharing what she grows and helping others. Thanks for sharing these great photos and passing on such important information.

  2. this is such an inspirational post and the sobriety suppers program really is a great great idea....I am going to follow up on this a little more

  3. Wonderful post! I am also seeing more and more front yard gardens around the Jersey Shore...a few in Rumson and Fair Haven. We were considering putting in tomato plants in front this year. With a community garden plot and a backyard garden, although the temptation is there, the time may not be. I believe the NY Times had an article this week about corporate gardens as a perk for its workers. Such an interesting topic. Thanks for the recipe..I plan to make a spinach salad tonight.

  4. Bellissimo reportage, le rose e gli iris sono firiti nel mio piccolo giardino, le fragole sono appena fiorite. Complimenti per la ricetta. Buona domenica Daniela.

  5. I just love much more useful than a lawn. Unfortunately I would have to have an 8 foot fence around any veggie garden I have to keep the critters out....especially the deer that call my property home.
    I do plant some veggies in containers on my deck...I just love this wonderful project...outstanding!

  6. Dorothy was certainly way ahead of the curve with this movement - Jamie Oliver should hook up with her. Love the taking it to the schools. We are way behind in harvesting anything - but the herbs went in today and this week the vegetables will finally go in. The chard is amazing! Lawn to food should not be a luxury. And I love the spinach salad dressing - no hot, sweet stuff on my spinach!

  7. Another wonderful blog and what a spectacular garden your friend Dorothy has grown. What a lot of work, just to build it and all that soil mixing and lifting... just to get it started. A true labour of love.

    I love your spinach salad without the bacon dressing also. I don't even know how to make that dressing. Yours is best.

  8. There is nothing like fresh NJ produce to liven up our meals. I love gardening and growing my own lettuces and herbs, it makes cooking so much better.
    Can't wait for tomato season!

  9. Down with lawns. Up with vegetable gardens. This is a great post. thank you Linda!

  10. Che idea meravigliosa ! Here there are too many cars around but not too far they are making a little orchard with schools too !! Have a nice day

  11. tu hai visto quanto anche a me piacciano i fiori e le foto fatte in giardino o nell'orto: le tue sono davvero bellissime e sembra quasi di sentire il profumo!! Anche l'insalata è davvero appetitosa e ora che è arrivato il sole viene voglia proprio di assaggiarla! Un bacione e buona domenica

  12. Good for Dorothy! She certainly proves the difference that one person can make. Oh, how I wish she were my neighbor! The fresh produce looks just gorgeous!

  13. Hi Linda,

    Dorothy's work get's be excited about my class that starts this week! I'll be attending an organic farming class for nearly three months. The scary past is I can't properly plant anything to save my life!

    Hopefully there is hope for me.


  14. What a gorgeous salad. Your post is especially inspirational today. Your raised beds are just fantastic. I hope you are having a great day. Blessings...Mary

  15. I love her generousity encouraging neighbors to pick her vegetables and the fact shes inspiring the kids at the local schools and those in need. She should be featured on the news show, "Someone You Should Know"! How great to have a neighbor like Dorothy!

  16. What a joy to just head into your garden to grab a lunch. Make my spinach salad with some crispy bacon.

  17. Gorgeous vegetable garden, a dream of mine. Take me on tour Linda ...

  18. Linda, thanks for following my travels. It's good to be home and to be able to check in with you. These gardens make me jealous!

    I love the school garden project. What a gift to give the kids--understanding food.

    Wonderful post.

  19. Queste foto sono incantevoli, adoro i fiori e i prodotti che la natura ci offre e naturalmente, mi piace anche l'insalata!
    P.S. Ti seguo su facebook con molto piacere!

  20. Dorothy is very inspirational! Thank you for re-telling her story, Linda.

    I agree that we would all be healthier if we had less useless lawns and more organically grown vegetables growing in their place in our neighborhoods. Even Michelle Obama converted some of the White House lawn to a vegetable garden that local school children volunteer time to work in so that they learn about gardening.

  21. Dorothy sounds like one awesome lady.

    Ooh, those chive flowers are fabulous.

    Great post Linda!