At Petraia we work with Maria Thun’s biodynamic planting calendar and our sewing, harvesting, pruning and trimming is governed by the different lunar and planetary cycles that affect plant growth. Each month there are different days, and in some cases different hours of the day propicious for planting or harvesting fruit, flowers, leaves or roots. In the orto we select the day to plant our vegetable seeds based on what part of the plant we intend to harvest. Zucchini, for instance, get planted twice. Some go in the ground on fruit days to yield the most perfect and bountiful zucchini fruit. The rest we plant on flower days to ensure a healthy crop of beautiful male flowers for stuffing and frying. The same principle applies to herbs like coriander and cumin where we use not just the leaves, but also the flowers and the seeds.
Planetary cycles dictate the time of day our harvest occurs and even when certain things are best tasted. This may sound complicated, but it really is quite instinctual once you get accustomed to it and the results we’ve achieved speak for themselves. Take root vegetables for instance, something that were always a challenge to grow for us until we began using the biodynamic calendar. Petraia means “place of stone” in Italian and we do have extremely rocky soil. The root vegetables we grew always tended to be oddly shaped if not completely distorted. But several years ago we started planting them only on root days and ever since we’ve been producing perfect carrots, radishes, potatoes, parsnip, turnips and beets.
HOW TO EAT A PLANT: THE RULES
Planning our menus I use the calendar for inspiration and think not just about the type of vegetables we grow but also about what part of them we’ll be using and in what proportion. Here are the rules I use to produce meals that are naturally balanced, delicious and beautiful to look at. The way I think about it, what is good for the plant is probably good for us too. If you scroll down you will find a recipe applying these rules, one you can use to make a different soup every day for the rest of time…
Don’t eat too many because if you take the root you’ve lost the plant.
Fill your plate, but leave lots for the plant too or there will be no flowers.
Use a few for color and garnish but be parsimonious or the plant won’t bear fruit. Take the male flowers only from squash, cucumbers and zucchini.
Eat as much as you want but save the seeds.
Seeds are how the plant procreates. 80% for you 20% for the plant.
Take one , leave one , take one, leave one. Thin the row to help the plants grow.
This week we finished our most important transplanting time of the year and now almost all the seedlings from our greenhouse are nicely settled into their permanent home in our orto. Spring has arrived early this year and already we have asparagus, baby fave beans, tons of lettuces and chicory, beets, spinach, carrots and arugula plus lots of fresh herbs.
- 1 tablespoon of olive oil or butter
- lots of leaves (I used 300 grams lettuce or mesclun leaves plus a handful of lovage leaves, some fava leaves and a few leaves of green garlic or garlic scapes)
- half a root (I used peeled and diced potato)
- some fruit (half a zucchini for instance)
- a teaspoon of sugar
- 1 litre of vegetable stock or water
- a few seeds (I used ¼ cup shelled new baby peas and fava beans)
- a few seedlings and flowers for garnish (I used rosemary and fava leaves and flowers as well as radish sprouts)
- ½ cup of crème fraîche
- salt to taste
- In a large sauce pan wilt the leaves briefly in the butter before adding the potato, zucchini, sugar and stock. Cook until the potatoes and zucchini are tender. In the meantime, blanch the peas and fave beans and reserve. Add half the crème fraîche to the sauce pan and puree the soup with a hand blender. Season to taste. Ladle into serving bowls and garnish with the peas, fave, remaining crème fraîche, seedlings and flowers.
- We don't have any edible fruit yet so I omitted the zucchini in this recipe.
- I also used lovage oil to garnish the soup. Lovage leaves blended into grape seed oil and strained is a staple herbal oil in my kitchen at this time of year.
- This soup turns into a delicious but decadent main course with a piece of crispy deep fried pork belly placed in the centre.
- Sometimes,instead of the cream I whisk a whole egg into each serving before I plate it.
- On a hot day try serving the soup chilled.