Baking and Cooking in the Garden
By Kurt M. Jones, Chaffee County Extension Director
I was at a conference recently and was visiting with some colleagues from across the Western United States. The conversation came around to how baking, cooking and gardening all relate to one another. It was an interesting analogy that I will attempt to recreate for you here.
If you think about it for a while, you realize that for many of us, Baking is a prescriptive activity. You find a recipe that you like, maybe tweak it for high altitude adjustment, but then you follow the directions and let the science of chemistry and physics turn into delectable treats. Gardening has similar attributes. You pick plants that will work in our growing environment, arrange them according to their irrigation needs (what we call “hydrozoning”), and provide plant care including proper irrigation, proper plant nutrition to minimize stress, and Integrated Pest Management (IPM) techniques when problems appear. Even our current Master Gardener textbook is entitled The Science of Gardening, and employs many of these concepts for those students.
I have to admit, I may be addicted to cooking shows. I find it fun to see cooks sweat it out when presented with a basket of mystery ingredients and they need to create a meal from unusual ingredients. They are judged on taste, creativity in how they use the basket ingredients, and cooking technique. In other words, they are skilled in the art of cooking based on their understanding of the base ingredients and cooking techniques.
Gardening definitely has an artistic component as well. Landscape Architects utilize design concepts such as line, color, texture, form, unity, scale, balance, simplicity, variety, emphasis and sequence when creating themes for the outdoor “rooms” they create. They create rooms by considering the plants that make up the floor, walls, and ceilings in the outdoor spaces based on a family’s desires for that space, and the potential of the site where the landscape will be located. Plant selection and placement in the landscape is much more about its “fit” into the total picture, rather than the “pick and plunk” method that many of us employ.
Much like how the creative cook utilizes different spices and herbs to elicit different sensations on the palate, the artistic gardener utilizes plant materials and other garden elements to create different emotions for those who experience it. Understanding the science behind how to grow appropriate plants successfully and keep them healthy is much like the baker who utilizes the science to create delicacies which compliment the gourmet meal.
It is about time for lunch, so here ends the analogy between baking, cooking and gardening. Happy Gardening, Cooking and Baking!