18 Jun GABBING ABOUT GARDENING WITH SARAH HEARD
Sarah Heard is The Sentinel’s beloved garden consultant. With her amazing team, she oversees all of our landscaping, including our abundant food garden. We chatted about what’s in season, her favourite farm-to-table dishes, and how mycelium & regenerative farming are the way of the future.
By Lina Konovalov
Lina: Hey Sarah! How are you today?
Sarah: Good! I’m here at The Sentinel and it’s a beautiful day.
Lina: How long have you been doing gardening work for The Sentinel?
Sarah: I just started this year. I’m balancing the garden here and a full-time job, as well as my own garden and kids! I work as the consultant here, and there’s volunteers that do the actual grunt work.
Lina: I was a tree planter, so I’m familiar with grunt work. It’s definitely hard being in the sun all day, bent over, covered in dirt. What do you do to relax?
Sarah: Well, like I said, I have a lot of help around here. However, I choose my times to garden. I do most of my gardening in small blocks, because I do find it pretty exhausting. I garden for a few hours, and change activities, because it’s really hard work.
Lina: Luckily The Sentinel is the perfect place to relax and take a break.
Sarah: Yeah, my son and I had a great evening here the other weekend. We did an hour of planting, then had a swim in the lake!
Lina: I miss Kootenay Lake so much! So, can you tell us a little bit about what’s growing at the Sentinel?
Sarah: We have lots growing in the food garden. We have greens and peas, and the strawberries are coming on full right now. Beans, beets, squash and garlic are all planted. We’ve also done a lot of flower cutting planting this year. I’ve tried to create enough flowers so that the people who work and live here can cut bouquets for the rooms. In this kind of environment, flowers are just as important as vegetables, because people need to feed their souls as much as their bodies. I’ve also just started some herb gardens. Hopefully by fall, we’ll be harvesting. Last week I planted sacred tobacco. Instead of using produced tobacco, we can use real tobacco from our own garden as offerings.
Lina: That’s wonderful and really relevant to the work we are doing as a medicine retreat. Why not make our offerings as best quality and local as possible?
Sarah: Exactly, and the tobacco industry is not something we want to support.
Lina: Sacred tobacco is such a beautiful ancient practice that has unfortunately been bastardized by the west. It’s a great practice to revitalize. So, in terms of the food garden, do you plant your vegetables with a menu in mind?
Sarah: This year we’ve just planted our favourite things, and hopefully as things are coming up the cooks will have a look and plan around that. I know that it would be a big objective to try and produce as much food as The Sentinel needs, so now we augment the menu with what comes from the garden.
Lina: We’re really blessed to have very skilled cooks who know how to get creative with what is offered to them.
Sarah: I did plan to create a culinary palette that was very eclectic. So instead of planting just carrots, we planted rainbow carrots, and rainbow swiss chard, and things that will bring colour and interest to the plate.
Lina: Also food that is balanced! This is especially important when people are coming to eat after doing transformational work. They really need to be nourished in a whole way.
Sarah: In the future we are starting to look at cultivating our own mushrooms, which will bring that deeper plant medicine work. I think mycelium is really the way of the future as far as nutrition is concerned. We’re going to find out that eating local mushrooms is the best way to nourish our bodies. We have some very talented mushroom growers in Kaslo, and I think those contributions of mycelium as a food staple should not be overlooked. While there is a loveliness in foraging for our own mushrooms, it does become problematic when we are taking food from the natural system relying on it. People are harvesting to the point that there is none left. If we really value and want those treats from the forest, we should be propagating them for our own use.
Lina: Like regenerative agriculture, right? It’s a very sustainable way forward.
Sarah: Right! Robin, a mushroom grower from Kaslo, grew mushrooms on some of our local hiking trails, his point being that we can use common places like hiking trails for agriculture! It’s a very simple idea, but so radical!
Lina: We’re going to need these radical ideas with everything we’re facing today, such as food insecurity and climate change. We will need those out-of-the box thinkers like you and Robin to save us from ourselves! Back to food – do you have a favourite farm-to-table dish?
Sarah: I have been making this beautiful quinoa salad these days. It consists of a beet salad from frozen beets and broccoli that came from my garden last year. I make the quinoa, chop up onions, add the beets and broccoli and then sprinkle it with feta. I have a balsamic vinegar glaze I put over top of it. It’s yum! At this time of year, we’re scrambling to use everything in our freezers, so we have it empty for more food to be put in.
Lina: What is in season currently?
Sarah: Greens, rhubarb, radishes. We don’t even have peas that have flowered yet. In comparison to where you’re living, we’re probably 3-4 weeks behind. But coming soon to a plate near you!
Lina: Do you have any other gardening or harvesting tips to share with our readers?
Sarah: Interestingly, I’ve been forest harvesting some morels these days. We pick from our friends’ that encourage regrowth, so I feel good about that. We also harvested a lot of nettle, so we’ve been having nettle soup! Nettles grow in your back alley and are so good for you! The other beautiful thing I did with my friend is harvested dandelion petals. She’s Czechoslovakian, and her family always made petal syrup. You take out all the green parts, and cover it in sugar and cook it up and then reduce it. It makes this sweet yellow syrup. I’d never had it before, but she has a deep history with that. It’s beautiful and so good for you.
Lina: My roommate and I made a nettle pesto the other day. It was so delicious. How do you think our garden will fare this season?
Sarah: We had a really weird bump in the weather in June. It was really hot, then really cold, then on-and-off for a few weeks. It was a struggle. We lost a few things. It made the springtime plant challenging for everybody! My finding, though, is that things can be rocky in that first little bit, but everything catches up as soon as it is warm enough. We just have to keep our eyes open and backseed what we need to, and do some succession planting. I think everything will fare well. It’s looking good right now.
Lina: Of course it will, because the land at The Sentinel is blessed and imbibes everything that grows and lives here with magic!
Sarah: We have a great team, too. We’re working hard at communication, and that is super important. Tyson and Jamie are the backbone of all the work that is going on.
Lina: Big kudos to you and your whole team! Can’t wait to see the garden, and most of all, to taste it!