Helen Chesnut: Mother’s Day evokes memories from the garden

Mother’s Day inevitably evokes family memories. I’ve been thinking of the things my small children and I did together, and the life skills I attempted to impart. Ones that come to mind are cooking, house cleaning, sewing and gardening.

During the summer holidays, I spent weekday mornings in the garden with my two, weeding, planting, harvesting, shelling peas and so on. During the school year, they took turns getting up early to cook breakfast with me. A favourite was crêpes with a filling made of garden fruit or berries. Another was a giant clafouti-like pancake baked in an iron frying pan and served with fruit sauces.

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On Saturday mornings, we cleaned the house. In the weeks before Christmas, we sewed simple gifts for friends and visiting cousins.

Christopher remains ardently enamoured of the cooking, gardening and sewing. His apartment complex in East Vancouver has a large communal garden where he spends as much time as he can. His sewing projects have been many. The cosy quilted vest I wear over sweaters for cold weather gardening is his creation.

His work is cooking. Pakoras are his specialty, though he has come to enjoy making pies after taking a course in pie making from a friend who is a professional baker.

On our last visit, we made a quick batch of his vegetable pakoras. He had brought with him a bag of fine chickpea flour blended with Indian spices. We used what I had on hand, mainly onions, carrots and kale from the garden, to slice for this vegan treat, though almost any vegetable can be used. Onion is exceptionally delicious as it crisps up in the cooking. Sweet potato, cauliflower and shitake mushrooms are more of my son’s favourite ingredients.

Chris mixed the spiced flour with enough water to create a pancake- or crêpe-batter consistency, then blended in the vegetables until everything was evenly coated, Any uncoated bits will cause the oil to spit. Using as little batter as possible to coat the vegetables results in a minimally oily finished product.

We heated the oil I had on hand, grapeseed oil, in a large wok, until a small amount of the batter lowered into the oil came immediately back up to the surface. Chris used tongs to lift out a portion of the battered vegetable mix for cooking, a few at a time. Once they were crisp, he lifted them out onto paper towelling and dusted them with salt.

The pakoras made a delightful meal with dipping sauces Chris had brought. Leftovers that I froze were a hit at a pot luck gathering at my house soon afterward.



Rhododendron sale. The Victoria Rhododendron Society will hold a plant sale that will include unusual and species rhododendrons as well as companion plants on Sunday, 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. at 4640 Cordova Bay Rd. in Saanich.

Garden tour. I’m looking forward to meeting and chatting with people at the 25th annual Cowichan Family Life Garden Tour on Sunday, 10 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. The self-guided tour of six beautiful Cowichan Valley gardens will feature helpful Master Gardeners at each site and a Genoa Bay Road garden with music and art to enjoy as well as a garden tea catered by the VIU Culinary Program. That’s where I’ll be, from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Tickets are available at numerous outlets, listed at cowichanfamilylife.org. Cost of $25 includes refreshments at the tea garden. Proceeds support the counselling and other services offered by the Cowichan Family Life Association in Duncan.


Floral art. The Victoria Floral Artists Guild will meet on Tuesday, from 7 to 9 p.m. in the Garth Homer Centre, 813 Darwin Ave. Linda Petch will present Art in The Garden and Joel Fair will lead a Little Black Boxes workshop. Both presentations are early salutes to the 25th annual Art in The Gardens event at the Horticulture Centre of the Pacific in August. Guest fee of $5 can be applied to membership.


Qualicum meeting. The Qualicum Beach Garden Club will meet on Tuesday, at 7:30 p.m. in the Q.B. Civic Centre, 747 Jones St. Doors open at 7. Linda Gilkeson, teacher and author, will present Pest Control in the Spring. Linda gives year round workshops on organic gardening and pest management.


Entries invited. The Mill Bay Garden Club is inviting entries in the flower, fruit and vegetable competitions at their Flower and Garden Show on May 25. Find information and entry forms at millbaygardenclub.com or email millbaygardenshow@gmail.com.

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