Our New Make-at-Home Kits 

Turn your kitchen into a professional bakery with our new make-at-home kits.

One silver lining of the quarantine is the perfect environment it has created for a surge in home cooking, bread making, and baking. Stores have been running short of flour and yeast. Newly minted bakers proudly fill their Instagram feeds with drool-worthy photos of crackly sourdough loaves, glistening muffins, and elegant cakes.

But not everyone has the skills or time to produce pastry-chef quality loaves and pastries. A month ago, to help those who wanted to bake professional-grade loaves, we created a kit for an organic whole wheat loaf. The response has been overwhelmingly favorable. Some people make them with their kids; others have sent beautiful photos of their masterpieces. And many have requested kits for more items.

So we’ve come up with three more make-at-home kits for some of our café favorites: Fresh Fruit Gluten-Free Muffins, Fresh Fruit Coffee Cake and Squash Harvest Bread.

Each kit comes with baking molds (or muffin liners), with all dry ingredients pre-measured and ready to go, and easy-to-follow instructions. You choose your favorite seasonal fruits and supply common wet ingredients like milk, butter, and eggs.

We love to see you in our cafés, but during these coronavirus times, we understand the desire to stay at home. The smell of your favorite breakfast treats baking might even drag your teenagers out of bed early. Enjoy!

Fresh Fruit Gluten-Free Muffin Kit

We started offering these in the cafés about five years ago, and even wheat lovers have become devotees. Our gluten-free dry mix takes the guesswork out of baking. Choose your favorite seasonal fruits, and we’ll help turn your kitchen into a high-end bakery.

Fresh Fruit Coffee Cake Kit

This coffee cake is one of our most requested recipes. The natural sweetness of the fruit permeates the cake and keeps it moist. Choose your favorite seasonal fruits, and we provide nearly everything else, including the baking molds.

Squash Harvest Bread Kit

Our most popular breakfast bread has been on our menu since the day we opened in 1993. The list of ingredients is long, but our kit includes most of them pre-measured and ready to go. You provide the wet ingredients; we do the rest.

The coronavirus has created the perfect environment for a surge in bread-baking. People suddenly have time around the house to do fiddly things they wouldn’t normally, like proofing yeast and monitoring rising dough. Some are looking for a fulfilling hobby, or for sustenance for their families, or just something to do with the home-schooled kids that’s not another video game. Measuring, kneading and shaping dough can be a balm for the anxiety that has accompanied the virus. And some people, faced with the prospect of the conveniences of modern life being upended, are feeling the need to be self-reliant, even in small ways.

Project Barnstorm: Leslie Mackie’s Fruit Spreads 

When I started Macrina Bakery, I had every intention of making homemade fruit spread for our pastries but simply got too busy. Instead, I found an excellent freezer jam made from local berries. I’d been making jam and fruit spread ever since I was in my early twenties. My mother taught me how. Every year, in berry season, she’d get as many of those mouth-watering native strawberries, raspberries and blueberries and set about making jam, fruit spread, and conserves. Most of her jam was freezer jam, but I took to sealing it in jars since it keeps longer and you can store it in the larder.

Now all these years later, I’m finally starting to make fruit spread in quantities large enough I can sell some commercially. The fruit spread business is called Project Barnstorm. Most of the spreads are made from fruit grown on my Vashon Island farm such as Concorde grapes, blackberries and Montgomery cherries. I’m also making apricot, raspberry and blueberry spreads with fruit from a local organic farm.

Project Barnstorm is a celebration of the seasons. By picking the fruit at its peak, or buying it straight from some of the best local farmers, the fruit spreads capture the natural essence of the fruit. Because fruit spreads have less sugar than jam, the natural sweetness of the ripe fruit shines through.

To get the right consistency, I make all the spreads in small batches and cook the fruit until I’ve reduced its water content enough that it will set with just a little pectin. The ratio of fruit to sugar in my spreads is much higher than commercial jams. A full, fresh fruit flavor is the result. A single spoonful in winter will bring you back to summer, if only for a moment. Fortunately, there is the rest of the jar to enjoy!

The fruits spreads are delicious with our toasted artisan breads but are also a great accompaniment with cheese on our flatbread or crostini. My latest indulgence is a spoonful or two over ice cream in the evenings or yogurt in the morning.

If you haven’t made fruit spreads before, take advantage of Washington’s bountiful blackberry crop starting in late July. Often you can find them, purple and bursting with juice, along roadsides throughout the area. Enjoy!

~ Leslie

Leslie’s Blackberry Jam 

Ingredients:

8 canning jars and lids (6-8 oz in size)

8 cups ripe blackberries

¼ cup fresh lemon juice

1½ cups sugar

3 tsp Pectin (Pomona’s Universal Pectin)

Directions:

Fill a canning pot with water and bring it to a boil. Submerge jars and lids in boiling water to sterilize for 5 minutes. Remove and let dry at room temperature.

Gently rinse off the blackberries and pat dry. In a medium saucepan place the berries and mash with a potato masher. Add the lemon juice and half the sugar (¾ cup). Bring the mixture to a boil and simmer for about 5 minutes. Skim any foam that might form on the surface of the mixture and discard. Combine the remaining sugar with the pectin and whisk into the simmering jam mixture. Simmer for another 2 to 3 minutes. Turn off heat.

Taste the jam for sweetness. You can add a bit more sugar or lemon juice at this point to accommodate for the natural sweetness of your berries (they do vary).

Bring the canning pot water up to a boil again. Ladle the hot jam into the sterilized jars, filling to ¼ inch of the top.

Place the metal top and rim over the jar and tighten rim to seal. Gently place the covered jars into the boiling water. Be sure the water is covering the jar. Boil for 10 to 15 minutes to seal.

Remove the jars from the boiling water and let cool at room temperature. Ensure that all the jars are tightly sealed. A good test is to remove the rings and lift the jar by its lid. If it releases, the seal is no good; refrigerate and use within a month (or freeze for up to 6 months). Well-sealed jars will hold at room temperature for 1 year.

La Spiga: Poetry to the Mouth

Capitol Hill’s beloved Osteria La Spiga, located in the historic Piston & Ring building on 12th Avenue, has been serving exquisite northern Italian cuisine since 1998. As co-founder and host Pietro Borghesi says, “An evening at La Spiga is like dining in Italy—without the plane fare.” 

More than ever now is the time to support black-owned restaurants in Seattle. One of our favorites is La Spiga, located on 12th Avenue in the heart of the thriving Pike/Pine corridor. The restaurant was born of a love story between a young black chef from Fairbanks, Alaska, and a young Italian man, from Emilia-Romagna. They met in Salzburg, Austria. In an interview with Cuisine Noir Magazine, Chef Sabrina Tinsley said, “I’ve always loved Italian food, but when I tasted authentic Italian food for the first time, I was blown away. It’s so different. It’s poetry to the mouth, for sure.” 

In February, Sabrina was one of ten local black chefs invited by two-time James Beard Award-winning-chef Edouardo Jordan to participate in Soul of Seattle, a sold-out fundraiser for organizations that support youth of color. The event was a smashing success, and fun to boot. “We enjoy each other’s company,” Sabrina says. “It’s nice to be in a room of people who look like you, who share the same experience, not only culturally, but in the same industry.” 

At La Spiga business was booming, continuing their steady growth over the years. Then on March 23, Governor Jay Inslee issued the stay-at-home order and whiplash ensued. Sabrina and Pietro Borghesi, her husband and La Spiga’s General Manager, shifted gears and ramped up their takeout menu. Fortunately, La Spiga’s legion of fans, stuck at home, flocked to their website and ordered their favorite housemade pastas like Tagliatelle al Ragu, Lasagne Verdi, Gnocchi al Pomodoro, and chef’s specials such as Pollo Arrosto and Grigliata Mista. 

Now that King County is in Phase 2, La Spiga recently began limited seating in their spacious dining room. But that hasn’t stopped them from developing their takeout menu and an in-house store where you can buy their fresh pastas, sauces, sliced cured meats and cheeses. During the shutdown, they redeveloped their website for ease of customer use. The new system works very well,” says Pietro. “And we’re continuing to expand the takeout menu, adding things designed for a dinner night at home.” 

Pietro and Sabrina are even planning to open a takeout window right onto bustling 12th Avenue. “The front of the restaurant—the whole front—will be retail for those walking by,” Pietro says. “We’ll have piadina grill right out front. People will be able to grab a hot-filled piadina sandwich and much more. “Eventually, they’ll also add retail items such as cheese, cured meats, and olive oils. 

The recently disbanded Capitol Hill Organized Protest, better known as CHOP, took a bite out of their business and left Pietro and Sabrina with conflicted feelings. “The public lynching of George Floyd activated a different audience and has really put people in the street,” Sabrina says. “It hasn’t just been the black population out there. Now’s the time everybody feels called to action.” 

Once after a couple of shootings at CHOP, La Spiga’s newly opened in-house dining fell off steeply. With CHOP cleared, things have picked up again. “I’m really happy when the protests are peaceful,” Sabrina says. “It’s disheartening when you see all the destruction. Especially the killings. Those kinds of actions really detract from the main purpose.” 

While the coronavirus has led to unprecedented challenges for Seattle’s restaurant community, Pietro and Sabrina have discovered a few silver linings—none better than some quiet time at home with their teenage children. They’ve all been eating dinner together, a rarity for most restaurant families. “That’s been precious,” Sabrina says. “This has been hard on our business, but I know that we’ll look back at the extra time together as a beautiful time.” 

July Recipe of the Month: Blueberry Nectarine Pie

One of my pinch-me-I’m-dreaming moments was in 1996 when the incomparable Julia Childs invited me to appear on the seminal food series Baking with Julia. A version of this fruit-filled pie was included in the Baking with Julia cookbook, edited by Dorie Greenspan. Over the years, we’ve tweaked this recipe, always wanting to improve on one of our all-time favorite pies. Throughout the seasons, you should play around with the fruit combinations, using what’s fresh at your local farmers market. This time of year, it’s hard to beat fresh nectarines with plump blueberries!

– Leslie Mackie

Ingredients
Makes one 9-inch pie

1 batch Macrina’s Flaky Pie Dough
2 pints fresh blueberries, rinsed and air-dried
4 ripe nectarines, rinsed and cut into ½-inch wedges
¾ cup + 1 Tbsp granulated sugar, divided
¼ cup light brown sugar
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
1 tsp fresh lemon zest
4 Tbsp unbleached all-purpose flour
1 Tbsp unsalted butter
1 egg beaten with 1 tsp water for egg wash

Directions

Make one batch of Flaky Pie Dough. Keep discs refrigerated until you’re ready to use them.

In a medium bowl, combine the blueberries, nectarine wedges, ¾ cup sugar, brown sugar, vanilla, lemon zest and flour. Toss to coat the fruit with the other ingredients.

On a floured work surface, roll out the larger disc of Flaky Pie Dough so that its diameter is 14 inches and it’s approximately ⅛-inch thick. Fold the flattened disc in half and lift it onto your pie pan. Unfold the disc and gently press it down and around the sides. There should be a 1 to 1 ½-inch overhang for sealing and crimping at the finish.

Pour the fruit filling into the raw pie shell. Use a spoon to press gently on the fruit smoothing the surface so the filling doesn’t have gaps that would settle when baking. Break up the 1 Tbsp of unsalted butter and dot the top of the filling. Paint the rim of the pie dough with egg wash.

On a floured work surface, roll out the smaller disc of Flaky Pie Dough so that its diameter is just under 10 inches and it’s approximately ⅛-inch thick. While it’s flat, cut vents in the disc in a decorative design. We often cut two 2-inch slits (across from each other) and four 1-inch slits to the left and right of the larger slits. Be creative; the main thing is to have steam vents so the crust doesn’t balloon.

Gently fold the disc in half and lift it onto the pie. Unfold it and match the perimeter to the egg-washed rim of the bottom dough. Brush the top of the pie with egg wash, then fold the lower dough’s overhang up around the entire pie.

Once it’s sealed, crimp the edge with a decorative design. You can flatten and use fork tongs for design or use your fingertips to form a waving edge. Again, be creative. Brush the crimped edge with egg wash and sprinkle 1 Tbsp sugar over the top of the pie. Refrigerate the pie for 30 minutes before baking.

Position a rack in the middle of the oven and preheat it to 400°F.

Place the chilled pie on a rimmed baking sheet and bake for 20 minutes, then reduce the temperature to 350°F and bake for another 40 to 45 minutes. The top crust should be golden brown with bubbling fruit juices visible.

Let the pie cool for 90 minutes before serving. Serve it with your favorite ice cream or sweetened whipped cream.

Helping FareStart Feed Hungry Families

Even before the coronavirus hit, too many people in the Seattle area struggled with hunger. Now with record levels of unemployment and disrupted free school lunches for many children, food insecurity is rising. We currently donate food to Marys Place and others, but we wanted to do more. 

When Marcia Sisley-Berger of Callebaut Chocolate, one of our suppliers, reached out to us about collaborating on a food donation to FareStart, we were all in. 

FareStart and Catalyst Kitchen, an initiative established by FareStart, have been producing approximately 350,000 meals a week to help alleviate hunger and food insecurity in our communities. More than 100 sites get meals from them daily, including Downtown Emergency Services Center, Plymouth Housing, the YMCA of Greater Seattle, Boys & Girls Clubs of King County, Seattle Public Schools and King Countys COVID-19 isolation and recovery sites. 

Callebaut offered to donate all the chocolate wed need to make sweet treats for FareStart lunches. With 300 pounds of dark chocolate chips, 90 pounds of chocolate batons, and 52 pounds of Milk Chocolate Couverture in hand, Leslie reached out to two more of our suppliers for help. Both Medosweet Farms and Merlino Foods were both eager to support our community and didnt hesitate to get involved. Medosweet provided us with 150 pounds of butter and all the eggs we need. Merlinos donated 250 pounds of sugar and other supplies. 

Throughout June, we will be baking over 4,300 of Olivias Chocolate Chip Cookies, 1,800 Chocolate Cornetti, and 1,600 Milk Chocolate Brioches for FareStart to include in the lunches they distribute. 

Our mission is to enrich our communities through the joy of artisan baking. Being a part of this collaborative effort to support FareStart in their crucial mission brings us joy, and we hope, helps brighten the days of those most in need. 

Comfort Me with Chicken Pot Pies

Our new Chicken Pot Pie feeds four with a salad or a side. 

When so much thats solid in life suddenly melts, little gives us more assurance that things will be alright than making pies—and eating them! But because you cant subsist on dessert alone, weve spent the last few weeks developing Macrinas version of a Chicken Pot Pie. Theyre so good, weve been eating them for lunch AND dinner! 

Our savory team has been busy rolling out our delicious flaky pie dough, lining pie tins, and roasting chicken with fresh herbs. They mix the roasted chicken with onions, celery, carrots, potatoes, peas, corn, fresh thyme and a rich chicken gravy and top it with our famous pie crust. 

Beginning Monday, June 8, were selling them at our cafés for $16. All you have to do to prepare a healthy, comforting meal is pop them in a hot oven for 50 to 60 minutes and dress a salad. 

Simplicity and great ingredients are what make this pie taste so delicious. Fresh thyme infuses the gravy with its floral scent, and generous pieces of roasted chicken with hand-chopped vegetables coated in rich gravy under our buttery crust will remind you why this soul-satisfying dish has stood the test of time. 

And at just $16, you can eat fabulously without feeling apologetic. On the off chance you dont clean the dish, leftovers will save for three to five days in the fridge. 

If you cant make it into one of our cafés, DoorDash will deliver them to your door. 

Enjoy! 

June Recipe of the Month: Apricot Almond Upside-Down Cake

Apricots are the first stone fruit of the season. Their tartness balances well with caramelized brown sugar and butter, enhanced with the sweet bite of Heritage Distillery’s Brown Sugar Bourbon (or similar). This delicate cake has the crunch of roasted almonds, the earthiness of buckwheat flour and the joy of juicy apricots.

Ingredients
Makes one 9-inch cake

¾ cup whole almonds
16 Tbsp unsalted butter (2 sticks), room temperature, divided
1¾ cup light brown sugar, divided
4 tsp Heritage Distillery Brown Sugar Bourbon, divided (or other bourbon)
½ tsp pure vanilla extract
7 fresh apricots, halved and pits removed
1 ¼ cup unbleached all-purpose flour
½ cup buckwheat flour
½ tsp baking powder
½ tsp baking soda
½ tsp salt
⅓ cup granulated sugar
3 eggs
½ tsp almond extract
1 cup low-fat buttermilk

Directions

Preheat the oven to 350°F. Trace the outline of a 9-inch round cake pan on a sheet of parchment and cut a ring one half-inch larger than your marking. Cut 2-inch strips of parchment to line the sides. Lightly brush oil on the base and sides of the cake pan. Place the parchment strips onto the oiled sides, then insert the parchment circle and press the overlapping paper flush against the edge. Set aside.

Place the almonds on a rimmed baking sheet and roast for 10 minutes. Let cool for 15 minutes, then pulse in a food processor to a medium-fine texture.

In a small saucepan, slowly melt 4 Tbsp butter. Add ½ cup brown sugar, 2 tsp Brown Sugar Bourbon and vanilla. Whisk it all together, then pour it into the lined cake pan. Use a spatula to spread the sugar mixture evenly over the base of the pan. Sprinkle the ground almonds over the sugar mixture, then place the apricot halves, cut side down, around the edge of the pan. For the center circle, cut the apricots into quarters and place in a spiral to create a flower-like design.

In a medium bowl, sift the all-purpose and buckwheat flours, baking powder, baking soda and salt.

In the bowl of a stand mixer, place the remaining 12 Tbsp butter, ¾ cup of brown sugar and the granulated sugar. Using a paddle attachment, cream the mixture on medium speed for 5 to 8 minutes, or until the mixture is light and pale in texture.

Add the eggs one at a time, waiting until each is incorporated before adding the next. Then add the remaining bourbon and almond extract and mix for 30 seconds to evenly distribute. Scrape the bowl frequently with a spatula to ensure everything is mixed in.

Remove the bowl from the stand mixer. Stirring by hand with a spatula, add a third of the flour mixture and a third of the buttermilk. Continue alternating until the flour has absorbed the buttermilk. Do not overmix.

Pour the batter over the apricots and level with a spatula. Bake for 45 to 50 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out clean.

Let cool for 20 minutes. To serve, cover pan with the plate you want to present it on and invert. Carefully lift the cake pan and remove the parchment paper. It’s best to let it cool for another 20 minutes and serve the cake while it’s still slightly warm.

Enjoy with your favorite vanilla ice cream or sweetened whipped cream.

From Seed to Loaf: Growing Your Own Wheat 

Now in her second season of growing wheat on her farm, Leslie Mackie shares the challenges and joys of her experience. 

Baking was my first love, but gardening is not far behind. To me, they go hand in hand. So when someone suggested I put the two together and grow wheat on my Vashon Island farm, I thought, why not? I dreamed of making wholegrain bread from wheat I grew myself. Last year, I planted my first crop. Regular readers of this blog will recount my post on just how hard I worked to yield a mere twelve pounds of wheat. So, you ask, why go through that again? 

Well, Im nothing if not persistent. In fact, baking teaches you persistence. Great bread and pastries are the result of recipes developed by failing better with each new version until you finally sink your teeth into a loaf that tastes just like you dreamed it would. 

Armed with the long list of lessons learned with my first crop, I cleaned up the two-acres I had tilled for wheat. When you hear about the wheat farms in Eastern Washington that measure in the thousands of acres, two doesnt sound like much. But when youre doing much of the work by hand, it looks pretty intimidating. 

Id been monitoring the weather all April, waiting for a period of rain. Last year, Id gotten my seeds in the ground too late. This year I was on it early. But the weather has its way with farmers, as theyll readily tell you. On this side of the mountains, one thing you can usually count on in April is rain. Not this year! Wed been having a historically dry month. Fortunately, near the end of April, still in my optimal planting window, a storm system was rolling in from the Pacific. 

I had bags of Bow Edison wheat seeds, a hybrid heritage grain developed by Dr. Stephen Jones at the Bread Lab in Mount Vernon that grows well in this climate. I hauled them out to the field and began casting. You cannot imagine the tranquility of casting the wheat seeds over the freshly tilled earth. Even the birds seemed to celebrate, carrying on with their song. Then the mild wind picked up, the warm sunlight faded, and sprinkles of rain pocked the dry soil. 

After spreading the seed, I still had to rake them into the soil. Even though I was soon tired, I kept at it for three hours in ever heavier rain. Finally, I clomped my way back to my mudroom. Safe to say, it earned its name. I looked out at the field, exhausted but utterly satisfied knowing the seeds will germinate properly with the three days of rain ahead. After that, a dry spell. The sun would warm the soil and begin the growth. 

With this years crop in the soil, I drove up to the Bread Lab with the wheat Id harvested last year. Steve Lyon, a senior scientific assistant at the Bread Lab, had promised to help me process it. With the help of an intern from Italy, Steve ran my wheat through an old combine of theirs. Separating the kernels by hand is a prolonged process. Doing it, you understand very quickly how threshing came to be synonymous with spending lots of energy to produce very little. But with the aid of the combine, it didnt take long for Steve and his assistant to turn my bags of wheat stalks into 10 pounds of clean kernels. To me, it looked like a bag of gold! 

Finally, I made my first loaves with wheat Id grown myself. As it goes with baking, the first loaf wasnt perfect. Id milled the wheat too coarsely. A finer grind and the second loaf turned out much better—but still not perfect. The flavor was amazing, but the texture wasnt quite right. So, on to the third loaf, with further refinements. 

If it was easy, I might get bored. Passion projects like this, and continuing to learn about this amazing grain and what you can do with it, are what make me thrilled to still be baking bread more than 25 years after opening Macrina. 

Leslie 

Macrina’s Organic MadRy Sourdough Bagels

People obsess over bagels. Try suggesting that you’ve found the best bagel in a crowded room, and you’re sure to spark a fierce debate. New York has the best bagels, someone will say. Another will say Philly. Another Montreal. The one thing almost everyone can agree on though, is that not much compares to a great bagel. 

For years, our customers have been requesting bagels. Much as we would have liked to satisfy their demand, we didn’t have a bagel recipe we loved—until now. Our new bagels are the result of an obsession. Over the last two years, Macrina Bakery’s president, Scott France, has been tinkering with the recipe, refining it, and testing bagel samples. Our MadRy Organic Sourdough Bagels are hand-rolled, given a slow, cool 24-hour ferment, and have just a hint of rye, which adds to their depth of flavor. The caramelized crust has a glossy sheen and the airy interior has a tight, springy crumb that balances the mild tang of sourdough with just enough malty sweetness. 

The naturally-leavened bagels will launch in the cafés on Thursday, May 21, and will be available for wholesale on Thursday, May 28. They will come in four flavors: plain, sesame, poppy, and sea salt. 

In the many months Scott has been developing these bagels, his kids, Madeline and Ryan, who love bagels, became his steady audience, helping him refine the texture and strike the right balance in the bagel’s complex flavors. Hence the name, MadRy. 

All of our ingredients come from the PNW: The organic high-protein flour comes from just north of the border, the organic barley malt powder comes from Skagit Valley Malting, and the organic rye flour comes from Fairhaven Mill in nearby Burlington. We start with a significant percentage of organic sourdough starter and a smidge of yeast. After an initial rise, we handroll them and give them a full day’s cool ferment. The depth of flavor you’ll taste in these bagels comes from the natural leavening and that hint of rye. The whiff of sourdough you get when you tear one open comes from the starter. 

We were careful not to let the flavor dominate but wanted it to be distinctive. “It should make sense when you taste the bagel that the name has sourdough in it,” Scott says. “But if you tasted it without knowing the name, someone intimately familiar with sourdoughs would recognize it, but if you didn’t, you might wonder just what that mild tang was. 

The bagels are available individually or as four-packs. Please drop into one of our cafés and try one! It’s a really great bagel. 

Spring Gardening

Planning my next garden begins almost as soon as I’m pulling the last of the late fall produce. What would I like more of? Are there new vegetables to introduce? More dahlias? As I’m ordering seeds, I imagine the dinner parties my garden will help supply. What I never imagined in all the planning is that I’d be planting the seeds in a time of such uncertainty and fear, at a time when I can’t even invite friends over.

From the age of 22, I have always tended some type of garden. It started with multiple herb pots on window ledges. Eventually, I graduated to amending soil along parking strips, eking the most out any sunny area, often removing grass or overgrown scrubs to create a garden bed. No matter how small the garden, it’s always given me a sense of security. I’ve also found, that amid all the busyness and stress of starting and operating a busy bakery, gardening forced me to slow down. Even if only for part of an hour, the time in the garden steadied me with its stillness.

This year, with all the swirling anxiety, I need that stillness more than ever. With my hands in the dirt—planting seeds, weeding, or harvesting—I’m literally connected to the earth. It takes my overstimulated mind away from the media and gives me a reprieve from wanting to solve all the world’s problems. While I garden I dream of dinner parties I don’t yet know I’ll be able to have, but it helps to think of my friends gathered on a summer evening on my garden patio. Hopefully, it will happen.

One of the first crops I always get in is my sugar snap peas. Then I lay out the summer mix. I don’t rush to get everything in—even now that I live on six acres on Vashon and have had to start thinking more like a farmer than an urban gardener. Pacing things and considering what I’m likely to eat in abundance, mainly so I don’t get overwhelmed by all the work. I also plant crops like lettuce and kale in stages by seeding new crops once a month to keep the supply going all summer.

To keep things manageable, I fenced off my property to concentrate most of my garden and “garden life” to just under two acres. That’s still a lot, compared to my city apartments, but I enjoy it. My dogs and chickens roam the fenced area. Bushes of berries and a grape arbor help form a kind of outdoor architecture. Roses and Dahlia’s for cutting provide beauty and a long patio for entertaining extends from my house into the garden.

I use my raised garden beds for a rotation of summer vegetables, herbs, and fruit. I intermingle flowers throughout. Not only does it add beauty to a leafy garden, but they can help provide shade to plants like arugula that will bolt in full sun. They also help with pollination, attracting those ever-important bees.

Despite all my planning, when the summer abundance arrives, I build dinners from what’s available. If I’ve planted well, I always have a steady supply of herbs and varieties of lettuce ready for picking.

To make watering more manageable, I added a simple irrigation system and a timer to help water the raised beds. On hot days, I’m often inclined to give them a bit more water, but it helps take the anxiety out of letting the garden get too dry.

When things begin to grow, it’s important to visit your gardens often. Not only does it leave me with that inner-stillness I mentioned, but it’s important to remember that the more you harvest, the more new growth you get. This goes for flowers as well.

Every year there comes a time when I wish I’d planted something differently, but I’m always grateful for what I have. More importantly, the slow, quiet work and the planning for lovely meals and gatherings, and the promise of growth and beauty fills me with hope and serenity. This year, I need that more than ever.

If you’ve got the space, even just a balcony, get a few pots going. Planting a seed in good soil and carefully tending it shows us the natural power of transformation. And when the time comes, nothing tastes better than homegrown herbs and vegetables. Your long-awaited dinner party will have a meal full of vibrant, just-picked flavor and your quiet satisfaction at the journey you and your seeds have made from a time of anxiety to one of renewal.