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By Jason Minshew
Photography by Jody Horton
My goal is to persuade Austinites to reinterpret the relationship between a landscape and a garden. By applying the principles of landscape design to include plants that produce fruits and veggies, I create thoughtfully designed, productive urban landscapes that are as beautiful as traditional landscapes conceived and installed purely for ornamental purposes.
By Lucinda Hutson
Photography by Lucinda Hutson
Roasted veggies are a party on a platter, delighting the senses in a medley of color, texture and flavor. They warm the kitchen as they cook, filling it with wafts of sweet and seductive scents, making perfect winter fare. Better yet, they’re versatile and easy to prepare. Good seasoning is the secret. Fresh and dried herbs, spices and zesty condiments provide many dimensions of flavor, while roasting concentrates and caramelizes the vegetables’ inherent flavors.
Photography By Dustin Fedako
The Food is Free Project started in November 2011 with a single four-by-four-foot raised bed of winter greens in John VanDeusen Edwards’s front yard and a whiteboard and marker inviting people to post contact information if they considered access to natural, fresh food a human right. “Within two weeks, we had to erase that board multiple times because it was so full of e-mail addresses,” says Edwards, the project’s cofounder. “This was something that was really resonating with people.”
Austin’s newest supper club never meets at a hip art gallery. No bucolic dinners are served on the premises of the very farm that supplied the local produce. No innovative young chef has been spotted in the kitchen.
“And no,” says the new club’s founder, Shannon Kimball, “No money is involved.” Cook Here and Now Austin is indeed something different—a group of foodies who meet every three months in a home kitchen to prepare and eat a collaboratively cooked seasonal meal.
The original Cook Here and Now started two years ago when Marco Flavio, a San Francisco–based food fanatic, began gathering farmers market fans for communal fine dining. Flavio announces his monthly food themes and issues invitations via his blog; dinners for 60 routinely fill to capacity in just a few hours and Travel + Leisure recently named Flavio’s Cook Here and Now one of its “10 Best Secret Dining Clubs in the World.”
Shannon Kimball decided to inaugurate the 11th.
Composting was a way of life for Katy Eakin, until she got married and moved into her husband’s Travis Heights condo. With no green space to compost in and reluctant to add biodegradable waste to a landfill, Eakin froze her compostables and drove them, on occasion, to her grandfather’s farm. With such fierce dedication to decomposition, it comes as no surprise that Eakin would launch Green Bucket Composting, a progressive solution to a growing urban need.
Far from being profit-motivated, though, Eakin’s pursuit was born of necessity. When she came up with the concept, she and her husband had taken over operations at a farm that’s been in her family for over 100 years. “The thing is…it’s a cattle ranch right now,” she says with a smile. “And I’m the hugest hypocrite; I’m a vegetarian. So I’m trying to get away from raising feed cattle.”
Eakin started a few large garden plots on the farm and quickly realized that she would need more compost than she could generate.
The term vanilla is often used to describe something that is bland, or at least safe, and, well, pedestrian. The connotation is unfortunate, and more to the point, incorrect, because the story of vanilla—from its source to its history to the process that takes it from seed to sauce—is actually quite exotic.
Vanilla originated in Veracruz, Mexico, where it was cultivated by the Totonac Indians. Its production remained solely in Mexico until the mid-1800s when conquistadors, colonization and forced “globalization” led to the spread, exchange and export of the unassuming bean. Today, despite vanilla’s global travels and popularity, it’s still grown primarily in just four places: Mexico, Madagascar, Indonesia and Tahiti.
When Josh Hudgins was a kid, his family lived near North Lamar and Rundberg Lane—an area, at that time, considered outside the city limits of Austin. Things have changed a lot since then—the neighborhood is considered practically central now—but it was during his semirural childhood days that Hudgins first came to love both chickens and gardening.
“I planted my first garden when I was seven,” he says, “and built my first coop when I was thirteen. The two go hand in hand.”
The family moved to Indiana for a while, but Hudgins returned to Texas as a young man, working in his dad’s body shop. Still, he kept raising chickens and gardening as hobbies.
In the 1950s, my mother, Little Dove, spent a lot of time in the green kitchen of our house on the outskirts of San Antonio, even though she hated to cook. To encourage her in her often cheerless efforts, my father, Chief, bought her a special convenience: a self-standing roaster to be used primarily for cooking Sunday dinners. The rest of the week, it could double as a bread box. Chief liked versatile things that pulled their own weight. Money was tight, but if delicious meals were to be the result, he was willing to strain his budget to provide the equipment.
Austin designers of all disciplines often get opportunities to color outside the lines for clients. Rarer, though, is the chance to disregard the lines altogether—to truly go a little wild. Such was the luck of Rain Lily Design, a design and landscape company, when a Westlake Hills client commissioned the company to build a 38’x16’ rooftop garden project.
Though ubiquitous in New York City, structure-topping foliage is rare in these parts. Kim Beal, co-owner of Rain Lily Design, says she enjoyed the learning process and the challenge of bringing the client’s vision to fruition.
“The client was very informed, and had a great architect,” says Beal. “This was an intricately designed space from the beginning.”
The project’s architect—award-winning visionary Murray Legge of LZT Architects—is known for his love of unusual projects. “It was a cool project,” Legge says. “The roof is kind of vaulted, so the garden is hill-like—it echoes the surrounding hills. And it’s next to the pool, so it sort of looks like a whale rising up.”
By Lucinda Hutson
Photography by Lucinda Hutson
I design culinary gardens with special themes, as seen at Austin’s vanguard organic nursery, the Natural Gardener. Individual raised beds within a large, circular garden showcase Mexican, Italian, Mediterranean and Southeast Asian herbs. Visitors become acquainted with herbs from these regions by admiring them in a natural setting, and experience first-hand how they complement each other in gardens.