Thursday, September 11, 2008

Tilth and Tilth

By Jessie Dye

Tilth is a quality of cultivated soil, a loamy texture that means the land is fertile, healthy, and holds the right amount of water and nutrients. Gardeners and farmers want soil with good tilth, earth that is happy and productive. Locally, Tilth ( is the name of a sustainable (often urban) agricultural organization housed at the Good Shepherd Center. It is also the name of a fabulous fine dining restaurant on 45th in Wallingford In both cases, Tilth brings joy to our neighborhood and to the process of growing and eating.

At Earth Ministry, as we live our 3 month/300 mile challenge (eating food produced regionally for July-September) we are grateful for our friends at allies at both of these Tilths! On Saturday last, Tilth of urban agriculture fame held its harvest festival at our local park. The perfect fall day was heartbreaking in its beauty, and the stacks of tomatoes, beets, greens and onions made me feel healthy and alive just being there. My signature companion, a huge Australian Shepherd name Rusty, joined me for a stroll though the worm-bins and civic organizations promoting environmental health and toxic free living. A shady booth housed several speakers through the day; my favorite was nutritionist Acacia Larson who explained why local foods are the finest for our palates and for our souls.

Meanwhile, back at Tilth the restaurant on 45th, regional and organic eating isn’t only for nutrition. It’s an art form. Each Monday, the restaurant features a menu fixe of food grown by one local farm. Old friends treated me two weeks ago when Skagit River Ranch was the featured player. While not a foodie, I can tell you that every bite, from the gazpacho to the toasted zucchini bread French toast for desert was to die for. Tilth chef and owner Maria Hines promote the best food from local, organic sources. This is a deeper project than creating superb food (though it does that!); it is a way of living, a commitment to the community and to the Earth, to producers as well as consumers. It’s an education to eat there, as well as a delight.

Our Earth Ministry goal to eat regionally for three months is demanding. We’ve had to deal with sickness, surgery, a death in the family, out-of-town guests to be entertained, and kids wanting huge meals. It’s not a challenge most of us can meet by ourselves, no matter how well we garden. People from Tilth the agriculture organization and Tilth the restaurant on 45th Street are our friends and allies. May we support and encourage these partners, and may we find others as we learn to live and eat in balance on this good, tilled Earth!

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