Every school child can name the four basic flavors, ticking off on their fingers the sweet-sour-bitter-salty mantra. But just as there’s a fifth finger, there’s another flavor that most of us overlook or simply weren’t taught because it can’t be easily described, any more than we can describe a cat’s purr: It’s umami, or savory. Think mushrooms, olive oil, oysters, or avocados. Their flavors don’t fit neatly into traditional taste tests, so we just say “good.” Same with a cat’s purr.
Likewise many gardening books, like formal education, are mostly derivative, transferring old bones form one pile to another while teaching us methods of coloring inside the lines. This is important for goal-oriented horticulturists, who are all about results; soil testing, pruning just so, planting in rows, special soil mixes, and all those other tools and techniques make sense from a purely productive perspective.
But our right brain urges us to slow down occasionally, to leave efficiency in mid-stroke and savor little unexpected experiences. There is magic in the everyday, and our physical senses are ready to receive. Once you smell fresh-cut basil, just seeing a photo of it will conjure the fragrance in our mind. We need to feel the hot sun on the back of our hands, or raise our arms a bit to let a sudden breeze chill the sweat under our shirts, smile when a dragonfly lands on our tomato stake, taste the tangy sourness of a clover flower stalk, and pay attention to a wind chime as it interprets an otherwise silent breeze into language our eyes and ears can understand.
This is what Augustus Jenkins Farmer — Jenks as I know him — is all about, and more. This book shares his take on both the left-brain basics of how we garden — the quintessential tools and techniques — as well as the intangibles of why we love what we do.
~ Felder Rushing, Foreward, Deep Rooted Wisdom: Skils and Stories from Generations of Gardners by Augustus Jenkins Farmer.