I had a favorite tree when I was in college. It was a lush, shady specimen under which I would sit – sprawled out on the grass, books spilling out of my bag – with the boy on whom I had the most devastating of crushes. Under the shade of that tree, set to the subtle but unforgettable soundtrack created by its rustling leaves, I would listen to this boy read excerpts from books and poems that he loved.
she walks in beauty, like the night
of cloudless climes and starry skies;
and all that’s best of dark and bright
meet in her aspect and her eyes;
thus mellowed to that tender light
which heaven to gaudy day denies.
Byron. Shelley. Keats. To a romantic-leaning 19-year-old liberal arts school girl, it really didn’t get much better than that. This is just like the movies! I’d sit and think, totally content with my current station in life, under that tree. We went our separate ways, eventually, that boy and I. But even so, I still managed to steal some peaceful moments between classes under that tree, “The Poetry Tree,” as my friends teasingly called it. I usually swapped the poems out for a sandwich though, if we’re being honest here. Not nearly as romantic, but a satisfying swap nonetheless.
I had a favorite tree after I graduated college. It was a massive oak that occupied much of the front yard outside my very first grownup apartment. I tripped over its tangle of roots on a number of occasions, but always let it slide because I had such a soft spot for that tree, “The Tripping Tree,” peculiar as it may sound. That tree was so big and strong and protective seeming that I actually felt like it was keeping watch over my building, warding off anyone or anything that wasn’t supposed to be there. That’s silly though; trees can do no such thing.
I had a favorite tree after we bought our first house in Indiana, a small Bradford Pear. I assume that this favoritism existed purely because it was the first tree that I’d ever owned. It was OUR tree. But it split clear in half during a brutal Midwestern thunderstorm, its short existence ending in somewhat of a tragedy. Strong like the oak it was not, but a favorite still it was, our pitiful little “Unlucky Tree.” I have a favorite tree today as well; a fact that may come as no surprise given that I’m clearly someone who has an established track record of assigning my affection to specific trees. Standing all alone in a field, this particular tree is one we pass every time we go to the grocery store, and it is a commander of one’s attention. Its complete lack of neighbors – the starkness of that field, save for this one tree – makes it hard not to admire it there as it towers in a state of beautiful solitary confinement. Mostly though, I love this tree because Elle loves it. “The Broccoli Tree,” as she has so aptly named it, is a dead ringer for the vegetable and as such, it has elicited many a conversation with her (i.e. a barrage of questions) regarding the nature of broccoli, the nature of trees, the nature of nature, and the nature of broccoli trees.
This is the season when this Broccoli Tree of ours really shines – when she literally shows her true colors. In the past week, our tree has dabbled in each section of Autumn’s beloved color wheel, flashing shades of yellow, glimpses of orange, and today it was as if she’d been lit on fire at the outermost reaches of her limbs. The glowing red-leafed aura that currently surrounds this tree made it worthy of a stop yesterday … a timeout from our errand-running routine to better appreciate our tree up close.
So the kids and I parked the car and walked as close to the tree as fences would allow. It’s very satisfying to do that on occasion; to pull back on the reigns of a busy schedule to just enjoy a slow, simple moment. To appreciate, together.
If you, too, are a lover of trees, I’ve got a few great resources here that are worth checking out. Each website or organization is dedicated to helping restore and/or preserve trees – a wonderful and important cause whether you like broccoli or not.
- VIRTUAL: Tree Story (www.treestorygame.com)
- LOCAL (to Washington DC): http://www.caseytrees.org (dedicated to restoring, enhancing, and protecting the tree canopy in the nation’s capital across several disciplines)
- NATIONAL: National Forest Foundation (www.nationalforests.org/get-involved/tree-planting-programs)
Curry-Tipped Roasted Broccoli RECIPE
A simple twist to a common, vegetable side dish staple, this curry-tipped version is wonderful. A great way to enjoy curry in a slightly different format and a fun way to perk up a veggie side dish. With no exaggeration, I am willing to admit that I ate the entire two crowns that I roasted the first time I tested this recipe – in one standing (I didn’t sit, I stood). Crispy and toasty on the edges and highly flavorful, thanks to the curried oil/paste into which you dip the un-roasted florets, these broccoli bits go down as easy as French fries, but without the accompanying guilt. Which is good for me, because … see previous sentence.
2 – 3 crowns of broccoli, cut into small florets (or about 4 – 5 cups worth or florets)
3 tablespoons red curry paste (can be found in the Asian/Thai section of most grocery stores)
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, plus 2 teaspoons (divided)
1.5 teaspoons Kosher salt
1 teaspoon granulated sugar
Freshly ground black pepper
Preheat your oven to 375 degrees F.
In a small bowl, combine the curry paste and 3 tablespoons of the olive oil. In a separate bowl, coat the broccoli florets with the remaining olive oil, and add the salt and sugar (The sugar helps to caramelize the broccoli and it goes wonderfully with the curry). Toss to coat the florets in the oil, salt and sugar. Dip the tips of each floret in the curry/oil mixture, making sure that each one gets a nice coating. Spray a baking sheet with non-stick spray and arrange the curry-tipped florets in an even layer (use two sheets if you need to or if you are working with more broccoli).
Roast for 11 – 13 minutes (depends on the size of your florets here). The florets should be golden brown and slightly crispy on the edges and bottom sides. Serve warm right away.