Who gardens and cooks here: Batya Stepelman of Sparrows & Spatulas, along with her husband, Matt Berman, and their young sons, Otis and Theodore
See Batya's kitchen: Batya Stepelman's Open, Garden-Powered Kitchen Where: Denver, CO
Rent or Own? Own
Batya Stepelman never considered herself much of a gardener. In fact, before moving to Colorado, her first foray into growing anything green was tending a struggling strawberry plant on her fire escape in Brooklyn. She managed to squeak out one flavorless, pale pink berry. Luckily, her sense of humor and resolve left her undaunted.
Recently, she and her husband demolished a portion of their unused cement driveway, replaced it with a few raised beds, and cultivated a flourishing herb and vegetable garden.
Batya's Kitchen Garden Story
Batya's gardening prowess has come a long way, since the story of that sad strawberry. Her quest to learn more about food — how to grow it, how to prepare it, and how to make it taste good — prompted her to tear up that portion of her yard and devote it to exploring the world of gardening.
Like many of us, Batya began to understand seasonal cooking with her first Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) membership. I remember the first year that I had a CSA membership and didn't know what to do with the vast amounts of kale I'd receive. For the first couple of years, I even ended up composting a lot of the excess produce. But it changed the way I cooked, and it changed the way Batya cooked. You simply have to deal with what's at hand. She began to focus more on seasonality and decided to cultivate her own home garden.
Batya and her husband and boys now grow multiple herbs, heirloom tomatoes, kale, edible flowers, and jalapeño peppers, to name just a few.
To Batya, gardening means she's "made it." Her family has moved around so much and had never put down any roots. Now that she owns a home with an actual backyard, she has a sense of permanence. Getting her hands dirty and growing something have been long-awaited goals.
How Gardening, Cooking, and Community Tie Together
Having a home garden has stretched Batya's cooking skills and broadened her interests in cooking styles. She gives a lot of credit to her herb garden, which she utilizes in fresh soups, salads, appetizers, and even main dishes, like basil pesto lasagna. She is currently obsessed with incorporating rose water, pomegranate molasses, and orange blossom water into her vegetarian creations.
Cultivating a kitchen garden provides opportunities to connect with community. Jokingly, she swears her neighbors love her more! She weekly unloads produce upon her fellow resourceful neighbors, who, in turn, provide her with honey, wild plums, apples, fresh eggs, and even a place to compost her kitchen scraps. She hopes to collaborate and open up a neighborhood farmers market on her block. I'll be first in line.
Growing your own food is very empowering and ends up being very helpful when budgeting. She and her husband have been inspired to cut back expenses on superfluous purchases, focus on what they can produce at home, and save up for home improvements. She recently told her husband that they should tear up the rest of the driveway. He nearly fainted. Until that happens, she will be continue to make plans for the next gardening season, possibly incorporating a few fruit trees as well.
4 of Batya's Favorite Influential Cookbooks
- Baked: New Frontiers in Baking, by Matt Lewis and Renato Poliafito
- Super Natural Every Day: Well-Loved Recipes from my Natural Foods Kitchen, by Heidi Swanson
- Barefoot Contessa: Back to Basics, by Ina Garten
- Jerusalem: A Cookbook, by Yotam Ottolenghi
Thank you so much, Batya, for letting us peek into your garden and kitchen!
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