Today’s return to A Tasteful Place, the edible gardening section of the Dallas Arboretum and Botanical Gardens, reveals a marvelous moment where hidden things of the Bible come to life.
I will give you hidden treasures, riches stored in secret places, so that you may know that I am the Lord, the God of Israel, who summons you by name.
Isaiah 45:3 NIV
Upon visiting the new garden section last fall, I was immediately endeared to the Carol Miller Kelley Orchard where I spied a Biblical reflection in the fruit trees underplanted with mint. By gracious introduction, I recently visited with Mrs. Kelley in her namesake orchard to take in more of the treasure of this place.
The Carol Miller Kelley Orchard
The orchard, named for the wife of its generous benefactor couple, Mr. and Mrs. William Kelley, is ordered by a wonderful path to stroll, a graceful, sweeping walkway to look over the apples, apricots, and figs, around to the persimmons and the potted pomegranates. Yet in the center of the space stands Mrs. Kelley’s delicious gift to home gardeners: the attention-getting Keiffer pear trees, first to produce a harvest in the garden this year. The trees are centrally poised to fill out from walkway to patio over time—literally over thyme, a patchwork of thyme varieties make up their herbal groundcover!
An Inspired Farmer’s Daughter
Mrs. Kelley was inspired to a garden life by her father, a cotton and alfalfa farmer in Barstow, in the far reaches of west Texas. As a little girl, she would go out to the fields and walk the land and tag along with him as he checked on things. This special time seems to have imprinted on her soul that working the land and taking care of it was good, an impression sealed in the gift of her father’s presence. Her reminiscing is infused with quiet contentment that comes with love and time, resounding companionship and affection.
Mrs. Kelley’s Gift to the Garden: Keiffer Pears
Years later she would keep a vegetable garden while raising her young family in Waco, going to much effort to establish asparagus in her rocky, backyard soil, and growing up potatoes, beans, okra, and butter crunch lettuce in abundance.
But it was her pear chutney recipe that has left its imprint on A Tasteful Place! Mrs. Kelley came by a recipe for Pear Chutney, and a pear tree grower in nearby Cleburne with an orchard of Keiffers—crisp-fleshed fruits, like Bosc and Asian varieties, which stand up to simmering without becoming mushy.
Mrs. Kelley would preserve big batches of chutney to share and give away, a savory garnish especially well-paired with meat dishes, pork, chicken, or lamb. In becoming part of the financial support for A Tasteful Place, Mrs. Kelley recommended Keiffer Pear trees, an “ask” of her own, met with enthusiasm by Dave Forehand, Vice President of Gardens. Dave relishes harvest-related family stories and memories, and the recipes that bind them all together.
A Gardener’s Clue
Enjoy a moment of Biblical reflection as the fruit trees in the Carol Miller Kelley Orchard are under planted with mint, one of the herbs called out in Jesus’ infamous confrontation. The planting displays a confidential, imaginative vignette of Matthew 23:23—by complete coincidence, mind you—for those with an eye for hints in the horticulture:
Now without being smug about our gardener’s wisdom, we can easily recognize the clue that something was not right with the Pharisees. For these men were recognized as having knowledge of God, as teachers of his law (John 3:1). Yet had they truly known God, if they were deeply acquainted with his character, cherishing his grace and compassion, his restraint of harshness and his abounding loving-kindness (Exodus 34:6; Nehemiah 9:17; Psalm 86:15), we would expect their tithes to be fruit…! Yet the herbs and spice tithe in this story moment gave their empty hearts away (Matthew 23:23). They looked good and smelled good, as the saying goes; most drought-tolerant herbs stay leafy-green through even semi-arid seasons, and mint and dill leaves, and cumin’s pungent seeds, have alluring aromas. Yet they are not the nourishment of a meal, merely attractive outerwear, we might say; likewise the elaborate vestments (Matthew 23:5) and hollow words of the Pharisees had nothing of substance to bless others.
—from “A Gardener’s Clue,” Bearing Fruit devotions, God’s Word for Gardeners Bible, page 1112
Why was Jesus so fierce on this point? By everyday experience, we know that eating all spices and no fruit is not very nourishing! Herbs and spices bring flavor and flair to a meal, but not fuel and wherewithal to our hungry bodies. Likewise, our sustenance, our satiety, will be met in knowing the LORD God intimately, growing companionship and affection for Him.
Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You give a tenth of your spices—mint, dill and cumin. But you have neglected the more important matters of the law—justice, mercy and faithfulness. You should have practiced the latter, without neglecting the former.
Matthew 23:23 NIV
All other practices—tithes and the like—are vestment to add dash and savor to a heart already well-fed in His presence.
Take in the moment “taste-and-see” style with A Tasteful Place recipe for Pearmint Sorbet
Linger in this unpretentious space for this Scripture secret to sink in…see the lush, dazzling mint dressing up the trees’ root flares; a vibrant ground-covering, yet no substitute for the nourishment of organically grown, healthy fruits suspended from the trees. Likewise, may our sustenance come from knowing the heart of our gracious God—
The LORD, the LORD God, the compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, abounding in lovingkindness and faithfulness; who keeps lovingkindness for thousands, who forgives iniquity, transgression and sin. Yet He will by no means leave the guilty unpunished…
Exodus 34:6-7 NASB
—and may knowing God intimately produce His heart in us:
…[the Holy Spirit] he will produce this kind of fruit in us: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control; and here there is no conflict with Jewish laws.
Galatians 5:22-23 NASB
Walking Through the Orchard
Interestingly, the idea that there exists secret meaning to be discovered in Scripture stories is known as “walking through the orchard” in Jewish method…discover the depths of this practice in our next blog, Part 2.
See me walking the Carol Miller Kelley Orchard Live earlier this week – speaking the Scriptures among the trees
Special thanks to Dave Forehand, Vice President of Gardens, Dallas Arboretum and Botanical Gardens to arrange my meeting with Carol Miller Kelley.
To Mrs. Kelley, thank you dearly for your indescribable gift of time to me and of support to our Arboretum
For the complete devotion, “A Gardener’s Clue,” see page 1120 of God’s Word for Gardener’s Bible. Also find a full series on Bearing Fruit beginning on pages a-34 & a-35
Help start a Keiffer Pear revival! While these delicious fruits are not suitable for sale in grocery stores, they are a faithful variety for the home garden, hardy, fast-growing and disease resistant. Online Sources: Sooner Plant Farm, Willis Orchard Company, Garden Hills Nursery
Coming Next Blog: Part 2 – Discover the depth and beauty of God’s Word by “walking through the orchard.”
©2018 Shelley S. Cramm