Offering the fruits (and vegetables) of one's labor to Krsna is the gardener's perfection.

"How do you justify gardening as a Krsna conscious activity?" Janesvari's friend asked her on the phone. "I mean, it doesn't seem like a Krsna-centered activity. How do you make it Krsna conscious?"

Visakha Devi Dasi

Visakha Devi Dasi

"I don't go to great lengths to justify it," Janesvari said. "On the simplest level, just by my being fully engaged tending my garden and orchard, growing enough to sustain a family of five, and giving produce away to numerous friends and guests I don't have time to go to movies or watch endless TV or engage in any similarly fruitless activities. At the very least, gardening protects me from the idle-mind-devil's-workshop syndrome.

"I don't necessarily go out in my garden and think about the pastimes of Lord Rama. I think about gardening and I chant Hare Krsna. But I also find that by engaging in simple, basic activities, my whole life becomes simplified, satisfied, and my Krsna consciousness naturally grows and prospers. How can you tend a garden without a belief that there is a supreme controller? You can turn on the sprinkler, but who makes the rain?"

Janesvari's caller, a newcomer to Krsna consciousness, wasn't satisfied. After all, in Bhagavad-gita Lord Krsna is explicit: "Engage your mind always in thinking of Me"; "Be fully conscious of Me"; "Always think of Me in the form of Krsna and at the same time carry out your prescribed duty . . . With your activities dedicated to Me and your mind and intelligence fixed on Me, you will attain Me without doubt."

Srila Prabhupada is equally explicit: "We should always try to mold the activities of our lives in such a way that we will constantly remember Krsna, That is Krsna consciousness, to somehow or other always think of Krsna, without forgetting Him under any circumstances. Actually this is the most basic of all regulative principles."

Is Janesvari in illusion when she curls up in a warm nook in January to pick and choose from her seed catalogues? Should someone be counseling her in March, when she plants the tiny seeds indoors? Or in June, when she transfers the seedlings to their outdoor home? And again throughout the summer months of nearly endless weeding and harvesting?

I suppose Janesvari's friend might think so, but I don't, because Janesvari is naturally and honestly following Krsna's instruction that all that we do, all that we eat, all that we offer and give away should be done as an offering unto Him. She is convinced that Lord Sri Krsna is the Supreme Personality of Godhead, that she is His servant, and that her goal is to center all life's essential activities around Him. Her spiritual master, Srila Prabhupada, encouraged his householder disciples to do this and to worship Deities in their homes. And an important part of her worship is offering her home-grown produce to her household's Radha-Krsna Deities.

To Janesvari, Krsna consciousness is not an artificial addition she has tacked on to her life, as someone may add a wing to his house, nor does it oblige her to conform to a Krsna conscious stereotype. Krsna consciousness is as integral to her as cement in a foundation, as integral as her pulse. Home-gardening is a natural outgrowth of her Krsna consciousness.

Janesvari and her husband live in a spacious country home, where, besides gardening, she cooks, cleans, raises her three children, and keeps her flock of seven sheep. The sheep's wool keeps her busy spinning, knitting, and sewing in the winter months. And, astonishingly enough for me (and perhaps for other urbanites), she's satisfied. Her future plans include growing enough vegetables and fruits to last through the winter.

"Considering the time and the work," Janesvari says, her smile a little self-conscious, "it's not really a money-saving effort, but it's personal. When I give my jams or fresh vegetables away to our friends, they find them better-tasting than the store-bought brands, and they appreciate that these things came from Krsna's garden. It's the same with the sweaters I knit from the sheep's wool. They might not look better than manufactured ones, but I get the personal satisfaction of being a little more self-sufficient as Srila Prabhupada wanted us to be, as much as is practicable."

From age four to thirteen, Janesvari helped her mother garden in their Port Washington home in Long Island. After a lapse of fourteen years, her interest in gardening was rekindled by her father-in-law, an avid home-gardener in northern New Jersey. In her five years of having her own garden, she says she's made all the mistakes at least once.

Like devotees in Krsna conscious farm communities throughout the world, Janesvari has discovered how gardening is conducive to growth in Krsna's devotional service. She has renewed appreciation for the scriptural metaphor that compares life in Krsna consciousness to tending a creeper of devotion, which has to be watered with the sound of the holy name, and which must be carefully weeded to protect it against the weeds of desires averse to spiritual life.

And like the devotee-farmers, she is glad to be phasing out of the supermarket rat-race, "with it's meat-lined shelves," she says, "and chemical- and wax-sprayed fruits and vegetables." She's also glad to have a facility to involve her children in planting and picking, where she can teach them to appreciate life's simple pleasures, like seeing her garden grow for Krsna.

(Recipes from Janesvari-devi dasi)

Zucchini-Tomato-Cheese Bake

Preparation time: 40 minutes

Servings: 3-4

1 medium to large zucchini 
1 ½-2 pounds rennetless mozzarella cheese, unshredded
2 or 3 large tomatoes
fresh basil
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 cup pureed tomatoes

1. Cut the zucchini in halves or thirds so that the pieces arc as wide as a bread pan. Then slice each piece lengthwise in ¼-inch slices. Steam them gently until crisp but tender. Meanwhile, slice the cheese and tomatoes in ¼-inch slices.

2. Pour the olive oil into the bread pan and repeatedly layer the zucchini, cheese, and tomato slices by standing them on their sides, moving from one end of the bread pan to the other. The result should be a pan of red, white, and green stripes. Snip fresh basil over the top. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Pour the tomato sauce over the top. Cover with foil and bake at 350° for 20-30 minutes, until the cheese is melted and bubbly. Offer to Krsna.

Fresh Tomato Soup

Preparation time: 40 minutes

Servings: 4

8 medium-size tomatoes, each cut into 8 pieces
4 tablespoons butter 
1 small apple, peeled, cored, and cut into 8 pieces
1 small dried red chili.
2 teaspoons fresh ginger, peeled and chopped
½ teaspoon cumin seeds
2 ¼ cups water
2 tablespoons whole-wheat pastry flour
¼ teaspoon sugar
1 teaspoon salt
½ cup light cream
2 tablespoons chopped fresh coriander, parsley, or dill

1. Remove the skins from the tomatoes by boiling the tomatoes in water for three minutes and then plunging them into cold water. Core the tomatoes.

2. Melt 1 tablespoon of butter in a saucepan over a medium flame. Add the tomatoes, apple, chili, ginger, and cumin seeds and cook for 1-2 minutes. Pour in % cup of water. Cover and reduce the flame to low. Cook gently for 20-25 minutes until the tomatoes are soft and pulpy.

3. Blend the tomato mixture in an electric blender with two cups of water.

4. Melt three tablespoons of butter in a saucepan over a low flame, add the flour and cook, stirring, for 2-3 minutes. Pour in the blended tomatoes, stirring as you pour, and bring to a simmer. Add the sugar and salt and continue to simmer for no more than 5 minutes. Add the cream, being careful not to let the soup boil, because it will curdle. Remove the soup from the flame, garnish with the fresh herbs, and offer to Krsna.

Fresh Apple Cake

Preparation time: 50 minutes

Servings: 6-8

6 tablespoons butter
1 cup sugar
¼ cup yogurt
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon cinnamon
½ teaspoon nutmeg
½ teaspoon allspice
½ teaspoon ground cloves
1 ½ cups white flour
2 cups raw apples, finely chopped or grated (no need to peel)

Preheat the oven to 350°. Grease an 8-inch-square pan. In a large bowl, beat the butter and sugar until smooth and add the yogurt, vanilla, baking powder, baking soda, and spices. Beat well. Add the flour and continue mixing. The dough will be stiff. Stir in the chopped apple. Spread in the pan and bake for about 35 minutes, until done. Offer to Krsna warm, with fresh whipped cream.

Cucumber Salad

Preparation time: 10 minutes

Servings: 3-4

1 large cucumber 
½ cup sour cream
½ cup yogurt
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 tablespoon lemon juice (fresh is best) 
1 teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon pepper
½ teaspoon paprika dash sugar
few sprigs of fresh dill or parsley, if available

1. Combine all the ingredients except the cucumber. Whisk to mix.

2. Wash and peel the cucumber. Cut it in half lengthwise. Then cut the halves in half lengthwise. Now cut each piece into ½-inch chunks. Mix with the other ingredients. Offer to Krsna.

Eggplant Crispers

Preparation time: 25-30 minutes

Servings: 10-12

2 pounds eggplant
1 tablespoon yogurt
3 tablespoons parsley
¼ cup grated cheese
1/3 cup breadcrumbs or wheat germ
¼ teaspoon asafetida
½ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon black pepper
ghee for deep-frying

Peel and cube the eggplant and boil it in a small amount of water until soft. Drain thoroughly and mash. Add all the other ingredients. Form the mixture into 1 ½-inch balls. If necessary, add more wheat germ or breadcrumbs. Fry the balls in ghee. Drain and offer to Krsna.

Cauliflower, Peppers, and Tomatoes

Preparation time: 35 minutes

Servings: 4-6

2 or 3 medium-size fresh tomatoes
3 tablespoons ghee (clarified butter) or olive oil 
1 teaspoon oregano dash asafetida
1 medium-size green pepper, chopped 
1 ½ cups cauliflower florets 
½ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon pepper
½ cup sour cream

1. Remove the skins from the tomatoes by boiling the tomatoes in water for three minutes and then plunging them into cold water. Core the tomatoes, chop, and set aside.

2. Heat the ghee or olive oil in a medium-size saucepan over a medium flame. Add the oregano, asafetida, and green pepper and saute for a few minutes until lightly browned. Add the cauliflower. Stir, coating all the pieces of cauliflower with the spices, and cook for 5-6 minutes. Add the tomatoes, salt, and pepper. Stir well, lower the flame, and cover. Cook for about 10 minutes, until the cauliflower is soft It may be necessary to add a little water. Remove from the flame, stir in the sour cream, and offer to Krsna.