14 March 2008

My Easter project and the Persian market

Earlier in the month, I read on Design Mom's blog about growing wheat grass in little containers for Easter. I've been wanting to grow some grass with the boys because it's so easy (good for me, with my brown thumb) and I think they would really enjoy it, especially Theo.

For the past week, I've been meaning to find and buy some wheat seeds. I had heard they could easily be found at a health food store, so I tried Whole Foods. No dice; they had already grown wheat grass in lovely containers.

"You see, I want to grow my own, " I told the most helpful helper at Whole Foods.

"You want to grow your own? But we have it here already grown," he replied, complete with puzzled expression.

At home, I proceeded to call a few health food stores to no avail, and then tried a local plant nursery, the same place we bought our Christmas tree the past two years. I was connected to the green house and spoke to a lovely man with a mysterious accent. I told him what I was looking for and asked if he could point me in the right direction.

"Oh, yes," he said. "Go to any Armenian or Persian market or convenience store in Watertown and they will have it."

"Really? A convenience store?"

"Oh, yes. Any store that is not regular, American store will have it. In fact, I know one store for sure that has it right now. Super Heroes, on Mt. Auburn Avenue."

Amazed that he seemed to pull the street address of an ethnic convenience store from thin air, I took down the information. After picking the boys up from school, we ventured into Watertown (it's kind of on the way home...if you go a different way) and slowly made our way down Mt. Auburn, Walter looking on the right and I on the left for the number.

We found it! "I wonder what ethnicity this store is," I said aloud as we trooped out of the car.

It was a tiny store, stuffed with huge sacks of flour, canned goods, sweetened dates, bags of nuts, boxes of cookies, huge sheets of fruit leather, jars of honey with the comb included (the boys' favorite) and a whole, smoked fish, vacuum packed in plastic (my favorite). "Cool!" said the boys. The refrigerated case was full of dairy products I've never heard of, including something called yogurt soda. I was still trying to discern what kind of market we were in, but without being obvious. I saw a few labels that said "Armenian", but also a sign for the Iranian Society of Watertown and lots of labels in Arabic (I think?).

I asked about the wheat. "Yes, we have wheat grass grown in these pots," said the store owner, an older man, whose wife was there working, as well as his teenage son and the son's American friend.

Another man, a customer behind me, said, "But it won't be ready for Easter!" He must have know what I meant to do with it!

"Oh, I thought wheat grass grew very fast, " I said.

"It does, but it won't be very tall." He had a friendly brown face, wire-rimmed glasses, and a salt-and-pepper mustache. He was smiling as he talked.

"Oh." I must have looked disappointed, for he then said, "But it is still good! It's good to grow your own! It will be about this tall," he said, holding up his forefinger and thumb to show me a height of about an inch and a half.

"That's okay," I said. "It will still last for the spring."

The wife brought me a small bag of wheat kernels and I saw that the price was a whopping $1.49. The wheat seed bags were piled in a plastic laundry basket in the corner.

As I felt that I had entered a different country by entering their store, I didn't want to leave without spending a little more money, as a sign of friendship. So we looked around for a few minutes, trying to decide on some sweet or snack that we all could enjoy. In the end, I asked the teenage son what his favorite sweets were. He pointed out several things, including baklava, and we settled on a box of something called rice cookies. They are so called because they are made with rice flour, and are decorated on the edges with poppy seeds.

We paid and said good bye. In the car, we opened the cookies. Can you guess who liked them best? His name starts with C and ends with LAY. Walter and Lucy politely tried their cookies and handed them to Clay.

Back to the seeds...tonight I planted wheat seeds in a few tin containers and in one of my silver Revere bowls (don't worry, Mom, I used the plastic insert). I'm hoping I'll have a least a little bit of grass to use for decoration by Easter!!

Also, I'm trying something that could be very cool. Instead of using that plastic Easter grass that sticks to everything and is impossible to clean up, I've "planted" some seeds in the children's Easter baskets! I stuffed brown paper in the bottom to raise the planting bed, then covered that with a layer of plastic wrap. On top of that I put two wet paper towels and then a layer of wheat seeds. Just for tonight, I put a wet paper towel on top, just to moisten them up. I'm hoping I can keep this a secret for the children until Easter. They will think it so cool!

I'll let you know how it's going...

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