Vegetables & Vedanta

Not that I take it for granted, but I do sometimes forget that not every neighborhood in Orange County has its own monastery. Mine—Trabuco Canyon—does however, and I am reminded of this in the nicest possible way when I see a cheery, hand-lettered banner facing Live Oak Canyon Road near the entrance gate: ORGANIC VEGGIES. Setting aside for the moment “veggies,” of which I adamantly do NOT approve, in favor of something I adore: Vegetables, especially organic.

I love going up to the Ramakrishna Monastery—the Sunday lectures can be fascinating, the grounds are beautiful, the buildings rustic perfection, the site itself, breathtaking. But now, there’s also veg! The monastery garden, cared for by monk-in-residence Eddie Acebo, has beautiful organic vegetables, and fruit for that matter, available on Saturday and Sunday in the newish book/gift store on the premises. I’ve had broccoli and chard and beets and Satsuma tangerines (sadly finished until next year) and young onions and blood oranges and chiles… lessee, what else? Lettuces! All have been stellar. Even at a time of relative garden lull, exacerbated by canyon-cold temps late this winter, there’s a lot of good stuff on offer—as we head into spring, of course, there’ll only be more.

Acebo has been in charge of the garden for 14 years, shepherding it along into its present high-producing state, and has in recent years taken up preserving to make use of the bounty. (My neighbor speaks very highly of his peach preserves.) Even so, the garden is about to undergo expansion that will nearly double its size—very good news for local fruit & veg consumers. Acebo shares the lament of organic gardeners everywhere, critters of all types like his produce as much as the people do. He said in a way it’s a joy, how much the birds enjoy his just-bearing sugar snap peas, and I am reminded to redouble my own efforts at such acceptance, except for maybe insatiable, sprout-decimating slugs. More work to do with slugs.

Developed in the 1940s as Trabuco College by Gerald Heard, who envisioned a spiritual study campus but soon donated the site to the Vedanta Society of Southern California, it has been Ramakrishna Monastery since. Heard’s friend and fellow English-expatriate expanded-consciousness seeker Aldous Huxley is said to have written “The Perennial Philosophy” in the library here.

Which is all well and good, and of course of tremendous historic interest, and should be duly noted by one and all. But seems as important to me that in this moment, right now today, the monastery is a living, breathing entity, bringing vegetables to the people. Hardly a higher calling, in my book.

Here’s a map to the Ramakrishna Monastery in Trabuco Canyon. The book/gift shop near the gravel parking area is open 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily, with produce available Saturday and Sunday. The rest of the monastery grounds are open to visitors from 9 to 11 a.m. and 3 to 5 p.m.

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