“What happens if you put lavender in here?” Abiodun Henderson, 34, pinches about a teaspoon of dried purple buds and drops them into a pot of black beans and chopped red peppers. “I don’t know if it makes sense, but it will be good.” Containers of pink salt, fenugreek, and cumin line the counter just left of the stove, and when the mood strikes, she tosses something into the mix.
Henderson founded Gangstas to Growers last year to train formerly imprisoned youths how to farm, and she’ll soon teach her first class of six with the help of local farmers from Grow Where You Are and Truly Living Well. Even after a tiring day of working outside, she still cooks dinner for her family at her Southwest Atlanta home.
Henderson’s three-year-old son, Malachi, crunches on Annie Chun’s Wasabi Seaweed Chips while his mother chops and sautées. “We call it ‘pond weeds.’ He loves those Tinga Tinga African folk tales, and it looks like the weeds the water animals eat.”
While Erykah Badu’s voice streams out of Henderson’s smartphone and brown rice absorbs the flavor and marigold color of turmeric, Akil Bandele, Henderson’s partner, walks down the block to Westview Community Garden to grab some collard greens and purple cabbage. They’ll get roughly chopped and added to a mixture of carrots, zucchini, onions—and some kind of spice. Henderson will decide when the time comes.
On the table
“My meals are usually made up of brown rice with a bunch of different vegetables thrown in: peas, collards, kale, or spinach. I’ll roast some sweet potatoes with cinnamon for Malachi.”
“When I was in seventh grade, my mother changed all of our diets to vegan diets. I later learned that she had AIDS. I think she was trying to heal herself through food.” Henderson continues to eat healthy—most of the time. “I admit: Sometimes I do walk to the corner store and get some Cheddar & Sour Cream Ruffles chips. And if I go home to Brooklyn, I’m having a Jamaican beef patty!”
To raise funds, Gangstas to Growers is selling hot sauce made with Henderson’s recipe. Follow @gangstastogrowers on Instagram for updates.
This article originally appeared in our June 2017 issue.