On the first sunny weekend after the last frost date in southern New England I brought a flat of seedling six packs to my community garden plot, ready to plant them. It was a garden clean-up day, and my fellow … Continue reading
Kale I remember when I first encountered kale. It was a weekly offering sometime early in the season of my first CSA about seven years ago. I seemed to have some inkling of what it was and how … Continue reading
I plucked this very carrot – this rather large Atomic Red carrot grown from seeds purchased from the http://www.rareseeds.com catalog – from beneath my six inches of leaf cover in my community garden this past weekend.
Saturday I stopped by the garden for the first time in a few weeks. We’re still getting our semi-weekly farm share, and I have been stocking up in my make-shift root cellar, so I had not needed to tap into the last hardy rows of kale, leeks and carrots left at the garden. But I was having a little holiday get-together and I thought that these red beauties would make a nice addition to my veggie plate.
Sure enough, the ground was frozen rock solid. The air temp was above freezing, however, so I plucked the last of the blue lacinato kale (also known as dinosaur kale) leaves, which were doing surprisingly well having weathered a few weeks of cold weather. If you plan to leave your kale in the garden past the frost date, I read that it is best to pick the leaves in weather that is above 32 degrees because the thawing allows the water to redistribute and ensures better storage and taste. After a few weeks of freezing and thawing while living in the garden, the leaves looked as healthy as they did in October. The ground was too frozen to dig up the stalks, however, so I guess those are staying in til spring cleaning.
I also pulled the leaves back that were covering the roots of the row of leeks that I left in the ground. I was pleased that I could get my shovel in where my leaves had been insulating the dirt and the leeks were healthy. Same with the carrots – the leafy green tops were just starting to die down beneath the mound of leaf cover, and it was easy to dig out a few Atomic Reds to show off that evening on my snack table.
Verdict: the leaf cover experiment worked!
This is not news: greens are the first, heartiest, most prolific edible that can be grown in the northeast. After the deep winter farm share pick-ups – where a pound of stemmy salad mache was a treat in early February – I learned to expect and accept this green (or greens) challenge. Unsurprisingly we got a bunch of various greens at the first regular farm share pick up of the season last Wednesday and I’ve been pulling out the stops since to use them in new and creative ways. Luckily we’ve found some local greenhouse tomatoes that rival the mid-summer fruits. These have been gracing our salads with goat cheese (I think I can stop identifying my dairy as local any more – it all is!) and shredded carrots. The tomatoes also made a star appearance in a caprese with Fiore mozzarella and basil from my garden.
But the braising greens were another challenge. To make the kale and bok choy more exciting, I modified a recipe I tried last year, using some mustard from Maine and my own spicy pickled cukes and shredded onion. Great as a side dish with dinner, or the next day cold over lettuce.
Saute a clove of spring garlic and a thinly sliced onion or a couple of scallions in oil (olive oil or mustard oil would be extra tasty). Meanwhile wash your greens well – don’t dry them. When the garlic is soft (maybe 2 or 3 minutes) add the damp greens. The heat should be around medium. Add a two or three tablespoons of pickle brine, some chopped pickled vegetables and a fat tablespoon of mustard. Cover the saute pan and let the greens wilt, flipping the contents with tongs a few times. When the greens are almost done to your liking (maybe 5 minutes later), uncover and let some of the steam burn off before serving.