Every year, I get new surprises.
Since we’re moving, I decided not to do much gardening. I hoped my kale and collards would over-winter. One collard over-wintered. The rest died. Some of the kale in the front yard over-wintered but the back, where I had more success, the kale died. I ripped out the dead stalks last weekend.
A bit of rain and sunshine this week did some miracles for us, though. At first glance, I was irked that I would have to weed an empty garden. Turned out the joke was on me because these were all baby kale plants. My over-wintered kale from last year turned to seed last summer. I let the pods dry on the plants. In the fall, I collected the pods and seeds. Obviously some opened up and naturally self-seeded. A carpet of kale! Aren’t they the cutest?
Now to munch through baby kale before we move.
PS, Please stop by The Muffin Myth to see my guest post where I compiled a short list of interesting health-related news. My edition includes links about the reality of juice fasts, the cheapest nutritious foods, sports drink controversy, a 7-minute scientific workout and grocery shopping with Michael Polland and Michael Moss. And then go back in a week to see Katie’s compilation, which are always very good.
Our friends came over for a “Stress Free Friday” gathering. A chance to get together, chat, play games and such.
However, one of our friends forgot to write down our house number… but found our house without any trouble. Follow the kale and collards!, he told us. We are the only ones growing them on our street!
It has been a while since I’ve shared a garden update.
The good news: We are now harvesting green beans! Both Romano beans and Kentucky Wonder beans. I thought we weren’t going to get anything except for leaves (too much nitrogen?), but once Rob placed the tomato rings, the plants finally had something to hold onto and they shot up with tons of blossoms. And then over to our neighbour, too!
Last year, I only ever harvested a handful of beans at a time. While I kept a handful of dried pods so that I could plant them this year, I felt so sad, never having enough to make a real green bean dish. Not so, this year. I have harvested over 2 lbs so far. All in the span of a week. That may not sound like a lot but I am quickly going through my favourite green bean recipes. I am also being quite vigilant about my harvesting since if you leave the beans on the plant too long, they will become bitter.
Our herbs and collards are still growing strong. Except the basil, it grew too strong, too fast and I missed its lovely basil prime time. Now it is too zingy for me. I am definitely going back to the Pesto Perpetuo basil next year. I grew it last year and it never bolted. The only downside was that the leaves are smaller.
The not so bad news: My dinosaur kale plants have this funny white bug on them. It has been there a while, and I used to just clean it off before I ate it. However, now it looks like the poor plants are suffering. Anyone know what it could be and a natural way to remove them?
The ugly news: After all our efforts with the kabocha squash plants, they all died. I saved 2 squashes but I think the bugs got to them first. Boo. My zucchini plant hasn’t made any zucchinis either. Am I squash-cursed?
Now onto the food:
The good news: I am on a dolma kick. I made some kick-ass dolmas that I will share soon.
The not so bad news: I made a cranberry lemon tahini dip to go with said super fabulous dolmas. The cranberry lemon tahini dip was also super delicious. But somehow, super fabulous + super delicious did not make super super fabulous delicious. Instead they clashed. Both the dolmas (spiced with allspice, cinnamon and cherries!!) and the dip (cranberry, lemon, tahini) had strong flavours that didn’t work out so well together. However, separate, still very good.
At first, I thought the dip was a bit too sweet from the cranberries, so I added more lemon. The tahini adds a decadent silkiness to the dip. After an overnight chill in the refrigerator, it was perfect. I hummed and hawed over what to do with my dip now that I didn’t want it with my dolmas. Throw it into a collard wrap? Smother it onto broccoli slaw with some tempeh?
My brain went all fancy. My hands went simple. I took the freshly picked green beans and scooped up the dip. No adornments needed. Just crisp veggies. Serve this sweet dip with your favourite veggies and crackers… or go fancy and make me jealous.
Rob warned me.
I was away last week and Rob was in charge of watering the garden. I knew one of our squash plants was not doing so well after the scorching heat wave. I was already mentally prepared for the loss of a squash plant. Four plants in a small planter was probably not the best idea anyways. Even if 1 of the plants die, at least I will have 3 squashes.
However, it turns out that we have probably lost 3 out of our 4 plants.
AND…. to make matters worse, of the 3 squashes, one was ripped off the plant and eaten. Another had a large nibble removed. Only one survives. Rob swears it wasn’t him. We blame the raccoons!
One of the reasons we didn’t plant tomatoes was because we had an abysmal crop last year and oftentimes the animals would munch on the tomatoes first, leaving us with a handful of cherry tomatoes at the end of the season. Stealing tomatoes, I understand…
But please, raccoons.. do you really need to munch on an unripe kabocha squash? Gah! I kept telling myself well if nothing else, we will have a huge kabocha squash by the end of the summer. Sadly, I don’t even see any more blossoms to do more self-pollination.
It really makes you appreciate farmers and their struggles.
Thankfully my kale, collards and herbs are growing strong. The backyard planter has had great plants, although our front yard still has smaller kales. I have a handful of arugula growing, too, which I used for this sandwich. Holey in all its organically-grown-in-my-backyard glory. Looking at the photos, you’d think it was a green jungle out there!
Inspired by Gena’s raw pizza, I cobbled this sandwich together after my trip.
First, I marinaded cherries in maple-sweetened balsamic vinegar. Then I made a rosemary-infused cashew spread. A handful of my backyard arugula tops a maple pumpernickle (sourdough rye) bread that I picked up in Calgary. The contrast in flavours worked really well together, although I had a hankering for a more sour cashew spread. I think I need to find some probiotic capsules to help me with that… Next time!
Not only can I get in trouble at grocery stores, I can also get in trouble at garden centres.
It makes sense, because it is like a grocery store with such promise for the future.
Originally, we had planned to keep things relatively simple. We tried out a few plants last year, and knew that our best results were with our herbs in planters. We were also able to harvest beans (snow peas, snap peas and flat beans), lettuce, Swiss chard and kale, although at much lower yields. Carrots – nada! Kohlrabi – nope. Beets- only the chioggia beets grew and they were way too small.. Zucchini- to be fair, we grew it in a very shady part of the garden and it died. Our rhubarb died a horrible death, too.
Our new home has a much smaller garden, but receives a lot more light. I am hopeful we will be able to grow some tasty delights this year. To keep things simple, the herbs would be a definite go, especially since I overwintered them in my kitchen and only had a few casualties (basil, thyme and even the Vietnamese coriander, boo, the last two both perennials). I was going to try my hand at kale again, both with the transplanted kale and with seedlings. After Rob’s mom’s success with dinosaur kale (lacinato kale) from a seedling (and plenty of sun), I was adamant I wanted to try kale from seedlings. I know kale grows easily from seeds, but I figured this could help get the plant bigger and me eating it sooner!
Locating kale seedlings is easier said than done. Not only did I not want the standard kale, I wanted heirloom kale. Home Depot? No. Canadian Tire? No. A local independent grocer had the normal curly kale, though. I decided to check in with the closest garden centre: Caledonia Garden Centre. Turns out they had just picked up some kale to sell. Lacinato kale and the normal curly kale. Perfect!
With my best intentions, I swear, I headed off to buy some lacinato kale. I perused their collection… next to the lacinato kale, they had redbor kale. I picked up both. They also had a curly kale and bought it just for fun. Then I spotted the collard section. The regular collards were only a $1; in it went… and then I perused the section a bit more…. they had heirloom collards! Vates collards, which are a bit more compact with an earlier maturation date. And Portuguese collards (couve). Never even heard of it but they looked a bit more frilly and white in their mugshot on the label. I was excited just to find lacinato kale but now I was ecstatic!! New veggies to explore! I resisted the Swiss chard since I had seeds at home to plant. Then I moseyed through the rest of the veggies…. and while I had no plans to buy squash, when I saw they had KABOCHA (!) squash seedlings, I impulsively threw them in my now overflowing tray of seedlings. At only $1.25 for 4 plants, it was an experiment I was willing to try.
When I got home, I had to investigate how to grow collards and kabocha squash! Where would they fit in my garden?
Thankfully squash can be grown in containers, so that’s where I put my squash. I am not sure where the 20 foot vines will go but if they make it that far, I will deal with it then!
The collards and kale have all been interspersed in the front garden, amongst the perennial flowers. I am hoping they become balmy ornamental greens throughout the summer. Hopefully the sun cooperates and we can feed them properly. Cross your fingers for a summer of green overload!
Looking for a way to use some greens? This is a bulgur pilaf salad with some Swiss chard sneaked in.. while it may call for a bunch of Swiss chard, it wilts down and makes you wonder why you didn’t add more.
Courtesy of Melissa Clark, I tweaked her Bulgur Pilaf with Dried Apricots from Cook This Now. Like my Middle Eastern-Inspired Olive Oil Granola, this bulgur salad is flavoured with cinnamon, dried apricots and pistachios. With a nod to my favourite bulgur salad, a drizzle of pomegranate molasses and pomegranate arils make this salad more interesting with their tangy crunch. This is actually a template for a great salad: mix and match with what you have in store. Don’t have apricots and pistachios? Use dried cranberries and almonds instead… or try raisins and walnuts.. Salads need not be stressful!
Can you guess where these flowers came from?
If you know anything about me, my garden would be filled with vegetables. Only things I could eat.
Hint: I can eat these flowers. And the plant.
Hint 2: I never knew this plant even had flowers.
Hint 3: I’ve already told you I’ve grown this before…
Yes, the flowers are from my kale!
Those are my sad-looking kale plants that Rob and I transplanted this weekend (they perked up by this morning, though). They no longer had a home, so instead of being a legacy gift, we transplanted them to our new home. The funny thing was that when we moved two weeks ago, the plants were maybe 2 feet tall, and now look at them! Huge! With flowers!
I was actually kind of worried because once most plants flower, they are finito. That terrible bolting stage.
Not so with kale. It is a super plant, for sure. Apparently, the leaves are still just as tender and tasty (albeit maybe smaller), and the flowers are edible, too. You can use the unopened flowering portion just like sprouting broccoli. Turns out that kale is a plant that lives 2 years and in its second year, it produces these beautiful flowers.
Now who said kale wasn’t pretty enough to be in a garden?
As you can see the leaves look a little sad, so I am leaving them on the plant until it has revived slightly.
Instead, I will share a recipe for spicy coconut braised greens. You can use kale, too, or collards, like I did.
Whenever I post a recipe for raw collard wraps, I invariably receive a comment from a perplexed reader wondering whether raw collard greens are too tough to eat. Personally, I think collard leaves are one of my favourite greens for raw wraps since they are more sturdy than kale, Swiss chard or lettuce, and I do not find them to be too chewy. Firm and sturdy, yes, but that is why they are the base of the wrap.
However, I know not everyone enjoys greens as much as me (like Rob), and may be more likely to add collard greens to stir fries or soups instead. When I cooked my chickpea-collard roulade, though, I was aghast at how creamy collard greens could become.
Thus, my curiosity was piqued when I saw Cara’s recipe for Spicy Coconut Braised Kale, where the greens are simmered in coconut milk for half an hour. While I have seen greens simmered in coconut before, I was intrigued when Cara used the coconut milk from refrigerated cartons, instead of the canned coconut milk.
Not really a fan of making veggie sides, I employed my latest trick of tossing saucy veggies with quinoa for a complete meal.
After the long braise in a warmly spiced coconut broth, the collards become nice and tender. I liked that it was a rather light dish with a nice coconut flavour, courtesy of the coconut milk beverage. There was so much braising liquid left over, I almost wished I had used another bunch of collards. In any case, the quinoa was a perfect vehicle to sop up all of the juice. Next time, I may add in some squash and chickpeas, or decrease the amount of coconut milk.
Here today, gone tomorrow.
A high of 22°C on Sunday, but only a high of 3°C yesterday. Ouch!
Let me share with you something that will not be disappearing so fast… my lovely surprise from the garden:
KALE! My kale is back! I swear, it is almost bigger than when we harvested it in the fall and it is not even April yet. I thought we had removed the roots, too, but I guess not, because little kale plants are popping up all over the garden. The Vates Blue Curled Kale is definitely a keeper.
Sadly, the kale will be our legacy gift as we won’t be able to enjoy it this summer (moving!), although I may be able to eat baby kale salads before we leave.
Now, the question for the gardeners out there. What is this plant? Is it a beet?
Last year, Rob and I diligently watered a plant all summer, thinking it was kohlrabi. We waited until the plant was nice and big because we thought it was a root vegetable. I eventually pulled it out to see what magical vegetable was hidden underneath….. except there was nothing there. We had been watering a weed!! We were very sad. But this doesn’t look weed-like to my virgin garden eyes (too pretty, no?)… and I don’t want to pull it out yet. We planted heirloom beets and kohlrabi in that area last year but nothing really grew. Our chioggia beets were gourmet: baby beets, not more than an inch in diameter in the fall (hehe). Please let me know if you have any ideas because it doesn’t really look beet-like or kohlrabi-like to me.
Back to the kitchen: Once I had the energy to cook after returning from Vancouver, the cold weather had me wanting a warming and comforting savoury dish. Angela’s Cozy Millet Bowl certainly hit the spot. Filled with sauteed rosemary mushrooms and kale overtop millet, this tasted rich without any heaviness. My changes were simmering the millet in broth, omitting the oil (since I was using a nonstick pan), decreasing the rosemary (just because I didn’t want to pick my plant clean), decreasing the tamari (1 tbsp of tamari is salty enough with the broth) and omitting the cornstarch. It wasn’t thick and creamy like a typical gravy but it was rich and savoury without hurting my belly (no grease, please). If you like a thicker sauce, add the cornstarch. I loved the thinness so that it trickled down to coat the millet. The worst part about this recipe? I wish I had made more!
Anyways, please help me with my garden query… else I may just rip it out in a month due to curiosity. Unless you tell me it is a weed, and I will rip it out tomorrow.