Sunday, March 23, 2014

Harvest-directed cooking

I love this time of year because so much of what we eat comes from the garden. It's harvest-directed cooking.

A dinner salad from the garden includes a rogue blooming onion*, Swiss chard, 3 types of lettuce from the chef's mix blend, romaine, curly parsley, carrots, sugar-snap peas, come-again broccoli, garlic chives, meadow garlic, rosemary, dill, and cabbage leaves.

The meadow garlic is getting ready to bloom. So the growth has
increased dramatically in the last week or two.
*Blooming onion: I'm growing an assortment of short-day onions this year and normally they are biennials and form a bulb one year to store energy for flowering the next year, but once in a while a few will jump the gun and do it all in one season. Once an onion produces a flower bud, it's time to harvest it because the bulb will degrade to produce the flower. This was one of the sweet granex onions--see more at Short-day onions and more... I used less than half of it in the salad--the rest became part of the carrot soup the next night.

In addition to the rogue granex onion, the native garlic is also blooming now just as we've passed the vernal equinox. Plants are really tuned into the day length, plus we've had a lot of rain in the last two months, especially when it's supposed to be the dry season. In February we had 6" when the average is 3.1" and we've already had more than 3" of rain in March when 3.9 is the average for the whole month.

Ugly carrot soup

When I included this recipe in our Organic Methods book, I called it "ugly carrot soup" because sometimes the carrots come out funny. I didn't have any ugly carrots for this soup, but it came out tasting just as yummy. Every time I make it, it's different because it depends on what's available from the garden. In addition to my harvested vegetables (half of the blooming onion, rosemary, oregano, nantes carrots, curly parsley, meadow garlic, garlic chives, come-again broccoli, cabbage leaves), I added one store-bought onion, non-fat plain yogurt, freshly ground pepper, spaghetti, and olive oil.
The ingredients for the carrots soup plus 8 cups of water and a garnish of dill.
Brown the onions, garlic chives, and meadow garlic in olive oil until caramelized in the bottom of the soup pot. Add freshly ground pepper and stir in the rest of the veggies and saute for about 5 minutes. Add the water, bring to a boil and simmer for 20 minutes, then add the spaghetti or any other pasta and cook for 10 more minutes. Let it cool for 10 minutes and put it all in the food processor until relatively smooth. Stir in half a cup of non-fat yogurt. Serve in bowls with a heaping tablespoon of yogurt and chopped dill. Yummy!

Carrot soup is good hot or cold.

Tuna salad roll-up with lots of our fresh lettuce is one of our favorites. I also use parsley, dill, cabbage leaves, garlic chives, meadow garlic, and other greens in the tuna salad for more fresh flavor.
It's time to plant the summer crops now.  I'll cover my summer crops for this year in a future post.

It's not too late to get started with your edible gardens. It was recently shown that people who did their own cooking were healthier than those who eat out all the time. Just think how much that would be multiplied if you augmented your menu with crops fresh from your own yard. Get started today with your own copy of Organic Methods for Vegetable Gardening in Florida.

Rain gardens revisited and removing invasives

A new spot for a magnolia (Magnolia grandiflora) next to the rain garden in the wooded area between us and our next door neighbors. The magnolia will eventually provide a little more screening in the winter.
Extracting invasive coral ardisia  from the wooded
area along our property line.

I moved a magnolia that had planted itself too close to an irrigation sprayer. I talked about this in my Plan Ahead! post over on the Native Plants and Wildlife Gardens blog. I also cleared out the rain garden I'd built to move water from the downspout French drain. Leaves had covered it.

While I was in the area, I spotted a few invasive coral ardisia (Ardidia crenata) shrubs. How did they get there? The neighbors grow them in their yards and the birds eat their bright red berries and deposit the seeds with a dollop of fertilizer below their perching branches.

The tuberous swordferns (Nephrolepis cordifolia) are everywhere. At first I thought they were the same as a cute fern up in Maryland, but soon found that I was dealing with a monster. So at least a couple of times a year I attack the invasives and eventually I'll get a better handle on them.
One of many loads of coral ardisia and tuberous sword fern.

The down spout rain garden history

Before the rain garden the lawn became a puddle. I dug a dry well 18" in diameter and equally deep, filled
with gravel a covered with fake river rocks.
A rain garden revisited. The Asian azaleas are larger and the lyre-leaf sage (Salvia lyrata) is beautiful this time of year.
See my rain garden articles for a history of how I built and then expanded the rain gardens. As part of the expansion, the lawn in area of the landscape is gone and the excess rainwater is piped under the mulched path to a dry well. It's important for us to keep as much rainwater on our properties as possible to reduce pollution in our waterways.

Around the neighborhood

Canadian toadflax in a "Freedom lawn."
A study in male sexual organs! This should increase the traffic to this post, but I should mention that these were shed by pine trees and if they didn't fill the air with enough pollen, the oaks are now doing the same thing so the pollen count will remain high. I don't suffer from pollen allergies, but the yellow coating on everything is getting old.
A flatwoods plum (Prunus umbellata) or a chickasaw plum (P. angustifolia) in my neighborhood. I will be able to identify it for sure when the leaves come out. Either way, it's a lovely spring bloomer and it was abuzz with bees.
This is why you should leave snags in your landscape if possible--the hawks and other birds of prey love the perch there.
The weather is wonderful. Be sure to get out there to enjoy Mother Nature this spring.

Green Gardening Matters,
Ginny Stibolt

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