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Archive for the ‘chard’ Category

Temperatures and humidity in Arkansas have dropped from deadly to merely oppressive, but we’re still running above normal.  Therefore, this weekend I made one of my favorite summer soups, gazpacho.  Gazpacho is a tomato soup made entirely of fresh and raw ingredients, and it refreshes and rejuvenates you as you eat it.  A friend once called it salsa soup, but it really is a bit more than that.  For our household, it’s so good we think of it as red gold on the table.  And except for the celery and seasonings, we grow everything that goes in it, and you can too.

copyright 2010 Ozarkhomesteader

Ingredients for 4-8 servings

Note:  Use what you have.  If 1 cucumber yields you 3/4 cup and you want to use it up, go for it.

  • 1 cup peeled, chopped tomatoes
  • 1/2 cup celery (about two stalks)
  • 1/2 cup cucumbers:  Peel if it’s one of those nasty store-bought cucumbers.  If it’s a larger cucumber, be sure to scoop out the bitter seed section.
  • 1/2 cup fresh pepper, either sweet bell pepper or a mild chile pepper (My usual choice is a Hatch/Anaheim.)
  • 2 garlic cloves, crushed (as in, use a garlic press)
  • 3 tablespoons good red wine vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil (optional)
  • 1/2 – 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce (or a dab of anchovies and 1 tablespoon of some good calamata or black olive juice)
  • 2 to 2 1/2 cups tomato juice
  • 1/3 cup snipped parsley or chervil or chiffonaded cilantro or lemon basil (one, not all four!), reserving some of the herb you select for garnish

You have three options for preparing this soup.

  • Option one is to mince finely all of your vegetables and then combine everything except the part of the herb you are reserving for garnish.
  • Option two is to dice your vegetables not so finely and then hit the combination of vegetables with everything else except 1 cup of the tomato juice with an immersion blender or put them in a food processor and pulse until they are minced.  Once the veggies are minced, you can add the rest of the tomato juice and the portion of the herb that isn’t garnish.
  • Option three is to put everything in your stand blender except the herbs and pulse until the veggies are minced.  Then add the herbs.

Chill the soup in a glass or stainless steel non-reactive container well before serving.  The soup keeps really well, the flavors melding nicely, and the mixture is so healthy that I often double the recipe to keep it on hand.

Do you have a favorite heat-beating recipe?

Copyright 2010 Ozarkhomesteader, including photographs.

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We eat a lot of salad around here with various permutations and combinations, but two have come to have names.  One we call “favorite salad #1.”  No, I have not posted about it yet.  You’ll just have to come back to find out about it.  (Grin.) Tonight I’m talking “Favorite salad #2.”  Favorite salad #2 is Mediterranean in influence, incorporating some things we grow and some things we buy.  Actually, this salad has a larger percentage of non-local products than we usually eat; maybe that’s what makes it name worthy.    The ingredients are sweet, tangy, salty, and ever so slightly bitter, making for a wonderful blend.  For each individual salad, layer the ingredients from top to bottom in roughly this order:

  • 1-2 cups mixed baby greens, big pieces gently torn, or in summer chard and/or mustard greens
  • optional if in season:  cucumber, quartered lengthwise and then sliced thinly–put on outside edge of greens
  • course grated carrot (a couple of tablespoons per salad)
  • 1-2 thinly sliced radishes
  • 1-3 dried tomatoes, cut into thin strips
  • 1 tablespoon of feta cheese (goat cheese feta makes it really special)
  • a few sliced pitted kalamata olives
  • optional if in season:  halves or quarters of cherry tomatoes
  • 1-2 tablespoons slivered or sliced almonds, toasted (325 degree F for 5-7 minutes)
  • 1-2 tablespoons dried black currants
  • optional:  chives, thin slices to garnish (I cut these with kitchen scissors straight over the salad)

You can serve this salad with a homemade oil and vinegar dressing or get even more non-local and try it with a store-bought Mediterranean-inspired dressing like Drew’s Lemon Goddess Tahini or Annie’s Goddess Dressing. Both of these are tahini-based dressings, the sesame paste featured in  hummus (chickpea dip). We like the salad with Italian, Greek, and Middle Eastern food.  In the winter it may be a part of a big meal.  In the summer, it may be the meal all on its own (or maybe with some watermelon, mmmmmm).

Give it a try and let me know what you think!  Do you have a favorite salad combo?  We’d really like for you to share it with us.

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Our winter garden has had a really challenging week, and it’s only getting worse.  I’ve taken all of the basic precautions, but when temperatures drop well below freezing and stay there for days, I know I’m going to lose some things.  The first thing I did was cut a whole bunch of kale and pull the most vulnerable leeks and made a Tuscan sausage, leek, and kale soup.  I also dug some baby turnips that were on the outer edge of the cold frame.  I’ll roast those later this week.  Where ice and snow have accumulated, I’ve left it on my cold frames and plastic coverings; the snow will be a better insulator than the glass and plastic alone.  Tomorrow I’ll pile pine straw and leaves around everything that I can, including my vegetable tunnels.  The good news is that, although some of what I’m growing will freeze, most of it will grow back, given a few weeks.  I’ll just have to be patient!

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Tonight as I gaze northwest, I can see distant lightening.  With the lightening will come rain and then much colder temperatures, after a few halcyon days of wonderful golden warmth.  I’m glad that I did not give up on my eggplant when temperatures first dipped back in October, because it has continued to yield bountifully.
Tonight eggplant drove supper, with contributions from cucumber, leek, chard, red pepper, radishes, and a few store-bought additions.  Tonight we went Greek.  Alas, I did not take pictures, but I can assure you that the whole meal was full of color and flavor.  In short, I fried up some falafel to serve in whole wheat pita with homemade baba ghanouj (roasted eggplant and garlic mixed with yogurt and tahini), homemade roasted red pepper and olive dip, tadziki (cucumber, dill, garlic, and yogurt with lemon zest), and radishes and fresh bell pepper to dip.  I served swiss chard sauteed with leek (both homegrown) and garnished with currants and red wine vinegar.

I will no doubt post details on my version of these dishes in the future.  In the meantime, let me know if you’d like any recipe sooner rather than later.

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If you are wishing you could extend your gardening season but think it’s all over when the first frost hits, you have a whole world of winter gardening awaiting your growing pleasure.  You just need to pick the right things to grow, to give them adequate protection, and to expect them to grow a bit more slowly because they’ll be getting less sun.

It may surprise you to know that one of the nation’s most famous four-seasons farms is in Maine.  Granted, Maine’s coastal waters keep it from being as cold as, say, Minnesota, but it still gets awfully darn cold.  The folks at Four Seasons Farm are real experts, but you can get a start on small-scale winter gardening here with me.  Let’s get first to the seed.

For winter gardening, you obviously need to pick vegetables that are ordinarily geared for colder weather.  Do not expect to grow anything that seed packets label “tender” without a lot of energy-intensive protection, which is not sustainable.  That means you will most likely not be successful growing peppers, squashes of any kind (winter squash isn’t called that because it grows through the winter but rather because it keeps through the winter), cucumbers, melons, or most beans.  You can, however, grow everything in the cabbage and broccoli family Red Russian Kale, most greens, many root crops, and certain herbs.  For example, basil and parsley prefer warm weather, but chervil and cilantro like it cooler.  If a seed guide recommends early spring or late summer planting, you may be able to get a winter harvest.  If anything requires pollination, expect to do it yourself with a tiny paintbrush, because the buzzies who usually do the job won’t be out and about.

Now let’s talk about protection.  Winter gardening requires you to cover crops through the coldest weather.  If you only have an occasional light frost, you can do the job with old sheets.  If you expect regular freezing weather, begin by adding mulch around tender plants and especially root crops.  Then cover with plastic or glass, being sure that the plants do not touch the covering; plants that touch the covering may freeze.  Building raised beds make covering much easier.

Here are plants in a raised bed in early February, having started their life in early January and survived several nights down to almost 0 degrees F.Seedlings in a Cold Frame I built the raised bed to fit an old window that my neighbor was replacing.  I placed the window directly on top of the wooden frame (made out of scrap wood).  On warmer days, you can slide the window back or use a small piece of wood to raise one end and let the cold frame vent hot air.

This pup-tent style grow house can be found in many forms on the internet and works well if you need something taller:  Grow Tent in the Snow Note that I did not remove ice and snow after a storm.  Those are going to be a consistent 32 degrees F, so if the air temperature is much colder, the snow actually serves as a blanket.  Just know that it reduces light, so you need to get it off eventually.

That brings me to my last warning on winter gardening.  You’ll find that crops grow much more slowly in the winter.  They also may germinate less well, so you may want to overseed.  (You can always eat the thinnings, as we did from the cold frame shown above.) Still, you’ll find that the plants will take off as soon as the sunlight starts coming back, giving you an early spring harvest that will be the envy of your gardening neighbors. April Bounty

 

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Copyright Ozarkhomesteader 2009.  All rights reserved.  See other posts on fair use.

If there’s anything I’ve learned from walking kids (and adults!) through my garden, it’s that a cute name or a vibrant color goes a long way toward getting kids (and adults!) to try something new.  A few years ago some friends’ kids, then aged about 5 and 9, were walking through the garden to see what was new.  When I showed the older son the banana peppers, he told his younger sister, “Hey, these are bananas!”  She expressed disbelief, and I told her that they were sweet peppers that just looked like bananas.  “Can I have one?” she asked.  “Of course,” I told her, cutting off one for her and her brother.  They both wiped them off on their shirts and then chomped into them.  As they made their way back to their car to go home, they asked their parents if it was okay for them to take the peppers in the car.  They snacked on them all the way home.  Now these kids are pretty adventurous eaters, but I’ve seen similar things with other kids who were less adventurous.  If it looks pretty or sounds fun, kids will try it!

Today I picked some chard with beautiful deep green leaves and bright red stems.  I always think ruby chard is pretty, but this time of year, it makes me think of Christmas.  Christmas Salad Try this one on your kids:  use small ruby chard leaves in a salad with other rosy vegetables and maybe some white cheese or creamy dressing to make a  Christmas salad.  You could even call it a reindeer salad.  Just don’t call it chard, which is definitely not an appealing name.  If you can’t find baby ruby chard in your CSA basket, farmer’s market, or grocery store, you still have time to grow it before the holidays.  Begin by soaking the seed to give them a head start.  If you have a cold frame, you can grow them in there.  If you don’t have a cold frame, don’t despair.  Just use heavy clear plastic–like that old shower curtain liner you need to replace–to heat up the ground and protect the seeds and seedlings as they grow.  Keep the ground under the plastic watered well, and keep the plastic a few inches off any seedlings and growing greens.  If you plant this week, by Christmas you’ll have beautiful baby greens!  And Swiss chard of every color packs a wallop of nutrients, including more than 700% of your recommended daily value of Vitamin K, which will help you keep strong bones.  For more on chard’s amazing nutrient value, see here.

Real lettuce varieties you may want to try for holiday spirit include deer tongue (a deep red leaf type lettuce) and Marvel of Four Seasons (a red and green crinkly lettuce), both from John Scheeper’s Kitchen Garden Seed, and Botanical Interests’s Valentine Mix.  You can start all of these and get some baby lettuce by Christmas too!

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