April 1, 2011
Easter comes so late this year that I just can’t get excited about eggs, yet! But the spring-like weather we have been enjoying has made me think about my garden. It’s not too soon to plant some vegetables that we cultivate primarily for the leafy green foliage. Although I plant my annual crop of basil from seeds, I couldn’t resist a small growing pot of basil at the store; that plant now enjoys a sunny spot near my stove.
Ideal crops to plant now are lettuce, broccoli, kale or collard greens, because they can withstand a brief cold spell, should we have any more. Some, like broccoli, will produce a second crop in the fall. Lettuce must be planted in stages so you won’t find yourself suddenly overwhelmed with more than you can use.
On the Eastern Shore, some locals have already put in potatoes. I have never planted them “on purpose”, but I remember helping my grandfather cut up the potatoes he had saved for seed into chunks that had an “eye.” Considering that these will not be harvested until fall, I think I could get some crops in and out of my raised beds before I need to put them in. (I’m sure I can do it, because I accidentally grew a couple of small potatoes last summer – they came from kitchen scraps that apparently had not completely composted before I spread it in my herb garden). What a nice surprise.
I’d like to try spinach again; you wouldn’t believe what happened to my last crop. Kale is pretty hardy and since I have discovered that it’s popular at my house, I think I’m going to give that a try. We should enjoy repeated cuttings until the weather gets really warm. And I know how to prepare it now. Kale has two benefits that make it even more desirable to eat. It’s very inexpensive and extremely rich in nutrients that are good for you.
A friend brought me a bunch from his garden last summer, and although I had never eaten kale, I wanted to try it. I used one of the methods we use for cooking spinach, particularly the larger tougher leaves.
Mince two cloves of garlic and cut ¼ of an onion into thin slices and separate it into rings. Sauté these items in a little olive oil while the freshly washed and trimmed kale drains on kitchen towels. Although one could probably leave the ribs in a young tender leaf (The kale I buy at the market has pretty tough ribs.), I generally trim them away and chop the remaining parts into smaller pieces. When the onion and garlic softens, add the kale to the pan, while still holding some of the water in which it was washed in the pan. Sprinkle with salt and pepper, and toss everything together until the greens are wilted. This will take a while and you’ll have to keep an eye on the pan, so nothing burns. If the mixture begins to get too dry before the kale is cooked throughout and is soft in texture, add some water.
Before serving, add a sprinkle of vinegar. I’ve regularly used cider vinegar and sherry wine vinegar (my favorite). The final touch is to add a handful of sunflower seeds and toss it all together before serving. Fresh kale is a beautiful start to spring.