This recipe is a super food flavour high five for your mouth. That doesn't make much sense but neither does doing something 8 days a week or letting rampant kale and confusing garlic scapes go to waste because of lack of inspiration. Don't let them fall victim to a wilty death in your fridge! Thanks goes to Murray Meadows Farm for the kale that they're now selling in bulk for a great deal and The Natural Gardener for the kind gift of scapes that they dropped off to us at the office.
This summer has been something else, hasn't it? My tomatoes are fruiting happily, my zucchini are starting to flower, and even my very-late-started cucumbers look like they might provide me with a few crisp slicers before the frost hits them. It's glorious. However, there's always a price to pay for nice weather. My spring-sown greens - spinach, rapini, arugula and the like - all bolted to high heaven when the hot weather hit. So I missed out on my rapini - one of my very favourite vegetables - again. I've sown some more arugula, and I'll try the rapini and spinach again later this summer for a fall crop. But still, my repeated failure on the rapini front is getting more than a little discouraging. Fall had better be good to me.
I may have had success with my garlic, but of course I can't tell until I dig it up. If it has formed decent-sized bulbs I'll be super impressed, since I don't think I got it in the ground until after Christmas (the recommended time for planting garlic being, oh, around October). Here's the thing, though: if my garlic is ready to come up within the next few weeks, as it looks like it will be, then what am I going to plant in my newly-emptied garlic bed? On one hand, it's exciting to have a bunch of garden space come available., especially now that almost every corner of my garden is full to capacity. On the other, filling a bed in part shade with something that will be up and out of the ground by the time I have to plant next year's garlic (some time before Christmas this year, fingers crossed) is a lot of pressure. What grows that fast? Radishes and lettuce, I suppose. Nothing wrong with radishes and lettuce.
Just across the yard from my speedy garlic is my very confused broccoli. Actually, it's called purple sprouting broccoli. It's very common in British home gardens, where it is known as one of the few vegetables that grows through the winter to provide fresh eats in the early spring; normally, transplants are planted out in the spring so the plant can grow over the summer. Then the plant stands through the winter and produces lovely purple florets in March and April. Well, I planted mine out in spring, just like it said to on the package. Then the weather got really hot. Then it got really cold. Then it got really hot again, and now my purple sprouting broccoli is sprouting, about eight months ahead of schedule. Did the frost in June convince my purple sprouting broccoli that it had survived a winter? Will my broccoli keep on sprouting into the fall and winter, or will it bolt and fizzle out? And what am I going to eat in March?
Finally, my broad beans (fava beans) are attempting to live again. They flowered spectacularly in the spring, delighting the eye and perfuming the evenings with the most divine scent. I pinched out the young growing tips of each plant and ate them as luscious salad greens. Then it got hot out and almost all the flowers fell off before setting fruit. So for all those lush red blossoms, I'm going to get a handful of beans. Sigh. All hope is not lost, though; pinching out the growing tips has made the bean plants send out side shoots, which means more flowers. Maybe these ones will have cooler weather when it comes time to set fruit, and I'll have... two handfuls of beans.
Oh, my garden. Confused, off-schedule, and in too deep. But would I have it any other way?
Last weekend, I had the extreme good pleasure to attend a workshop on extending your growing season. The workshop facilitator was Dan Rubin, a home vegetable gardener who, through tactical use of raised beds, glass panes, and plastic row covers, has grown a whole lot of impressive eats in a location which is, essentially, a salt-lashed, wind-beaten, topsoil-less bit of rock (and I say that with love - I was born there and I adore the place). As the workshop participants wandered Dan's garden, and the garden at Points East Bed and Breakfast next door, we identified the plants which, despite having been left outside for the harsh coastal winter, were doing just fine: kale, huge leeks, sorrel, thyme, Egyptian onions... perhaps not looking quite as lush as they had been in October, but still mighty impressive.
Now, my own garden is also bursting with vegetables that survived the winter, however, in my case, most of the veggies are still there because I did such a miserable job of tidying the garden last year. Because really, aside from putting in a new batch of garlic, I didn't do a thing. Even the garlic I managed to mess up - I don't think I got around to planting it until January some time, so if I get decent heads it will be against all odds (and purely down to my excessive application of compost and prayer... and I'm an atheist, so it's really about the compost...).
I've been picking at the sorrel and the chives for a little bit now, and I ate what was left of the droopy kale. The oregano popped up, and my husband and I were compelled to fire up the grill for our inaugural spring "souvlaki plate" dinner.
And then I found something I hadn't anticipated. In the very messy bed in the front yard, there was this weedy-looking thing that had remained green under all the snow (and under the Christmas tree that we had stylishly discarded on top of it). I didn't give the weedy thing much thought, because I couldn't remember what I had planted there. But then it struck me: arugula! Survivor arugula! Survivorugula!
Sure enough, the weedy-looking stuff was the arugula that I had planted last year and which, in the terrible weather we had, didn't make much of an appearance at all. Here it had been, silently waiting out the cold, and then bursting into leaf as soon as the snow melted. It was tender, sweet, and possibly the most delicious arugula I have ever eaten.
I harvested a bunch of it, along with some sorrel, chives, Egyptian onions, and some lemon thyme (a little leggy from spending the winter in the kitchen window, but still tasty). Then I boiled some new potatoes until they were tender, while sauteeing my harvest with some of the last summer garlic. When the potatoes were done and the greens just wilted, I tossed it all together.
A meal fit for royalty, I tell you!
Since then, I have picked at the arugula a little more - I used some for greens in our burgers last night (along with some fresh herb mayo that I whipped together using some more of the chives and lemon thyme, with a generous grinding of black pepper). It won't last long, I'm sure; apparently overwintered arugula bolts at the slightest provocation. That's okay, though, because I have more arugula coming up in the cold frame to take the place of this stuff. I don't think it could possibly be as lovely, though.
This fall, I will definitely make sure I have some arugula overwintering somewhere in the garden. And I'll write down where I put it, too, so I don't end up wasting precious days asking, "What the heck kind of weedy thing is that?"