It's a free for all

As I last posted, the community garden is covered in green. Not only are there plots of cover crops, but there are a few large areas of lamium/dead nettle and chickweed.

Last Saturday I harvested dead nettle, chickweed, dandelion greens, and sorrel to make a pureed green soup. I'm not a big smoothie fan (they go down too fast for me) so a rich warm soup is a great way to enjoy the benefits of these "wild" greens.

I've been reading Katrina Blair's The Wild Wisdom of Weeds. From her book: Dandelions are rich in beta-carotene, calcium, iron, potassium, and Vitamins C, D, and E. Chickweed is rich in antioxidants, Vitamins A C D B6 and B12. From other sources I've learned dead nettle is an important supply of nectar to bees, anti-inflammatory, and also loaded with vitamins and minerals.

Cauliflower Sorrel Soup

This recipe was loosely based on Gayla Trail's potato sorrel soup recipe, though I couldn't find my copy of the book with that particular recipe (Easy Growing). I've probably loaned it to someone, which means I just need to go get another copy for myself. Her books don't come back readily.

  • one onion, sliced
  • 4 bulbs elephant garlic, smashed
  • 2 Tablespoons butter
  • one head cauliflower, pulled apart into florets
  • 4 cups chicken stock (or vegetable....something rather bland)
  • 8 cups mild flavored greens
  • 1 cup whole milk
  • grated ginger, salt, pepper, garlic powder to taste

Sautee the onion and elephant garlic in butter until translucent, but not golden. Stir in stock, add cauliflower. Simmer until cauliflower is soft. Add rinsed and drained greens and simmer until well-wilted. Blend with an immersion blender until uniformly pureed. Add milk, season with ginger, salt, etc.


Using the Harvest

This past Saturday, these greens (a combination of sorrel, sweet potato leaves, and Malabar spinach), with the addition of some frozen chopped spinach, became a spinach and cheese pie.

Did you know you can eat sweet potato leaves? They're a great spinach substitute. I collect the young leaves that still have a bit of shininess to them. When I'm using them in a recipe like this pie I quickly blanch them prior to making the pie filling. 

The crust is a basic Pâte Brisée but I skipped the sugar because I don't like the slightest hint of sweetness with a savory filling.  The filling is very similar to this one, but I added some mozzarella since I had it on hand. 

Preservation Proclamation

Friday evening I made a big pot of sorrel and potato soup from MizTrail's Easy Growing. It was excellent! Part of the issue with growing non-traditional honky foods is that I have to figure out a way to cook them and use them. Especially when they start coming in by the truck load. Note to self: having 3 sorrel plants for a family of 3 is more than plenty. Thanks in part to the potatoes, the soup was filling enough that it provided dinner for 2 (Mabel wasn't feeling experimental that night), Saturday's lunch for me, and a big enough batch for the freezer that we'll have dinner another night.

I spent a couple hours in the community garden on Saturday morning, first teaching a class (of 2!), then attacking the weeds* that had taken over. Currently the garden consists of 20 mounded rows, each 8' wide and 25' long. We've consistently had 3 people there working on Saturdays and 2 stalwarts who make it out a couple times during the week. Suffice to say, the uprooting of weeds has been much slower than the growth of new ones.

I brought some clear plastic to the garden to begin solarizing a couple of the beds. In return, I came home with a plastic grocery bag full of lamb's quarters, a giant cilantro plant that went to seed, and a bin of red wrigglers. Later in the afternoon I gave my own herb garden some TLC by giving one of the rosemary bushes a trim, uprooting and drying catnip (for our own use as tea), and dividing a few of my plants-gone -wild in preparation of unloading (errr...) giving them away.

This is actually a different batch of pesto than the cilantro pesto I made, 
but what can I say, it's Monday and I'm lazy.
To recap: we're now well stocked on rosemary infused oil, rosemary balsamic vinegar, cilantro oil, cilantro pesto, and coriander. I'm still deciding what to do with the lamb's quarters, we have a ton of lettuce to go through before I get to them.

All of this jabber is to get to the point of what my Mother's Day consisted of: preserving. Whether keeping herbs in oil, vinegar, or finding a way to freeze them, I've already got a nice stockpile and the summer growing season hasn't really started!

*Most of these weeds are edible, but we want more mainstream crops producing food for Friendship Trays.