Monday, July 14, 2008

Purslane and Greek amaranth soup

Greek amaranth (seeds from Seeds of Change) pictured in the middle ground in Russell's garden bed. According to Wikipedia, Common Purslane, which is also commonly referred to as Pigweed and with the Latin name of Portulaca oleracea, is used as a leaf vegetable in Europe and Asia. I have found it in my garden and at Cure Farm and have decided to try it. From my local perspective, it's slightly sour, salty flavor is a welcome treat here. Certainly I am always on the lookout for vegetables or fruits that can be grown here and which provide a sour flavor. Lemons don't come easy in this climate! Also according to Wikipedia, "Purslane contains more Omega-3 fatty acids than any other leafy vegetable plant" with 0.1 mg/g of EPA which is the same type of fatty acid normally found mostly in fish and some algae. It also contains a number of vitamins. Free, tasty and growing in the ground somewhere near you!
Amaranth has many, many virtues. My problem with my amaranth plants is that I really want to have some survive the summer so they can produce grain, but I also have discovered how tasty the rest of the plant is. According to Wikipedia, the greens "are a very good source of vitamins A, B6, C, riboflavin and a number of dietary minerals." Also of note is the moderately high content of oxalic acid, which inhibits the absorption of calcium and zinc. I'll have to watch that perhaps. In any case, very, very tasty when steamed or braised. And I mean the entire plant.

Boulder mid-JulyPurslane and Greek amaranth soup
Please note: I suggest certain vegetables, but feel free to add others if you wish and you have them. When I made this, I used only vegi's I had grown or foraged in my garden myself (with the exception of the garlic scapes). The amaranth grain I got from Whole Foods, who got it from Peru. I have plants in the ground for grain production for this fall. Not enough, but certainly a good start. I used coconut oil and balsamic vinegar. Both very imported.
-A good handful of amaranth greens (with stalks)
-A good handful of purslane
-Optional: chard or beet greens or cabbage- whatever's ready to eat out there..
-Chives or spring onions (or whatever allium family plant you have growing. Right now I could use bunching onions, red onions, or leeks from my garden.)
-Garlic scapes or young garlic (or mature garlic if that's in season right now.)
-Amaranth grain (pre-cooked with water)
-Feta (I used Haystack Mountain so it's local).
-Oil and vinegar of your choice.
Put about 2 cups of water in a saucepan. Wash greens and snip or chop them up and add to pot. Ditto with the onions or leeks if you have those. If you're using chives, wait to add those later. Add approximately 1/2 cup of amaranth to the pot. Chop up some feta and snip up or mince the garlic scapes or garlic and reserve these (along with the chives if you have those. Heat greens, amaranth and water almost to a simmer, stirring frequently and watching closely. You just want to wilt the greens a little. Pour soup into a bowl, add cheese and garlic (and chives). Add oil and vinegar to taste. Stir. Very good!

Pick axes, rock walkways, summer garden activities

Russ with the garden, his favorite pick axe and the compost bin we keep in our garden. There is something about the pick axe that "speaks" to young men (both of ours anyway). Perhaps it's the sharpness of the pick, combined with the weight of the thing, making it feel rather more like a weapon than shovel. Note that Russ is barefooted in this picture. Once this summer I went out to a window looking out over the garden and beheld my son in the fourth garden bed working with the pick axe in his boxer shorts and nothing else. This required some maternal intervention as the dress code for pickaxing involves the attire pictured plus shoes.

Here is my progress on a rock pathway between our second and third raised beds. I am only using rocks we have pulled from the ground in preparing the soil for the beds. My plan is to continue the pathway around the third bed and to build an inexpensive greenhouse around the bed and pathway. As many of the rocks in the pathway are quite large and heavy and largely buried with their tops just at the surface, this is a big job but my hope is that the thermal mass they provide will serve to passively increase the overall temperature and temperature stability within the greenhouse.

I pulled out the peas this week and turned under the cover crop behind them. Peas in dinners and lunches all week.

Russ proudly standing in front of his garden bed. He chooses to spend quite a bit of time out in the garden, searching for edible "volunteer" plants, bugs we consider pests (such as cabbage white caterpillars who do damage to our brassicas), observing his plants, winding bean vines and morning glories up his trellis and preparing soil (a.k.a. pickaxing rocks out of the dirt) for our latest bed project.

High summer harvests in my garden

This week I harvested: a big head of broccoli, a couple good-sized zucchini, a head of cabbage, chard, orach, New Zealand spinach, purslane, amaranth greens and stalks, chives, beets, red onions and bunching onions, a good-sized fennel bulb and tops, a kohlrabi, baby carrot thinnings and lots of peas. I have lots of basil, thyme, oregano, sage and a couple mints in good shape as well. Cure Farm provided lots of vegi.s and fruit with our one large CSA share and two fruit shares, and Russ and I always get a bag of vegi.s when we volunteer Thursday mornings.
What my garden provides now is variety, and prevents us from needing to supplement our CSA share with food bought elsewhere. I went to Whole Foods today to buy food for an upcoming road trip to Minnesota, checked out the vegetable section and happily left it empty handed. All I had to think about was what I had the garden "stocked with". Often my biggest problem is to decide when to harvest what, as many things can be harvested at different stages in their development. I have been able to plan ahead somewhat by asking folks at Cure how long their onions should hold out for instance, and with that information, leave my tempting onions and leeks in the ground (knowing that I'll have onions from Cure for a while, and saving mine for when Cure's are gone. Although actually on that order, the garlic that's coming in now can stand in for the onions in many dishes, so I can continue to hold off on the onions and leeks and see if they'll get any bigger...)

Friday, July 11, 2008

Hot garden, Fall garden

Oh so hot today! 100+. So hot the dogs want to stay in and so do we.
Last week, while volunteering at Cure I found myself thinning seedlings for their fall crops. I hadn't been planning on planting for a couple weeks at least, but decided that it was time. Ann Cure's comment was "It's not too late!" So this week I:
-Purchased more fluorescent fixtures and seedling trays and moved my seedling starting area down into the basement to improve odds that my cool season seeds will germinate and grow well (much cooler downstairs as we run the air conditioner rarely and it gets quite warm in other parts of the house).
-Planted in 72-cell seedling flats under lights down in the basement:
kohlrabi (more to start next week), Swiss chard (4 kinds), kale (6 kinds- 2 ornamental), broccoli (3 kinds), corn salad, spinach (2 kinds), claytonia (miner's lettuce), collard greens, fennel, wild arugula, lovage (it may be late, but I want to establish this as a perennial in my yard for the celery flavored stalks and potential medicianal uses), onions, cabbage (small, savoy), pak choi, endive, garlic chives (another plant to establish in the yard and in this case to provide a garlic flavored green early in the spring before the garlic scapes are up), beets (a mixture of types), orach and turnip greens.
-Harvested: beets, sweet onions (with tops), broccoli, cauliflower, chard, amaranth, orach. Next year I really should plant more broccoli and cauliflower as both are wonderful. The broccoli plants produce big side shoots if left in the ground after the first stalk is harvested.

-Prepped: Continued to read The Omnivore's Dilemma.

-Worked on local food systems: Volunteered twice at Cure Farm with youngest son. This week we harvested cherry tomatoes briefly and then spent hours weeding the tomatoes. This required less hoeing and more close work around plants and drip tape. I identified thistles, mallow, bind weed, purslane, lamb's quarters and grasses. Volunteer vetch at the farm is blooming.

-Tried and cooked something new: Tasted lamb's quarters and purslane in my garden. Hunted down and ate all the lamb's quarters in my yard as they are very tasty. Tried braising some amaranth as it's too bitter tasting for me raw. Once cooked a little the amaranth is very tasty so I hope my seedlings in the garden grow well. Re-learned the art of corn-tortilla making using a tortilla press and cast-iron griddle. Found a recipe for chapati on the Internet, using just whole wheat flour (that I can get from Weld county- Wheatland Farms), a little salt and oil. Very easy using the bread machine to do the kneading and simple to roll out with a rolling pin. Also very tasty!

-Built: trellis for raised bed #3. Used damaged wool to spin a compostable garden twine for the beans to grow on and used stakes cut from the stalks holding plumes of an ornamental tall grass plant in our garden last fall. We continue to prep. the soil and remove rocks from raised bed #4, although Russell is doing most of this work on his own, propelled by the fact that he earns video time by doing this. We have generally slowed down because of the heat...

Saturday, July 5, 2008

Days of beets, beans and amaranth

I'm posting this late, the date should be 6-26-08

This week I volunteered at Cure Farm (the CSA we're members of) on Thursday morning as usual. We had a crew of about 12 volunteers who planted melons and weeded chard and tomatoes. It was quite hot.

At home I:

-Transplanted beet and chard seedlings into new bed #3, weeded, put away most row covers, washed plastic for one hoop house, turned over the spring planted cover crop (vetch, field peas, oats), hand watered as needed, tied up tomatoes, added a couple of feet of walkway between new beds #2 and #3, considered where to put Greek amaranth seedlings. I also pulled out Seven-top turnip green plants. I have a couple Siberian kale plants still growing. One has gone to seed (little yellow flowers on tall stalks). Tons of bees on flowering milkweed in the garden and in the meadow beyond. Based on what I'm learning at Cure, I now recognize two more edible "weeds" in my garden- purslane and lamb's quarter. The lamb's quarter is really very tasty actually.

My greatest garden impression this week is of those plants that are growing rapidly to maturity right now, and which need to be planted either now or on an ongoing basis. As the weather is quite warm and the soil with it, I'm putting in beans everywhere I can. They germinate and emerge in about 3 days in most cases. My established amaranth seedlings, although slow to start, are now growing rapidly, so those I had as transplants needed to go into the ground as quickly as possible. Beets are amazing right now. Beets at both Cure and the farmer's market are just beautiful and so tasty. We've started harvesting our own and they're about 1 1/2 to 2 inches in diameter. The leaves have a little damage in places by and unidentified and very tiny bug, but they're tasty anyway (as are the stalks). As Cure will be harvesting beets in August, I decided that even though they are a cool season crop, I'll continue to plant them and find out how it goes...


Well, summer has definitely arrived. 99 degrees today by about noon when I got back from the farmer's market on my bike. As my commute to the market is on the Boulder Creek Path, I was impressed with the volume and swiftness of the water coming down the creek. Many people were out with dreams of drifting down the creek but I think many had also not considered the relative safety of the idea....

Last night we attended a party in Nederland and enjoyed their fireworks display. Bedtime was late for us all, and I admit that when I awoke with the plan to go to the farmer's market, it was very hard for me to drag myself out of bed to do so. I also really, really wanted to take the minivan to the farmer's market because I didn't want to ride my bike downtown. As I lay very comfortably in bed, I thought about the cost of the fuel, the potential cost of parking the car and of course the cost to the planet. I got up and rode my bike to the market.