- The peppers are in full swing, especially the Anaheim, Gypsy, and jalapeño. Same for the oriental eggplants.
- Cherry and Roma tomatoes are starting to make guest appearances in salads, bruschetta, and on nachos. Larger tomatoes are still green.
- Thai and Italian basil are almost a nuisance.
- Cucumbers and Butternut squash are threatening to take over the garden (they remind me of kudzu).
- After a first heavy flush the bush green beans are giving it another go.
- Volunteer mustard, kale, chard, and lettuce are popping up in unexpected places.
- I harvested enough garlic for a year’s supply for four families.
And the sturdy and dependable chard is still keeping us in greens. At the height of summer it can get bitter, so I blanch it first, rinse, squeeze out the water, chop and then sauté with olive oil, garlic, and onion. Last night we had chard and black bean enchiladas with green sauce. Tuesday we’ll be having curried creamed chard with basmati rice and this curried eggplant. I’ll make another chard and green chili strata for Thursday’s dinner.
Mike and I discussed what we want to do for our winter garden. We’ve decided to let half of it (one of the two hoop houses) go fallow. But not really fallow, because we are going to grow some cover crops and let the chickens visit it on the weekends. For cover crops I plan on using some of my excess saved seed – kale, Chinese cabbage, mustard, arugula, and lettuce. Such lucky chickens – to be feasting on organic microgreens in January!
Last week Mike built this fence to replace a section that was about to fall down. Isn’t it gorgeous?
Early June is a relatively quiet time in my vegetable garden. The spring greens, spinach and lettuce are all done, and the summer crops aren’t ready. There are a few plums each day, and we will have a deluge of peaches to deal with soon. But pretty much the only big producer right now is Swiss chard. Here in Oklahoma Swiss chard is a much better bet than spinach. It will produce year round if you give it enough room, pick it frequently, and cover it in the winter (in a cold frame or hoop house). This week I’m cooking the following:
Curried Chard and Lentils: Cook 1/2 cup of green lentils in 1 cup of water. Sauté 4 cups of chopped chard in a little olive oil until limp. Combine the (hot) lentils and chard with 1 large minced clove of garlic, 2 tsp of Madras curry powder, and 2 oz of cream cheese. Stir until cream cheese is melted throughout. Serve with brown rice.
Chard and green chili breakfast strata: Butter, oil, or spray a casserole dish. Cover bottom with crushed/broken/stale tortilla chips. Sprinkle with chopped green chilis or other hot peppers. Cover with shredded cheese (Monterrey Jack is good), then cover with chopped and sautéed chard. Top with cubed white bread. Beat up eggs with milk, as you would for French toast, and pour over the top (it doesn’t need to cover the bread). Let it sit for a while – overnight also works – then cook at 350 until the eggs are just set and the bread is golden toasty. You don’t need to add salt because the bread, cheese, and tortilla chips all have salt.
Massaged chard salad: Use the smaller and more tender leaves for this. Chop or tear the chard leaves into large pieces. (I also like to add chopped Italian parsley or mint.) Massage with olive oil, lemon juice, minced garlic, and a bit of sea salt. Top with chopped walnuts, sunflower or pumpkin seeds, and grated hard cheese. NOTE: The raw garlic can sometimes be hot/aggressive, so you might want to sauté it a wee bit in olive oil first. Also, this massaged chard is also really good as a pizza topping. Put it on last, and watch to see that it doesn’t burn too much.
During Kate and Tuan’s spur-of-the-moment visit last weekend I learned a cool new trick: You can sprout a lemongrass plant from the stalks you purchase at Asian groceries such as Cao Nguyen!
So here are the directions from Kate, by way of Tuans’ mother, Mrs. Nguyen.
- Buy the freshest bundle of stalks you can find
- Use the bottom 4″ of stalk
- Peel off some of the outer leaves
- Place the short stalks in a cup containing about 1″ of water
- Place in a window that gets indirect sunlight
- Check the grass daily – you may see roots start in just one day, although it might take a week
- Transplant to a pot filled with good quality potting soil
- Keep moist, but not soggy
eHow also has directions on how to grow lemongrass from cuttings.
Last year I bought a lemongrass plant at the farmer’s market, but I haven’t found any this year. I knew that it wouldn’t overwinter in the garden, so I planted it in a 1 gallon pot and it did fine nestled in with basil plants all around. It made a quite nice looking ornamental grass.
I brought it inside in the fall and kept it alive all winter, but then let it die from neglect sometime in March. This year I’ll plant it in a larger pot – probably a 3 gallon size – and be more attentive during the winter and early spring.
And this year I’ll be sure to process and freeze some of my lemongrass, as described at Chowhound. I think that frozen lemongrass is better than the stuff that comes in a tube, and it’s certainly easier to use than stalks from the market.
A quick note on Swiss Chard and Kale: I’ve decided that the best/easiest thing to do with abundant greens is wash, chop, and saute in olive oil with onion and garlic and then refrigerate (or freeze). That way you can quickly toss some in whatever you’re making – grilled sandwiches, omlettes, pasta, etc.