SALAD

We have loads of greens growing in the Communal Garden right now so I thought I would write a bit about salad and greens and herbs.

Lettuce and other greens grow really well all season long in our cool climate.  As soon as the leaves are big enough to eat you can pinch them off from around the outside of the plant and leave the plant to keep growing and producing. Pick what you need only for the evening’s salad and the rest will stay most fresh if left in the garden.   This goes for lettuce, herbs, and “cooking greens” like spinach, chard, mustard, kale, and beet greens.  The greens are lovely raw in a salad when you pick them at their “baby size” and can be incorporated into your standard salad mix. The flowers of many of these are delicious too.

Building your salad:  My Foodie Mentors taught me to skip the store-bought salad dressing in favour of and herb, an oil, and a vinegar(acid-could be lemon/orange/lime juice)  So, a salad would be made, for example, by tossing greens with lots of fresh tarragon leaves, with olive oil and white wine vinegar.  Done.  Get fancier by adding any chopped veggie or fruit, a cheese and a nut or seed for a crunchy texture.  Some combinations of the above work really well, others not so much.  Taste your herbs and greens and think what would go well with them, a sweet cheese and fruit?  Sharp cheese?  You can also look at different cuisines for what flavours have traditionally been put together; the Caprese salad is a classic, with sweet basil, tomatoes, mozzarella/bocconcini, olive oil and balsamic vinegar.  The classic Greek salad basically trades out the basil for oregano, the bocconcini for feta and the balsamic for lemon juice.  The classic Ethiopian salad is tomato with minced green jalapeno as the herb, and lemon juice.  You can fill out any of these with loads of mixed greens out of the garden for a nice big salad.

Some hints:

1- Toss your greens in the oil first to coat well, then add the vinegar or lemon juice. This will slow the wilting.

2-start with a scant amount of oil, and add more if you need it.

3- Just a splash of vinegar or lemon juice will usually suffice.

4- Treat cheese as a seasoning.  Buy good quality stuff and use it sparingly.

5- Toast your seeds and nuts and let them cool before adding to the salad.

6- Try out different vinegars.  Apple cider vinegar will give you fruitiness, while white balsamic is milder than regular balsamic, but still sweet.  Also try out different oils.

7-Mash a ripe avocado in your bowl and thin with a tiny bit of oil for a creamy, super-nutritious dressing base.

8- Use onion sparingly.  Slice a little bit as thin as possible and let it sit in the bowl with the olive oil while you prep the rest of the salad.  Try shallots.

9- The calendula are blooming, edible and nutritious, and sooo pretty so put the petals in all your salads.

To help you get inspired I picked the brains of several gardeners who are also passionate about their salads.

From Donna Vultier: “ Hands down our favorite is a mix of as many greens as we can find with some leaf lettuces mixed with the spicier greens like arugula, mustard and mizuna.  Our house dressing is a vinaigrette with a herb infused white wine vinegar from Switzerland called Kressi (available at Valbella), garlic, Dijon mustard, a touch of chili garlic hot sauce for heat and then half and half olive and canola oil. In the summer we often use this as a base for our evening meal and add grilled chicken, broiled steak sliced up, duck confit or baked arctic char on tp. Mmmm…summer!”

From Dea Fisher:  “My personal favourites [herbs] are cilantro, nasturtium leaves and oregano. They blend well with such combinations as goat cheese/blueberries, or orange/blue cheese/pecan.  Marjoram is also a wonderful choice and we should consider [planting] it for next year.

Chive leaves are well known and a salad isn’t complete without them for me, but few realize you can also eat the flowers.  They do make a salad look beautiful.  Mint makes an interesting addition that really freshens the flavour, and lavender can give a delicately fragrant surprise that again marries well with goat cheese.  Dill is wonderful in summer salads, but is strongly flavoured, so a little goes a long way.  It teams well with creamy flavours.  Fennel is another one, but I don’t recall whether we planted any.  Thyme is a good herb to use where a stronger and more earthy flavour is wanted and strengthens your flavours to team well with barbecued meats, for example.  Stems are woody. So the tender leaves should be stripped from the stem before adding them.

The star of the garden for flavour is sweet basil.  While there are many ways to use it, you can’t beat the simplicity of treatment the French and Italians give it:  slice rich, ripe tomatoes; add slices of fresh mozzarella; tear up some basil leaves to sprinkle over, and then drizzle with balsamic vinegar and grind over some fresh black pepper.  Voila!

Don’t forget those nasturtium buds and flowers!  They look beautiful in a salad and are so delicious.”

From Graeme Williams: “ Mostly I will make a simple vinaigrette with olive oil, white wine vinegar & Dijon mustard & just toss my freshly picked leaves in this dressing – sometimes with toasted walnuts & crumbled goats cheese.”

From Tasha Sawyer: “As for greens, I like a green salad with the addition of avocado and sunflower seeds. For the dressing, I like to make cilantro coconut vinaigrette.”

Tasha also gave me an almost-recipe for the amazing delicious mustard we are growing:

“(You can also use kale and chard in the same way.)

For every 500g of cleaned, chopped greens: 2 slices bacon, finely chopped; 3 cloves garlic minced; 1 t sugar; 250 mL chicken or veg stock; salt and pepper

Cook the bacon over medium heat until it releases its fat. Add in garlic and sauté 30 seconds or until it is softened. Add in chopped greens, sugar and stock. Braise about 10 minutes until greens are soft. Salt and pepper to taste.”

Sometimes you need a fruit vinaigrette.  For example, for a salad made with spinach/chard/kale; dried or fresh cranberries, peaches or apricots; and  almonds or pecans; drizzled with melted brie, you need to toss it with a Saskatoon or raspberry (locally picked but not from the Community Garden of course) vinaigrette which is easily made by putting your berries (a cup or two) in a blender with enough white wine vinegar to get it saucy (start with a bit and add more as you need to), a small dollop of honey, drop of avocado oil and pinch of salt.  (By the way, it doesn’t store well.  I tried, don’t bother.)

Here are some websites for more inspiration:

http://www.guardian.co.uk/lifeandstyle/series/nigelslaterrecipes

http://www.guardian.co.uk/lifeandstyle/2013/jul/14/summer-salad-recipes-nigel-slater

http://www.rivercottage.net/about/meet-hugh/

http://www.rivercottage.net/recipes/kale-flower-salad/

And if you’re wondering about what to do with all that gorgeous hyssop (this isn’t a salad mind you, but we should be starting to harvest carrots soon…),

http://bloggingherbman.typepad.com/tips/2009/09/hyssop-cooking-tips.html

-by Nicole Tremblay with thanks

 

 

Best Things to do With Rhubarb

 

June is Rhubarb Season!  And don’t let me catch anyone paying their hard-earned money for rhubarb around here; the stuff grows feral all over the place in Canmore, almost as prolifically as dandelions.  Grab a knife and a bag or a basket and go pick some.  There are a few young plants growing around the Community Garden, but if someone beats you to them, or you are not a Member of the Community Garden, not to worry.  There are gorgeous huge plants all over the place.  The best spot to find rhubarb is probably by the river below Prospect Heights.

When harvesting rhubarb, you want to select larger stalks, usually growing around the outside of the plant, and cut or twist them off close to the ground.  Leave the smaller stalks to keep growing.  Cut the leaf off, it is poisonous (we never eat the leaf, my little neighbors have been read the Riot Act about this), and keep the stalk, the stalk is what we’re after.  As with many plants, it tastes the best if you harvest it before it starts to flower.  Note that not all rhubarb has a red stalk, and some of the yummiest varieties have pale green stalks.  Also, keep in mind that as abundant as the rhubarb harvest is, you want to pace your consumption and don’t overload on it as it contains a substance that if eaten in large quantities can cause kidney problems.  Rhubarb is a special treat.  It freezes well and you can store rinsed, chopped rhubarb for months in the freezer to cook later.

-Useful in the garden:  Lay rhubarb leaves on your garden beds to help keep weeds down.  The leaves are also good to compost.

-Fresh and Raw the Old-Fashioned Way:   rinse your freshly picked rhubarb stalk, and dip in a bowl of sugar.

-Rhubarb fool–easiest dessert ever:

This recipe has yoghurt.  Just using whipped cream works too.

 450g rhubarb, coarsely chopped

 150g caster sugar

 juice and grated zest of 1 orange

 3 cardamom pods

 100ml double cream

 100ml yoghurt

  1. Mix the rhubarb, sugar and orange juice and zest together and place in an ovenproof dish. Add the cardamom pods. Cover and bake in an oven preheated to 190°C/Gas Mark 5 for 30–45 minutes, until the rhubarb is completely soft. Remove from the oven and leave to cool completely. Take out the cardamom pods and purée the fruit.
  2. Whip the cream with the yoghurt until it just holds its shape. Carefully fold the purée into the cream so you have a ripple effect, then transfer the mixture to serving glasses. Chill before serving.

-Best Rhubarb Crisp Ever: (For Ginny!)

Combine:         1 cup AP flour

¾ cup rolled oats

½ cup melted butter

1cup brown sugar

1tsp cinnamon

Pack half the mixture firmly into an 8×8 or 9×9 square baking pan.  Save the other half for later.  Cover with 4 cups chopped rhubarb.  You can substitute some rhubarb with apples or berries, whatever you have.

Syrup: Combine in a saucepan:

1 cup brown sugar

2Tbsp. cornstarch

1 cup water

1tsp vanilla bean powder

Cook syrup over medium heat, stirring constantly, until it thickens.  Pour over rhubarb then top with remaining oat mixture. Bake at 350F for one hour.

 

-Grand Finale:  My most favorite thing to do with rhubarb.  Rhubarb Cocktails.

Step 1- Make Rhubarb Syrup: I got this recipe from World Vegetarian by Madhur Jaffrey (Everybody should have this cookbook)

Chop 3lbs rhubarb into 1 inch pieces, (I usually go with about 8 cups chopped) put in stock pot with about ¾ cup water, bring to a simmer and cook it down for about ½ hour.  Strain (a jelly bag/strainer works fantastic for this step) and put the liquid in a clean pot with 4-3/4 cup sugar (just use plain old white refined sugar.  You will see this isn’t about being healthy and everything else I have tried gives the syrup an unwelcome flavour, for way more money) and a bottle of RealLime, or if you prefer, the juice of 10-16 fresh limes, approx. 2 cups.  Cook over medium-low heat, stirring constantly, until it starts to thicken and get syrupy.  Store in jars with non-corrosive (plastic) lids. You can stop here and mix it to taste with club soda for a rhubarb Italian soda.

 

Step 2 – Make the mojito:

Muddle a sprig of fresh mint in a glass with a shot of rum (dark rum tastes best but the clear rum will make the prettiest cocktail)

Add 1-2 oz. (to taste) rhubarb syrup

Add ice cube, top up with club soda, give it a stir, garnish with a wedge of lime or a sprig of mint.

 

Step 3 – Variations:

Rhubarb Margarita:

In the glass you are using to serve the cocktail, fill with ice, a shot of tequila, and rhubarb syrup.  Dump contents into blender, blend into a slush, return to serving glass.  Garnish with lemon or lime wedge.

 

Rhubarb Gin’n’Timber:

Muddle 3-5 fresh sage leaves with a shot of gin in a glass.  Add 1- 2 oz. rhubarb syrup to taste, juice of half to one lime, top with tonic water (or club soda) and ice, stir, garnish.

 

–By Nicole Tremblay and Sandra Grad

You can buy Madhur Jaffrey’s “World Vegetarian’ from Amazon.  It really is the most essential cookbook out there.

http://www.amazon.ca/Madhur-Jaffreys-World-Vegetarian-Meatless/dp/0609809237/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&qid=1370485025&sr=8-2&keywords=madhur+jaffrey

 

 

Thoughts On Planning A Garden in Canmore

A lot of people move to Canmore from “nicer gardening” climates and don’t realize it is totally possible to have a great garden, even here.  Look around you, this part of the world we inhabit has a super-lush amazing ecosystem.  You just need to know what you’re dealing with, and it’s different than say, southern Ontario, or Saskatchewan.

Plant Hardiness Zone:  The first thing to know is that Canmore’s growing zone is 2B.  That’s low, but it’s not as bad as high up in the mountain peaks, or the Northern Tundra. It’s the warm end of Zone 2.  Veseys lists 46 plants they sell that are hardy to Zone 2B or lower.  Calgary is one step higher than us by the way, at 3A.  Challenges facing plants trying to grow here include the short summers and long winters, the Chinook wind with its freeze-thaw going on all winter, and a Last Official Frost Date being in June (I’m not going to mention the First Official Frost date here…)  so you really want to pay attention to the growing zone listed on the tag when you are buying a plant.  Also be aware of micro climates in your yard that may make it possible for higher-zone plants (like Zone 3!!!) to thrive, like being located next to a building, south facing, sheltered from the wind, or near water, and if you are up with a balcony you will need to pay special attention to the wind.

Wildlife:  The next big challenge to growing a garden here is wildlife.  You need to consider the ungulates and lagomorphs (both indigenous and introduced) that are going to teach their babies about the amazing salad bar you are growing just for them.  Most of us don’t have fences and we’re not going to be able to keep them out.  Instead of fighting with the wildlife, choose plants they don’t want to eat, or that have co-evolved to enjoy being grazed.  You can also just accept the fact that your garden is going to be an evolving organism that may have poppies for a couple of years and then one autumn evening a deer will come along and eat all the pods before they have a chance to re-seed again.  Take a “the deer get some, I get some” attitude.  It’s just less stressful.  If it gets eaten, don’t plant more.  You will also avoid a lot of grazing if you space the “grazables” around instead of planting them all together.  If you are gardening on a balcony out of reach you will have different options than if you are gardening at ground level.  The other wildlife factor to think about is what wildlife you want to attract (like hummingbirds) and what you don’t want (like bears).

Our short growing season:  In case you hadn’t noticed, snow has a tendency to fall from the sky well into May and sometimes June.  So the flora that lives here has to pack a lot of living into a short time.  When choosing plants for your garden, it is a good idea to look for native species that have evolved for this climate.  They get growing earlier, can tolerate a good snowfall, are adapted to our rain patterns so need less tap water, and generally need less work.  Perennials are usually the first to show green in May.  We have two great nurseries nearby, Bow Point Nursery (trees and woody shrubs) in Springbank, and Wild About Flowers(flowers and grass) in Black Diamond that specialize in native plants that are 100% hardy to here.  The Town of Canmore has used their products in their landscaping and there is a special native wildflower garden by the bridge if you need inspiration. They have both come to do presentations for several years at the beginning of May.  If it’s growing in the wild without any help from us, it should grow very nicely in your garden (with a few exceptions).  A note of caution:  Be aware of invasive introduced species that will and are taking over and displacing native plants.  The Town has information on their website, and prints ads offering information about these problem plants, which include oxeye daisy, scentless camomile, cranesbill and yellow clematis.

 

What are your neighbors growing?  If you see a great garden, find out whom it belongs to and go ask for advice.  Gardeners love talking about their plants.  The hospital has a fantastic garden that is thriving and blooming already.  Plants I have seen growing well in gardens here include dianthus, pinks, chives, columbine, gentians, penstemons, potentilla, tulips (watch the grazing), poppies (ditto), sunflowers, hen-and-chicks, walking onions, blue onions, honeysuckle, sweet peas, begonias, bergamot, thyme,  ornamental sage, bleeding hearts, lilies, Siberian iris, monkshood, delphinium, wild rose, lilacs, lupine,  echinacea, rudbeckia, rhubarb, potatoes, muscari, calendula, violas and johnny-jump-ups, and some types of mint, for a start.  Many of these are grazing resistant or tolerant.  There is a huge wealth of knowledge and experience among Canmore Community Garden members, if you need ideas and advice.

If you have a favorite plant or flower that grows well for you in your garden please tell us about it!  Happy gardening!

For more information please visit these websites:

http://www.veseys.com/ca/en/learn/reference/hardinesszones

http://wildaboutflowers.ca/

http://www.bowpointnursery.com/

http://www.canmore.ca/Municipal-Services/Invasive-Plant-Control/

–Nicole Tremblay

 

 

 

Curious about Biodynamics?

Ever tasted a bottle of biodynamic wine?

Wondered how the moon might affect planting your garden?

Or how Biodynamic is different than Organic?

Join Biodynamic Farmer Greg Mountain for a FREE short introduction to this wholistic approach to farming.

Time: 10am – 11:30am

Date: Saturday August 4th

Location: The Canmore CommunityGarden

Cost: Free! (Donations Accepted)

Join Greg Mountain, co-manager at WholeCircle Farm, to learn about the biodynamic approach to farming. In this presentation, Greg will cover the basics of biodynamics including the history, whatmakes it different from organics, and some of the specific theories andtechniques that seek to go beyond the purely material aspects of farming.

Originally from Toronto, Greg left the cityfor life on the farm. Greg has been farming for three years and is currentlyspending his second season at Whole Circle Farm.  He is currently taking part in the North Americanbiodynamic apprenticeship and has completed two winter intensive courses onbiodynamic farming.

Whole Circle is an organic and biodynamicfarm located near Acton, Ontario which provide food for over 200 locals. The farmgrows vegetables, grains, and dried beans, and manages cows, chickens, pigs,bees, and a maple bush.

Square Foot Gardening

By Lauren

Our little garden plot is the first I’ve been confronted with space restrictions.  When I started squash and zucchini seeds in my window and told my father, who lives in southern Ontario with multiple gardens and much space to expand to, that I was excited to plant these plants in my 4×8 foot bed, he laughed and gently told me I wouldn’t have space.  But it was still cold and I figured by the time my seedlings were plantlings that I would figure it out.

Confronted with the actuality of planting this spring, after a lovely Saturday building our wicking bed, I was less than convinced that my multiple plantlings would have the space they needed to roam.  I gave half away and spent the rest of the morning trying to figure out the best way to fit our vegetables into our plot.

During my search on how to maximize space, square foot gardening came up repeatedly.  I’d also noticed a few plots using square foot measurements to plan and plant their gardens and was interested in investigating further.

Square foot gardening bills itself as efficient, easy, and productive.  Compared to traditional single row gardens, it boasts a similar harvest using less space, water, seeds and so on.  Although the website is rather self-congratulatory, I can appreciate anyone who’s enthusiastic about making gardening easy and mixing up traditional views of what a garden can be.

The basis of square foot garden is creating raised beds with walkways in between (hence avoiding the nastiness of compressing beautiful soil) and planting everything based on a grid broken into 1ft x 1ft squares.  In each square, gardeners plant 1, 4, 9, or 16 seeds or plants.  Plants which use less space, like carrots and beets, can be planted 16 to a square, each spaced equal distances apart.  Medium plants, including spinach and green beans, can be planted 9 to a square.  Larger plants such as lettuce can be planted four per square while plants that need more space such as broccoli and tomatoes can be planted one per square.

While I liked the ease and compactness of the square foot idea, I tend to be slightly wary of equal measurements and straight lines.  That said, I based most of my seed distribution and spacing on the 1ftx1ft guidelines and then did my own thing including a few wavy ‘rows’ of carrots and beets at the far end of my plot.

Cross Country Gardeners

By Lauren

Admittedly I’ve been eating vast amounts of strawberries and garlic scapes during a trip back to Southern Ontario and back west through the states.  During my travels I’ve been wide eyed for gardens of all kinds.

Visiting friends in Toronto’s cabbage town I passed by carefully tended front yard gardens and at Ryerson University I was greeted with tomatoes and squash growing outside big stone buildings. In Kensington Market folks have a tradition of planting less conventional gardens in a rusted-out colourful car (the community car) complete with herbs in the trunk and windows filled with dirt.

On the train west, I caught glimpse of a small garden on the outskirts of Chicago bordering rubble from old buildings beside the train tracks.  It emerged in the midst of a vacant lot and was full of trellises surrounded by leaning wooden fences.  When I arrived in Chicago’s downtown friends pointed out lavender fields from which you can also see skyscraper cityscapes.

While walking Lola, a friend’s bouncy teacup Schnauzer who is sat in my lap as I type, we meandered through giant rhubarb, flowering sweet peas, climbing beans, and all sorts of tangled vegetables. We are in Seattle, wandering under trees and archways, amidst compost bins and rain barrels.  This garden fills the space in a way that suggests it’s a wise soul that’s been within its city space for quite some time.  Gardens seem at ease in Seattle, along sidewalks, on balconies, and in ordinary yet extraordinary places.  In this spirit of growing, Seattle’s first urban food forest (and one of the first of its kind in North America) has recently been granted seven acres within the city and will be rooted in permaculture principles.  Wonderful.

I’m inspired by the persistence of gardens and by the imagination and hard work of those who garden.  And even though my aunt harvested huge broccoli heads from her Hamilton backyard around the same time we last had snow in Canmore, I’ve hope for my first try at mountain gardening as well as for all different sorts of gardens, astonishing in how they can challenge our perceptions of growing: where and who and how and why.

Kale Chips

By Lauren Kepkiewicz

One of my favourite abundant vegetables and generally one of the first to appear and the last to be scared off by the frost is kale.  Beautiful curly kale, blue kale, purple kale, dinosaur kale. 

My favourite thing to do with kale is make kale chips – either baked or dehydrated depending on your preference and equipment.  When I discovered that I lived with someone who didn’t scrape the bowl clean of kale chips, I began experimenting with seasoning recipes to entice.  This is one that gets people hooked:

½-1 head kale

Seasoning:

1-2 tsp cumin

1-2 tbl tamari or soy sauce

1-3 tbl tahini paste

1-2 tblsp cooking oil

1-3 pinch(es) ground cayenne

1-2 tsp honey

1 tsp lemon juice

1 tsp (sometimes) balsamic vinaigrette

Mix all the ingredients in the seasoning, taste, and add whatever is missing. Tear the kale chips into chip sized pieces.  Once the sauce is mixed toss it in with the kale chips.  I’ve heard a lot of talk about massaging various different seasoning sauces into kale chips which I do sometimes just to be able to tell whoever may be in the kitchen that I’m providing massages for vegetables.  Either way, make sure all the kale chips are coated.  Spread all the chips out on baking trays – try not to overlap them, they’ll be much crispier that way.  Sometimes I coat the trays with a touch more oil, sometimes I don’t.  Bake them at 400 degrees for 5-10 minutes.  Stay close and watch them.  Flip them over 2-5 minutes in for even cooking.  Keep an eye on them because they go from crispy to burnt in a ridiculously short time.  It’s a fine balance.  Enjoy!

Mumai’s Plasas

By Lauren

I’m not only looking forward to crouching down beside my garden plot and clipping many shades of green but I’m also looking forward to the abundance that comes with greens.  I’m no longer talking about delicate mesculin mixes from the post below but I’m thinking about leafy greens (and brassicas) like chard, kale, spinach, tatsoi (if you’ve never tasted tatsoi – go! go quickly and find seeds to plant so you can experience these wonderful greens – even after tatsoi bolts you can top your salads with its tiny yellow flowers) and all the wonderful leaves from veggies like beets and turnips and kohlrabi and broccoli. 

The following recipe is what I use when the abundance of greens turns overwhelming.  The credit for this dish goes to the multitude of women in Sierra Leone who taught me how to cook plasas or sauce made from green leaves (there are many variations – below is just one).  Although it doesn’t compare to the heaping plates of plasas sprinkled with sweet crab and whatever fish littered the tables of Freetown seaside markets that morning, I’ve tried to replicate a bit of the experience.

In Freetown, my host mother, Mumai, cooks plasas over an open charcoal stove on the front porch. We mash chillies and onions with a matador – a large wooden mortar and pestle – and cut leaves bunched in our hands. In Freetown, use of palm oil, salt, hot peppers and Maggi (commercial shrimp stock) is very generous.  Although the recipe below is vegetarian, in Freetown they add meat or seafood and serve the plasas over rice, eating everything with hands.

Spinach and tatsoi work wonderfully in this recipe but I’ve experimented with kohlrabi leaves, swiss chard, beet greens, and whatever other leafy types I have left over.  The biggest difference between all of these is the change in texture.  Generally, the coarser leaves don’t boil down as softly, melting into a sauce.

Ingredients

  • 5 cups spinach leaves
  • 5 cups water
  • 1-10 hot peppers (preferably fresh but dried will do as well)
  • 1 onion
  • 1-2 tbls cooking oil
  • 1-2 bouillon(s) veggie soup stalk
  • 3 handfuls of whatever type of beans you have around – I’ve used kidney beans and they work well
  • Salt to taste 

Directions

  1. Soak beans overnight if dried and then boil until soft.
  2. Finely chop spinach leaves and add to a large pot of boiling water.
  3. Finely chop hot peppers and thinly slice onion
  4. Add soup stalk, peppers, and onion to the spinach pot.
  5. Add oil while stirring slowly.
  6. Crush large beans with your fingers as you drop into the spinach mixture.
  7. Add salt and let cook on medium heat.
  8. Mix and let simmer on low heat for 1-2 hours or until everything has boiled down

The two most important parts of this recipe are chopping the spinach as finely as you can and boiling everything down so it becomes saucy in texture.  Good Luck!

Greens Envy

By Lauren

I love greens.  And after a winter of tenderly transporting lone romaine heads tucked deep in my backpack to keep them from Canmore cold, I couldn’t wait for fresh greens. We’ve been growing two boxes of greens in our window for the past two months or so – one filled with spinach and another with mesclun mix.  Neither of which has grown past the baby green stage as I harvest them eagerly to grace the tops of salads.  My window boxes – old soy milk cartons cut in half – are small so the greens they produce play guest roles in salads laced with roasted walnuts, Alberta feta, and BC bosc pears.  Their presence, however fleeting, fills me with the wonder of growing things – both simple and divine.

We tried two methods of planting: the spinach with small stones in the bottom of the carton for drainage and the mesclun mix planted entirely with dirt.  I’m inconclusive as to whether the drainage made much difference.  The spinach grew better in the first month while the mesclun mix seems to be the more vigorous of the two at the end of the second month.  Either way, the milk cartons haven’t yet yielded more than adornment greens. 

Even with my window greens (and really because of) I’m eager for the first morning harvest of leafy greens.  I was taught to harvest early before the milky sap inside the leaves is drawn up by day’s heat, causing the greens to tend towards bitterness rather than the crisp sweet of early morning.  Greens are so tender-delicate yet vibrant and one of the first-comers amongst the rollercoaster temperatures of spring.  I’ve seen the first greens in the community garden while the greens in my plot are making their first appearance.  Excitement.

Lettuce begins to resemble art when it bolts – when it becomes too warm and their vegetable instincts tell them to put their energy into flower and seed production rather than channelling that energy to their leaves.  My window spinach has been attempting to bolt for a few weeks, forming graceful tops that look like furry trees.  I’ve pinched them off and moved them to a more subdued window that tends towards shade and with a wider window to catch the breeze and some night coolness.

These are a few of my experiments with window greens which have sort-of satisfied my excitement for fresh greens picked in early morning light. Experimentation shall continue.