March in the Kitchen – Swiss Chard with Pickled Stems

March in the Kitchen – Swiss Chard with Pickled Stems

Not wasting any part of a vegetable would not have been a new idea for many of our parents or grandparents. It was simply considered good household management. My mother kept an empty milk carton in the freezer, in would go all the vegetable trimmings and any leftover bones. When it was full, she made stock or soup. She even used leftover salad, the next day it was popped into the blender with a can of cream-of-something soup, pureed, heated with a can of milk, and served to my dad for lunch. He thought it was delicious.

Today the hottest current trend in restaurant circles is using all parts of a vegetable (or animal). Sound familiar? Everything comes around again if you wait long enough. I am in full agreement with this new idea. Especially when it’s been grown in my garden from a seed. I’ve nurtured it from babyhood and I want to savor every part.

At the moment my garden is gifting me with armfulls of chard in many colors.

Rainbow Chard

Rainbow Chard

Can’t you just see the vitamins?

One of the most creative books on preserving in my cookbook library is “THE PRESERVATION KITCHEN The Craft of Making and Cooking with Pickles, Preserves, and Aigre-doux” by Paul Virant. On the fly-leaf of the book Alice Waters writes “In order to cook economically and deliciously all year round, it is essential to learn the art of preservation. This beautiful book inspires us to take the time to capture the flavors and textures of each harvest.” Amen.

Chard stems

Chard stems

Chard stems are rather forgettable when raw but are dynamic when pickled. They provide a sharp contrast to the chard leaves. This is a quick pickle, you can use it almost immediately after it is made although I find it lasts for at least a week in the fridge and you can certainly make it ahead.

Swiss Chard with Pickled Stems

  • 1/2 cup champagne vinegar
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1 shallot, minced
  • 2 tablespoons honey
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1-1/2 pounds of Swiss chard
  • 2 tablespoons of olive oil
  1. In a saucepan large enough to hold the stems and pickling liquid, bring the vinegar, water, shallot, honey and salt to a simmer until the honey and salt have dissolved.
  2. Strip the leaves from the chard stems and cut off any tough ends. Dice the stems into 1/4 inch pieces.
  3. Add the stems to the pot. (If the brine doesn’t cover the stems it’s ok, they will soften in the brine.)
  4. Bring to a simmer and cook, stirring occasionally, for 5 minutes. Turn off the heat and let the stems cool in the liquid. If not using immediately, transfer to a bowl or jar and chill.
Pickled chard stems

Chard Stems in Pickling Liquid

When you are ready to cook the chard

  1. Roughly chop the chard leaves
  2. In a large pot over high heat, warm the olive oil. Stir in the leaves and a pinch of salt and saute until they begin to wilt.
  3. Using a slotted spoon, add the pickled stems to the pot, then spoon in half the pickling liquid. Cook until the chard leaves are soft and most of the liquid has evaporated.
  4. Taste, add more pickling liquid if you like a sharper taste. Salt if needed.
    chard leaves

    Chopped chard leaves

    pickled chard stems

    Pickled chard stems

    I don’t have a picture of the finished dish because it was eaten too quickly. Gone, inhaled. Try this one, I think you will like it. Any leftover pickled stems can be used as a garnish for scrambled eggs or added to a salad.

 

March in the Garden – “Garden Share Collective”

March in the Garden – “Garden Share Collective”

This post is part of the Garden Share Collective. Each month a group of dedicated bloggers and gardeners share stories of adventures in their vegetable gardens. The gardens are from around the globe so you get a snapshot of what is happening in both the Northern and Southern Hemisphere, from snowy winter to spring to late summer. Click on the link above to visit the gardens.

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The last month has been busy and I haven’t had much time to work in the garden. Consequently, some things have bolted before I had a chance to harvest them. Now everything seems to be ready at once. I certainly won’t have to visit the produce market much this month, we will all be very healthy from all the leafy greens.

What am I harvesting?

  • Chard – all colors
  • Tuscan kale
  • Beets and beet greens (more greens than beets)
  • Herbs – rosemary, thyme, parsley, cilantro, mint, and nepitella (from Italy, Calamintha nepeta which tastes like a cross between oregano and mint)
  • Broccoli raab
  • Handful of snap peas (they never made it out of the garden)
  • Lettuce of all kinds
  • The first asparagus
  • Baby cauliflower and broccoli Romenesco – more on that later in the post
  • Meyer lemons

The heads of the broccoli and cauliflower never made it past two inches in diameter. Some research tuned up the probable reason. We have had an unusually warm winter and both of them (especially the heirloom varieties I planted) need a certain amount of winter chill. The plants are healthy and huge but have not produced a crop. I’ll leave them until later in the month, then I will be pulling out the plants from that raised bed to make way for the first summer vegetables. I’ve heard that the leaves from the plants are delicious and will make good use of them.

The lettuce is starting to bolt. I’ll be planting more this month.

This plant is called a tree collard. Supposedly it grows to six feet in height and produces wonderful edible collard leaves. Mine is only about eight inches tall to date, I purchased it at a seed exchange in mid February. You propagate it by stem cuttings and a gentleman was selling them at a rock bottom price.

Tree Collard

Tree Collard

Planting and chores for March:

  • direct sowing of lettuce and arugula
  • beets
  • radishes
  • carrots
  • parsley
  • add compost to everything
  • pull out and compost anything that is past its prime
  • cut down the fava beans, chop them up, and compost them back into the soil
  • harvest, harvest, harvest

Spring is definitely here early this year.

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Borage in bloom

Borage in bloom

Thank you for visiting.

February in the Garden – Spring in Northern California

February in the Garden – Spring in Northern California

View from my hotel room in Manassas, VA

View from my hotel room in Manassas, VA

Wow, it’s the last day of February! Where did that month go? Of course, it’s the shortest of the year, but still. I’ve been in VA the last week for a meeting, you might have noticed the lack of posts. I gave my first presentation which required a lot of preparation and I wasn’t able to spend much time on my blog. But, I have a backlog of pictures and posts that will go out in the next few days. And, I am tired of restaurant food and craving vegetables and salads. I will be spending mucho time in my kitchen.

With apologies to those of you in the midst of winter (especially my friends in the Boston area), I came home to spring. And it is all the more appreciated by the contrast. Here is a quick snapshot.

More snow today, just before the trip home to CA

More snow today, just before the trip home to CA

California here I come!

Tulip Magnolia in the back yard is almost finished and starting to leaf out.

Tulip Magnolia in the back yard is almost finished and starting to leaf out.

Jasmine is scenting the air

Jasmine is scenting the air

Roses are leafing out

Roses are leafing out

Buds on my potted fig tree

Buds on my potted fig tree

It’s good to be home.

Janurary in the Garden – Garden Share Collective

Janurary in the Garden – Garden Share Collective

Happy New Year! This post is part of the Garden Share Collective. Each month a group of dedicated bloggers and gardeners share the stories of the vegetable gardens. I’m adding mine to the group although I am definitely off-season to the gardeners in Australia and New Zealand! My mouth waters at their tomatoes. I try to avoid them until our season opens in July. My garden doesn’t usually produce the first tomato until August or September. But, I can look and enjoy and enjoy the pictures. Click on the link to take a look at gardens around the world.

TheGardenShareCollective300pix1I haven’t done much gardening in the past few weeks; some harvesting but we’ve had rain, cold weather (for Northern California), and frost. All growth in the vegetable garden has slowed. I’ll be seeding lettuce and arugula later this month.

Frost bitten Nasturtiums

Frost bitten Nasturtiums

And, the seed catalogs are coming! I received the first ones in the mail last week. Time to dream of spring and summer.

I had some carrots seeded in containers on my deck which were going well until I noticed that something (squirrels?) had eaten the greens entirely off! Frustration!!! It’s too late to try seeding again for a month. Do squirrels like carrot greens? Hopefully it’s not mice.

Carrots eaten by????

Carrots eaten by????

What is on the garden schedule for January?

HARVESTING: salad greens, chard, beets, kale, fava leaves, herbs, and sprouting broccoli.

Lettuce

Lettuce

Chard

Chard

Beets

Beets

Baby Cauliflower

Baby Cauliflower

Thyme

Thyme

Parsley

Parsley

PLANTING: more salad greens

TO DO: Continue clean up, watch for snails and slugs, add compost to beds. I’m considering the purchase of an indoor grow light to start seeds. I’ll have to figure out a way to keep the cat from eating the greens.

December in the garden – Garden Share Collective

December in the garden – Garden Share Collective

This is my first post to share with the Garden Share Collective, a group of bloggers and vegetable gardeners from around the world. It’s organized by Lizzie who writes the blog “Strayed from the Table“.

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If you are new to my blog, let me introduce myself. I garden on a small side yard on the edge of urban Oakland. I have four raised beds as well as a standard vegetable patch. I battle deer, squirrels, and our cat who loves anything green. Getting enough sun is a big problem as there are large trees on every side. But, I manage to grow enough organic vegetables and herbs to supplement what I buy at the farmer’s market. My garden feeds my family, friends, and neighbors.

Oakland garden

Oakland garden

Oakland garden

Oakland garden

Oakland garden

Oakland garden

We’ve finally had some rain in Northern California, more is expected later this week. It has been such a dry year and I’ve struggled to keep my vegetable garden going while conserving water. The garden is beginning to slow for the winter, the lettuces seeded in late September are only an inch tall. They may not be big enough to gather till next year. I plan to seed some small radishes this month. If the warmish weather holds, they may mature before our first cold snap, fingers crossed.

I’m harvesting chard, the first of the broccoli, and salad greens including both lettuce and a few leaves from the fava beans. I’ve dug the first of the Jeruslem artichokes. Because they are so invasive here (I have direct experience with that woe), I planted a few tubers in a large container. However, maybe because I was so stingy with water (?), there aren’t very many artichoke tubers. Not to worry, I will dig them out of where I orignially planted them several years ago, in the middle of the garden. They are extremely happy there, unfortunately.

I’ve planted radishes and carrots in containers on my back deck. The radishes are ready for harvest. I don’t think they got quite enough sun, sigh. This one looks good though. Hopefully the carrots will pull through. I have terrible luck with carrots.

Radish

Radish

My to-do list for December includes getting the garden ready for winter.

  • Weed
  • Mow around the raised beds when the ground dries out
  • Rake leaves
  • Cut back the dead asparagus stalks and add compost to the bed
  • Pinch the snap and snow peas to encourage branching
  • Start reading seed catalogs and thinking about spring
Baker Creek Catalog

Baker Creek Catalog

I hope you’ve enjoyed this quck tour around my garden.