Friday, December 31, 2010

I just visited the greenhouse and harvested mustard greens, kohlrabi, lettuce and arugula.  It was beautiful there today, warm and sunny and the nasturtiums are blooming.  The produce looks healthy and lush and shows no signs of stress from the frigid air that has hit us the last few weeks.  I got my electric bill and it said the average temperature from November 20 to December 20 was 39 degrees.  That was 6 degrees lower than last December.
The days are longer and I just saw the beginnings of  blossoms on the broccoli raab.  We are growing an overwinter variety and I’m not sure whether the cold or the longer days have triggered the buds.  We are also trying a purple sprouting broccoli this year.  It also winters over and we should have some small purple heads in the spring.
Right now there is plenty to pick including swiss chard and kale.  These seem to be favorites.  We have started new lettuce seedlings and there is red romaine and butterhead to be picked.
The salad shown is baby arugula, pear, and walnut.  The nasturtiums are edible and slightly spicy. Enjoy!
The annual Christmas party was at the Admiral Benbow Inn in Oak Bluffs.  It was a great success.  The present swap was as silly as ever and Betsy brought the cocoa she succeeded in securing to our membership meeting in mid December.  We are calling the new fund to reglaze the greenhouse the Top Hat fund.
Happy New Year!!  May 2011 be as green as this year.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Greens, Glorious Greens

After rereading the last two blogs, I couldn't decide if this blog was about gardening or cooking!  At least, until someone pointed out to me that if you love cooking and eating then you love fresh vegetables.  I truly think the love of gardening came first and that the need to be creative with the abundance brought out the cook.  At least that is the way it happened with the mustard greens last week.  I had never cooked mustard greens.  So I put mustard greens in the search engine and off I went eagerly reading through the many recipes that popped up.  I think I already mentioned that my husband is a meat eater and I had already made him a vegetable soup with the kohlrabi.  So I decided to try a stir fry with a little beef in it.  I went to Reliable and round steak was the best buy so that is what I used.  I'm sure it would be good with chicken or tofu.

Beef and Mustard Stir Fry
The important thing with a stir fry is to get all the food prepped first.

¾ pound thinly sliced beef
1 lb. mustard greens washed and torn into bite sized pieces, stems removed
2 thinly sliced green onions
2 cloves of garlic minced
1 tsp. mustard seeds

1 cup of broth with
2 tbsp. cornstarch,
 2 tbsp. soy sauce and
1 tsp. of honey

Put 1 tbsp. of peanut or grapeseed oil in a frying pan with the mustard seed and heat until the seeds start to pop.  Add the mustard greens and fry until tender.  Remove to a bowl.

Put 1 more tsp of oil in the pan and stir fry the beef, onions and garlic until the beef is brown.  Put this in the bowl with the greens.

Restir the cornstarch mixture and put it in the frying pan and cook constantly stirring until it thickens.  Add the greens mixture back in a serve over hot cooked brown rice.

Look at the Streptacarpus now!  We are going to start leaf cuttings to make hanging baskets for the spring sale.  Come Monday around 10:00 AM.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

The Lovely Purple Kohlrabi

     I had never eaten kohlrabi, but that picture in the seed catalog had me hooked, that funny bulbous stem of a luscious purple color.  Anything that beautiful had to taste good.  So I bought the seeds and they were surprisingly easy to grow, and they grow in the spring when we are anxiously awaiting our tomatoes and green beans and in the fall when the tomatoes and green beans have succumbed to the frost.  They don't like heat and they don't like those pretty little white butterflies or at least the caterpillars.  We had a difficult time in the greenhouse this fall.  Many seedlings were lost or seriously delayed due to the caterpillars.  Everyday when I came into the greenhouse I stared at the little seedlings trying to get them to tell me what was the matter.  Finally, one of the unfortunate caterpillars was large enough for me to see hiding on a vein.  Everyday there after, I was a voracious caterpillar picker and finally our seedlings made a come back and we are now getting some kohlrabi big enough to eat.
    Last year I grew kohlrabi but I didn't know how to eat it.  I tried it raw.  Delicious!  I tried it grated in a slaw.  Not bad!  I also tried it steamed with cheese sauce.  Also, quite good.  And then I visited my friend, Hannah.  Hannah was a math teacher at the high school with me.  She and her family have moved off-island and I don't get to see her very often, but when I do, what fun.  Hannah shares many of my passions, but especially math and gardening.  
     Recently, Hannah and Peter bought their first house in America.  Hannah and Peter were Hungarian; they have recently become American citizens after a very long process.  They told me about the beautiful ceremony that they participated in and it made me proud of this country. 
    Well, Hannah has turned her whole backyard into a vegetable garden.  Unusual in this country, but anyone who has traveled in Europe has seen those marvelous backyard gardens.  One day I was visiting Hannah and she decided to make me kohlrabi soup.  Kohlrabi soup is a staple in Hungary.  Peter remembered eating it at school everyday for lunch, (actually with not very fond memories as might be true with anything you eat everyday.)  I asked Hannah for her recipe.

Here it is. I don't the exact amounts of each ingredient, as I do it by feel.

3 - 4 small kohlrabi
2 carrots
sour cream (vegan)
vegetable broth

Cut up the vegetables and fry them with a Tbs. or so of oil over medium heat. Sprinkle about a Tbs. of flour over them, stir, and fry for another 30 seconds. Add water or broth. Cook until vegetables are tender. Salt to taste. Add sour cream - how much depends on how creamy you want it. Mix in fresh parsley chopped into small pieces.

The soup was delicious when she made it and even Peter thought it was really good.
So I decided to make kohlrabi soup for my husband, Arthur and myself.  Hannah is a vegan.  Arthur is a meat lover, but even more important to him is onion and garlic so I added them to the recipe with a little celery.

Here is my recipe: 
1 T. butter
1 onion chopped fine
1 carrot chopped fine
heart of celery chopped fine
3 kohlrabi stems chopped- leaves removed
Sauté until limp.
Add 1 T. flour.  (I added gluten free garbanzo bean)
Sauté until the flour browns a little.  (I have read that this is important in Hungarian cooking as it also is in Cajun cooking.)
Add about 4 cups water or broth.
Cook until the vegetables are tender.
As the kohlrabi greens are also good to eat.  I removed the stems and cut them in ribbons and added them to the soup.  (I had to add more water when I added the tops.)
I then added parsley.
When I served the soup I put a dollop of sour cream on the top.

As this recipe may not be very Hungarian anymore, I have decided to call it American-Hungarian Friendship Soup in Hannah and Peter's honor and in honor of all they have accomplished in this country they love so dearly.  Thank you, Hannah, for being my friend.  Thank you, COMSOG, for letting me grow this beautiful and versatile vegetable.


Saturday, November 13, 2010

Green Bean Eyes

Today in the greenhouse I was talking to Chuck McBride, the manager, and he said that he hadn't noticed how well the creeping phlox transplants were doing because he only looks to see if the soil is wet or dry.  I told him I know exactly what he means because I have "green bean eyes".  I can always find the beans that no none else sees, because I am looking for that specific shape.  I said, "That must mean you have "dry soil eyes".   Gee, "green bean eyes" sounds so much better. 
It made me start thinking about how much we miss in life if we put on our "green beans eyes".  Although I must admit they do serve a purpose, if you absolutely need to get a job done. 
Today I did some recycling.  It seems to be a job that nobody really enjoys doing.  Betsy Cabana is the group leader in this endeavor.  Many people now return their used 6 packs and 4 in. pots to the greenhouse.  If you do, we ask that you rinse them first.

There are some magnificant Streptocarpus baskets hanging.  So get on your "greenhouse eyes" and look at the beauty that surounds you at the greenhouse but don't forget to pick some heads of lettuce!

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Portuguese Kale Soup

Redbor Kale
The green house is growing 5 kinds of kale. 

Redbor- turns a deep red in the cold, very hardy
Red Russian-more tender and mild, red/purple stems
Black Tuscan- dark blueish green leaves, very tasty
Dwarf Blue-leaves are finely curled and crunchy
Winterbor- similar to Dwarf Blue, very hardy

Portuguese Kale Soup is a winter standard on Martha's Vineyard.  Though traditionally made with the curly blue kale, I have made it with Red Russian and I am considering trying Black Tuscan.  I was first introduced to this soup over 35 years ago when I married Ralph Sylvia.  His sister Betty Norton, would make a big pot that was shared by the whole extended family.  Here is the  recipe:
Portuguese Kale Soup

1 large yellow onion, peeled and minced fine
4 large potatoes
2 quarts cold water
1 pound chorizo or linguica
2 1/2 teaspoons salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
1 lb. kale, chopped

1 can kidney beans

Saute the sliced sauage with the onion until wited then throw everything else in a pot and cook until potatoes and kale are tender.  This is better the next day.

11/11 Betsy, Enid and Ellen are taking baskets of greens to Tisbury Farm Market.  Lettuce, stir fry mix and bunches of kale. 
Something is eating the broccoli raab and tatsoi in the beds.  Any ideas?

Meeting is November 20th at the greenhouse, 9:30 and the Christmas Party is Sunday, December 5th at the Admiral Benbow Inn from 5:30-8:00 PM.
To get information on joinging COMSOG click here.COMSOG

Sunday, November 7, 2010

 Here is what is available at Comsog!

Great Lakes Lettuce:  It forms large dark green heads, nice solid hearts with good standing ability, slow to bolt.  Great Lakes is a crisp and tender head lettuce. It is easy to grow and makes a very tasty salad.

Red Romaine is a delicious, flavorful lettuce that brings color and zest to salads. The red coloring develops best in cool weather.

Butterhead lettuces have small, round, loosely formed heads with soft, buttery-textured leaves ranging from pale green on the outer leaves to pale yellow-green on the inner leaves. The flavor is sweet and succulent. Because the leaves are quite tender, they require gentle washing and handling.

 Gourmet Leaf lettuce


Greens-  Pick leaves.
Mizuna: As a salad green mizuna can be steamed, boiled, stir-fried or used to complement other greens mixed together for a salad. The taste of mizuna has been described as a "piquant, mild peppery flavor...slightly spicy, but less so than arugula.

Green Wave Mustard: Mild and succulent in all dishes.

Pakchoi: The slight mustardy flavor of Pak Choi makes it a delightful addition to stir-fries, soups, noodle and meat dishes, and salads.

Arugula: It has a rich, peppery taste, and has an exceptionally strong flavour for a leafy green. It is generally used in salads, often mixed with other greens in a mesclun, but is also cooked as a vegetable or used raw with pasta or meats in northern Italy and in coastal Slovenia.

Mache: also called lamb's lettuce, has a sweet, nutty flavor.

Erba Stella: Called Bucks Horn in English. Added to salads to give a pleasant bitter taste.. Small plant with rosette of slender green leaves. Extremely cold hardy. Great for the winter salad. Crunchy texture.

Miner's lettuce is a small succulent annual plant and bears fleshy leaves. The flavor is reminiscent of raw spinach and the leaves, flowers and stems are all edible.

Frisee: Curled leaves add a sharp bitter taste.  Often served as salad with goat cheese.

Red Russian: A cold hardy delicate, flavorful variety of kale. Its leaves are frilly and oak leaved in shape and red veined, greenish purple in color. Ideal for fall crops. Enjoy its greens fresh in salads or steamed and stir fried alone or with other vegetables.

Tuscan Black: Young raw leaves are tasty in salads. Pairs with beans or pork. Cook until soft in olive oil with a generous amount of garlic for a palate-pleasing side dish. To use kale leaves as food wrappers, blanch leaves briefly in lightly salted water. Place cubes of favorite cheese in leaf; wrap and bake. Shrimp or prawn tails are excellent choices for wrapping in these spunky tasting leaves.

Redbor: This finely curled kale adds a colorful pizzazz to salads.

Winterbor: Produces an abundance of ruffled, fancy leaves for salad mixes. Probably the quickest and easiest way to enjoy kale is to either steam it for a few minutes, or toss it in a pan to sauté with some olive oil.
Dwarf Blue Curly: The tasty leaves can be added to soups, stir-fries, streamed, or simply finely chopped and added to salads for a nutrition and fiber boost.

Kohlrabi: The taste and texture of kohlrabi are similar to those of a broccoli stem or cabbage heart, but milder and sweeter, with a higher ratio of flesh to skin. The young stem in particular can be as crisp and juicy as an apple, although much less sweet. 
Pick when 2 -4 inches in diameter. 
Eaten raw, steamed or in soups.

Broccoli Raab: The flavor of rapini has been described as nutty, bitter, and pungent.
Generally, the thinner and firmer the stems, the more tender your rabe will be. The florets should be tightly compact and dark green in color.  Pick just before flowering leaving the lower stalk to grow again. 
A common preparation involves sauteing it with garlic over low heat for 10 - 15 minutes

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Cooperative Gardening at COMSOG

 On New York Avenue in Oak Bluffs, there is a special place.  The Community Solar Greenhouse began over 25 years ago.  Most people know it as the place to buy heirloom tomato plants.  Every February the members gear up for a seedling sale which takes place in May?  We sell hanging baskets for Mom as well as tomatoes such as Brandywine, Black Prince and Sungold.
    What makes it special you might ask.  There are community garden plots at the Farm Institute.  Whipporwill Farm has a CSA.  Many Island farms have a bounty of homegrown produce. The most important and wonderful philosophy of Comsog is that it is cooperative.  Garden plots are not the sole responsibility of an individual but a cooperative endeavor.  How many times have you left your garden in the summer and come back to a tangle of weeds or worse a dried out, sad, sun baked crust of soil with only a few brave soldiers left.  Think about this!   You can take your vacation and eat vegetables too.  Someone will water and plant and weed in your absence.
    The next wonderful idea about this lovely, green, sun filled place is that, it is a place to learn from each other and share ideas.  It is a place to experiment and play and enjoy the miracle of life, without having to invest in your own cold frame or greenhouse.    Comsog has fund raisers throughout the year to support itself.  You may have attended one of the popular concerts of David Crohan at the Whaling Church.  That has been an annual event for many years. 
     What is happening there now?  The weather is getting cold and many of the greenhouses around the Island are being put to bed, but we have many things growing.  Inspired by Elliot Coleman, author of Four Season Harvest, we have an abundance of greens ready to be picked.  Right now ready for harvest is lettuce, mizuna, and kale.  Defying all probability, we still have tomatoes and in the not too distant future we have kohlrabi, broccoli raab, swiss chard, mesclun and pakchoi.
    This winter we will continue starting lettuce seedlings throughout the winter about every two weeks.  We have a new “Pick a head, plant a head” policy to keep the beds green all season. 
     Another new experiment is to try to keep a lacewing population in the greenhouse all winter to control the aphids.  A wonderful byproduct of this project is that we have planted nastursiums to feed the adult lacewings as well as baskets of dipladenia, streptocarpus and petunias.  The result is a feast for the eyes as well as a few nasturtium flowers that can brighten a salad in the winter.

Today I planted: frisee, fennel and tatsoi.

Tatsoi is up.  Spinach is starting to come up.  We need to plant the red romaine seedlings and more head lettuce.  Rhubarb bed is cleaned up.