From the category archives:


Late Harvest

by Alyse on Monday, December 13, 2010

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Crisp lettuce, plucked out of the snow in November, brought me nearly as much joy as my entire Thanksgiving dinner. No mulch, tarp, or cloche was involved - this lettuce would simply make it on it’s own or not at all. I only went to the trouble of putting the seeds in the ground. By the end of the season, I walk a very fine line between hobby gardening and overworked burnout. Any more effort may have taken me to a limit I didn’t want to reach, so if my lettuce crop was destined to wither, unprotected from the cold, so be it. I would look forward to the next crop in the spring rather than get sick of all the work and quit. This makes real farmers laugh and roll their eyes but we’re not real farmers and we know it. We tend to our crops after we’ve worked all day, finished the house chores, gone for a run, mowed the lawn and kept dates with our friends. Although it’s our biggest hobby, it’s still just a hobby and when a hobby becomes too much work, it’s no longer a hobby at all. Managing the amount of sweat we’re willing to commit to, ensures we’ll continue to enjoy our passion for growing food. I will say there’s great pleasure in enjoying something you’ve worked hard for, but if you’ve worked too hard, the pleasure is lost. That was a lesson from my wise parents.

This was the very last harvest of the rather effortless fall salad greens and I ate them plain, stuffing one whole crunchy leaf into my mouth at a time – knowing it would be months before I would get to enjoy them again. The cold gave the lettuce an extra rigid crispness that felt as though it was flexing it’s muscles to withstand the elements. I’m not sure what variety these were. I remember sprinkling a little of each seed to give them all a chance, knowing only the toughest would make it. Just one distinct variety survived in two colors. I’ll have to research my seed mixes to identify it as the epitome of hardy.

Not every leaf survived the weather so well. I had to separate the good from the bad and the ugly.

 When we heard the snow was coming, we harvested what was left of the late tomatillos and a few leaves of kale. The tomatillos are still in the fridge, keeping well. Some are meager but still treasures to us.

We’ll enjoy some green salsa soon but the kale was needed to add some life to a hot can of soup for lunch that day.

The Red Boar Kale is as beautiful as it is delicious. It seems to turn deeper shades of purple as the temperature drops but it remains crisp, firm, and loaded with fresh green flavor. 




Fall Awakening

by Alyse on Tuesday, October 26, 2010

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As our home fills with the smell of a chicken roasting in the oven with potatoes, onions and carrots from the summer’s harvest and fresh herbs, I’m finally drawn back to writing about food. I’ve taken a long break from blogging to recover from foot surgery. I thought my recovery would provide me with plenty of time to blog but I discovered it’s quite difficult to write, think, or even remember where I just set my sandwich down while I’m taking pain medication.

Today I actually made it into the kitchen where my sweetie helped me put together a lovely dinner in the dutch oven, and after days of losing track of my thoughts, it really brought me back to Earth. By “helped”, I mean he did everything while I sat and watched and gave my two cents worth (maybe more).

I hurriedly spent the days leading up to surgery getting all the garden chores done while I still could. I still have garlic to plant, and hopefully I can talk ‘the Mr.’ into “helping” me with that too, but otherwise the garden is pretty much ready for winter. I filled the yard waste bin with the old dying tomato vines. I didn’t save any of the green tomatoes as I have in the past - green tomatoes will ripen beautifully in a paper bag in the kitchen. I thinned and weeded the fall crops of collards and chard, then pondered whether these tiny onions I’m attempting to over-winter will ever make it through the cold.

What’s left to harvest is the last of the tomatillos and the kale (which will live on into winter)

as well as some fall lettuce, green onions, and as always, herbs.

This is the time of year when I really enjoy the herbs and I’m often sharing them with friends as everybody seems to be cooking fall feasts right now. The herbs I get the most use out of are the ones you only have to plant once and get to enjoy year after year: thyme, sage, rosemary, sweet bay, and chives. Here’s a shot of a podgy little herb bouquet I took as a hostess gift to a dinner party not long ago.

Without much thought, I knew right away that I would schedule my surgery in the fall particularly to avoid letting my recovery time interfere with the garden work. I don’t think I realized until then just how important the garden is to me.

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Salsa Verde Cruda

by Alyse on Saturday, September 11, 2010

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Tomatillos are now ready in my garden and my friend and fellow gardener Lee, who knows tomatillos, tells me that we will be blessed with these delicious fruits well into the fall. Lee and his wife have 7 tomatillo plants in their garden but I only made room for two in mine which I hope will provide us with just enough to make one small batch of salsa at a time. Our first batch was enjoyed just the other day.

Salsa verde cruda translates to fresh green sauce. Most recipes for salsa verde ask you to broil or char your tomatillos and peppers and many people prefer it that way but I’ve been hooked on making it fresh from the first time I tried it. It was at a family gathering about 10 years ago that  a friend brought a batch and I can still remember my very first bite.  The bright and intensely fresh flavor was an instant favorite and I demanded a copy of the recipe at that very moment! To this day, I still have that recipe scratched down on the original pink post-it note, tucked away inside my favorite cookbook.  I try to keep my bragging to a minimum but I must tell you that in 2004 I won a salsa contest with this recipe.

It really couldn’t be any easier to make.

In a blender mix:

  • 8-10 husked and washed tomatillos
  • 1/2 red onion (or 1/3 if it’s large - Red Torpedo is shown above but any red will do.)
  • 1/2 bundle of fresh cilantro
  • 2 cloves of garlic
  • Pinch of sea salt
  • 1-2 whole Serrano peppers

1 pepper is about 2 stars and 2 peppers will make it 4-5 stars (according to my taste buds).

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