Kale, again?

I thought I had settled the whole kale issue in the fall with The Trouble with Kale.

Turns out, I didn’t because last week, on the eleventh of February, I walked down to check out the garden. I discovered both spinach and kale cheerfully surviving the Pennsylvania winter with just a light layer of straw mulch. Today, February 18th, I went down with my scissors and harvested both kale and spinach for a salad. The kale had new growth; there were a few larger frost bitten leaves around the edges, but the inside of the plant was actually growing.

Now admittedly we have had a very mild winter. But the temperatures have dropped to 8-10 degrees several times and one week in particular it was that cold all week.

The best thing about this is Fresh Greens. In. February. So for those of you who live in a year round warm climate, excuse me while I SHOUT IN JOY!


I’ve been trying an experiment this winter in trying to cook as much as I can with what’s on hand. (Note the word trying used twice…) That means potatoes, onions, garlic, beef, eggs, frozen peppers, canned green beans, beets, frozen squash/pumpkin, applesauce, salsa, frozen okra, canned and stewed tomatoes, and pickles/relish/ketchup.

The only vegetables I’ve been buying are mushrooms and carrots and an occasional red pepper. I had beautiful peppers last year, but none of them turned red (even though one variety was specifically a red bell pepper). I hope to remedy that this year — the frozen peppers are very acceptable.

But not in salads. I used the last of our onions two weeks ago. I’ve got ten potatoes left and two of them look like this:

We haven’t been having many salads this winter. So it was particularly exciting to discover the growing kale and spinach. If you remember the one drawback to kale was the cabbage worms. But guess what? There’s NO cabbage worms in winter.

So I’m rethinking the kale issue. If I plant it in September, I could have some greens in the fall and winter with no worries about cabbage worms. And this mild winter has me thinking of a hoop house to extend the season on both sides. Just a small one, maybe?

You Tube Video from BuddyClub Gardening. Click on the photo and it will take you to the DIY cheap hoop house video

Hoop House or not, I planted another row of spinach today and threw in some radishes for good measure. (They were just short rows…) It only took me ten minutes; it was last year’s leftover seeds and it still could snow in April;  but I couldn’t resist planting something on Feb. 18th. Just because I could!

And since I only harvested enough for two kale and spinach salads, I’ll just have to give you one of my favorite salad dressing recipes.

Tomato Vinaigrette (The basic recipe is from the Hay Day Country Market Cookbook, but I changed it a bit.)

6 sun-dried tomatoes soaked in 1/3 cup almost boiling water for about a half-hour.
Drain the tomatoes, save the liquid, and coarsely chop the tomatoes.
Mix the tomatoes with 3 T. mixed vinegars–balsamic, red wine, white wine, cider, or lemon juice.
Add a clove of minced or pressed garlic and 1 T. whatever fresh herbs you have. Basil is good, Rosemary is good, Thyme is good, Dill is wonderful in the summer…
Add 1/2 t. salt and some fresh pepper.
Put all the above in a blender or small food processor and pulse five or six times.
While the blender is still running, add the liquid from the tomatoes, and then 1/2 c. extra virgin olive oil in a thin slow stream and blend until all the oil is mixed in.

This is a thick, spoonable dressing. Dress it up with capers or chopped olives if you are serving it immediately; or you can add a tablespoon or two of mayonnaise or Greek yogurt to make it creamier.

(We had our spinach and kale salads with cheeseburgers from the grill. Outside. In February. Really.)

The trouble with kale

Fall is not my favorite season.

Yes, I know, blogland abounds with people raving about fall and there are Thanksgiving recipes everywhere. The cooler weather, the colors of the leaves, frost on the pumpkins, pumpkin desserts, pumpkin lattes, pumpkin whatevers….

Yes. All that is fine, but the truth is I miss my garden.

I miss eating veggies and grilling out every night on the back porch.

I miss going out in my shorts and t-shirt every day at 3:00 to pick whatever looks good for dinner.

I miss iced mint tea on hot days and, well, you get it. Tomorrow it is supposed to snow…

So in an effort to extend the growing season here I planted a little fall garden when I harvested the garlic. Kale, Arugula, Spinach, Radishes, Green Onions, and Beets. And more beets. Can’t have too many beets…

We’ve been eating lots of Arugula salads with radishes and our last peppers…

But the kale…

I just don’t like it much. I know how nutritious it is. I know it is filled with vitamins, minerals, and all those omega good-for-yous. I know people make green smoothies from it. I just wish it tasted more like spinach. I wish our spinach had grown as well as the kale is growing.

So last week I decided I needed to pick some of that kale and eat the stuff. Kale Chips. Anything with olive oil and salt on it can’t be bad, right?

I watched a video.

From the video I deduced how it went wrong last year:  I didn’t dry the leaves enough after washing them, and instead of becoming crispy little chips, they were soggy green leaves with burnt edges.

I washed each leaf thoroughly because the first one I picked up had a little big green cabbage worm on it. I don’t like the thought of eating green cabbage worms.  I stopped growing broccoli years ago for that very reason.

So I hand washed and dried every leaf, cut out the stalks, and sliced each leaf into 3-inch pieces. I left them on the counter to go check what the oven temperature should be (anywhere from 275 to 350 depending on whether you watch the video or go by Guy Fieri’s Food Network recipe).

When I returned to my neatly sliced, diced, seriously studied kale leaves, there it was.

And so I checked every leaf on both sides again.

Scrupulously. Somehow I can’t imagine the perky blonde cook on the video finding cabbage worms in her kale. So I’m mentioning it to you because no one else does. If you grow or buy organic kale, you’re going to have cabbage worms. (One way to get rid of them is soak your kale in salted water for 10-15 minutes; but honestly, that seems to me like diluting the minerals that kale is loaded with, so I prefer to get rid of them by hand.) Next year I’m going to try Swiss Chard instead…

I tossed them with olive oil and salt and baked them in a 275 degree oven for 22 minutes. They were okay actually pretty good. And if there were any cabbage worms in there, at least they were dead and crispy.

kale chips

…and for cooking regular greens, I’m using beet greens because cabbage worms don’t bother the beets.

And if you aren’t a greens fan, here is a great tip: Take 5-7 leaves of whatever fall green you like. I mix them usually. Stack the leaves and roll them lengthwise. Slice into quarter inch rolls, and then chop them again so you have little pieces. Throw them into your sautéed onions and garlic and then mix them into whatever you are cooking. It ramps up nutritional value, they cook down and one hardly notices them.

sautéed veggies with chopped greens

Happy Thanksgiving. Don’t forget to count your blessings and eat your greens.

Waiting

Everywhere i look i see a poem waiting:
Kentucky Wonder Beans
the muddy garden shoes by the door waiting
for my feet
to deliver me to a place of peace and solitude
where peppers bow and dance on heavy laden stalks.
Arugula sings as it grows — Taste me Taste me —
and beans swing through their jungle playing
hide and seek with the leaves;

the two flannel shirts shrugged off in haphazard heapsOkra
on the chair in the mudroom
— his and hers — sleeves entangled, plaids clashing,
waiting for him to say (In the cool of the evening)
Have you seen my flannel shirt?
and she will know exactly where it is;

the okra on the counter, cut into symmetrical flowers,
waiting to be made into thick aromatic okra stew.
A friend brought it —
His wife said Don’t bring me any more okra.
I love okra, he grinned.
Maybe i won’t plant so much next year;

the glossy green peppers piled precariouslybasket of peppers
in the wicker basket — waiting their turn to be
sliced diced and frozen for winter’s
friday night fiestas;

the dark brown just-plowed garden dirt
drinking up the rain
waiting for the creamy garlic cloves
in their smooth purply skins
to spend the winter buried
in the snow-covered earth;
freshly plowed

the lime green clock on the kitchen wall
bought at Walmart for $3.99
ticking away the seconds minutes hours
ticking away summer into fall
ticking away seasons into years — waiting
for someone to notice minute and hour hands
colliding with dizzying disorienting
speed.
kitchen clock