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Home Gardens Musings Personal Sustainability: How-To Recipes Uncategorized

Feasting on Herbs and Flowers

spring-herbs2

This is my favorite time of year to include a big handful of herbs and flowers in every meal.  Herbs have fully leafed out and are starting to grow tender new leaves.  The flowers in bloom are ever evolving, and you’d be surprised to learn how many of them are edible.  While we’re waiting for our first peas, beans, cucumbers, and carrots, I love highlighting the wonderful flavors of backyard and garden herbs and flowers.

tea-flowers

Make tea: Both herbs and flowers make wonderful tea.  Standard flavors like chamomile and mint are easy to grow in your garden and are best harvested at this time of year.  Other familiar blooms and leaves also make great tea!  Try red clover, stinging nettle, sage, rosemary, raspberry leaf, lemon balm, catnip, or rose petals.  Spices from your kitchen like ginger, cardamom, and cinnamon make great additions to tea blends.  Want to dig deeper?  Get a book or look online to learn the healing properties of your favorite herbs and flowers.

fresh-herb-tea

spring-herbs1

Make Herb Pesto, Dip, Sauce, or Dressing: I’m always surprised by how big a bundle of pungent herbs can be used to made a small dish of delicious “pesto.”  Try blending the herbs in your garden with sprouted sunflower seeds, olive oil,  parmesan, and lemon juice for a delicious pesto.  Add a small amount of chicken broth or coconut milk for a wonderful sauce to top your meals.  Add more oil and vinegar, and perhaps some plain yogurt, mustard, and garlic to make a delicious green dressing.  As a bonus, herbs are packed with nutrients and a variety of healing properties.

herb-pesto

Garnish Generously: Flower petals and finely chopped herbs made delicious and beautiful garnishes for meals and toppings for salads.  If you don’t have many choices in your garden, wander into your yard (make sure there are no pesticides or pet waste!) or nearby fields.  Dandelion greens and petals, clover petals, violets, wood sorrel leaves, purslane, chick weed and lambs quarters are all nutrient-packed wild leaves, “weeds,” and flowers that are plentiful and tasty.

may-salad-ingredients

may-salad

 

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Children and Nature Home Gardens Musings Recipes

Spinach, Asparagus, and Tick Season

spring-harvest-bountyLate spring days grow warmer, lilacs are in full bloom, and we’re finally harvesting fresh shoots and greens from the garden!

We’ve also been finding ticks after days in the fields and forests.tick-ID  I strongly feel that there are far more benefits than risks when it comes to outdoor play (and work).  Take a moment to read up on Ticks and learn how to properly remove them.  When you know what to do when you find a tick, poison ivy, or any other other outdoor irritant, they all seem a lot less frightening.

asperagus-roastedWe are happily harvesting large bunches of asparagus from the garden.  There are all sorts of recipes I love to use asparagus in, but recently, we’ve really enjoyed roasting it.  We simply toss the spears with olive oil and soy sauce and bake at 400 degrees on a roasting pan until the spears are crispy and slightly blackened at the ends.  YUM.

spring-harvest

Spinach, dill, cilantro, and lambs quarters are all springing up in the garden, providing us with our first big fresh salads of the year.  We love early spring salads with cilantro lime dressing or our classic garlic dijon.  Looking back at past May/June blog posts, I can see that this year’s new and exciting salad concoctions are actually an annual ritual at this time of year.  If everything you’re harvesting for salad in May is green, try adding color with some edible flowers like pansies, violets, and chive blossoms.

Want to enjoy your greens without having salad for every meal?  We love this spinach soup recipe – it’s great warm or cold!  Happy harvesting.

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Home Gardens Recipes School Gardens Uncategorized

Invent Your Own Salad

Ahh, we’re enjoying more variety from the garden every day!  In the past few weeks we’ve enjoyed our first fennel, kohlrabi, beets, baby carrots, cucumbers, basil, zucchini, cherry tomatoes, edible flowers… the list grows and grows.  With such a large variety of fresh crunchy delicious items, I need to be increasingly creative to turn the day’s harvest into a meal.  My solution: “invent your own salad!”

Hmmm... how can this all go together in a tasty way?
Hmmm… how can this all go together in a tasty way?

Salads come in all shapes, sizes, and mixtures.  They’re flexible, and can include almost anything your garden grows.  They can be leafy and green, or crunchy with rainbow colors.  Here are the things I keep in mind when inventing a salad.

  • Don’t add EVERYTHING.  Feature 3-6 different items so that each flavor isn’t lost in the mix.
  • Start by thinking about what you have.  Then decide what other items might taste good with that flavor.
  • Consider briefly blanching (and then quickly cooling) certain items like broccoli, green beans, or beets before adding them into a salad along with raw veggies.  This brings our their sweetness and can make them easier to digest.
  • edible-flower-harvestGrow edible flowers.  They’re fun to eat, attract pollinators to your garden, and add color to your plate!
  • Pair veggie flavors with dressings.  I love beets with balsamic vinegar, asparagus or peas with creamy dijon dressing, basil and tomatoes with oil and vinegar, and cucumbers with soy or miso dressing.  Taste test and discover your favorite combinations.
  • When concocting a dressing, follow this simple equation: sour + flavor + salt + fat.  For example, balsamic vinegar + garlic + salt + olive oil.  Or lemon juice + garlic + mustard + salt + olive oil.   Make sure to include some fat in your dressings so that you can absorb the fat-soluble vitamins from your veggies.  And of course, always take time to adjust to taste.
  • Do you naturally ferment or pickle veggies?  Try using your leftover brine as a starting point for your next salad dressing.
  • Love it?  Write it down!  This can be especially fun with kids.  They can invent their own recipes and collect recipe cards in their own recipe box.  Salads are very flexible, so they’re a great place to start.

Here’s a recent crunchy salad we enjoyed, inspired by the recent arrival of early stem and root crops from the garden:

  • Cut several carrots, 1 beet, and 1 kohlrabi into match stick sized pieces
  • Finely chop up several fennel fronds
  • Add 1/4 c. balsamic vinegar, 1/4 c. olive oil, a splash of maple syrup, and a dash of salt
  • Mix everything together and adjust to taste
  • Crumble feta cheese on top

crunchy-july-saladWant more information or ideas?  Here’s our garlicky dijon dressing recipe, cilantro lime dressing recipe, parts of plant coleslaw recipe, and my thoughts on edible flowers.

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Home Gardens Recipes

Early Summer Garden Greens

Yes!  It’s finally that time of year when our family of four can eat as much lettuce as possible without making a dent in the supply growing in the garden.  Each day the heads grow larger, making it hard to see signs of past harvest.  Add spinach, cilantro, dill, chives, and sorrel into that mix, and a salad lover’s dreams can be realized.

cilantro-saladAt our house, we always have some of our favorite garlic dijon dressing in the fridge.  Craving some variety, I made a cilantro lime dressing that turned out GREAT!

cilantro-salad-dressingCilantro Lime Dressing ~  Use an immersion blender in a bowl with high sides to liquify the following ingredients.  Adjust to taste.  If you like cilantro, but not in huge quantities, start with less and then add more if desired.

1 can (12 oz.) coconut milk
1/4 cup lime juice
1/4 cup olive oil
1 teaspoon honey
1 bunch of cilantro
a few dashes of salt

early-greens-stir-fryOf course, another way to use a surplus of greens is to cook them.  Make a yummy stir fry with these veggies plus a splash of soy sauce, sesame oil, and rice vinegar.  Pictured, from 12 o’clock clockwise are spring onions, asparagus, spinach, nettles, and lamb’s quarters.

Now that it’s finally the harvest season, I can’t wait to get my fill of the current bountiful veggie while looking forward to what’s next.  Sugar snap peas… I can’t wait!

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Home Gardens Recipes

Dressing up Salads

At last!  We’re eating fruits and roots out of the garden – not just leaves and shoots. Though lettuce and asparagus are still in our weekly harvest mix, our salads are getting much more colorful and interesting as peas, carrots, kohlrabi, cucumbers, and summer squash mature in the garden.

Almost everyone who has eaten at our home in Vermont can remember the salad dressing – a garlicky dijon that is a meal time fixture all year round.  At this point, we pour in the ingredients and adjust to taste without using a recipe.  Due to popular demand, we finally took out the measuring spoons and wrote out a recipe to share.  The creamy dressing is great for green and grain salads.

To make one quart, combine:
-1/2 cup Grey Poupon (or any dijon mustard)
-1.5 cup plain yogurt
-1/4 cup cider vinegar.
-Mix above until homogenous.
-Grate in 4-6 cloves garlic.  Mix.
-Add 2 cups olive oil (For a milder flavor, pick a veggetable oil that is fresh, organic and cold pressed to avoid rancidity and genetic modification, processing, and preservative use in conventional options)
-Whisk or blend in a food processor until homogenous.
-Add salt or more of any of the ingredients above to taste.

We like to use on green salads, like the ones below; as a dip for carrot, cucumber or kohlrabi sticks; or to flavor a favorite combination of barley, asparagus, and hazelnuts!

Strawberry, sugar snap pea, and pea tendril spring salad

Cucumber, carrot, summer squash, arugula, and dill on lettuce