Wednesday, July 10, 2013

You can't "beet" free greens

The "Eat More Kale" campaign might finally be working. But there are other leafy green vegetables out there, if you're open to some introductions.

Kale is cool these days. Everybody's eating kale salad, kale crisps, and drinking kale smoothies. I like a little kale in my salad, but mostly, I like it steamed or braised. I eat some kind of greens nearly every day, more in the summer when they're abundant. Our farm share has been running for a month, and always starts up with plenty of tender young greens. The first shares include turnips, beets, and kohlrabi, all with their greens attached. I've been cooking them all up together in a quick saute with garlic scapes and onions.

These greens feel like "extra" because in past years, I wouldn't have kept the greens. This year, I've been separating the greens from their bulbs or roots, sorting the edible leaves, and composting the rest, to make it easier to fit everything in. Often I'll decide what order to cook vegetables by how unwieldy they are to store. A whole Napa cabbage reduced to two recipes of mustard cabbage with cumin and tomato? Yes, please. I put half in the freezer and we ate the other half last week.

Strawberries were here and now they're gone, ditto sugar snap peas. We captured a few quarts of each and froze them, but we're already moving into green bean season. The year runs so fast, especially in the summer. Before I know it, it will be tomato season.

This past winter was a difficult one for the two of us. A chronic back problem flared up, and I have spent almost a year in bed, on heavy pain medication. Physical therapy, chiropractic, and orthopedic specialists haven't yet put me back together again. I can't ride my bike five miles to pick berries, this summer.

Euro-sealed sugar snap peas
After a winter of having to be taken care of, I want to be back on my feet, but I still rely on Kevin more than I did last summer, and one of those ways is that he now gets the farm share on Mondays after work, instead of me biking out there myself some time during the day to do it. I still process most of what he brings home. I can stand more comfortably than I can stoop or sit, so I wash and stem and label and freeze. We have a new Euro-sealer this year, too. Kevin put up some root vegetables from the winter share, to get us through the spring. We still have a few frozen items hanging around from past seasons, and are putting up some more every week.

Food is one of my love languages, and an easy tongue for some that can bridge awkwardness on both sides. Lee used to come over with fruit I'd never tasted before: durian is one of his favorites. A friend who's new in town, but grew up in upstate New York, often brings me food gifts when she comes over. One time she brought a beet salad, and the last time I'd eaten a beet salad was when I made one for my former girlfriend, Carolyn, when I was first courting her. I have been telling myself for years that I don't like beets, remembering one I tasted as a kid (off June's salad, in a fancy restaurant in Maine.) Now I ask Kevin to bring home beets in the farm share so I can roast them, and eat their greens. Roasted, they have a wonderful texture. Sometimes they're still a bit more earthy than I'm accustomed to, but I want to invite in more flavors again. I find myself craving Carolyn's beet enchiladas, a dish I would never have considered making without having tasted hers.
Fresh lamb's quarters

This time back from visiting New York, Nellie brought a pint of enormous blueberries from her mother's yard. Kevin took half of them and made blueberry pancakes that reminded me of a childhood summer, picking wild blueberries and eating them in pancakes cooked over a fire.

She also brought back two kinds of weeds she likes and has talked up to me, for me to try. One is purslane (feature image), and tastes very mild, like iceberg lettuce, so I've washed it and added it to my salad mix. The other is lamb's quarters, which have matured enough that Nellie suggested cooking it instead of eating it raw. The leaves are delicate, like spinach. I've sauteed them gently with a little bit of scallion and garlic scape from the farm.

The up side of not being able to get the farm share, is that now Kevin gets to enjoy the pleasure of the share room and u-pick fields. He reports that he sings and dances in the share room, he's so happy about the vegetables. I know the feeling: the produce glows from the weathered wooden bins, like the treasures in a video game. This is what we were born to find, and it's deeply satisfying to do what we're made to do.
Lamb's quarters sauteed with scallions and scapes

Able to choose based on their natural vegetal allure, Kevin brings home a few things he would not have requested, when I was making the farm run. He has been beguiled by the Swiss chard. He shows it to me explaining that it just looked so beautiful, he couldn't not take some.

Post a Comment