Winter and Spring in February

February often feels like a transition month in our marine climate, one that can pull us back to winter and then propel us toward spring.  This year during the middle weeks of February, temperatures in the twenties followed by snow blanketing the kitchen garden definitely pointed to winter. And now, with the snow gone, the final week of February has brought warmer temperatures, lengthening days and the promise of spring.  

As a kitchen gardener, part of me is still in winter, cooking the roots and hardy greens I harvested before the deep cold, but part of me is also in spring and summer, imagining the food that will come from seeds I’ll be starting soon.  

In the days before the forecast cold, I harvested half a dozen large celery root, the last of the radicchios and chicories, a cabbage and some collards, bags of Brussels sprouts and lots of carrots, all vegetables I might not be able to get to beneath a cover of snow, mulch and tarps.  I’ve been cooking from this harvest ever since.

Raw celery root makes wonderful salads , but the cold compelled me to cook it into a smooth, comforting puree.  Melissa Clark’s recipe couldn’t be easier, especially if you use an immersion blender. I served it with stew for dinner and the next day thinned leftovers with the cooking liquid I’d saved to make soup for lunch.  The puree looks like mashed potatoes but tastes like sweet, earthy celery.

Celery Root Puree

4 medium celeriac bulbs about 3 1/2 pounds, peeled and diced

4 garlic cloves, peeled

2 bay leaves

2 tablespoons kosher salt, more to taste

8 tablespoons butter

Freshly grated nutmeg, to taste

In a large saucepan, combine the celery root, peeled garlic cloves and bay leaves. Pour in 12 cups water and 2 tablespoons of kosher salt. Over medium-high heat, bring to a boil; reduce heat and simmer until tender, 20 to 25 minutes. Drain, discard the bay leaves and transfer the celeriac and garlic to a food processor. Add the butter and nutmeg; process until very smooth. Taste and add more salt if necessary. Keep warm.

With the carrots and radicchio, I turned to a recipe I tried for the first time this year from Marcella Hazan’s Marcella’s Italian Kitchen (1986). It’s yet another of her simple Italian recipes that is made wonderfully complex by the combination of contrasting flavors, in this case sweet carrots and slightly bitter radicchio. In her notes before the recipe, Hazan says that “endive substitutes for the long radicchio di Treviso I would use in Italy,” but for the pleasantly bitter flavor, any radicchio or chicory would do.  I used one of the red radicchios I’d harvested.  

I also used Purple Haze carrots to match the purple of the radicchio. I’ve made this recipe several times with Purple Haze, one of my favorite carrots for its sweet spicy flavor and also with Mokum, a perfect, deeply sweet orange carrot. Both dishes were pretty and delicious.

SLOW-BROWNED CARROTS AND ENDIVE

Marcella Hazan

In this combination with carrots, endive substitutes for the long radicchio di Treviso I would use in Italy. Its appeal is based on the racy contrast of flavors and consistencies: the carrot sweet, the endive slightly bitter; the former firm, the latter creamily soft. The carrot must first be cooked slowly and at length, with butter and no liquid, to evaporate all the moisture that dilutes its flavor, and to keep the carrot rounds firm. Since the endive throws off much liquid, it is also, at first, cooked separately from the carrots; otherwise it would steam them. It takes only a few minutes’ additional cooking together, after the preliminary separate procedures, to link the two vegetables’ flavors.

1 pound carrots, peeled and sliced into ¼-inch rounds

4 tablespoons butter

Salt

¾ to 1 pound Belgian endive, shredded lengthwise into strips ¼ inchwide

  1. Choose a sauté pan or skillet that can accommodate all the carrots without crowding them. Put in the carrots and butter, and turn on the heat to medium low. Cook, stirring from time to time, until the carrots have greatly diminished in bulk, becoming withered and colored a light nut brown. It should take about 1 to 1½ hours. Sprinkle with salt, stir, and turn off the heat.
  2. Transfer the carrots to a platter, using a slotted spoon or spatula in order to leave as much butter as possible in the pan.
  3. Put the endive in the pan and turn on the heat to medium low. Cook, turning it over from time to time, until the endive becomes very soft, about 30 minutes. Add salt.
  4. Return the carrots to the pan and cook for 5 minutes longer, together with the endive.

With Brussels sprouts, I alternate between roasting oiled halves or quarters at high heat, 425 or 450, for about seven minutes or sauteing thin slices in butter or olive oil at high heat for less than five minutes, both easy and quick preparations.  In a tasty variation the other night, I roasted thin slices and used them as a pizza topping along with sautéed shallot and sausage to create an earthy, spicy very seasonal pizza.

Finally, with the cabbage and collards, I made one of our favorite winter sautés several times as a side dish, Sautéed Collards and Cabbage with Gremolata

Tasty and satisfying as these winter vegetables have been, I have fresh tomatoes on my mind.  Over the past several days, I’ve tidied up my seed starting room, pulled out planting trays and a bag of potting soil and today I started seeds for this year’s tomato crop.  I’m growing many of my usual favorite slicers, Brandywine, Cherokee Carbon, Cherokee Purple, Dester, Golden Sunray (aka Golden Jubilee), Momotaro and a rainbow of cherry tomatoes, Green Doctors, Orange Paruche, Sunchocola and Sweet Million. 

A new slicer I’m trying this year, in a nod to New Jersey friends, is Rutgers Original from Fedco.  Long considered an outstanding slicing, cooking and canning tomato, Rutgers’ medium-sized 4–6 oz mostly uniform and unblemished deep oblate fruits with a rich red interior and pleasing texture have that great old-time flavor, delicious and juicy. When Rutgers University “refined” the variety in 1943, they took out some of the vininess but also some of the flavor. Our taste tests confirmed that the original indeterminate strain is better, so that’s the strain we offer of this famous New Jersey tomato.

I’ll also grow Aosta Valley from Fedco, a small paste tomato I’ve grown for the past few years, perfect for roasting.  In addition, I’m going to try another paste tomato my friends Alan and Kathy recommended: Midnight Roma from Row 7 Seed Company: A deep purple-red paste tomato packed with phytonutrients. In the rows, it will stop you in your tracks. In the kitchen, this purple wonder shines for its quick cook time and memorable flavor. Check out this small company and its taste-focused mission.

As I planted seeds, the sun warmed up the small seed starting room to almost-summer temperatures, making it easy to imagine plates and bowls of luscious tomatoes when summer arrives.  

Winter Kitchen Garden Soups

It’s the season of root vegetables and it’s the season for hearty soups.  Rutabaga, turnip, celery root, parsnips, carrots as well as leeks are all on offer in the winter kitchen garden.  And cold days, whether sunny or cloudy, call for thick, comforting soups for lunch or dinner. 

A recent recipe by David Tanis for Creamy Leek and Parsnip Soup inspired me to go to the kitchen garden on a damp, dreary morning and dig parsnip and leeks.  As Tanis writes, “This soup has a kind of quiet charm. Whizzed until creamy in a blender, it is a happy marriage of silky leeks and earthy parsnips — think leek and potato soup, but with more depth of character.”  Yes, only two ingredients, but so good together. And the addition of a teaspoon of ground turmeric gives it a welcome, sunny color.  I followed the recipe exactly and used water to let the vegetable flavors shine.  This is a delicious winter soup and one that I’ll make again soon.

Creamy Leek and Parsnip Soup

  • 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 4 large leeks, trimmed and cut into 1/2-inch pieces (about 4 cups)
  • 6 medium parsnips, peeled and cut into 1/2-inch pieces (about 4 cups)
  • 2 teaspoons kosher salt
  •  Black pepper
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 teaspoon ground turmeric
  • 4 garlic cloves, minced
  • 6 cups water, chicken broth or vegetable broth
  •  Extra-virgin olive oil, crème fraîche or yogurt, for garnish (optional)
  1. Put olive oil in a heavy-bottomed pot or Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add leeks and parsnips, and stir to coat. Add the 2 teaspoons salt and pepper to taste.
  2. Let vegetables sizzle and cook, stirring frequently until nearly caramelized, but without browning, until softened, 10 to 15 minutes.
  3. Add bay leaf, turmeric and garlic, and stir to coat. Increase heat to high, add water or broth, and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to a simmer and cook for 10 minutes more. Taste broth and adjust seasoning.
  4. With a blender, purée soup to a creamy consistency. (Small batches work best.) Thin with water or broth, if necessary — it should be like a thin milkshake, not thick and porridge-like.
  5. Reheat the soup before serving. Serve plain, or give each bowl a drizzle of extra-virgin olive oil or a dollop of crème fraîche or yogurt, if desired.

Melissa Clark’s root vegetable soup is another to make often this season, many roots assembled in one pot for a louder, multi-flavored soup.  Her recipe calls for three-and-a-half pounds of mixed root vegetables.  This time, I used all the roots: rutabaga, turnip, celery root, parsnip and carrots, a generous half pound of each along with three-quarters pound of leeks.  Other times I’ve used higher proportions of turnip and rutabaga because I love their flavors. Each vegetable offers its own special sweetness, earthy sweetness of rutabaga and turnip, delicate sweetness of celery root and leeks, sugary sweetness of parsnips and carrots.  The result is a soup that is sweet but not too sweet. A few drops of lemon juice and a dusting of Urfa or Aleppo pepper flakes when serving add the right touches of acid and heat.  Finally, though Clark recommends 8 cups of water, I used only six cups because I like a thicker soup.  

Root Vegetable Soup

  • 6 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1 large onion or 2 leeks (white and light green part only), chopped
  • 2 to 3 celery stalks, diced
  • 3 garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • 3 rosemary or thyme branches
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 3 ½ pounds mixed root vegetables (carrot, parsnip, celery root, turnip, rutabaga, sweet or regular potato), peeled and cut into 1-inch chunks
  • 2 teaspoons fine sea salt, more as needed
  • ½ teaspoon black pepper, more as needed
  •  Juice of 1/2 lemon, more for serving 
  •  Extra-virgin olive oil
  •  Flaky sea salt
  •  Crushed Aleppo, Urfa or other chile flakes, optional
  •  Grated Parmesan or pecorino, optional
  1. Melt butter in a large, heavy-bottomed pot. Stir in onion and celery. Cook, stirring occasionally, until vegetables are tender, about 10 minutes. Stir in garlic, rosemary and bay leaves; cook 1 minute more. Add root vegetables, 8 cups water, salt and pepper. Bring to a boil; reduce heat to medium and simmer, covered, until vegetables are tender, 30 to 40 minutes. 
  2. Remove and discard rosemary branches and bay leaves. Using an immersion blender, purée soup until smooth. (Alternatively, you can purée the soup in batches in a blender or food processor.) If the soup is too thick, add a little water. Season with lemon juice and more salt to taste.
  3. To serve, ladle soup into bowls and top with a drizzle of olive oil, a few drops of lemon juice, flaky salt and crushed chile or grated cheese, if desired.

With both of these soups, I used an immersion blender to turn the soft chunks of boiled vegetables into a thick, creamy soup.  I’ve always been a Cuisinart fan for pureeing anything, but my husband gave me a Breville “control grip” immersion blender and I’ve become a convert to this new kitchen tool.  It’s so much easier and faster to puree the soup in the pot than it is to transfer it to the Cuisinart.  

There are many more winter soups to get us through the next months, some I’ve made before, like Melissa Clark’s Golden Leek and Potato soup and some I haven’t but that intrigue me, like David Tanis’s Bright Green Leek soup. Though there is the welcome lengthening of days, the temperatures still say soup, so there’s time to make more.

Chicories and Radicchios

I’ve been harvesting beautiful chicory and radicchio this fall and enjoying lots of salads and sautés from these deliciously bitter greens.  The distinction seed catalogs make between chicory and radicchio is a bit puzzling since both are in the family Cichorium Intybus, but both Adaptive Seeds and Fedco Seeds distinguish chicory from radicchio by color, with chicory mostly green and radicchio mostly burgundy. It’s a useful distinction, I guess, because the most important thing to me is to grow enough of each color to have variety in the salad bowl.   

From Adaptive Seeds, I grew two chicories, Sugarloaf Borca, “tall, green romaine-like ‘loafs’” and Variegata de Castlefranco, “a big heading chicory with lots of bright colors, mostly green with red speckles.” Also from Adaptive Seeds, I grew two radicchios, Treviso Mesola, large, tall heads with “deep red leaf color and crunchy white midribs” and Variegata de Chioggia, large, round heads with “red-pink and white variegation.” And from Fedco, I grew my old favorite, Indigo, burgundy-colored “large tight heads of extraordinary rich interior color.”  I start seeds in flats in mid-July and transplant out in mid-August, spacing them at least eighteen inches apart.  They are ready to harvest by mid-October. When late fall and winter rains come, I put a plastic tunnel over the bed to keep the plants from rotting.

When I harvest chicory and radicchio, I take the whole head which is comprised of abundant, rather floppy outer leaves and a more compact inner head. The inner heads, in the foreground of the photo, are best for salads while the outer leaves, in the background, are wonderful sautéed in olive oil and garlic.

Though called bitter greens, these chicories and radicchios actually have a lot of sweetness.  On the bitterness scale, the green chicories seem to be a bit sweeter than the burgundy radicchios, but neither is ever unpleasantly bitter, and all mix wonderfully with truly sweet fruits and vegetables like pears and winter squash, rich nuts like toasted hazelnuts and slightly salty Pecorino Romano cheese. Even sautéed wild mushrooms are a tasty addition, as I found in a lunch salad I made the other day.  The crunchy, succulent texture of the inner leaves stands up well to these firmer salad additions, but the leaves alone are also delicious with only a light vinaigrette.  I have been making a vinaigrette with sherry vinegar, garlic and olive oil.  

When I sauté the outer greens, I usually cut each leaf in half, separating the central rib, and then slice the leaves into squares or strips. The leaves sautéquickly in hot oil and, because they are so succulent, they need no water.  They make a delicious side dish or pasta sauce and are great additions to soup.

A chicory and radicchio salad would be a perfect complement to turkey, gravy and stuffing and all the other rich side dishes of Thanksgiving dinner.  Sadly, our Thanksgiving will be a small gathering of just me and my husband this year instead of the dozen or more friends who usually gather with us to celebrate the day, but we will definitely make a chicory and radicchio salad to go with our small turkey and our much-reduced array of traditional side dishes.  Happy small Thanksgiving 2020 everyone, and here’s to large gatherings of friends again in 2021.

Update: Cover Crops

Now that summer’s warmth-loving plants have gone to the compost bin, the kitchen garden has bare dirt exposed in empty beds.  With a few exceptions, like arugula and mache (also known as corn salad), it’s too late to plant winter crops like kale and chard, leeks and hardy roots.  So, what can go into this bare soil?  Cover crops! They cover the soil, protecting it from hard winter rains and slowly building up foliage and roots that will add organic matter and nutrients to the soil when they are turned in the spring. 

Several years ago, I wrote about planting cover crops, explaining that this last step in the garden year was probably the most important thing I do for the kitchen garden.  Part of this process is selecting the right cover crop.  Over the years, I’ve used small-seeded fava beans, Austrian field pea, annual rye, and, as an experiment in a few beds, mache, also known as corn salad.  I’ve abandoned fava beans and field pea because they were attracting pea weevil, but I thought I was making a good choice with annual rye. According to garden authority Linda Gilkeson in a recent interview, I was not.

In a February 2020 blog post from the New Society Publishers, Gilkeson says: “don’t grow fall rye as a cover crop to turn under in the spring: that’s just a magnet for click beetles.”  Click beetles are the parents of wire worms, the pest that has increasingly plagued gardeners growing lettuce as well as larger-seeded plants like corn.  Yikes!  Was I attracting wire worms by using annual rye as a cover crop? No evidence yet that I have, and I hope it’s the same for anyone else who has used annual rye as a cover crop, but I’m not going to use it this year.

Instead, I’ve decided to sow all my open beds with mache. Years ago, a young Lopez gardener suggested I try it as a cover crop, and she gave me some seeds she’d harvested from her crop.  Since then, I’ve always sowed at least two beds in mache; this year I’ll sow nine.  

There are several things I like about mache as a cover crop.  It germinates reliably in the first weeks of October when I am ready to plant cover crops, and its foliage and mass of fine roots break down quickly in the spring. It’s very winter hardy, surviving temperatures in the single digits and even thriving in snow. And as a bonus, between winter and spring, the leaves make delicious salads.  I’ve always grown a bed of mache for winter Now with mache as a cover crop, I have enough for more salads than I could ever eat.

I’ve ordered seeds of mache from Osborne’s Seeds in Mt Vernon, WA. One 10 /M packet holds about 24 grams of seeds, enough to seed two 5-by-18 foot beds.  My friend Carol has ordered cover crop seeds from True Leaf Market. I may order from them next year.  

The seeds are tiny and light but are quite easy to broadcast thinly over a bed. 

I rake them in lightly, tamp the soil down with the back of the rake, and then cover the bed with a row cover like Reemay to protect germinating plants from birds. Once the plants are up, I remove the row cover.  If you’ve never sowed a cover crop, the video on this English site is a good guide.  I was interested to see that this site also recommends mache or corn salad as a cover crop.

If you’re looking for one last chance to be out in the garden before the garden year comes to the end, planting cover crops is a great way to spend a sunny fall afternoon.

Nearing the Autumn Equinox

In the mid-September kitchen garden, corn, beans, winter squash and potatoes are at the end of their growing cycles, their dry and yellowed stalks and vines destined for the compost pile. In the greenhouses, the last of the ripening tomatoes hang near the top of wilting vines and remaining eggplants and peppers still glow purple, red, orange and yellow though their leaves are tattered. These warmth-loving plants promise a few more meals before cold weather cuts off their production.  

In contrast to these drying, end-of-summer plants, the foliage of fall and winter crops is lush and green.  In early morning walks in the kitchen garden, my husband Scott has captured the beauty of leeks, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, turnips, chard and kale.  While it’s sad to come to the end of the summer kitchen garden, the freshness of these fall and winter plants and the anticipation of meals they’ll provide temper the change from one season to the next.

Planting for Fall and Winter

What comes after spring garden planting? Abundant harvests of lettuce, radishes, peas, beets, carrots and, a little later, beans, zucchini and tomatoes.  But what else comes after spring garden planting?  Fall and winter garden planting!  Even as I’m enjoying vegetables from the spring and summer garden, I’m eyeing the spaces left by these harvests and plotting what I can plant there for fall and winter. If you have extra garden space showing up as you harvest, you can plant some fall and winter crops now and throughout July and August.  The reward will be vegetables from the kitchen garden this winter.

Most of the vegetables I plant for my fall and winter kitchen garden fall into two general categories, greens and roots. Greens that I always make room for are kale, collards, chard, radicchio, red mustard, arugula, mache. Winter roots that have a place are rutabaga, turnip, carrots, beets, parsnips, celery root. Brussels sprouts, cabbage and leeks don’t fit neatly into these categories, but I always leave space for them in my winter garden too.

Greens grown in fall and winter tend to be sweeter and more succulent than greens grown in summer.  They not only thrive in cool weather, but also get sweeter after a frost. Winter roots as well as leeks, Brussels sprouts and cabbage also thrive and sweeten in cold weather, and their rich deep flavors signal fall and winter in contrast to the lighter, brighter flavors of summer’s beans, zucchini, tomatoes, eggplant and peppers. And even when the weather gets really cold, there are lots of ways to protect your winter crops.

Here’s the planting calendar I keep in mind as space opens up in the garden. Some of these vegetables I’ll direct seed and others I’ll start in pots and plant out as space becomes available.

If you use Linda Gilkeson’s winter garden planting calendar, you’ll notice that I suggest dates a little later than those she suggests, but I’ve found that I can push the season a little more in my Lopez Island garden than she can on Salt Spring Island.

Greens:

Kale and collards: mid-July, direct seed or plant in pots for transplanting

Chard: mid-July, direct seed or plant in pots for transplanting

Radicchio: mid-to-late July, direct seed or plant in pots for transplanting

Red mustard: early to mid-August, direct seed or plant in pots for transplanting

Arugula: direct seed, mid-August through October and as late as December in a cold frame

Mache: mid-August, direct seed or plant in flats for transplanting

Roots:

Carrots: early to mid-July, direct seed

Beets: early to mid-July, direct seed

Rutabaga: mid-July, direct seed or start in pots for transplanting

Turnip: mid-July, direct seed or start in pots for transplanting

Parsnips: early June to mid-July, direct seed

Celery root: April to May in pots for transplanting late June

Leeks: late May, direct seed or in pots to transplant

Brussels sprouts: early June, in pots to transplant early to mid-July

Winter cabbage: early June, in pots to transplant early to mid-July

Over the years, I’ve written many blog posts about growing and cooking winter vegetables. If you’re interested in trying a few winter vegetables this year, check out these posts for photos and ideas and explore the site under Fall/Winter Vegetables. For many of these vegetables, it’s not too late to buy seeds. And if planting for fall and winter doesn’t appeal this year, there’s always next year!

Greens for fall and winter: Includes advice on planting arugula and mache.

Plant your Winter Roots: An overview, similar to this post

Undercover Greens: Includes advice on constructing a low hoop house

Kale: The first of many posts on kale on this blog.

Bitter Greens: Includes advice on growing and cooking radicchio and other bitter greens.

Mache: Includes advice on growing, harvesting and serving mache, also known as corn salad.

Red Mustard: Advice on growing and cooking red mustard.

Winter Vegetable Beauty: Includes a delicious recipe for winter cabbage

Gilfeather Turnip: Includes the “back story” of this delicious winter turnip.

January King Cabbage: Includes advice on growing this very hardy winter cabbage and a recipe for cabbage and collards

Roasting Colorful Carrots: Includes my favorite recipe for winter carrots

Sweeter after a frost: Explains why winter vegetables are sweeter!

Purple Cape Cauliflower and Uncertain Times

After last year’s happy experience with overwintering cauliflower and broccoli  , I’ve been eager for this year’s overwintered brassica harvest to begin.  I planted these overwintering brassicas indoors in early June and set them out in the kitchen garden in mid-July where they grew steadily through late summer and fall, then settled into winter, surviving cold, snow and winds.  The first overwintered treat to mature this year was Purple Cape Cauliflower, its intense purple startling me as much this year as it did last.

Purple Cape two

I’ve been harvesting heads for the past several weeks while the curds are still tightly packed, unlike last year when I, in my inexperience with them, let them grow out onto their stems.

For dinner the other night, I paired a head of Purple Cape cauliflower with emerging flower buds of Dazzling Blue kale and January King cabbage, nice color matches.

Purple Cape and flower buds

I roasted the cauliflower and lightly wilted the flower buds.  While the cauliflower finished roasting, I sautéed the wilted flower buds in lots of olive oil and garlic and then added some cooked black beans. When the cauliflower was browned and soft, I added it to the pan with the other vegetables and scattered all with finely grated lemon zest.

Purple Cape side

On its own, this mixture would be a lovely side dish, but by adding pasta, it becomes a hearty main dish.  Any pasta would be fine, but orecchiette is especially fun for the way the beans nestle into the little ears of orecchiette.  Sprinkled with grated Parmesan cheese and toasted bread crumbs, this pasta dish makes a perfect early spring meal.

Purple Cape pasta

In the days before social distancing, I’d make this pasta meal again and invite friends over to enjoy it, or I’d bring the vegetable side dish to a potluck.  I miss these dinner table connections and conversations, but I’m grateful for another connection between friends that still continues.  On the phone and over email, even sometimes at a distance of six feet during a walk, gardeners are asking each other questions and sharing advice.  “What are you planting, now?” “Are you planting out in the garden or starting seeds indoors?” “What kind of potting soil do you use?”  “Do I need to buy new seeds of that vegetable, or will my old seeds still work?”  And, as I asked my friend Carol on the phone the other day, “When will the rest of my overwintered brassicas mature?” “Soon,” she answered reassuringly, “April or maybe May.”

In addition to friends, I’m grateful to Linda Gilkeson whose “Lists” address gardeners’ questions every couple of weeks.  If you already subscribe, you know how useful her advice is for maritime northwest gardeners.  If you want to subscribe, go to her website http://www.lindagilkeson.ca/gardening_tips.htmland click on Gardening Tips in the menu.

In her March 22, 2020 list, she makes a very generous offer to all gardeners: access to her gardening courses.  She writes:

I am getting emails from first-time gardeners wanting to grow food in this year of the pandemic, yet my gardening classes, workshops and talks in the region have been cancelled or postponed indefinitely. SO, I am making my Year Round Harvest gardening course slides available to everyone. These are pdf files of the PowerPoint slides that I show in my two 10-month gardening courses and are normally only accessible by the people registered in the classes. The two courses are sponsored by the Horticulture Centre of the Pacific [https://hcp.ca/ ] and the Salt Spring Garden Club [https://ssigardenclub.ca/ ] and I appreciate their support for releasing these presentation to anyone who wants to see them.

 You will need to use the class password to view these files, which will be available until December. Here’s how: 

Go to: http://www.lindagilkeson.ca/coursenotes.html

Use this password: honeycrisp

Click on SUBMIT (hitting ENTER doesn’t work)

 Around the middle of each month from January to October I put up a new module on a different topic appropriate to the season. So far, there are 3 files:

  1. Garden Plans and Seed Starting 
  2. Soil, Nutrients and Amendments 
  3. Spring Garden 

If you have questions about the material in these presentations, there is much more detail in my book Backyard Bounty. If you have access to a copy, please try to find your answers there first: I am becoming overwhelmed by emails. My priority is to answer questions for people in this year’s gardening classes and from Master Gardeners in BC and I will try to answer others as I have time.

Thank you to Linda for her generosity.

My blog also provides answers to some of our spring gardening questions.  Check out the post on  Starting Seeds Indoors and another on Transplanting vs Direct Seeding.  And if you’re ordering seeds, this post provides a chart on seed viability and if you’re wondering when you can eat the vegetables you’re planting, read this one on Days to Maturity.

I’m very grateful to have the kitchen garden right now, both because it provides food and because it provides a point of connection with friends, family and blog readers.  We’re comforted by growing food in this uncertain time, comforted by the sense of normalcy that germinating seeds and growing plants offer us each day.

Winter Vegetable Galettes

As February comes to an end, longer daylight length and warmer temperatures are awakening the hardy vegetables that have been holding in the winter kitchen garden since last fall.  While kale is already forming flower buds that I can harvest soon and throughout the spring, other remaining winter vegetables, like cabbages and leeks, really need to be harvested now, before they send out seed buds that compromise their flavor. Luckily, winter vegetable galettes are to a perfect way to use these end-of-the-winter-season vegetables.

A galette is basically a freeform, single-crust pie baked on a flat surface like a sheet pan or baking stone rather than in a pie pan, though the galette technique works well in a pie pan too.  Roll pastry dough into a circle, spread filling onto the dough to within about 2 inches of the pastry edge and fold the pastry edge up around the filling.  The result is a rustic-looking pie with the filling exposed and circled by a pastry crust.

I make galettes throughout the year, fruit galettes in summer, especially apricot galettes when friends give me apricots, and summer vegetable galettes with caponata-like fillings of eggplant, peppers and tomatoes.  But winter vegetable galettes are my favorites.

Deborah Madison has a wonderful selection of winter vegetable galettes in her Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone (1997).  I make her winter squash galette often.  Sage, roasted garlic and a little cheese are all she suggests adding to roasted winter squash.  The result is a savory squash galette that makes a perfect main dish served with a pilaf of farro or brown rice and wild rice.

I also make her leek and goat cheese galette. It is a slightly richer version of Alice Water’s leek galette that is sautéed leeks only, wrapped in crust.

Leek galetteLeek galettes have been a winter standby for years, both for dinner and as a finger-food appetizer.  I’ll be making them often in the next few weeks as I harvest the final row of leeks.

And then there is cabbage.  Who knew cabbage could make such a tasty galette!  I hadn’t made Deborah Madison’s Cabbage and Mushroom Galette until this year, and I’m wondering what took me so long.  The combination of lots of wilted cabbage with sautéed mushrooms, diced hard-boiled egg, sour cream or goat cheese, tarragon, thyme and dill is truly delicious, rich, but not too rich, and full of flavor. I’ve made it for us several times and for company once, and I have reserved the remaining January King cabbage for a couple more.

Cabbage and Mushroom Galette

(My adaptations of this recipe are in plain text below)

For the pastry

2 cups all-purpose flour (I like using whole wheat pastry flour or Bluebird Grain Farms all- purpose flour milled from hard white wheat berries.)

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 Tablespoon of sugar (for fruit galettes; little or no sugar for savory galettes)
12 tablespoons cold, unsalted butter, cut into ½ tablespoon-sized pieces
1/3 to ½ cup ice water

 For the filling

2 tablespoons butter
1 large onion, finely diced
4 ounces fresh shiitake mushrooms, stems discarded, caps thinly diced (
I’ve substituted 1 pound of crimini mushrooms and think that this galette is better with more mushrooms.)
1 teaspoon chopped thyme or 1/2 teaspoon dried
1 teaspoon chopped tarragon or 1/2 teaspoon dried
1 tablespoon chopped dill or 1 teaspoon dried
6 cups thinly sliced cabbage, preferably Savoy, or 4 cups cabbage plus 2 cups other greens, such as beet, chard, or kale
salt and freshly milled pepper
1/4 cup chopped parsley
1 hard-cooked egg, chopped (
I often use two hard-boiled eggs.)
1/4 cup sour cream or yogurt (
I subsitute ¼ pound goat cheese and omit the tarragon vinegar. I really like the tang the goat cheese provides.)
1 teaspoon tarragon vinegar
2 tablespoons melted butter

Cabbage galette ingredients 

For the horseradish sauce(I’ve never made this sauce, but I bet it would be good!)
1/4 cup prepared horseradish
1 cup yogurt or sour cream

1. Make pastry: In a bowl, combine the flour, sugar (if using) and salt. Cut in butter by hand, leaving some pea-sized chunks, or, if using a Food Processor, add half the butter and process until the mixture is like coarse meal; then add the rest of the butter and process briefly, leaving pea-sized or slightly larger chunks of butter. Transfer to a bowl and sprinkle ice water over the top by the tablespoon and toss with flour mixture, using a fork or your fingers, until you can bring the dough together into a ball. Press into a disk and refrigerate for ½ hour or more.

2. Prepare the filling: Heat the butter in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the onion, mushrooms, and herbs and cook until softened, about 10 minutes. Add the cabbage, 1 teaspoon salt, and 1/2 cup water. (The cabbage from my garden is so fresh that I omit the ½ cup of water. The cabbage cooks in less than 10 minutes.)Cabbage galette filling start

Cover and cook slowly until the cabbage is tender, 15 to 20 minutes, turning it occasionally. Add more liquid. When tender, uncover and raise the heat to evaporate any excess moisture. (I do this step about 10 minutes after adding the cabbage.) The mixture should be fairly dry.

Cabbage galette filling finishedStir in the parsley, egg, and sour cream (I substitute ¼ pound goat cheese for sour cream). Season with vinegar (Omit if you use goat cheese) and taste for salt and pepper.

3. Assemble galette: Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Roll the dough into a large thin circle, about 14-15 inches across and about 1/8 inch thick, and set it on the back of a sheet pan or cookie sheet. (I like to transfer the rolled dough to a piece of parchment paper and assemble the galette on the parchment paper then transfer parchment and galette to the sheet pan.)

Cabbage galette pastryAdd the filling, leaving about 2 inches of pastry edge,

Cabbage galette assemblythen fold the edges over and brush with the melted butter. Pour any extra butter into the vegetables. Bake until browned, 25 to 30 minutes. While it is baking, mix the horseradish and cream to form a sauce, and season to taste. When galette is done, carefully slide it onto a serving plate. Serve with the horseradish sauce on the side.

Cabbage galette done

When I’ve harvested all the cabbages, I think I will follow the recipe suggestion and substitute kale, chard or collards, even the last of the Brussels sprouts, for cabbage.  I love winter vegetable galette fillings.  My husband likes them too, but what most delights him is all that pastry, so both of us are happy with these late winter dinners.

Brussels Sprouts are hot!

I’ve been a fan of Brussels sprouts since childhood. When I made my first Thanksgiving dinner for friends forty years ago, I fixed Brussels sprouts the way I remembered from family meals.  I cut a little “X” in the stem end and boiled them, watching closely and removing them as soon as the center was tender, but the outside was still green.  Guests politely took one or two while I and the few other fans finished the rest.  Some Thanksgivings later, a friend offered to bring the Brussels sprouts, steaming them, adding bits of crispy fried bacon and cloaking all in a mustard cream sauce. These rich, disguising flavors made some converts, and this preparation held for many years.  Then, fifteen years ago, deciding to feature the nutty, delicately cabbage-like flavor of Brussels sprouts, I thinly sliced each sprout and sautéed the slices in butter.  For the first time, nearly everyone ate Brussels sprouts.  For Thanksgivings since then, I’ve served Brussels sprouts this way or, in another great variation that features the flavor of Brussels sprouts, I’ve halved or quartered each sprout, tossed the pieces in olive oil and roasted them on sheet pans in a hot oven.  Caramelized Brussels sprouts are popular with just about everyone.

My and guests’ experiences with Brussels sprouts mirror a trend among chefs and home cooks.  Over the past decade, restaurants began serving roasted Brussels sprouts as appetizers and sides.  Creative recipes for Brussels sprouts began appearing in cooking magazines, newspaper articles and blogs.  And in the Skagit Delta this fall, rows and rows of Brussels sprouts stretch across the fields to meet the demand for this lovely vegetable.

Always on the lookout for recipes that celebrate the new popularity of Brussels Sprouts, I was intrigued by a recent New York Times Cooking recipe by Susan Spungen for Roasted and Raw Brussels Sprouts Salad. In the introduction, she writes: “If you like a good kale salad, or any type of crunchy salad, then you will love this one, which combines shredded raw brussels sprouts with roasted brussels sprouts leaves.”  I did love it and have made it several times with the Brussels Sprouts growing in my winter kitchen garden. I’ve also developed a delicious variation with cabbage and kale that uses the same raw and roasted techniques.

Roasted and Raw Brussels Sprouts Salad

1 pound Brussels Sprouts

2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

¾ teaspoon kosher salt

1 small shallot, halved

2 tablespoons sherry vinegar

1 tablespoon Dijon mustard

1 teaspoon honey or maple syrup

Black pepper

5 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

1 ½ ounces Pecorino Sardo, or other sharp sheep’s milk cheese, shaved with a vegetable peeler (about 1 scant cup)

 cup whole raw almonds, roughly chopped

Trim the sprouts, cutting a good 1/4-inch off the bottom. Pull off the large leaves (you should have about 2 cups of them); set aside. Shred the remaining sprouts thinly, using a food processor fitted with the slicing blade, or use a knife to halve them through the core, then thinly slice them. You should have 5 to 6 cups

Toss the shredded sprouts with the lemon juice and 1/4 teaspoon salt, and massage with your hands to tenderize them. Set aside.

Finely mince half the shallot and mix with the sherry vinegar, mustard, honey, 1/4 teaspoon salt and a few grinds of pepper. While stirring, slowly pour in 4 tablespoons oil, then drizzle the dressing onto the sprouts, mixing thoroughly. Toss in the cheese and place in a serving bowl. (Cover and refrigerate for up to 4 hours, if not serving right away.)

Heat the oven to 375 degrees. Thinly slice the other half of the shallot, and on a small baking sheet, combine the shallot with the reserved sprout leaves, almonds, remaining 1 tablespoon oil and 1/4 teaspoon salt. Toss to coat, then roast, tossing once or twice until the sprouts begin to crisp and brown, 10 to 12 minutes.

Place the hot ingredients on top of the salad (do not toss) and serve immediately, with more cracked pepper on top.

After I trimmed a ¼ inch from the stems, it was easy to slip the outer leaves from each sprout and collect two cups of green leaves. I used the food processor to shred the inner sprouts and then tossed them with the lemon juice and salt.

Brussels sprouts leaves and centers

Brussels sprouts shredded

It was one of those cooking leaps of faith to combine the sliced shallot, chopped almonds and sprout leaves and believe that they would all finish cooking at the same time, but they did.  The crispy leaves and nuts and the soft shallots make a wonderful combination and a beautiful topping for the shredded leaves and shaved pecorino.  The dressing is really tasty too.  I used maple syrup.

Brussels sprouts salad set up

To serve this salad, reach deeply with the salad spoons and capture both bottom and top layers.  The salad is beautiful in the bowl and on the plate.

Brussels sprouts salad finished

The roasted Brussels Sprouts leaves reminded me of roasted kale leaves and the shredded Brussels Sprouts centers reminded me of cabbage.  With these similarities in mind, it was a short step to making this salad with cabbage and kale.  I followed all the instructions of the original recipe and would make this version again too.

Cabbage Kale salad set up

Cabbage Kale salad finished

Winter salads are so hearty and satisfying.  I’m grateful that Brussels sprouts and their brassica cousins will keep us in salads through this cold and dark season.

 

Seeding the winter kitchen garden now

It’s been a very busy April and May, but the spring and summer vegetables are finally in the ground and growing. I’m ready to take a break from planting the kitchen garden, but not before I finish one more task. It seems odd to be doing this during these sweet days of late spring and early summer, but it’s time to start seeds of fall and winter vegetables.  With days-to-maturity requirements of 100 to over 200 days, many of my winter favorites, like celery root, leeks, parsnips, Brussels sprouts, winter cabbage, overwintering cauliflowers and broccolis, need to be seeded now or in the next week or two so that they’ll be mature by the time days become shorter and temperatures drop.  At that point, they’ll be ready to hold in the garden, heavily mulched against cold and sometimes covered against the wind, for harvest throughout the winter.

I look at my list and translate the days into months and realize that a hundred days from now is mid-September, the autumn equinox. Time to start planting!

Celery root: 100-110 days

Leeks: 90-110 days

Parsnips: 110 days

Brussels sprouts: 99-200 days

Winter cabbage: 160-220 days

Overwintering cauliflower: 200+ days

Purple sprouting broccoli: 220 days

With the exception of parsnips, which I’ll plant outdoors soon, I’ll start all of these seeds indoors.  I’ve already seeded celery root and leeks and their small, green shoots are rising above the potting soil.  I used to start celery root indoors in late March and set out plants in mid-May, but in the past few years, I’ve found that the plants grow better when the weather is warmer, so I start them in early May, May 9th this year, and set them out in late June.  I also used to direct seed leeks in late May, but a few years ago, I experimented with starting seeds indoor in pots, where I got much better germination, and then setting out the contents of the pots in mid-to-late June where the leeks grew well into pencil-sized plants for final transplant into rows.

Celery root starts 5:31

Leek starts 2 5:31

Next week, I’ll start the brassicas: Brussels sprouts, cabbage, cauliflower and broccoli. By mid-July, the brassicas will be sturdy plants in 4-inch pots, ready to harden off and set out in winter beds.

In mid-July, I’ll plant more winter crops, those with shorter days-to-maturity, like carrots, beets, turnips, rutabaga, kale.  But mid-July is six weeks away, and between now and then there will be time to take a break from planting the kitchen garden.