Winter Kale with Cranberries and Apples

Winter gardens are often brimming with kale sweetened from a few frosty days. There are many ways to serve this hyper nutritious vegetable. Young tender kale needs no special preparation other than removing stems thicker than a pencil. Over mature kale can be tough if the leaf veins are over developed. If so, remove the stem and most obvious veins, chop the kale and parboil six minutes. Strain, and braise in skillet following the recipe below. Parboiling is a traditional Mediterranean method and your kale will be more tender and milder in flavor.

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1 1/2 lbs kale, prepared following above directions
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 medium onion, peeled and chopped
1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes, to taste or 1 teaspoon Siracha sauce (optional)
2 garlic cloves, minced or pressed
Salt and pepper to taste
2 tablespoons white balsamic or cider vinegar
2 tart firm apples sliced vertically into ½” thick pieces Remove core but don’t peel

 Take a large skillet fitted with a lid and place on medium high heat; Add oil, and chopped onion and sauté until translucent. Now add coarsely chopped or parboiled kale and garlic. Cook ten minutes or until tender. Toss in a handful of dried cranberries, a touch of hot sauce and salt and turn with spatula. When kale is cooked add slender vertical slices of two unpeeled tart apples, Cover, let sit ten minutes and it’s ready to serve. The objective is to have tender kale and semi cooked apples.

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Welcome Earth Day 2013

Today is Earth Day and a time we think about our beautiful earth and what we can do to help and maintain it.  Of course as gardeners and readers, the simple act of sowing seeds or planting is a benefit. Because I’m preparing a talk for our local museum about the gardening and seed production heritage of Western Oregon,  I’ve been giving some thought about “knowing our place”.  Know your place is usually a negative disciplinary phrase.  But let’s reassess this and do what we can to better know the place where we live and how it relates to the food production, beauty, preservation and history of our earth.  By knowing the tremendous value of seed crops here in the Willamette Valley I’m very afraid of canola seed being planted on or near fields where it can cross-pollinate or the dropped seeds will contaminate the soil for future crops. The better we know our place the more able we are to understand and speak out the occasional big issue that does appear. I will continue to express this concern along with hundreds of farmers and gardeners and hope it will make a difference. Know your place!   ~ Rose Marie
For suggestions on food gardening and Earth Day click on the image below and read this Huffington Post piece to which I happily contributed.
R-KITCHEN-GARDEN-HOW-TO

Our helpful Predators – Cinnabar Moths

The predatory bugs, beetles and in this case the lovely Cinnabar moth are in full force in summer months. Before the Cinnabar Moth was introduced to control Tansy Ragwort, this plant was the bane of farmers with grazing cattle or horses. animals commonly died upon eating Tansy Ragwort. Sheep are curiously unaffected.

This plant, a member of the Senecio family is highly toxic and grew with abandon throughout Western Oregon until the introduction of this moth by Oregon State University researchers in 1960. The moth is native to western Europe and parts of Asia. the moths seek our the tansy plants, lay eggs and in a few weeks their larval offspring are denuding the plants of flowers and foliage. It has proven a positive introduction to our region. Like all predators they don’t exterminate their source of food. We do notice a cycle of tansy showing up along the roadsides and the following year an increase in Cinnabar Moths.

Talking about Herb Gardening @ awaytogardening.com

Join us atawaytogarden.com in an interview with  Margaret Roach at her blog/gardening magazine. Today Nichols Garden Nursery is featured. Keane is holding two fine specimens of Oregon Sweetmeat Squash Homestead. Notice the beautiful color and thick walls.  Grow it and you’ll also taste how sweet and tender it is. I am holding our very new Ruby-Gold Flint Corn and branches of true Mediterranean bay, Laurus nobilis, Rosemary Blue Gem, a Nichols introduction. Read her article, join the giveaway and learn a few herb gardening tips. Leave a comment on her blog and join the giveaway. Margaret is the former senior editor and Martha Stewart Living Magazine and author of the new and highly reviewed “and I shall find peace there” her latest book. Click the link to Margaret Roache’s article

http://awaytogarden.com/giveaway-rose-marie-nichols-mcgees-herb-qa#comments

Forcing Winter Branches Into Bloom

Every New Year I cut branches of shrubs and trees to force into early bloom. Think Spring! Now we have vases and jars of  Flowering Quince, Forsythia, Dogwood, Daphne, Hazelnut, and Willow.  A branch of Snow Berry adds a little substance to it all. When I brought in the branches the stems were gently scrubbed and recut before placing in water. The first few days it’s best to change the water daily. After three or four days if the buds are swelling I ease up. If buds are not swelling and branches are not using water your house may be too dry and a misting will help the buds open. Also cut off 1/2″ of stem to give them a fresh start. These are meant as simple directions for casual enjoyment of what’s in the garden at the beginning of a brand New Year. Place one variety per container since they bloom and leaf out on different schedules.  I’ll put up more photos when we have color. Place these flowering stems in a bright area but out of direct sun.

Planting The Gardener’s Fall/Winter Pantry

Helen, who does much of our photography planted  her fall/winter pantry in early September. It’s 20 feet long and covered in light polyspun row cover. She used 6″ boards. bed is 36″ wide but wanted to make it unattractive to cats. Her materials were sawed off 5/8″ deeply set and 10″ above the ground. wood dowels pounded into the ground and PVC pipe.

She was indignant that cats had been pawing through the bed as soon as she prepared the soil. Polyspun was initially effective until a cat or raccoon dive bombed it one night. Critter control that’s not cruel or lethal seems a constant issue for gardeners. Helen solved her problem by covering the polyspun with bird netting just to see if that would deter the cats and that has worked.

The beds stand 2′ high.

Lettuce 10 varieties

Chicken scratch mix, Italian parsley and single parsley, green wave mustard, five or six different radishes, water cress, mountain cress, and garden cress were all planted in early December.

Her bed is watered twice daily two twenty minute periods. Part of her lawn system.(now that we are in October the water has been off for several weeks)

Medium size ‘Garden Clips’ and used three on each span to keep everything in place

She has done all of this herself and this post will be followed up with pics of her current garden in a few days. Most areas of the US have what I call shoulder seasons when we can grow cool weather crops that actually taste better when grown in lower temperature. The cool temps encourage plants to generate more sugars which act as a natural anti freeze.

Sugar Meat Squash Muffins

Sugar Meat Squash Muffins
Some varieties capture our imagination and become ones we grow each year. Katy Stokes Sugar Meat is a solid,Sweet Meat type and has become a customer favorite. This 6-10# winter squash is versatile, nutritious and delicious.
One of our Albany customers brought in a batch of muffins with this delicious recipe.
Katy’s Sugar Meat Muffin Recipe

2 eggs
1 cup cooked Katy Stoke’s Sugar Meat Squash
¼ cup vegetable oil
¼ cup milk
1 ½ cups sugar (adjust to taste) I use ¾ cup
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon allspice
1 teaspoon salt may reduce to ½ teaspoon
1 ¾ cups unbleached flour
½ cup chopped walnuts

Preheat Oven to 350 degrees:
Place eggs, oil, cooked, cooled squash and milk into a bowl and mix. Sift sugar, soda, cinnamon, allspice, salt, and flour. Mix until lightly moistened. Stir in walnuts. Fill muffin or cupcake pans 2/3 full. Bake for 25 minutes. Yields 12 regular muffins. Give these try these and we think you’ll find they become a standby.

Katy Stokes selected this variety from her annual Sweet Meat squash plantings. For more than ten years she saved the seed of her very best flavored and sweetest squash. Only these seeds were replanted. Over time this selection stabilized and now Katy Stoke’s Sugar Meat Squash represents a classic model of seed saving and selection. Squashes freely cross pollinate with the help of those busy bees in the garden. This variety was originally selected from a first spectacular squash “Cucurbita maxima” several years ago. A friend who was sharing some of the gardening space on her farm had planted various squash and it is possible this selection developed from an unexpected cross pollination. Now of course, our plants for seed are carefully protected from any possibility of future crosses and the field is checked for any plants that do not seem true to type. In my opinion, seed saving is an art and always requires the discerning eye and palette to maintain a great variety.