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Posts Tagged ‘kale’

Seasons change, as they say.  But in this past few months when the leaves were turning colors and frost was putting an end to the gardening season, I was going through a lot of changes of my own.  The political consulting firm I worked for shut its doors and I found myself not just looking for work, but also looking for answers to some questions brewing in my mind.  Do I want to keep working in politics?  Or maybe do something a little different?  Do I want to stay in DC?  Try out some new city?  Or maybe go back to my native Pacific Northwest?

True to my want-it-all generation, I found myself answering “yes” to all of those seemingly mutually exclusive questions.  And then I received a terrific opportunity that let me have it all.  I’m moving to Portland, Oregon, for eight months to work on post-Census redistricting, which will keep me connected to politics but let me develop a lot of new skills in statistics and demography (and form my own consulting LLC in the process).  But I’ll be back in DC on a regular basis, and will return to my lovely (now subletted) Dupont Circle apartment after this is all over.  Relevant to this blog, I’m going to keep my garden plot (but make it really minimalist this year), and will remain actively involved in planning the next DC State Fair.

So as with the past few months, 2011 will be a bit of a hibernation for this blog.  I’ll post a few garden updates in the spring and summer, do a a tiny bit of posting about Portland, and help advertise DC State Fair events and deadlines.  And if I take this round-the-world tour of the world’s street food capitals next Oct/Nov that I’ve been dreaming about, I’ll post my culinary adventures here as well.  Expect a return to full DC gardening glory in 2012.

But for now, let me show you the last thing I made with my garden’s 2010 bounty.  Just before I left DC on December 21, I went out one last time to my garden plot, which was blanketed by an inch of snow.  But under the icy crust there were carrots, leeks, and the sweetest kale you can imagine.  I combined these ingredients with rich stock, cannellini beans,  sweet Italian sausage, and bacon to make a Tuscan soup that fed me for three solid meals.  It was the perfect way to close out my garden, and a satisfying way to leave DC for my 2011 adventure.  Happy New Year!

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Waaaay back in October, Mary of the Arugula Files posted her own take on Molly Wizenberg’s recipe for spaghetti with braised kale.  Mary added chorizo to the formerly vegetarian mix, which I thought was brilliant.  Chorizo and kale seem made for each other – the spicy, greasy-in-a-good-way chorizo can stand up to the hearty, wintery kale.

I commented on Mary’s post that I was “definitely going to make this.”  Somehow, I never remembered to buy chorizo, or if I did, it wasn’t available.  But the recipe stayed in my mind all through the cold months.  Then the weather started getting nicer these past few weeks, and I realized there was only so long I could wait – it doesn’t seem like a dish to make when it’s 80 degrees out.  So I got some buffalo & pork chorizo and a big bunch of lacinato kale at the Dupont Circle farmers market and went at it.

And indeed, it was a delicious way to say goodbye to winter.  I followed Mary’s instructions pretty closely, except that I used farfalle pasta instead of spaghetti.  I like my chorizo in big chunks, so I thought a chunkier pasta would work better.  I have a sense that this dish will be the ultimate destination of a lot of my fall lacinato kale crop!

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I went out to my garden plot yesterday, thinking that maybe the snow would have finally melted enough for me to plant some sprouting potatoes.  I also thought I might be able to pull up some overwintered carrots.    Unfortunately, this is what I saw:

I was able to clear away enough snow to sow my potatoes, but finding hidden carrots was not going to happen.  So February marks the first month in which I got zero harvest out of my garden.

Still, I think it’s pretty cool that I got ANYTHING in January and December.  In December I was still harvesting tender salad greens, even if it meant clearing off snow to do it.  And at a few points in December and January I pulled up crunchy, delicious overwintered carrots and  frost-sweetened kale.

My January carrot harvest: small, but so delicious. Next year I need to plant them earlier so they can get bigger before the frost.

Steamed kale was delicious on top of a creamy kabocha squash risotto in December.

I don’t think I’ll get anything from the garden in March, either, unless the arugula  seeds I sprinkled on a bare patch of dirt yesterday somehow germinate unusually quickly.  But by April I will be pulling early lettuces and arugula and radishes (at least, if last year is any indication).   And I could always buy some turnips at the market and plant them and get some turnip greens in fairly short order, although that kind of feels like cheating.  My point is, in this area it’s totally possible to have a productive garden 9 or 10 months of the year.  Maybe next winter I’ll invest in some row covers and extend the season even more.

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Hidden Delights

When I was out at my garden this weekend, I was amazed to discover how much of my bed of greens and kale had survived under the snow.  Check it out!

Once I cleared all the snow away, there was actually a lot of baby salad greens that were totally fresh and tender.  I got to eat a fresh, homegrown, delicious salad in December.  Amazing.

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DC’s first snow of the year fell on Saturday – a wet, ploppy kind of snow that didn’t really stick on the sidewalks, but left some accumulation on the grass and bushes.  So today I trekked out to my garden plot to see whether any of my winter vegetables had survived.  It’s very peaceful out there when there’s snow on the ground.  And underneath an iced-over coat of snow, a lot of vegetables were toughing it out.

Baby bok choy, under the snow.

Supposedly kale gets sweeter after a hard frost. I think this is hard and frosty enough!

This winter-hardy arugula is living up to its product description.

The leeks in my neighbor's plot are holding up very well!

I can't believe the swiss chard. It was heat tolerant all throughout the blistering summer, and now it's cold-tolerant enough to survive a snow. Amazing.

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Most members of brassicaceae family that I am familiar with do well in the spring and fall, and not so much in the summer.  At the end of the spring I was kind of getting tired of the brassicas, but now after a season off I am loving the fall versions.  And they can be quite pretty as well.

Brassicas - Purple Broccoli (Large)

Purple broccoli - how exotic.

Brassicas - Collards and Kale (Large)

Collards and several types of kale.

Brassicas - Brussels Sprouts (Large)

Brussels sprouts.

Brassicas - Radishes (Large)

Radishes.

Brassicas - Curly Cabbage (Large)

Curly cabbage.

Brassicas - Pac Choi and Tat Soi (Large)

Pac Choi (Bok Choy) and Tat Soi.

Brassicas - Turnips (Large)

Turnips.

Brassicas - Colorful Cabbages (Large)

Purple and green cabbages.

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There certainly have been a dreary stretches this fall in DC.  They may have turned off the water at my community garden, but my fall vegetables are not wanting for rain.  Still, we’ve also enjoyed some really beautiful stretches.  It’s going to get up into the upper 60s and low 70s for the next few days.  When the air is warm, but not too warm, and there are crisp and colorful leaves on the ground, it just feels good to be alive.

Misc Fall Leaves (Large)

Don't worry, the leaf porn will be over soon.

Misc Busboys and Poets (Large)

Outdoor dining in November. I love DC.

Misc Beets (Large)

New fall beets at the market.

Misc Baby Kale (Large)

The sun is helping my fall kale grow big - and then a good frost will help it get sweet.

Misc Asian Vegetables (Large)

A lot of Asian vegetables do very well in the fall. Look at the size of those Daikons!

Misc Ginko Leaves (Large)

Fallen ginkgo nuts are smelly and gross, but fallen ginkgo leaves are lovely.

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