The April harvest: It’s not easy having greens

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Those of you who have even a passing familiarity with what we do here know that I am a crappy gardener. I have grown bitter collards, anaemic snow peas, wormy cabbages, and, perhaps most notably, watery giant squash – and that’s just above the ground! Look below, and you’ll find I hold the world’s record for failed root crops.

So you will allow my a moment of pride in our hoophouse. It is full of leafy, bug-free greens, crisp, blood-red radishes, and tall, strong leeks. It has bushy, thriving herbs and a patch of lemongrass that looks like it’s going to make it.

It is a beautiful thing.

I know that it will last about seven seconds. The only reason it looks so good is that it’s too early for bugs and bolting, and only the most intrepid weeds (you know who you are, chickweed) have gotten a foothold. Come back in a couple weeks, and everything will be back to normal.

But, between the kale, arugula, and collards in the hoophouse and the overwintered collards in the garden, I harvested about ten pounds of greens in April. In April! I am pleased with myself out of all proportion.

Until I try and figure out what’s for dinner. I’ve made soups and stir-fries and creamed greens. There have been salads and frittatas and at least one pasta sauce that would have benefited from having fewer greens. I’ve blanched and frozen several bags of collards and kale, which I’ll be very happy to have in February.

Anybody got a favorite use for leafy greens? I’d be mighty appreciative.

Meanwhile, it’s time for my monthly check-in on our progress toward our 2012 goal of getting 20% of calories from first-hand food, and I’m very glad to have something to report other than eggs. Eggs are still the bulk of calories, but they have been joined by a significant harvest of leaves.

April greens

As in March, we’ve gotten about 18 dozen eggs, at 800 calories per, for 14,400. The ten pounds of greens were quite sturdy and dense (except arugula, which was a small fraction of the harvest), so I’m figuring they’re about 200 calories per pound, for 2000 calories.

I don’t want to forget my radishes, even though the 20 calories from the one large bunch are well within my rounding error.  But if I add in the sage, oregano, marjoram, and mint, I figure I can get that up to 100.

So the total for April is 16,500. Still not up to 20%, but we’re coming up on fishing season. I’m hoping for a very productive May.

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Comments

  1. Congrats! I’m terrible with plants, and hence rather envious of your harvest.
    I’ve been making a lot of smoothies for breakfast lately, and incorporating greens into them. Recipe: two cups of your favorite fresh/frozen fruit, one banana, six ounces of greek yogurt and four leaves of kale, finely chopped. Serves two. (I also sometimes slip in parsley or spinach.)

    • Tania, I’m sure this means I’m a terrible, closed-minded person, but I just can’t countenance greens in my smoothies. I’m with you as far as the fruit, banana, and yogurt (that’s often my breakfast), but I just can’t find room in my heart for the kale. I just can’t.

      But if you need some kale and you’re in the neighborhood …

  2. Depending on what leafy brassica we’re talking about, it might be good in a stir-fry with rice noodles, or as part of bi bim bap. Kale isn’t really stir-fry material in my book; it needs too much cooking. It’s more for the soups, pastas, and risottos. Kale might also work in runsas, which are usually made with cabbage and are admittedly a bit fiddly to prepare. But Oh! They are very, very yummy. Pure comfort food. And you can make up big batches and freeze them when they’re cooled. Google for the recipe – it’s one that turns out better than the written recipe would suggest. Kale works in colcannon if you still have potatoes left. If you have more delicate leafy brassicas, you might try them in a variation on pad see ew. I never seem to get tired of pad see ew or be bim bap, perhaps because I’m pretty flexible as to which veggies go into them.

  3. Chopped kale is good in quiche (I like it with bacon, caramelized onions, and feta or goat cheese), and in chicken minestrone (or any minestrone/veg soup recipe). I have seen some recipes for salads with raw kale that has been rubbed with some olive oil (apparently, this tenderizes the leaves), but I haven’t tried them yet.

  4. Quiche seems like a winner for you, eggs and greens. It uses a surprising amount.

    Also, try sauteed greens in your taco fixings. You can get a whole pound into the meat filling (use a strong green like kale). Great way to sneak into the 3-year-old’s dinner.

  5. I like kale all kinds of ways. I even munch on it raw.

    Have you tried Miner’s Lettuce?

  6. I like chopped sautéed kale with garlic puréed with white beans and use as a spread or use like you would serve hummus. Great on crostinis or in a pita pocket with fresh veggies of your choice.

  7. Ask, and I shall receive!

    Thanks for all the suggestions. Tonight, it’s going to be runsas. Kate, I had no idea such a thing existed, but we’ve got some ground lamb in the freezer, so I’m going to try a lamb-mint-kale version, with a little sour cream instead of cheese. We’ll see how that goes.

    Tomorrow, maybe Rick’s kale with garlic and white beans. I like having other people do the meal planning for me.

    Suburban Homestead, although I don’t eat the leaves raw, I’ve been known to eat the stems as I chop the leaves. And I haven’t had miner’s lettuce — I don’t know if it grows around here but I should find out.

    • Glad to have made a suggestion that appeals to you. The last time we made runsas, we used a 50-50 mix of lamb and veal. It was stupendous. I’m sure this is obvious to you, but feel free to tweak the meat:veg ratio to sneak in more kale if you want to use up a lot of it. Do you plan to put the sour cream inside the runsas? Or serve it on the side? Please report back on how the recipe works out for you.

      I’ve only ever seen miner’s lettuce growing wild on the west coast. Not that I can rule it out for the east coast, just sayin’.

  8. Fried eggs atop quickly sauteed tender greens, arugula being my personal favorite, is a regular breakfast item around here. My 14yo is not so fond of greens but eats them, under duress, while the 18, 16 and 12 year old scarf them up and ask for more.

    The tougher and more bitter greens we love just simmered in a fatty, salty broth till tender and succulent. The fat you use is less important than the generosity with which you use it. Around here we use bacon grease, olive oil or coconut oil.

    As for eating raw brassicas? I rarely do, simply because I have thyroid issues and brassicas are a goitrogen, meaning they disrupt thyroid function. Cooking minimizes or inactivates the goitrogenic compounds, for the most part. For me, because I love brassicas so much, I just stick with cooked.

    Your hoop house picture gives the impression that you are tipping the scales in favor of becoming a great gardener. Now you know what time of year to give people a tour. Later on you can practice “biosecurity” and they will be equally impressed. 😉

  9. I use greens in my lasagna (which also freezes beautifully!). I chopped the greens, blanch, then wring dry in a dish towel until all moisture is out. Then I use the greens as a layer, or sometimes substitute layers of greens for the noodles when I am on a low carb kick.

    You can substitute chard, collards or big kale leaves in any recipe for stuffed cabbage or stuff grape leaves. I do stuffed leaves in the slow cooker.

    Kale or mustard works in place of spinach in hot spinach dip. I am not keen on the cabbage-y greens for this, tho.

    Wrap small fish or chicken filets in big leaves with whatever aromatic herbs and veggies you like, and steam them until tender and cooked through. I do this with chard during the summer and chill the packets for picnics, etc.

    BTW, I tried your chicken cooked over a bed of collards, and I am sold! Those greens were the best!

  10. A popular midweek dinner in our house is baked bean and potato pie, another recipe that tastes much better than it sounds. It’s simply a layer of cooked greens in a cheese sauce (basic white sauce with grated mature cheddar or Parmesan) covered with a couple of tins of baked beans and and topped with mashed potato. Bake until hot and bubbling.
    The original recipe was for spinach, but I’ve successfully substituted chard, nettles and other greens.

    I’m not sure if you have tinned baked beans like we do in the UK, but you could substitute any haricot type bean in a tomato sauce though I wouldn’t use your best Boston Baked Bean recipe for this.

  11. I saute onion or scallions in a fair amount of olive oil. Add the greens and stir around for a minute or two. Add one 28 ounce can of diced tomatoes (with juice) and a good slug of balsamic vinegar and salt to taste. Cook as long as you like (usually ten mins or so). The trick here, is not to overload the greens. Having a good ratio of tomato to greens (50/50?) makes a real difference to the final product. I usually use a fairly short, squat pot that’s about 4 inches high and maybe 10 in diameter. I fill it slightly overflowing with greens.

    Another variation that’s also quite good: Before adding the greens, add a tablespoon or more of curry powder and saute briefly. Then add the greens and then the tomatoes. Skip the balsamic vinegar. You can add hard boiled eggs to the curried greens or, also good, just saute onions, add curry powder, then the can of tomatoes. Cook until you loose patience (but at least ten minutes) , adding water if necessary. Throw in two or three hard boiled eggs per person and serve on rice. Really good.

  12. Kevin F. says:

    On a personal note.
    I would like to thank all of you for the wonderful recipes and ideas that will keep me eating greens till the cows come home.
    My doctor thanks you, my colon thanks you, my eyesight and cholesterol thank you.
    Kevin F.

  13. Can I just say, I love you guys.

    Not only do you give me good ideas, you say funny things. It’s what makes a writing a blog more interesting (although less remunerative) than writing a book.

    Some of these things are ideas I’ve tried, but long enough ago that they’ve been lost to the mists of time. So that lasagna and the greens with fried egg are definitely coming back into the rotation. And I like the curried greens and tomato. Hazel, I have to say I think the potato and baked bean combination sounds a little weird, but I love the greens-cheese-potato part. I suspect, though, that you may be right that it’s the kind of serendipitous combination that eats better than it sounds, so maybe I should go out on a limb and try it.

    And all of you have obviously endeared yourself to my husband, who is clearly thrilled that I now have so robust an arsenal of greens recipes.

  14. Elizabeth says:

    I collect wild mustard and sow thistle greens from the Greek countryside. Sow thistle, prickly or plain, is delicious when lightly boiled (I give it about 7 minutes) and dressed in the traditional Greek way with a simple vinaigrette of salt, olive oil and lemon juice, served at room temperature. It makes a terrific side dish to a dinner of grilled sausage with fried eggs, cold retsina optional.

    Greek wild mustard is quite mild, unlike the spicier cultivated Chinese mustard – there really isn’t any bite to it at all. As with sow thistle greens, I boil it for 6-7 minutes. Try this idea for mustard or another mild green over corkscrew fusilli pasta (or pennes or even bow ties):

    Boil a large armful of cleaned mustard greens for 7 minutes, then lift the greens into a colander and drain well, pressing lightly with the back of a spoon to remove any excess cooking water. Caramelize a couple of onions in olive oil – I use the cheat method here, sauteing them medium high and adding a bit of sugar. Coarsely chop the drained greens, then add them to the pan with the caramalized onions. Depending on the availability of fresh tomatoes, add either two peeled and diced tomatoes or one can of chopped tomatoes, drained and rinsed in a colander, as well as a bit of garlic. Saute lightly to combine flavors; the objective is a somewhat chunky sauce that still retains a bit of freshness from the tomatoes. Spoon the sauce on top of the prepared fusilli, add a generous amount of crumbled feta cheese and dress with a bit of olive oil and some freshly ground black pepper.

    I am really regretting the end of the mustard season….

  15. Hoosier Girl says:

    Three words: Portuguese Kale Soup. It uses quite a bit of kale, plus potatoes, shell beans and other veggies. Be sure to use a really good chorizo and homemade chicken stock….yum. With 5 kale plants going nuts, I am desperate for recipes too. They got out of hand and flowered, but although it has made them slightly bitter I think they will still do well in this hearty, savory soup. Men like it.

    I am trying to use up my leeks before they bolt. Too…many…leeks…

    I think you can eat the chickweed too. Not that you’re looking for another green.

  16. CarolG. says:

    Try a potato-onion soup with kale or other greens and some previously cooked bratwurst or sausage sliced into it. I start out by cutting up the potatoes and onions and cooking them in water until done. I add the chopped up greens (a generous amount – they wilt) and cook them briefly then turn off the heat. I then either take powdered milk with just enough water to make it vaguely liquid or evaporated milk and add it to the soup maybe adding water until I like it’s consistency. Oh yes, the meat may be either added at the beginning of the process or at the end both work although the flavor differs. As far as I am concerned, one of the important things is to cook the vegetables in water not milk so they are much less apt to burn. This reheats well in the microwave but not as well on the stove.