We harvested the Fille de Kraut cabbages the other day. and used them in a demonstration for one of our fermentation classes. What better way to celebrate them, we thought, than to turn them into kraut in front of our Fermented Vegetables class? Having grown them from seed, and followed their sometimes perilous journey, through a brush with powdery mildew, and the ravages of chewing caterpillars, sowbugs, and slugs, we were exceptionally proud of them, their fine pointed heads and their vibrant, firm but soft green leaves that had survived and thrived despite the dangers of life in the garden.
We did mention the slugs, right?
At the podium in front of no less than 20 beginning fermenters, we found at least 3 slugs hiding in the folds of the leaves as we shredded the cabbage; this was after I had already washed several of the little buggers, and a cabbage worm beside, off in the sink after harvesting. Ah yes, it was organic gardening at its finest! Luckily the slugs escaped the mandoline, and we managed not to horrify anyone too badly, or worse, make slug kraut. The freshest veggies make the freshest kraut…if you keep the slugs and caterpillars out! A rhyme and a helpful tip, from this mad gardening fermentista.
In the demo garden, plants must be confused. Is it May or January? Weeks of the sun, then a cold snap that frosts the ground with silver so deep that it takes hours to thaw. We don’t know what’s going on, either, my little green friends. The pea vines do not seem to mind; I keep thinking I’ll pick enough to ferment a batch, but they all end up being eaten fresh out of hand, the best way to eat them, I think, despite many fine culinary treatments that might be given to them.
Still, they are magic with mint and an herbed yogurt sauce—surely next week I will pick enough to cook with. Surely!
A little long while back, we made a recipe with fresh dandelion root, which we sourced from our friends at Serendipity Farms. After the recipe was done, we had a good dozen roots left over from the project. They sat in the crisper for…a while. They started to sprout from their cut tops. So we put them into the ground! There is now a lovely row of dandelion in the ground, sprouting green leaves from red ribs, and a root that has seen more of life than many a garden seedling. It’s a potent visual reminder of the life force inherent in fresh, living foods, their will to sprout and seed and survive, despite the strangest set of conditions that they may be subjected to. It’s also a fun reminder of a project that turned out well, and a farmer friend who helped make it so. Let it grow!
A few kale seedlings went in last month, to fill some spaces, and they are doing well those stalwart garden mascots. The cilantro and parsley that volunteered in the front garden are bolting now, on their way to making flowers; I pull them to make room for the chard that has been crowded by their vigor. The red choy bolted, too, before it formed proper heads; I’ve noticed that it tends to do that sooner than the other brassica. It’s more sensitive to fluctuations of hot and cold. The mache is still growing slowly, in dense carpets of self-seeded greenery. The lettuce is beautiful, perfect for whole-head salads if I can just bring myself to pick it. I had thought to seed some more chard and lettuce, before the recent cold snap, but am waiting now for conditions more amenable to sprouting. It’s time, too, believe it or not, to think about starting seeds for summer vegetables! See our post from last year about starting seeds.
The fava beans are going bonkers. Tall and thick, they are in full bloom; look for their flowers to grace a salad in these pages soon. The greens we harvest here and there; the youngest tips can be eaten raw, and the older fronds sauteed. When the beans are mature, we’ll look into how to eat them, too, both fresh and dried. Such an abundant plant and it feeds the soil as it feeds us. The bees like it, too.
In the yards and gardens around the county, I see plum trees blooming, and apricots; the stone fruit are the first to feel the signs of spring. Stone fruit…and gardeners and farmers, that feel the urge to fill the ground with seeds and seedlings, after the winter has finally passed. So what if it was not much of a winter (we did miss the rain), but we are dreaming nonetheless of the smell of sun on tomato vines, and the fire or fresh red peppers, the sweetness of melons and berries.
This weather’s going to sort itself out, one way or another. Seedlings will push their way up through the dark earth, and leaves will unfurl and the world will hum with activity and insects. Me, I think I will pour myself another cup of tea, and wander around the garden, and dream of what will be, all too soon. I may even find some weeds to pull.
It’s part of our mission here at Mountain Feed to help you grow beautiful, sustainable, gardens whether you have sprawling acres of farm or just a tiny plot along the highway. Stop by and say hello on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram or Pinterest. Or, as always, you can do it the old-fashioned way and come by the store to speak with one of our in-house experts.