Garden Goodness

I’ve been missing our garden, so when I saw Maria on Sunday and she told me to come over and pick vegetables, I was delighted. I’ve been babysitting baby Lena (our  youngest housemate) and waiting for a slightly cooler day (which I finally decided just wasn’t coming since the temperature has edged over a hundred degrees most days this week), but I finally made it over to the garden this morning.

It sorely needed weeding, but it was still growing! Some of the vegetables (like the beans and cucumbers) were on their way out, wilted and molding in the dirt, but the butternut squash had exploded all over the garden, the quinoa was starting to form brightly colored orange and red buds just like the seed package had promised, several baby watermelon nestled under the leaves next to the squashes, the peppers were blushing bright red, and the zucchini was still going strong!

I spent a couple hours tugging out weeds, pulling out dead plants and vines, and avoiding spiders (the only thing I don’t like about gardening). These long, thin vines had wound themselves around a lot of the plants, so I had to carefully unwind each one so it wouldn’t damage the plants (if zucchini grow like the Kingdom of God, I’m convinced that these viney weeds grow like sin!)

And then, sweaty but satisfied, I came home, bearing two grocery bags full of homegrown veggies: butternut squash, zucchini, red peppers, hot peppers, onions, beets, baby carrots, and green tomatoes.

They became the highlight of dinner tonight:

Garlicky Baked Butternut Squash

(modified from this recipe)

Ingredients:

2 Tbsp. minced fresh carrot tops (the recipe originally called for parsley)
2 Tbsp. olive oil
4 garlic cloves, minced
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
1 butternut squash, peeled and cut into small cubes
1/3 cup grated Parmesan cheese

Directions:

Combine all ingredients (except for the Parmesan cheese) in a shallow 2 quart baking dish. Bake uncovered at 375 degrees for 45 minutes or until the squash is tender. During the last ten minutes or so of the baking time, stir in the parmesan cheese.

(I served this over quinoa, which was delicious. I think this has just become one of my new favorite recipes)

And of course, one of the best parts about cooking any kind of squash, is toasting the seeds:

Oven-Toasted Squash Seeds

Ingredients:

Seeds from 1 squash
Seasoned salt (or other spices) to taste

Directions:

Stir together seeds and seasoned salt on a shallow baking pan (I just use a small cookie sheet). Toast at 375 degrees until lightly browned and crispy, stirring often (watch carefully since they can go from almost done to burnt very quickly).

And for dessert (yes, I actually made dessert!) I found this interesting recipe for green tomatoes. It’s definitely not the traditional fried green tomatoes and makes me want to experiment more with tart green tomatoes:

Green Tomato Crisp

(modified from this recipe)

Ingredients:

7 firm green roma tomatoes (if you use bigger tomatoes, you could use less)
salt and pepper
1/2 cup brown sugar
3/4 cup coarse graham cracker crumbs
4 Tbsp. butter, cut into small pieces

Directions:

Thinly slice the tomatoes and layer them in an ungreased baking pan. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Sprinkle with the brown sugar, then with the cracker crumbs. Top with the butter and bake at 350 degrees for 25-30 minutes or until bubbly and slightly browned on top.

(The pepper added an interesting bite to it, but I liked it. Next time I’d probably just cut down on the sugar a bit, just to make it a little more tart)

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Nothing Wasted, Part 2

This isn’t exactly current (I made this last week and it’s long since been eaten), but I thought I’d post another recipe for carrot tops. I still have more greens left, so there may be a Part 3 coming…

Carrot Green and Walnut Pesto:

(modified from a recipe for Carrot Green, Parsley & Hazelnut Pesto)

Ingredients:

3/4 cup walnuts
1/4 cup carrot leaves, chopped
1 clove garlic
Juice of 1 lemon (I just guessed at the amount)
1/4 -1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
1/2 cup fresh-grated Parmesan cheese
Salt to taste

Directions:

Toast the nuts at 325ºF for a few minutes to bring out the flavor. In a food processor, puree the nuts, carrot leaves, lemon juice and garlic. Pour in cheese, salt, and olive oil, starting with 1/4 cup. Blend, and increase olive oil if the pesto is too thick.

The recipe suggests serving it over pasta, which I’m sure would be good. I used it to make veggie wraps (with fresh greens from the garden!) and ate the leftovers on homemade wheat bread. It makes me want to experiment with other pesto combinations.

Nothing Wasted

I lied. Here’s one more food/garden post before I write a real update….

Our garden has reached that stage where it’s time to thin out some of the plants (namely, the carrots and beets, whose seedling are so bursting with life that they are crowding each other out). This part of gardening has always felt a bit odd, meticulously caring for the tender seedlings and then just as meticulously uprooting the majority of them. I understand the its necessity to give the plants room to grow and mature (I’m sure there’s a metaphor for life in there if I were to dig deep enough….) but it always makes me a little sad.

So this morning I knelt in our garden and plucked through the rows. I ended up with muddy knees, dirt under my fingernails, and a big bowl full of beet greens plus an even bigger bowl of carrot greens.

Which got me wondering….can you eat beet greens? How about carrot greens? I hate to waste things (I compulsively recycle anything possible) and especially after watching these plants grow so beautifully, I didn’t want to throw them all in the compost pile.

A little research revealed that you can in fact eat both. You can eat beet greens (which are full of all sorts of vitamins and minerals) in salads and pretty much any other way that you would eat spinach. And you can use carrot greens (also full of vitamins) pretty much the same way you can use parsley. I found recipes for carrot green scramble (with eggs), carrot green salad with vinaigrette, carrot green pesto with hazelnuts, carrot green tabouleh, carrot green juice, and carrot green tea, among other things.

So for dinner tonight I tried a carrot top and quinoa soup, with sautéed beet greens on the side. Derek looked a little skeptical when I told him I was cooking carrot greens for dinner, but went back for seconds and loved the beet greens (so tasty!) so I think it was a success! I still have a bowl full of carrot tops left so I hope to try some more of the recipes over the next couple days…

Here is the recipe I used (delicious and very easy):

Carrot Top & Quinoa Soup

Ingredients:

1 tablespoon light olive oil or canola oil
1/2 sweet onion, diced
4 cups water
4 medium carrots, peeled and cut into 1/4 inch rounds
1 cup carrot tops, washed and finely chopped
2 teaspoons beef bouillon granules (I used chicken bouillon and I’m sure you could use vegetable bouillon as well)
1/2 cup quinoa, rinsed
sea salt
fresh ground black pepper

Directions:

In a 3-quart pot, sauté the onion in oil until translucent, then add the remaining ingredients and simmer for 20-25 minutes. Season with salt and pepper.