Garden greens - The pleasures of living in Southern California
One of the perks of living in SoCal is the year round garden. It is a huge perk. Having lived in places where farmer's markets are limited to certain months of the year and the crops are mostly limited to the summer months (potatoes and more potatoes and some onions....and that's about it in the winter months!)....being able to pick my own chard, mustard, beets, peas, etc. in LATE November is amazing. Even more amazing is that the season is just getting started and I'll be eating from the garden for months to come.
I'm not taking this perk for granted anymore. This summer I finally rose to the top of our community garden wait list and started down a learning curve of planting a garden in zone 9/10. One "kind of" known fact - planting crops in late June...not so good for anyone in ANY zone. But...when you get your first plot after waiting 5+ years and the rules include planting "something" within 2 weeks...well, you do as you're told. And watch your plants give you the finger the entire summer. We had a few cherry tomatoes come through for us. And that's about it.
When September arrived and ALL the other "farmers" in their long seasoned plots started to pull the summer plants and amend their soil, I was thrilled! We pulled plants and added tons and tons of compost/manure. We turned the dirt over by hand and then covered it all with a thick layer of mulch and waited a few weeks to let it settle.
By early October, I had lettuce, mustard, onions, chard, beets, broccoli rabe, cauliflower, peas and leeks lined up in the plot. And with a little bit of watering and some careful weeding (I'm learning what needs to go immediately!) I was able to start bringing home garden bounty within a few weeks.
Everyone with a CSA box subscription knows - at this time of year they're trying to push the greens. It's what is growing now. I'm not a huge fan of kale, but I AM a huge fan of mustard. I've been surprised to find that many of the people around me in the garden recognize the plant, but don't know what to do with it (yes, I have too much and am passing it out to any unsuspecting person close enough to hear me ask "would you like some mustard greens?").
Mustard greens (in this case purples), if you've not had them, taste a little like mustard. They are tangy and a bit spicy, almost a horseradish type flavor. I'm a fan of adding the greens/purples to salads with arugula and lettuce. Or even adding a little into a stir fry with chard and beet greens.
Last night, we added them to a mixed greens stir fry and ate them as our main course. Take that you meat loving readers!
Here's my quasi recipe (in case your CSA has a mustard option or you have a crazy neighbor that planted too many). I'm very loose on what a bunch looks like, so adjust the ingredients according to your own tastes.
1 bunch/handful mustard greens
1 bunch/handful swiss chard
2 cloves garlic (I like to slice my garlic for this recipe but if you prefer, mince)
2 Tbs oil (I used olive, but that's a personal choice)
Clean those greens! I found a lovely insect critter wandering around in mine after I came home. Good to not throw those crunchy guys into your food...personal opinion.
I cut the greens into 1 inch slices across the grain (perpendicular to the stalks). This normally makes for some long strips, and some shorter strips. If I'm being nice to my husband, I cut the longer strips to make them easier for eating...this happens about 1/2 the time. If I'm being really nice to my husband, I'll cut out the thicker stalks all together...I enjoy the crunch...him, not as much.
Add the oil to a large pan and heat 'til it shimmers. Add your garlic. When I slice the garlic, I like to let the slices brown a little during this step by adding them to the oil and not stirring...but if you've minced the garlic, stir it around in the oil for about 30 seconds.
Add the chopped greens. Saute for about 3-5 minutes.
Sprinkle with salt and grind a little pepper on top.
Serve immediately and eat quickly! I am not a fan of cold greens...unless they are pickled and added to a sandwich, but that's for another post. A post when I'm allowed to do pickles. One of those posts. Whenever that happens.
In the meantime, I'm cultivating as much mustard as I can. Pickled mustard leaves on a turkey sandwich are a little delicacy over here at my house. And if I'm lucky, I may get to try them on a Tere Famous Thanksgiving Sandwich one year soon.