I always think of collard greens as the meatiest sort. (Of the leafy greens I have commonly had in the garden I would rank kale as next most hefty, then Swiss chard and finally spinach.) But they were lightweight enough that the wind was able to blow a few of the topmost chopped leaves away off the table where I was working. After removing the whole 5-foot row of collards I had such a big pile, I had decided to do the first stage of processing on the patio, where the spring breeze was aggressive.
These greens were incredibly clean; only about five aphids total had to be flicked off when I was looking over each of dozens of leaves. I chopped and blanched them and put four quarts in the freezer, keeping out another quart or so to use soon.
I still have kale and Swiss chard in my planter boxes, and am planning to use the space where the collards were for ground cherries I started in the greenhouse.
Sweet peas are coming on so I brought a bunch of them in, too.
It’s the season for Garden Love.
We came out of church last Friday evening and the wind was blowing warm. It was the softest… Blow and blow it did through the night, knocking down leaves and branches and clumps of mistletoe, banging my garden gate.
Saturday morning I walked on the bike path and it was the happiest, friendliest neighborhood walk I’ve experienced in two years. Many many people and no masks, so you could take in their smiles and their open faces turning this way and that to say “Good morning!” to everyone… Whole families on bicycles and dozens of dogs on leashes. I’m sure that in all my decades of walking that route people have never before been that happy in an outward direction.
When I got home from my walk, and was not driven indoors by any sort of chill, I wandered the back yard and saw that the manzanita buds are out. My row of Stir-Fry Mix greens needed thinning, and because of the sun shining and all, I did it then and there. I took the thinnings in and washed them immediately in the sink. Springtime energy in January!
Recently I had the only tree on my property trimmed to please the neighbors, over whose back yard most of the tree’s mass hangs threateningly. It is a tall Canary Island Pine and my late husband and I have resisted several times outside pressure to just cut it down. I tried to take a flattering picture but there is no way to do that, because it is a gangly thing.
Our book group chose Silas Marner to read over the next four weeks. I could not find my old paperback that I last read probably 15-20 years ago, but tucked behind the trim of the bookcase I found this smallish volume:
It was my grandmother’s school book! She was probably reading it in about 1910 in Winona Lake, Indiana where she grew up. I did not remember seeing it before, though I am sure I was the one who put it on the shelf, who knows when. There are quite a few pages with her notes like this:
I had been reluctant to commit to reading with the group this month, but now that I have found this copy of Silas I can’t resist reading along with my grandmother.
I have eaten half of the greens, chopped into a pot of tomato soup this afternoon. The balmy weather lasted one day, and now we are back to January. But that blessed day snapped me out of the endurance mode into expectation. I have a nice fire going in the stove and wonderful books to read as I sit by it.
I haven’t been accomplishing very much this month if one looks at my to-do lists. But maybe the important things are not listed there. I’ve been trying not to get caught up in things that I don’t really care about… so here is a good quote, to help me end my post:
“Doing nothing is better than being busy doing nothing.”
Late this morning the sun came out again, and shined on all the droplets of dew and fog. I had a date to keep in town, but I noticed through the window that the fountain was dripping instead of flowing, so I went out to put the hose in there for a few minutes. Of course I saw many glowing leaves and caught the scent of decay. How can decomposition smell so fresh, and how does the earth’s breathing wake up my whole body?
I took a few pictures and then I was happy to be on my way, on to the community garden to meet my friend Bella where we have been together a few times before. Strolling through other people’s gardens is thoroughly relaxing and nourishing; lots of interest and no responsibility. A garden comprised of dozens of gardens, each with its special personality, is even better.
Often we get to take home some treats, for immediate food or for seeds. Bella found ears of corn lying in the path, and she showed me where a few beans hung from a trellis, the seeds somehow still dry and clean inside the mildewed pods. How could I not bring a few home to try? The way those beans offered themselves suggested a small planting, which is not intimidating. And they are intriguing Mystery Beans to me as yet; does anyone here know what kind they are? Such a dreamy-creamy color… (below).
After my first big greenhouse planting project last winter, and the way so many of my starts did not take off, or for various reasons never bore fruit in my own garden, I am ready this spring to try just a few things, a few seeds…. a more minimalist garden.
What if my pumpkins had been successful, and I’d ended up with half a dozen of those gorgeous French cucurbits such as I roasted yesterday? They would have been too heavy for me to lug around the neighborhood as gifts.
I picked a bagful of meaty, rainwashed collard leaves from Bella’s plot, and the sweetest parsley ever from the free-for-all borders. The calendulas I gave my friend last spring are still blooming there under the collard canopy, and looking wintery — the sun may be bright on days like today, but its rays are sharply slanted, and every image is darkened by shadows.
Another plot owner was there with his teenage daughter, whose name I didn’t learn, but I will call her Maria. They gave me cilantro from their bed, a generous bunch of it, which I’m sure was the most fragrant I’ve ever got a whiff of, just picked after being hydrated for weeks. Maria came to talk to me while I was bent over the parsley, and we chatted about cooking. She filled me in on the hearty ham-and-eggs meal she had helped to make for breakfast this Saturday morning, and agreed that cooking for only oneself the way I do would be difficult.
Her father José talked about how his children don’t like to come to the garden with him. Maria explained, “We never want to bother getting out of bed and going outside unless something is happening that day, if we are going somewhere or people are coming over….” She smiled when I said, “Oh, but things are happening here: the plants are busy growing!”
Today, of course, was unlike any other, and I felt the restfulness of January, and cautioned how it would not even be a good idea to pull weeds when the soil was so wet. Maria and her father seemed quite contented. She may have had the same unconscious rejuvenating response in her body and psyche that Bella and I were having, being in the open air surrounded by trees and grass, fava bean plants and every kind of brassica exhaling oxygen. And Maria did get to be with people.
After our new friends left, Bella and I wandered up and down the rows, admiring every leftover bit of life, such as two tiny bright red peppers clinging to dead stick stems. We examined a banana tree that appeared to have been stricken by frost, but we hoped not killed. And we sat at a picnic table listening to the tinkle of the wind chimes, as hummingbirds swooped back and forth over our heads. It was a simple gift of a day.
I’m ashamed to think of how much cilantro has gone bad in my fridge over the years. I love it, and so I buy a fresh bunch from time to time, which isn’t usually that pricey, but still, when it goes into the trash slimy and blackening, it’s a sad waste. 😦
Today I was busying myself cooking up vegetables that came in my CSA (community supported agriculture) box, and I came to the bunch of cilantro… Hmm… Maybe I had planned to combine that with tomatoes and peppers to make more Indian Egg Bhurji. But — No tomatoes were in the house, and I didn’t want to spend time de-stemming cilantro anyway. (I must need a special prayer to pray while I am doing that perfectly lovely job that seems so tedious. That’s what Kate told me to do about my boring floor exercises.)
An idea came to me when I saw the bag of arugula I’d bought yesterday — also something that I love, which I probably thought I’d put in a green salad, if I could get around to washing the lettuce… When I was a child, the task of preparing the large, leafy-green salad that without fail was part of our evening meal always fell to us children. I always wonder if I am harboring a childish rebelliousness deep in my psyche, that makes me resist salad-making, too.
The thought that occurred was, Could I make a sauce or pesto by combining arugula and cilantro? I’m not confident enough as a chef to go right at it, so I looked online and found that many people had done just that, with great variations. I customized mine to be fast-friendly (vegan) and not too lemony, and to use more arugula than cilantro, because I had a lot more of that leaf on hand. I kept the ingredients list short, and didn’t add garlic or pepper because the greens are both pretty flavorful already.
Here is what I came up with. All the amounts below are approximate. Many people like their pesto less thick, and will add more oil. Before washing the cilantro, I cut off the longest stems while they were still tied together in a bunch, but left the rest of the stems for the food processor to deal with. No de-stemming by hand!
SAVE the GREENS PESTO
3 cups packed cilantro
4 1/2 cups packed arugula
1/3 cup sunflower oil
3/4 teaspoon salt
juice of 1/2 lemon
1 cup toasted walnut pieces
Grind the walnuts in the food processor and then add the other ingredients to make a paste, adding more oil or salt or lemon to taste.
Until today I never paid much attention to all those “pestos” made from everything but the classic basil-olive oil-Parmesan combination, but recently I learned how to make Tarragon Salsa Verde from Jo, and found it very adaptable and always delicious. (I have planned to share my results with you but this recipe pushed ahead in line.)
I think its versatility gave me the hope that other green things could work together the same way. And they did indeed form something easy that saved us, greens and human, from possible shame, and added another tasty and healthy item to my menu options. Now I can spread my salad on crackers!