I'm looking forward to my marriage like nothing I've anticipated before. I get to spend my life with my best partner, my best friend, the person who "gets" me like no one has ever gotten me. My moods don't deter his love. I could giddily blather on and on about ECG, but I didn't set out to write about him. In fact, I set out to reflect on my winter garden, explaining what has grown well for me and what hasn't, how I ate what I grew, and what I will grow again and what I will try differently next time. However, it's hard for me to concentrate on much right now when the rest of my life is just around the corner.
I'll give it a shot anyway.
Some crops I'm still waiting on, like the garlics and Chantenay carrots. Other crops were good ol' basic veggies, like the lettuces and turnips I grew. They were wonderful, but they didn't shake my expectations in any way toward the better or the worse. What I list below are the crops that led me to strong opinions, mostly positive, but I had a few duds.
The Definite Winners:
I planned to plant an heirloom broccoli by seed, but I got started too late, so I purchased seedlings from a local garden center. I planted them in October, and by December, I had riches of sweet broccoli heads. After the first major harvest, I had side sprouts for months. In fact, sweet broccoli graced my table until just a couple weeks ago. One of my favorite ways to prepare it was to drizzle it with olive oil, toss in garlic and hot peppers, and roast it on high heat for a couple minutes until it was bright green with heat-browned bits. After I would take it out of the oven, I'd splash it with soy sauce.
Peas, Sugar Snap
Giant vines covered with sweet, plump pods, edible greens, a delicious, efficient and nitrogen-fixing crop: what more could I ask for out of a vegetable? Lately, I've been blanching my bumper crop, then chilling the pods to eat later, as an afternoon snack, sprinkled with salt.
Fava beans, Windsor
If I depended only on the double-peeled beans, I'd be unhappy with fava beans, for it takes so much to get so little; however, since I discovered the following trick, I can't get enough of the buggers. After picking the slightly immature pods (like those in the picture below), I smear them with olive oil and coarse salt—and sometimes garlic—and then I toss them on the grill. Once the grill leaves black stripes on one side, I flip them over, allow them to get slightly toasted on this side, then remove them. I don't let them get completely blackened, but instead just a little caramelized so that the beans are cooked inside and the pods are sweet. Fava beans prepared this way are really, really good.
Chard, Broadstem Green
Prettier, hardier, and in my opinion, tastier than spinach, chard is a miracle crop. I've sautéed it alone and mixed with other veggies, steamed it, used in soups, and just this weekend, made Lucy's spectacular Chard and Feta Filo Pie. Broadstem Green has grown very well for me, but I look forward to also experimenting with other strains.
The rutabagas are finally coming into their own, about 1½ " wide and 3" long. They are sweeter and milder than the turnips I grew, and I love to peel them, cut them into chunks, and roast them with garlic and whatever herb I have handy. Yum.
Kale, Tuscan Black (aka Tuscan Palm Tree, Lancinato, Dinosaur, and its many other names)
This kale is sweeter than other kales, it is a beautiful garden plant, adding texture and a lovely blue-gray to the garden, and it is productive. I don't know why I didn't grow more of it, because I kept the few plants I had well-harvested. When I had enough for a dish of just kale, I sautéed it with garlic, tossed in raisins and pine nuts, then splashed the whole thing with red wine vinegar; otherwise, I used ribbons of it in whatever vegetable medley I put together for the evening's dinner.
Beets, Detroit Dark Red
This fall was the first time I've grown beets, so I don't have much to compare this variety with, but it seemed like Detroit Dark Red was so slow to get going. Although I planted the little guys by seed in October, only now do I finally have beets of usable size. They may have gotten too little sun as the peas and other vegetables grew around them. No matter, they are wonderful now. For the most part, I've been peeling them and cutting them into wedges. Then, I've tossed them with olive oil and coarse salt, roasting them on high heat until their edges are brown with caramelized sugars. Oh my.
The Unremarkable Losers:
When it finally got off its feet, it bolted. The leaves tasted fine, but it just wasn't very productive and I had much better luck with lettuces for salads and chard for potherbs.
Parsnip, Harris Model
This must be the slowest growing crop ever. My parsnips are still just pencil-thick, but perhaps if I try again, I'll plant them much earlier so that they can be very well-established before winter.
The first of the summer crops, the beans, are in the ground. Blue Coco, Indian Woman Yellow, and Pencil Pod Wax are all up and out of the ground. The Asparagus Bean is just poking up out of the ground.
Blue Coco has the prettiest seedlings so far.
Before I know it, this little seedling will sprout up and into its twig and wire reinforcements. It will curl into another seedling. It's reaching stems will clutch onto that other, and the other will twine around it. The two plants will wind and stretch, leaning on each other, helping each other grow upward toward heights neither could make it to alone.
As I said, I can concentrate on little else.