So long winter, it’s time for you to move on! You have overstayed your welcome, and not just here in Texas but the Midwest and Northeast as well, where the snow keeps growing deeper and the icicles have reached massive lengths (check out these incredible Instagram icicle photos at http://www.boston.com/news/weather/2015/02/11/the-icicles-instagram/YfkqQcjuV5xW7JIEFPVsEJ/story.html).
The spring season is upon us! Photo by Bruce Leander
Here in Austin we’ve had over two inches of gentle rain the last few days, we now have an extra hour of daylight, the forecast is looking good and like most gardeners I am itching to plant. We must proceed with caution though. Working wet soil can cause clumping and compaction so if you’ve had rain it’s best to wait a few days and allow the soil to dry out. One way to know if the soil is too wet is to take a handful and squeeze it in your hand; if it forms a muddy clump then it is too wet, but if it crumbles or breaks apart when dropped from above you are good to go.
Remove over-mature crops before they become infested with unwanted pests. Photo by Bruce Leander
If you have not yet cleaned out your fall and winter crops it’s time to do so. Cool season vegetables that are left in the ground after the weather starts to warm up tend to become a breeding ground for unwanted pests, plus they quickly grow beyond their prime.
Grow transplants of cool season greens in partial shade. Photo by Bruce Leander
As Jay mentioned in his previous post you’ll find transplants of mustard, collards and lettuce available at nurseries but think twice before you reach for that plant. Do you have room for it in your garden or will it be taking up valuable space needed for warm season vegetables like cucumbers, beans, okra or squash? If you’d love to have some fresh greens for spring consider planting these vegetables in pots and place them close to the house in a spot that gets dappled or morning sun.
Swiss chard will take the heat of summer as long as it receives shade during the hottest part of the day. Photo by Bruce Leander
Swiss chard is the most adaptable of the cool weather greens as it will grow happily into summer, especially if you plant it where it will get some shade during the hottest part of the day.
Bread smeared with butter is totally American, but top it with some fresh radishes and a sprinkle of course salt and you have a classic French hors d’oeuvre. Photo by Bruce Leander
Enjoy this time of transition in the vegetable garden and the eating-in-season that comes with it. Radishes are great sliced in a salad but have you ever tried them sliced over buttered bread with a sprinkling of sea salt? Or sautéed with sugar snap peas? Talk about a versatile vegetable, radishes can be grated, steamed, braised or simmered, even the leaves and seed pods are edible. Take this opportunity to branch out from sliced radishes in a salad or cauliflower covered with cheese sauce (not that there’s anything wrong with that!) to bring some exciting new flavors to your kitchen. Below are a few ideas to help with your end-of-winter harvest.
Braised radish and sugar snap peas are different and delicious. Photo by Bruce Leander
Braised Radishes and Sugar Snap Peas
Remove the strings from sugar snap peas and quarter radishes. Melt butter in a skillet and add the peas and radishes. Sauté briefly then add a few tablespoons of water or chicken broth. Cook, partially covered, until radishes and peas are tender. Top with chopped mint or chervil and a splash of vinegar.
Broccoli and Cauliflower don’t have to be steamed! Try roasting them for a healthy and tasty side. Photo by Bruce Leander
Roasted Cauliflower and Broccoli
Cut broccoli and cauliflower into equal sized pieces. Toss in olive oil, sprinkle with salt and pepper and arrange in a single layer on a large baking sheet. Roast at 425° until golden and slightly charred, about 25-30 minutes.
Try cooking grated cauliflower as a quick side or a flavorful substitute for rice.
Grated cauliflower is a lot like rice yet cooks faster than couscous – you’ve never made cauliflower so quick and easy. We like big, plump Medjool dates but any dates or even raisins will do.
Grate one head of cauliflower into a bowl. Sauté in a small amount of olive oil until golden, about 10 minutes. Add ½ cup chopped dates, sprinkle with ¼- ½ teaspoon turmeric, season with salt and pepper and cook 5-7 minutes longer. Top with chopped cilantro and sliced almonds before serving.
A big pot of greens will yield plenty of pot likker; freeze some of that delicious liquid as a base for flavoring summer vegetables.
Flavored with some bacon or ham, leaves of collards, kale, kohlrabi, broccoli, beets and cauliflower are all edible and can be cooked together into a nutritious pot of greens with plenty of pot likker. Even though we love to slurp that Southern elixir I always set aside a few jars for freezing and use it to flavor the butter beans and cowpeas that are coming my way this summer.
This post has been shared on the HomeAcre Hop! Please drop by and see what gardeners and homesteaders across the country are doing.