Clean garden

Our garden is located on my neighbor’s property. He has a great spot with plenty of sun so I do all the gardening and they share the results. We pick much more than they do for a couple of reasons. First, they eat out a lot whereas we mostly eat at home; second, I tend to grow stuff we like so some of the items are not necessarily in their normal diet. I specifically ask them if there’s anything they would especially like to try to balance things a little better. I know they like collard greens so this year I planted a half dozen collard plants which Barbara picked several times and seemed to enjoy. In January George mentioned that he liked Kale to make his favorite Portuguese kale soup. So I picked up some seeds and raised 6 kale plants. Kale is not something I would normally eat and have always viewed it as decoration for real food – like putting a touch of green beside a pork chop to make it look healthy – but I like trying to grow new things and I owe the neighbor a few feet of garden space. When the plants got a little size he told me I picked the wrong kind; mine were curly leaf and he likes the non curly leaf varieties. Tough.

Earlier this week Barbara picked a load of kale and made the soup. She brought over a big bowl which I really didn’t want but thought maybe Nancy would like – she loves soup. I tasted it and decided I did like it but it was way too hot (spicy hot) for Nancy. I decided to cook up a bowl for lunch today and see if my first impression held through a full bowl. To me it’s an ugly soup so if you eat with your eyes, you are going to pass by this quickly. The cooked kale is a way different color than the fresh kale in the garden – it turns a camo green-khaki and really looks like something you don’t want to eat. The soup is also loaded with kidney beans and chunks of potato which are not so good looking either. When you run a spoon through it, you immediately understand the term “hardy soup” and want to reach for a hunk of crusty bread to fill out the image. It has to be so loaded with vitamins and hot spices that you don’t want to spill any on the bar where the energy of the soup would eat a hole. But man was it good. Very filling, very good. Make no mistake, the kale goes in the garden a bit earlier next year.

Barbara said this was particularly good Kale – so much for picking the wrong kind – but the real thing was that it was so clean. She had told me the same thing about the collards. I didn’t know it but I guess when you buy collards and also Kale, it is often sandy and difficult to clean. She said her sister in-law quit making Kale soup just because she could never get all the sand/dirt out of it. She gave some of the collard greens to her daughter and when I asked her how she liked them, she said they were really sweet and very clean. So I guess that’s a big deal. I think I know why mine are so clean. By now I am growing in soil that is highly organic with not too much “dirt”. That, plus as the plants grow I continually add new compost on top of the ground to add nutrients but mostly to keep weeds from growing. I suspect in most gardens the wind whips up the dirt up into the leaves but in our garden, there just isn’t much dirt to whip up. Who’d a thunk it???

Other garden news – about half way through the brussels, little green tomatoes popping out on all 12 plants, corn up a couple of inches, finished off the snow peas, and the cucumbers are starting to climb the trellis. The 4 squash plants I am growing under cover look big and healthy so my concerns about blocking too much sun appear unwarranted. Having to pick and eat the red lettuce fast before it bolts and the iceberg is forming up heads. The chard always amazes – the more you pick the faster and bigger it grows. If history serves, it will hold until June when it finally succumbs to the heat. I don’t eat it but the bridge and quilting ladies love it so I’m responsible for their good health and long life. Come to think of it, Esther commented on how “clean” it was.

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