50 Shade of Green

Reason #6: 50 Shades of PESTICIDE-FREE Leafy Greens

Leafy greens – kale, spinach, swiss chard, lettuces and arugula – are one of the best things to grow in any garden. For one thing, most green varieties are frost hardy and so are one of the first crops you can plant. They are also fast growing, so are one of the first crops to harvest in the spring. The root systems of greens are fairly small and shallow, so you can plant a lot of it in a small space; the Square Foot Gardener recommends 4 lettuce, chard or kale plants per square foot. Finally, with succession planting, because they are frost hardy, greens are one of the latest crops going in the garden. Kale and swiss chard are often still green when the snow starts to fly.

Lettuce, kale, arugula, chard, spinach... It's so easy being green.

Lettuce, kale, arugula, chard, spinach… It’s so easy being green.

Anyone who is reading this blog most likely does not need to be told how amazingly healthy leafy greens are, especially the dark varieties such as kale, chard, spinach and collards. However, buying non-organic greens from the Superstore could be doing us more harm than good. Spinach, lettuce, kale and other leafy greens are included in the Environmental Working Group’s Dirty Dozen – a list of produce containing the highest levels of pesticide residue. Seriously scary stuff.

Sure you can buy organic greens at markets like Herb and Spice. But at $3.99/bunch for organic kale, I’d say it’s worthwhile to see what you can grow yourself!

Bolting herbs? Dry ‘em or freeze ‘em!

I don’t know about you, but a number of our herbs are bolting out back. What to do with them? Well, depending on the herb, I would suggest either drying or freezing them. That way you can enjoy your garden herbs long after growing season is past.

Taking a little time to dry and/or freeze your herbs means having garden goodness long after growing season is over.

Taking a little time to dry and/or freeze your herbs means having garden goodness long after growing season is over.

Basil, dill, oregano, mint, rosemary and thyme dry well. To dry basil, oregano and mint, remove the leaves from the stalk, rinse in a salad spinner and then spread out on a drying tray or kitchen towel in a warm, dry place. Let them dry for about a week, or until the leaves have gone crispy. Transfer to jars or freezer bags. Make sure you label because dried up leaves can all start to look the same…

Bolting Thai and Italian basil.

Bolting Thai and Italian basil.

Drying basil leaves.

Drying basil leaves.

To dry dill, rosemary and thyme, cut the roots off the stalks and hang plants upside down in small bunches in a warm, dry place. Once dried you can carefully remove the small leaves and put into jars, or if you’re lazy you can just put the whole thing – stalk and all – into a freezer bag and crumble off the leaves as you need for cooking. This tends to be my approach, as you can see from the above photo.

Parley freezes well in a sealed freezer bag. If you want to wash it first, remove as much excess water as possible before freezing. I also freeze hot peppers, since we don’t use them up fast enough while they are fresh. In the case of both parsley and peppers, you can just trim off what you need for cooking on an as-needed basis.

I don’t particularly like dried or frozen cilantro. In the case of cilantro, we prefer to let it go to seed and harvest the coriander seeds instead for cooking. However, some people totally do dry it.

Helpful herb fact: Thyme and oregano are perennial! Don’t pull up the plant by the roots when you’re harvesting for drying… they’ll come back next spring!

In-Season Recipe (mid-August): Beans on the Barbie

This is one of the easiest and most practical ways to cook your garden wax beans, not to mention one of the most delicious.  As with my BBQed kale chips, when it’s too hot to turn on the oven I like to cook my beans on the barbie. This recipe works well with pretty much any bean you can grow. If you’ve got multiple varieties of beans, toss ‘em all in together. We’ve also been getting a lot of wicked veggies from “Grandpa” Frank, including a ton of yellow wax beans (included in photo below.)

Colourful bean mix, dill and coconut oil. Simple is best.

Colourful bean mix, dill and coconut oil. Simple is best.

We eat primarily vegetarian, so beans are an excellent home-grown source of protein for us. Here are the wax bean varieties we are growing this year and the source of the seeds:

- Kentucky Wonder yellow pole bean (Ferme Tourne-Sol)

- Rattlesnake green/purple pole bean (2012 seed harvest but originally from Ferme Tourne-Sol)

- Green bush bean (Seeds picked up while traveling in Bangladesh and planted for the first time in 2012 which have done very well in our backyard.)

- Purple pole bean (Seedlings traded from a friend earlier this year… excellent addition to our bean mix!)

We love our cast iron skillets (the original non-stick pan…) They can totally be used on the barbeque and are WAY more convenient than wrapping up your veggies in tin foil. (We do our roasted root veg this way too.) Not to mention that cooking with teflon and aluminum are not safe for you! Seriously… do some reading about it, and then go invest in a cast iron pan (or 2) if you don’t already have one. But I digress…

Here’s the recipe:

Preheat barbeque to medium heat. (If you’re cooking a number of different items on the barbeque, budget about 20 minutes for the beans.)

In a cast iron skillet, combine:

  • Mix of rinsed garden beans
  • Generous handful of fresh or dried garden dill
  • Generous tablespoon of coconut oil
  • A few cloves of coarsely chopped garlic
  • Pinch of sea salt

Cover the skillet with a cast iron of stainless steel lid (or foil if necessary) and put on the barbeque.

Toss beans every few minutes for even cooking. Beans are ready when they are soft and some are nicely browned.

Beany tips:

- The more you pick, the more they produce! Keep picking your beans regularly to keep them producing longer!

- If you have an over-abundance of beans, you can freeze them.