Today in the U.S. we celebrate Memorial Day as we pause to remember those who have died while serving in the armed forces. I have vivid memories of my childhood neighbor Ronnie Dempsey who joined the Marine Corps and went to Vietnam. He signed up for his second tour of duty and was on board a helicopter on a rescue mission when it was shot down by enemy fire. The helicopter crashed, rolled down a mountain and burned. All aboard were killed, including 20 year old Ronnie. The neighborhood where I grew up was a pretty close knit community, the kind where everyone knew each other, and we all grieved when Ronnie died.
My parents called the holiday Decoration Day, and always went to the cemetery to put flowers on the graves of relatives. That’s a tradition I choose not to continue. I’ve always been a fan of giving flowers to the living while they can enjoy them. I also like to grow them for the wildlife around us. The Wave petunias I started back in February have been blooming for several weeks now. I really like one I’m growing for the first time this year called Easy Wave Red Velour. I’ve got one plant growing in a container in the Wild Garden, where it’s surrounded by the blooming catmint. The bees love the catmint, while the petunias will be visited by hummingbirds and butterflies.
Not far from the petunias and catmint there is some spiderwort blooming. The spiderwort is attractive to butterflies and pollinators, and every morning when the flowers open I can find a few of our honeybees working the blossoms. The plant in the above photo is a light purple variety given to us by our friend Barbara. I managed to catch two bees working there, which was sheer luck since they were flitting around from blossom to blossom and I wasn’t sure any of the photos would even have a single bee in them, much less two! I’m guessing they are collecting pollen from them.
The extra onion plants I set out for scallions are ready for harvesting now as needed. I pulled a few one day along with some of the green garlic that is now bulbing. The main garlic crop will be ready before too much longer, with the bulbing onions not far behind. The scallions are a real treat and I’ve been using them whenever and wherever possible. The green garlic is almost gone.
I cut some of the larger leaves from the Mizspoona I’ve got growing in the greenhouse bed. I stir-fried it with a few mushrooms and green garlic for a side dish one day. The flavor is much like mizuna, though the leaves are a bit more substantial. I’ve got Mei Qing pac choi growing right next to it that will be ready in a few days. I’ve also got Senposai ready in the main garden area. I’m still looking for ideas on how to use this relatively new hybrid green that is a cross between cabbage and komatsuna. I’m thinking the big leaves would work for cabbage or lettuce roll recipes. I know they could be used like kale or tronchuda too. I grew it a couple of years ago but I don’t remember exactly what I did with it.
We’re still enjoying the Baby Oakleaf lettuce for salads and such. That in the above photo went on some tepary bean tacos I made last week. That head weighed right at five ounces, which is a nice size for the two of us.
The big head of Red Sails lettuce weighed twice that of the Baby Oakleaf. It has really colored up nicely in the cold frame bed. It’s destined to star in a wilted lettuce salad tonight.
It was my turn to cook last week and my wife requested I make a batch of the Butternut and Spinach Lasagna Rolls. So I cooked up another of the Thai Rai Kaw Tok squash for the occasion. One night I cut off slices and roasted them for a side dish, seasoned only with salt plus a little olive oil. This squash has so much flavor it doesn’t need a lot of help. This one weighed a bit over eight pounds, and was still in great shape after being in storage since last fall.
I took the rest of the squash and cut it into larger pieces, then roasted them until tender. I scooped out the flesh and pureed it for the lasagna rolls. I had enough puree for the lasagna, plus I froze another pound of it for later use.
The lasagna rolls make a good meatless main dish. They’re stuffed with a mix of spinach, ricotta and Parmesan cheese. I combined the squash puree with some green garlic to make a sauce that’s spooned over the rolls before baking. The recipe calls for shallots but green garlic is what I had and that’s what I used. This dish freezes well too, and we froze the leftovers. The Thai squash gives it a great flavor, but butternut or any other winter squash would work well too. We just happen to have the Thai squash, and I believe there are still two more in storage.
Lately I’ve been experimenting with a couple of heirloom wheat varieties. I bought five pounds each of Red Turkey and Red Fife wheat, plus a bag of bolted Red Turkey flour. Bolted flour is a whole grain flour that has had some of the bran sifted out, and is similar to a high-extraction flour in that regard. I ground up some of the Red Fife wheat in our Nutrimill and used it to make a cracked wheat hearth bread you can see in the above photo. I did a better job with the slashing and proofing of this loaf than my last free-form bread, and it didn’t have any blowout issues. I will no doubt have more to say about these two wheat varieties as I continue to experiment in the days and months ahead.
Last but not least I need to mention the lovely asparagus my wife has been harvesting daily for us. I took some of the fattest spears to make a batch of Asparagus Mimosa yesterday for lunch. Unlike many vegetables, the biggest asparagus spears are usually the most tender, though we eat all sizes of them. We’re up to over 28 pounds of it this year, and I’m not tired of eating it yet. We have another week to harvest it before we clean up the bed and let the spears turn into ferns that will replenish the roots for next year’s crop.
To see what other gardeners are showing off and cooking up, visit Daphne’s Dandelions where Daphne hosts Harvest Mondays. I’ll be back soon with more happenings from HA.