Archive for 'Food'
Cavolo Nero Kale Chips

Cavolo Nero Kale Chips

Posted 24 August 2010 | By | Categories: Cooking, Food, Gardening, Make Things, Vegetables | 3 Comments

My fabulous Aunt Jan introduced me to the addictively delicious treat known as kale chips Stateside in June, making them from a bunch of mature cavolo nero, and serving them up elegantly in a tall glass a la Dan Barber. Now that I’m back in a winter (almost spring!) garden filled with greens, I’m making them almost every other day.

I have been experimenting with all different types of kale, cabbage and greens, and they’re almost all good. Young cavolo nero, also known as lacinato kale, Tuscan kale, and dinosaur kale, is my favorite to use, but curly kale, red Russian kale, squire kale and even savoy cabbage leaves work well too. Mustard greens, not so much. But since they’re taking over the garden, we’ll figure out some great things to make with them by next week. (Your favorite mustard green recipe suggestions are very welcome!)

cavolonerointhegarden-1.jpg

Ingredients:
1 bunch cavolo nero, other kale and/or savoy cabbage leaves
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 teaspoon sea salt

cavolonerocabbage-1.jpg

Directions:

  • Wash the leaves and dry them well. To tear or not to tear? I prefer to leave the stems intact — with younger kale, the stems aren’t thick or tough, and they still get crispy and delicious.
  • Toss with olive oil and sea salt.
  • Preheat an oven to 180° C (350° F).
  • Line a baking sheet with parchment paper (optional, but makes for joyfully easy cleanup) and arrange the leaves in a single layer. You may need two baking sheets, depending on leaf size and number.
  • Bake until the edges are crisp but not burned, approximately 10 minutes.

Delicious variations:

  • toss in some apple cider vinegar with the olive oil and salt.
  • add cumin
  • add cayenne pepper
  • add curry powder
  • add finely grated parmesan (or other) cheese

kaleandcabbagechips.jpg

Enjoy them in a glass, on a plate, crumbled on some popcorn, in your mouth…

The Tamarillo Show

The Tamarillo Show

Posted 12 May 2010 | By | Categories: Food, Plants, Seagarden | 1 Comment

Tamarillos now taller than me The tamarillo plants in the garden are now taller than me. These fine specimens of the Teds Red and Tango varieties haven’t fruited yet, but tamarillo fruits have started arriving in the stores, and I tasted my first of the season yesterday. When I cut it in half, I realized why they attract me so visually: the seed pattern looks like the stylized Chinese shou () motif (pronounced like “show”), a symbol for longevity.
Shou slices of Tamarillos from tamarillo.com

Here are some examples of the shou motif on cufflinks from Shanghai Tang:
Shanghai Tang shou cufflinksShanghai Tang sterling silver shou cufflinks


Is tamarillo a nutritional powerhouse that can deliver the longevity it symbolizes? A full report from Crop and Food Research on the nutritional composition and benefits of New Zealand tamarillos shows they’re definitely nutritious and worth adding to your diet. Here’s an executive summary:

  • Tamarillos are low in carbohydrate and the carbohydrate present is mainly in the form of fibre,
  • are high in potassium but extremely low in sodium, which is a desirable balance for a healthy diet,
  • contain other trace elements important for health, in particular copper and manganese, and
  • are a very good source of vitamin C, and make a significant contribution to the daily intake of vitamins A (equivalents from selected carotenoids), B6 and E.
  • Red tamarillos had higher antioxidant activity than gold but both had higher antioxidant activity than many common foods.

Tamarillo Teds Red Aside from being delicious fresh raw and scooped out with a spoon (or squirted into your mouth), tamarillos are also incorporated into some wonderful recipes and can go either savory or sweet. My favorite so far is a chocolate tamarillo tart from Floriditas, also makers of the tamarillo and vanilla tea cake.

However, I’ve not yet seen a dish that shows off tamarillo’s shou. Maybe just sliced into a salad? I bet it would be popular at the New Zealand Pavilion at the Shanghai World Expo. Or am I just seeing things?

Fractalicious Romanesco

Fractalicious Romanesco

Posted 08 May 2010 | By | Categories: Food, Gardening, Plants, Seagarden, Vegetables | Comments Off on Fractalicious Romanesco
fractalicious romanesco

Fancy fractal food: Broccoli Romanesco, Cauliflower Romanesco, or just Romanesco

Today, with great excitement, I harvested my first Romanesco and made a self-similar salad from it by breaking it into Romanesco-shaped pieces and tossing with a little olive oil and kelp granules. Perhaps the most delightfully geeky of all vegetables, the Romanesco is a nearly exact self-similar fractal form that illustrates a Fibonacci sequence. I have seen it in the marketplace as Cauliflower Romanesco and Broccoli Romanesco, and the French call it chou Romanesco, which translates to Cabbage Romanesco, so we’ll just note that it’s a Brassica and refer to it as Romanesco.

This electric chartreuse coloured vegetable offers a more subtle flavour than both cauliflower and broccoli, with a distinctively nutty note. I find it delicious raw, but it can be steamed or prepared in any way that you would with broccoli and cauliflower. And even though the organic ones often seem expensive at the market, I now know they are well worth it.

The Learning Curve

Romanescos at Yunos Farm stand at Abingdon Square Greenmarket, NYC I first became enchanted by Romanesco at the Yunos Farm stand at the Abingdon Square greenmarket in NYC (right), and noted if I ever grew my own vegetables, I would definitely grow this one. What I didn’t know is how much time, energy and water goes into each one. Because it’s always sold with the leaves stripped away, I assumed that the part we buy was the plant. Turns out it’s merely the flower of the plant. A giant plant. (This goes for broccoli and cauliflower too.) I thought I could tuck a few seedlings into the front of the berry patch, but they took over the space entirely for the season (image below).

giant Romanesco plant

The other growing surprise was that amidst an entire orchard, the Brassicas were voted most desirable plant by leaf-munchers and sap-suckers alike. I imagined the insects would go for dessert first, but they chose Romanesco, broccoli and brussels sprouts over berries and grape vines all day long. The most damaging was the hungry green caterpillar of the white cabbage butterfly. Eventually, I caved in and sprayed a trial of the bacteria Bacillus thuringensis Bt, which worked. Many of the plants bounced back entirely and produced beautiful veggies, while a few others never quite got their health back and suffered aphid infestation after the caterpillar menace subsided.

With broccoli, removing the central head stimulates side shoots for later picking. Does Romanesco work the same way? Let me know in comments if you do, and I’ll update when I find out here.

Update: According to Grow Better Veggies, “once the main head is cut, that’s it. You cannot rely on lateral growth for additional minor heads as the season goes on, which is a nice feature of regular broccoli.”

Companion Flower Salad

Flower salad: calendula, hyssop, nasturtium and borage Not only is Romanesco a flower that makes a great companion plant for other edibles in your garden (since everything wants to eat it), but many of the companion plants recommended for growing alongside it (and the rest of the Brassica family) are edible flowers too: (shown at left, clockwise from top right corner) Nasturtium, Hyssop “sweet marigold,” Borage, and Calendula. I don’t know if they distracted a single predator, but they definitely attracted bees, our friends in need, and kept any uninvited plants from crashing the party. They also add colour, beauty and diversity.

How do they taste? I found the Nasturtium too peppery for my palate, but it’s been brilliant in the garden as the earliest to bloom with bright orange blossoms. Borage, the last flower to arrive on the scene after a long period of leaf growth, features delicate blue flowers atop fuzzy stems that taste of cucumber. Hyssop ‘sweet marigold’ has an anise or licorice flavour. Calendula is slightly tangy and bitter and more appreciated for its use in topical tinctures and lotions than cuisine, but its leaves are lovely tossed into salads.

Foraging New Zealand

Foraging New Zealand

Posted 24 April 2010 | By | Categories: Food | Comments Off on Foraging New Zealand

Thank you Jesse Mulligan for mentioning Garden.Geek.NZ on the Auckland Drive radio show. Here are some more resources on foraging for kai in Aotearoa.

At right is the collaborative New Zealand food and fruit sharing map New Zealand Fruit and Food Share Map (view larger) highlighting fruit and nut trees, and other natural urban food sources. You can add listings and details for things you find out in the world.

Freedom Fruit Gardens is an exciting project that aims to plant edible gardens through New Zealand for for communities to harvest and enjoy instigated by artist A.D. Scierning. The inaugural planting takes place Friday, June 25, 2010 in East Otara, Auckland in conjunction with Te Tuhi centre for the arts, and future installments are planned for Wellington and Christchurch. A proposal for the Wellington Freedom Fruit Garden will be exhibited at the New Dowse on June 19, 2010.

Another abundant and easily overlooked food to forage is the delicious and nutritious seaweed decorating our coastlines, the “treasure of the tides.” One type, karengo (porphyra) is a delicacy closely related to Japanese nori and Welsh laver and considered a taonga by Maori. In New Zealand, it may be gathered in the wild for personal use. See Scoop’s “Would you like seaweed with that?” article for more details and Pacific Harvest for recipes and cooking tips.

    Wild Picnic, a gallery of edible and useful wild plants found in Wellington, serves up some tips for safe foraging:

  • 1. If in doubt, don’t eat it.
  • 2. Avoid foraging from roadsides and polluted places.
  • 3. Avoid areas that may have recently been sprayed.
  • 4. Get permission before foraging on someone else’s property.
  • 5. Get to know NZ’s poisonous plants so you can know what to avoid.
  • 6. Harvest sustainably.

Other sites of interest:

Useful books:

What are your favorite foraging sites and tips?

Pollan’s Rules and Oliver’s Schools

Pollan’s Rules and Oliver’s Schools

Posted 12 February 2010 | By | Categories: Food, Health | Comments Off on Pollan’s Rules and Oliver’s Schools

What do we learn about food in school? Not much!

But I always learn something useful from Michael Pollan, here on Democracy Now, discussing the link between healthcare and diet, the dangers of processed foods, the power of the meat industry lobby, the “nutritional-industrial complex,” the impact industrial agriculture has on global warming, and his sixty-four rules for eating from “Food Rules: An Eater’s Manual”:

Watching the Jamie Oliver hold up a tomato in front of a classroom of kids who were not able to identify hits in a visceral emotional way. As winner of the 2010 TED Prize his wish is to teach every child about food and empower them against obesity:

(See also Mark Bittman’s talk on What’s wrong with what we eat from 2009 EG conference.)

    Here are some things I’ve learned from the garden this week:

  • Celery: I harvested some celery by completely removing the plant and cut other stalks off at the soil level so I’d know where to put in some new plants. Those that were cut are shooting up new stalks.
  • Of all the plants I expected to be devoured as they are growing up, the broccoli and brussels sprouts would have been last on my list. I imagined the sulfur-containing compounds that make them so healthy for us would be naturally repellent to most insects. Oh how wrong I was — they are being eaten alive by caterpillars (cleverly colored exactly the same green as the leaves) and now attracting what looks like black scale insects at the base. I’ve been using an organic garlic spray along with manually picking off the offenders when I see them.
Tropical Tuesday

Tropical Tuesday

Posted 10 February 2010 | By | Categories: Container Gardening, Food, Gardening, Health, Plants, Seagarden | Comments Off on Tropical Tuesday

Coffee and bananas are staples — essentials — on my shopping list, papaya and passionfruit whenever in season. But usually, I’m referring to the end produce, not the plant. Today, all four plants found their way into my home.

Is there any scent that puts your heart more at ease than roasting coffee beans? Not for me… that’s the fragrance that wafted through the air of my family’s business across from the Folger’s plant in downtown Kansas City when I was growing up. Apparently though, the scent of flowering coffee resembles jasmine so much that it was first described as Jasminium arabica. And it’s recommended as a plant whose fragrance drifts or wafts on the air. Oh how little I know about my favorite first daily drink (or drug, if you insist). Looking forward to getting to know you in a whole new way, coffee!

Banana plants make gorgeous indoor ornamentals even if they never fruit, but I love the idea of cultivating options beyond the corporate banana monoculture. The passionflower vine twining up the pergola in my NYC Skygarden delighted me with its abundant purple blooms. It was sold as an annual but kept going for years. This golden passionfruit vine aka sweet granadilla looked so beautiful with healthy heart shaped leaves in the store, I hope it can thrive here in the windy Seagarden.

Juicy ripe papayas are divine pleasures, and the green fruits make great som tam (a spicy Thai salad). Alas, the Hawaiian papayas sold in the US are genetically modified and the New Zealand stores are filled with irradiated imports from Australia. Excited to see if they will grow here — the leaves and aroma of the plant itself are lovely regardless.

hibiscusflowermandevilla white fantasyTopping off this tropical Tuesday, my parents arrived bearing flowering mandevilla and hibiscus flower plants.

All of today’s additions will enjoy the comforts of container living, moving indoors or out depending on season and Seatoun weather. If you have any secrets for cultivating any of these exotic beauties outside their native environments, I welcome your suggestions.

  • If you like the scent of roasting coffee wafting over you, Wellington is your town! Cafe L’affare is a delightful cafe (with great daily specials) built around the roaster: 27 College St, Wellington, New Zealand 04 385 9748. Mojo Coffee just opened a new roastery and headquarters at Shed 13 on the Wellington Waterfront. What are your favorites?

A Food Revolution in the Making

Posted 28 April 2009 | By | Categories: Books, Food, Gardening | Comments Off on A Food Revolution in the Making

Great ideas on relocalizing food production from Michael Pollan, author of The Omnivore’s Dilemma and In Defense of food, in The Huffington Post:

Today, home gardening is on the rise, but most Americans still know very little about where their food comes from, and even less about how the changes in temperature and precipitation associated with global warming may alter national food production. If you break down the fossil fuel consumption of the American economy by sector, agriculture consumes 19 percent of the total, second only to transportation. Unfortunately, there hasn’t been a concentrated effort to mitigate its impact on the climate. If we want to make significant progress in reducing global warming we will need to wean the American food system off its heavy 20th-century diet of fossil fuel and put it back on a diet of contemporary solar energy.

Resolarizing the food economy can support diversified farming and shorten the distance from farm to fork, shrinking the amount of fossil fuel in the American diet. A decentralized food system offers many other significant benefits: Food eaten closer to where it is grown is fresher and requires less processing, making it more nutritious, and whatever may be lost in efficiency by localizing food production is gained in resilience; regional food systems can better withstand all kinds of shocks.

Here are few examples of how we could start:

  • Provide grants to towns and cities to build year-round indoor farmers’ markets.

  • Make food-safety regulations sensitive to scale and marketplace, so that small producers selling direct off the farm or at a farmers’ market are not regulated as onerously as a multinational food manufacturer.

  • Urge The U.S.D.A. to establish a Local Meat-Inspectors Corps to serve and support the local food processors that remain.

  • Establish a Strategic Grain Reserve to prevent huge swings in commodity prices.

  • Create incentives for hospitals and universities receiving federal funds to buy fresh local produce which would vastly expand regional agriculture and improve the diet of the millions of people these institutions feed.

This isn’t just about government reform. Organizations, businesses, and even individuals like you can help advance these key initiatives and support both the revival of food local food economies and the health of our nation.