Several weeks ago I wrote about our bountiful Spring harvest in South Florida – it’s prime time! for vegetable gardeners here. That post described several of the organic crops we grow. Well, here’s some more – this is a continuation, describing more of our mid-Spring harvest, if you will.
I would guess that most South Florida vegetable gardeners grow kale. It has become so popular over the last decade, whether people are putting it in smoothies, making kale chips, massaging it for raw salads or producing a wide range of cooked dishes with it. Kale is incredibly nutritious, is a very hardy and long-lasting crop, and offers so many versatile uses in the kitchen.
So much of what I cook has to do with the fresh ingredients that happen to be on hand, as of course is true of most cooks. Right now our garden is bursting with organic veggies to harvest, which presented me with the challenge of what to do with some green pole beans, a big beautiful carrot, two kinds of kale and some very ripe tomatoes. I’ve been pining for some minestrone soup lately, and I was excited to have these fresh ingredients along with garden herbs and a good sized Parmesan rind stored in the freezer. I was all set!
I keep talking about “the most exciting time” in our organic garden, from ordering seeds for the new season, to planting our fall crops and seeing those first seedlings sprout up, to the beginning of our harvest – but NOW, it’s just beyond exciting – when our crops are flourishing and there is so much to harvest and cook with that we can barely keep up! So I think I will have to concede – Spring harvest tops them all!
The “fruits” of our labor in the fall-winter months are now ripe and ready, as you will see in our photo gallery and descriptions below. Enjoy!
I am always looking for something different to do with green beans besides my go-to-favorite of simply steaming and dressing them with butter, salt and pepper – and a little dill if I have it on hand. While this is never boring – can anything beat lightly steamed and crispy green beans freshly picked from the garden? – it’s always nice to change it up now and again. I wanted to try a cold salad, and though I’m not typically a big fan of canned beans, I’ve been hankering for a three bean salad lately and it is green bean harvest time… I opted to combine the fresh green beans (again, lightly steamed to perfection) to go along with canned kidney beans and then, to add a nice contrast in texture, shape and color: chickpeas (aka garbanzo beans). This worked really well.
I can’t think of a better way to eat bok choy than to saute it with garlic and ginger, add a little salt and heat, and finish it off with toasted sesame oil. It absorbs the aromatics well, and the contrast between the crunchy stems and the tender leaves makes it all the more pleasurable. Garlic and ginger bok choy is an excellent addition to any protein-based Asian dish, e.g., tofu, fish, beef, etc. It provides a “kick” as well as a nutritious boost to any meal.
Bok choy is really a generic name for many varieties of choy, which are readily available not only in our own organic vegetable garden, but in the many Asian markets (and large general grocery stores) across South Florida. I recently purchased a few different kinds at one local market, which were very fresh and inexpensive. See our post “Ode to Choy” for more information about different choys and how we grow them.
Green beans are one of our staple crops throughout the fall-winter-spring growing season here in South Florida. We usually (if we’re lucky) have our first harvest at Thanksgiving time, and our last in late April to mid-May, depending on how soon the heat of summer begins to roll in.
There are many advantages/benefits to growing green beans in South Florida:
The preference among our gardeners is pretty much bush beans over pole beans (though we do plant both). There is a variety of purple bush beans that we’ve been enjoying in addition to our typical green ones. But here’s a warning: the purple ones turn a vibrant green color when cooked. I only found this out on Thanksgiving one year. I was so excited as this was our first harvest ever of purple beans, just in time for the holiday! – and I thought I was going to have a beautiful mixed colored dish of fresh green and purple beans. Until, that is, I lifted the lid off the pot of steaming beans. They were a beautiful green color, much to my amazement and disappointment!
For many years I never knew that there was more than one kind of bok choy. Actually it was probably when I started gardening and buying seeds that I learned what an incredible variety of choys there is to choose from.
Choys are so easy to grow organically here in South Florida. I like to joke that it would probably grow on a pile of rocks, that’s how readily it thrives in varying conditions. If we have a spot in the garden that doesn’t seem sunny enough for most plants, or wet enough, or dry enough, or soil-nutritious-enough, sure enough – choy will prevail! And I can’t think of a time – ever – when it has been bothered by any diseases or pests.
Is there anything more gratifying than finding uses for a “small harvest” from the garden to enhance a meal? Well, after a thoroughly enjoyable and productive gardening session, my husband and I stopped by one of our favorite shops on the way home – Proper Sausages is an artisanal store located in Miami Shores, specializing in homemade (off-the-scale!) sausages as well as a range of other meats and goodies (like bacon jam, homemade condiments, incredible sandwiches, etc.). As soon as we laid eyes on the bleu cheese burgers, we knew what dinner would be. Adding a package of those wonderful special buns they have, along with two pounds of the best bacon in town, we were on our way.
It is one of the most exciting times in our South Florida garden when we can start harvesting in the fall! Our first ready-to-eat crops are lettuces and choys, as they grow so quickly after direct seeding into the beds. Now, we use the term “lettuces” very loosely – we mean a variety of leafy delicate greens that can be used in salads.
Our salad-mixture plantings typically include the following:
It’s important for lettuces to have fine, loose and thoroughly weeded soil to grow in. We direct-seed each of the above kinds in its own little section, adjacent to each other in the same bed. For these crops we use the scatter seeding method, putting the seeds in rather densely so we can harvest as described below. Lettuce seeds should not be covered with dirt when they are planted, as they need light in order to germinate. They should be kept well-watered.
Well one of the die-hard vegetables that can make it through our long hot summer months here in South Florida is collard greens. While they take a back seat to all our other greens during the regular season, now that they are the only cruciferous left to harvest, they’ve become popular. We are lucky to have a green like this in the middle of August!
Collards are an extremely hardy crop – they are very popular in the South as they grow so easily and throughout the year. We just grow a basic type (e.g. Georgia or Carolina variety) in our garden, starting them from seed in flats and transplanting the seedlings when big enough. A few years ago, a fellow organic gardener gave me some pelleted seeds for “blue collards,” which have become one of our favorites. They really do have a bluish tinge to the usually dark green leaves.