August and September – hereafter referred to as summer months – are sooo hot in South Florida, and in our garden there is very little growing to harvest and cook (besides some okra and a few herbs). The remainder of the spring vegetables have finally given their last breath (would you believe we harvested a few leeks and some chard in August?!); the sunflowers are wilted and gone; the herbs are either bid farewell to or hanging tough through the summer heat depending on their durability. We said goodbye to the sorrel, basil and tomatillo plants recently, sad to say, they just gave out.
A vegetable garden is not complete without flowers planted in it – scattered around in various beds among the many types of vegetables we’re growing. While flowers certainly add beauty to the garden (who doesn’t love them?!), their main purpose is to attract beneficial insects to the environment. These insects act as predators to non-beneficial insects and as pollinators for vegetable production. Flowering plants provide a place for insects to lay eggs, caterpillars to thrive, and adult insects to feed. Insects are such a vital part of the growing cycle, and help to protect the health of plants, that we take them for granted, or sometimes may even wish we didn’t have them (unless they’re pretty)! As an aside, here is an interesting “factoid” for you: What percentage of insects are harmful? You won’t believe, me; feel free to look it up – One percent. Yes: 1, uno. Look it up.
What do you do with a good crop of organic Swiss chard when you have a brunch to cook for? Well, you break out the bacon because it makes for a heavenly combination with chard, and then add potatoes for a happy threesome to pair with a load of eggs! Oh, and add some cheeses (especially goat) for some decadent flavor.
Several months ago I was exposed to the technique of square foot gardening, when an older edition of this book was loaned to me. Well, this approach seemed just plain weird – why bother planting everything all packed into little squares, what’s the point? And so many different things in one bed, kinda chaotically? And to bother doing the work to divide a bed up all precisely like that? Well, as they say, “Don’t knock it ’til you try it!” Now that we’ve tried it, we’ve fallen in love with it. No, not just a fly-by-night infatuation, this is true love!
Last season I wrote a post explaining how we go about preparing the soil for planting which you can find here. Well…. this is a new season, with “more water under the bridge” – and new knowledge gained through experience, the advice of experts and our own research and reflections. Therefore I want to update last year’s post with what new ways we are preparing “soil” – or better said “growing media” – to start and grow our veggies. Don’t get me wrong – most of what I said last year still stands. Where we’ve significantly changed a practice that I touted back then, I will indicate it here and in that post as well.
It’s early November here in South Florida, prime time for planting our organic garden for the new season. We have just gotten a real break in the weather, with some cooler mornings last week (not quite cool enough for us South Floridians to get our boots and scarves out, though it’s tempting, right?) This cooling does make us enthused about being outside and getting our garden going! So, to give a rundown on how we’ve started with either seedlings or direct plantings, here goes:
Well, it’s summer, so you just gotta expect to find some mention of okra on a South Florida gardening blog! There are a lot of crops we’ve tried growing in the heat of summer over the years, from long beans to loofah (for real!), to bitter melon and cowpeas and various summer “spinaches,” among others. None of those are particular favorites, so we don’t put much effort into them any more. Or with certain crops that we do like, such as cowpeas and sweet potatoes, the insects they’ve attracted in our hot summers (i.e. aphids and whiteflies) make them just not worth growing.
I needed a side dish for dinner, and there was a bunch of kale and a handful of cherry tomatoes (freshly picked) sitting in front of me. Remembering that I had a package of whole wheat orzo in the fridge, I googled these ingredients I had and found a great recipe to adapt for my purposes! kalynskitchen-orzo salad
So I settled on making an orzo salad with kale, feta cheese and cherry tomatoes. The original recipe called for chickpeas as well, but I didn’t think they were needed – perhaps if we weren’t having meat as the main course, I’d have been more inclined to add them. The recipe also did not call for cherry tomatoes, but I honestly think they really enhanced this dish – their sweetness added such a nice contrast of flavor to the hearty kale, the lemon, and the salty feta. I happened to have these beautiful and intensely sweet golden cherries, but red cherry tomatoes would work well too.
Last year a child in the garden walked up to the kale, pointed to a leaf and said, “This looks like a reptile.” OMG, I thought, so that must be why it’s called “dinosaur kale.” It had never dawned on me before!
This salad was so refreshing and delicious; my family loved it. It’s definitely a “keeper” that I know we will enjoy again!
I was never particularly a fan of steamed vegetables, until I went on a special diet to improve my health a year and a half ago – which was basically eating mostly steamed organic veggies along with certain types of protein. I stuck to this diet pretty religiously as I was facing some surgeries and wanted to be in tip-top shape. Well, it worked! Within a month, I felt much stronger, had more energy and as a side effect I had lost 10 pounds! I did not set out to lose that weight, but it was a welcome bonus.
I didn’t have quite enough squash and wasn’t sure how it would combine with sweet potato; it actually added extra thickness and a depth of flavor, so this combo is a definite keeper (of course you can just use squash). I also used both lacinato (aka dinosaur or black kale) and curly kale as that’s what was on hand and it worked very well. Before I add kale to a recipe, I steam or parboil it first for a few minutes to remove its bitterness – then it has a neutral to sweet flavor.
We are very lucky to have an artisan pork shop near us, where I can get the best chorizo around – uncooked, and so tasty! The heat in it is pretty mild, so I realized the next time around I would add some red pepper flakes or a medium-heat pepper to the mix. Also, despite what many recipes say, I never add chorizo at the beginning of a dish where it is going to be boiled for a while – I’ve done this in the past and it leaves the chorizo dry and flavorless. So as you’ll see in the directions I add a tiny bit at the start, then brown the chorizo separately and add it near the end (with its wonderful oily rendered liquid) for maximum flavor and texture.
I wanted to make this a creamy soup yet still have the contrast in color between the starches and the kale, and to retain the nice bits of meat from the chorizo to bite into. So I decided to blend the squash/potato/onion mixture first, and then add the kale and chorizo. This turned out to be such a rich and creamy soup packed with nutrition and flavor – resulting in a unanimous and enthusiastic seal of approval from my family!
Adapted from Lindaraxa.
Writing and Photo by DK