Salad of Crapaudine beets, endive and mango, with (optional) sweet cicily
As I see it, my unseemly craving for Crapaudine beets can be blamed squarely on heirloom tomatoes, the gateway drug of historic vegetable addiction. Growing these famously delicious “unimproved” varieties isn’t all that easy, but it’s not difficult, either, and the pleasure payoff is immense.
So you go along with the tomatoes for a while and then you try maybe a special snap bean saved by somebody’s grandmother. Good! Onward to Black Mexican corn, introduced in the late 19th century, then lettuce that Thomas Jefferson grew…
In other words, you’re hooked, – or at least I was - easy prey for a weird beet that was already being called “one of the oldest varieties” in 1882 (in Les Plantes Potagères, translated as The Vegetable Garden, by MM. Vilmorin-Andrieux, a seedsman whose company was founded in 1742).
Crapaudine beets (lady toad is a rough translation from the French), even look pre-modern, from their fat carrot shape to their rough, barklike skin. The triple top on this one is unusual, but the rest is pretty true to form – including that dancing auxiliary root; Crapaudines often fork somewhere, independent of the stoniness of the soil.
Total Ramp tart. Similar to quiche, but with with less custard, more ramp (and crisper crust).
Having recently worried around at the ethical questions attendant on promoting wild foods to all and sundry, I offer this post with mixed emotions.
On the one hand, Have Ramps Will Cook. We are lucky enough to have access to several large patches; the spirit of experiment springs eternal and besides, people have been asking.
On the other hand, providing recipes is – I hope! – an invitation to use those recipes, so there we are with the ethics again, along with another reservation,
Would be me; thinking I could just make some of this classic English dessert, put up the recipe and move on to something gardenly like breeding peonies, growing great basil or one of the many other topics on the tip of my desktop.
Reading up on gooseberry fool – don’t laugh; it turns out to be a much explored subject* – led me into a briar patch of nursery catalogs, from which I have only recently emerged.
Two ways of serving Gooseberry Fool.
After years and years of happy harvests, garden mainstays like heirloom tomatoes, squash blossoms and armloads of fresh herbs are as familiar as breathing, but every spring I get surprised all over again by the lettuces: how beautiful they are, how delicious, how willing…
And how different from the lettuce at the market, whether super or farmers.’ Being both extremely bulky and highly perishable, first class lettuce is a perfect poster child for home-grown.
Panisse (left) and Forellensclhuss – one modern, one heirloom. One toothsome, one super-tender. Neither suitable for any but the most local commercial cultivation.
It’s an ever-changing parade, with overlapping performers. First come the mild, mid-green frills of Black Seeded Simpson, dotted around in self-sown clumps, offspring of last year’s late summer’s crop. Then close behind them the classics of spring planting, including our favorite: buttery thick-leafed Webb’s Wonderful.
Self-sown Black Seeded Simpson, being permitted to stay in place beside the tomato patch. It grows so fast we ignore Rule # 1 and just cut the crowded seedlings by handfuls until we’ve used them up.
Not sure if I’m bragging or confessing; but either way we did pretty well morelling this year, at the expense of working on the new evergreen garden, up-potting the last batch of tomato seedlings, giving the raspberries their second weeding…
Morels Part 1: The All American Fried Morel Experiment
The words are the recipe; heat the squash, then top with cheese and peppers. The initials stand for Very Nearly Instant: about 2 minutes in the microwave, because we almost always have some baked winter squash around.
It’s one of our favorite vegetables: in the garden, where it’s quite easy to grow if you have the space, in the kitchen, of course, and up in the bedroom under the bureaus, where it’s the first thing I see – other than Bill – every morning when I awake.
Terrific way to start the day, actually. No matter how gloomy the weather or discouraging the news, here’s this good sized supply of a beautiful winter staple that’s filling, flavorful, versatile AND (blare of trumpets) requires no refrigeration, canning, freezing or other special preservation. It stays perfectly good at room temperature for an entire season.
Down from the bedroom for their closeup, clockwise from left: Buttercup, Tetsukabuto, Candy Roaster Melon Squash, Queen of Smyrna.
Chestnuts are one of my favorite foods. Every year when they reappear I greet them with almost unseemly gladness, so not surprisingly they have made a number of appearances here.
Fresh Chestnuts, Roasting Them, Peeling Them, Putting them In The Stuffing has tips, tools, and techniques.
Recipe posts include
Leafy Brussels Sprouts and Chestnuts,
a modern take on an old favorite, and
Stir Fried Red Cabbage with Dried Chestnuts
another new twist on an old standard and in that same post a very easy because you use dried chestnuts White Chocolate Chestnut Candy.
Speaking of which (candy, not easiness) there’s also a post with full instructions for
Home Made Marrons Glacés
So although I love and adore them I figured we’d pretty much come to the end of what I had to say. But then I mail-ordered some ‘Marroni’ directly from the grower
The old fashioned crookneck squash and Gold of Bacu beans are from our garden; the corn’s from the farmstand up the road and the vanilla butter* is the touch that turns them from yellow vegetables into winter joy.
Official Kitchen Garden Day was August 22, but at the time I was too busy planting fall crops, harvesting the everlasting beans and squash, canning roasted tomatoes and making plum jam to do any live-blogging, and yesterday was much the same except for an evening pizza party with freshly picked peppers, tomatoes and basil and the whole family around the outdoor oven.
If you actually have a kitchen garden, every day is Kitchen Garden Day – that’s the whole point. All spring, summer and fall, you plant and eat. All winter, you eat and plan for next year.
The season is brief. Ramps are increasingly endangered and so to be enjoyed in mindful moderation. Generally, the only recipe you need is “sauté in butter; eat (with or without eggs and/or pasta or toast points and maybe some ricotta).”
Or you can coat them with olive oil and put them on the grill. But Bill has found several patches so vast that even very modest gathering has put us in ramp heaven.
Must be spring - but not for much longer
And as we are also swimming in asparagus, winecaps and morels…
I have now made Pasta with Asparagus and Ramp Hollandaise; Ramp-wrapped Meatloaf; Ramp, Winecap and Ricotta Stuffed Ramp-Wrapped Sole and some quite spiffy Roasted Ramps with Morels and New Potatoes.
Last week’s maple syrup celebration (pie included) went up in some haste, because I was being rushed by the weather. Day after day the same: sunny and pushing 70 degrees. Not suggestive of syrup season. I felt there was no time to lose.
Then – what else is new? – it proceeded to back around so cold the loss seemed more likely to involve blooming crocus and hellebores, swelling buds of narcissus and hyacinth and early peonies. I spent a lot of time running around with heaps of straw instead of attending to maple posting.
Fortunately, in the event, Friday’s predicted low of 14 did not materialize; almost everything came through ok, and it’s once again March, chilly enough to talk about syrup.
Down East Company Coleslaw – a cabbage-taming touch of maple makes all the difference