I just have to say it once more: kale is amazing! I picked this kale yesterday morning, leaves frozen on the stalk, snow on the ground. I had already picked most of the kale–just leaving a few tiny leaves that didn’t seem big enough for anything. But they must have grown a little in the meager sunlight and freezing snowy weather we’ve been having the last two weeks of November. I don’t know how they do it, but that is why they are so amazing. The plant just isn’t willing to succumb to the freeze/thaw weather that has killed off most of the other plants. So when I was walking through the winter orchard, I found several small frozen leaves, broke them off, and cooked them up for breakfast–they taste great!
So right after my last post, I went outside, and cut about 40 big leaves off my kale plants–always from the lower part of the stems. In between making and eating breakfast and washing dishes, I washed the leaves in groups of ten (by variety), and chopped them up, then washed them again in a salad spinner, which they filled up.
After doing the first batch, which used a lot of water, I figured out that I should save the wash water and bring it out to the garden, where I put it on the kale plants! Then I spinned the kale pieces to dry them, and sautéed them in our big cast iron pan. I had to start with about half of the batch, then add the second half after the first had cooked down a bit. I had green curly kale, red or purple curly kale and a double batch of lacinato kale. After sautéing, I cooled them in a bowl in the refrigerator before putting in bags. On the recommendation of other online gardeners, I used a straw to pull out all the air in the bags.
I still have plenty outside on the plants, but now I have these in the freezer. Ten leaves only filled half a bag, at about 1/2 an inch thick. That would be about three or four servings in our house, so this is a total of 12-16 servings. This winter, I will see how they taste.
The kale has gone crazy this year! I eat some every day, and we’ve given a lot away, but it is still up to my waist in abundance. Not to mention the basil plants, also a few feet tall. Harvesting has always felt like the most challenging part of gardening–how to keep up with everything the earth is producing. I see posts of friends who are canning and drying and freezing–that is all still something I need to learn more about. I search online for instructions, so information is not the main issue–just the time and energy to keep up with it and carry it out.
Most of our garden this year isn’t even to that stage yet–the fruit trees and bushes are still babies, the asparagus is in its first year. And perennial herbs will keep coming back each year, whether I harvest them now or not. In fact, I’ve got thyme drying in the basement, and will probably do some oregano after that is done. I finally dug up the garlic that I had planted as companions to the fruit trees to help keep away pests. But I especially feel a responsibility to the annuals like kale and basil. This is it for them. And they are shining.
Last week, I experimented: I sautéed a dozen large leaves of kale, which cooked down quite a bit, and then I froze it–it only filled a small part of a plastic freezer bag. I should be doing that with whole bunches of it, but it takes time to wash and cut and sauté and cool and bag. We’ve been eating basil this week–especially yummy with an heirloom tomato we bought from the coop. I learned not to put it in the refrigerator, but to keep cut stems in a vase with water.
For now, I just want to say thank you to the earth for creating such abundance! Give me the strength to receive and cherish and preserve your gifts. I’d better get outside and harvest some more!
Today I almost finished soil work and guild plantings around each of the cherry trees–still 1/3 to do around the second tree. First I aerated the soil with our garden fork to a five foot radius around the tree. (The soil was already covered with mulch from last fall-wood chips, cut grass, sea weed, and dead leaves.) Then I put down newspaper or cardboard along the outer half of each circle, and covered it with compost. I planted the companion plants for each cherry tree guild. Guilds are plants that work together so that each does better than if they were planted alone. In this case, the primary focus is the health of the cherry tree.
The plants I used and their functions:
Comfrey is a nutrient accumulator–its roots go deep and bring up calcium and other vital nutrients, and then the leaves can be cut several times a season, and used as mulch. It also attracts pollinators and other beneficial insects. It can be used in herbal medicine. It was recommended to plant it at least four feet from the trunk.
Chives accumulate nutrients, deter pests, are anti-fungal and attract pollinators… They bloom at the same time as the cherry will, and are also a culinary herb. I had enough to do two per tree.
Oregano is an aromatic pest confuser, is anti-fungal, can take some foot traffic, and of course is a culinary herb.
Thyme is another insect pest repellant and culinary herb (my favorite.)
Chamomile accumulates nutrients, is anti-fungal, and attracts beneficial insects..
Rhubarb is another perennial food, and can be cut in place for mulch.
At the outer edge of the circle around the Lapins Cherry, I also planted a row of annual kale. The cherry tree won’t reach that far for a couple years, so it works okay. I mulched them with egg shells, which I understand will deter kale eating pests.
That guild also got one Sweet Cicely plant, which attracts beneficial insect predators to kill insect pests. Plus I hear it tastes like licorice/anise.
The other tree guild also got Lemon Balm, and maybe a Bee Balm plant–I haven’t planted it yet and I’m deciding if it will get too big–if so, maybe it will go nearby. The Lemon Balm was from the plant swap, and attracts pollinators and repels ants and flies. I just read that it will spread. Bee Balm attracts pollinators.
Between all the other plants, I planted Red Clover seeds–they are a nitrogen fixer, and this variety is best for a fungally dominant soil. It is a good ground cover to keep weeds away, easy to walk on too. I put some straw mulch on the seeds to get them started, but I think I will add wood chips over it all.
Later in the fall, I plan to add daffodils in a ring about 2 feet from the trunk, to deter munching pests. I also ended up designating two paths into the tree for each circle–so I can get to the center easily. Once again, I end the day with sore muscles, but so happy.