My Edmonds News is pleased to introduce our new columnist, Lara Alexander, who will be writing monthly about urban gardening and eating well on a budget.
Gardening is a perfect hobby for a budget-conscious “foodie” like myself. It’s only the first of June, and already I have harvested a half-dozen pounds of beautiful, spicy, succulent salad greens from my patch of earth. Not only are my greens the first thing ready for harvest each year, but the number of varieties you can find in seed dwarf what is available for purchase anywhere else.
I start my salad patch earlier than most of my neighbors. And why not? I am frugal, but not so much that I can’t gamble with a $2 pack of seeds. I like to get things in the ground early, and then simply replant whatever doesn’t do well. You never know what weather will come, so I say, hope for the best!
Here are a few of my favorite greens growing in my garden this spring:
Wrinkled Crinkled Crumpled Cress
This peppery green is, hands down, my favorite salad green. Bred by Frank Morton, organic farmer and owner of Wild Garden Seed, in Oregon, his prized creation is a cross between Persian and Curly cress. The Wild Garden Seed catalogue boasts about the â€œunexpected heft and toothsomenessâ€ of this spirited green.
A stand-out for sure, it first showed up in my garden, as one of a dozen greens growing mixed together in the same row. I had no idea what it was, but I loved how it perked up my salads, adding a spicy flair. I took a picture of it, and then spent hours pursuing seed catalogs and garden blogs to figure out what it was. Thank goodness I did!
I was in Olympia this April for the opening day of the Olympia Farmers Market. Browsing the market stalls, I tore off a leaf from a bunch of sorrel and took a nibble. It had been a long time since I had tasted sorrel, and I had forgotten what a unique taste it has! The word “sorrel” comes from an old German word meaning “sour,” although I would more kindly describe its flavor as tangy and refreshing. This plant will overwinter and come back again the next spring.
Red Winter Kale
Recently, a fellow gardener was admiring the tall, colorful stalk of green-purple leaves growing in the middle of my garden. “It’s a red kale,” I told him. “Oh,” he sighed, looking disappointed. “I guess kale is an acquired taste,” he added, dropping the leaves from his hand. I guess kale doesn’t have the best reputation, but this variety of kale will change your mind. It is so tender and sweet that I have yet to cook any of mine, and have been enjoying it raw in my salad.
Spicy green salad, with bacon and poached egg
For the salad:
¼ pound of spicy mixed salad greens, including arugula, cress or mizuna
½ pound of bacon
For the dressing:
1 tablespoon of Dijon mustard
3 tablespoons of olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste
Whisk together the lemon and Dijon mustard. Continue to whisk, while pouring in the olive oil. Whisk until well combined. The dressing will emulsify (the oil will bind with the lemon and mustard in a way that will thicken the dressing). Season with salt and pepper, to your liking.
Toss your salad greens in the dressing and separate evenly onto four plates.
Cook the bacon to the desired crispness. Chop roughly and sprinkle evenly over the four dressed salads.
Poach the 8 eggs until the whites are completely cooked, and the yolks are still slightly runny (of course, it is safest to cook eggs all the way through, so do so if you must). Top each salad with two poached eggs. Serve while the eggs are still warm.
Lara Alexander is an Edmonds resident, “urban farmer” and food lover. She can be found writing about growing and eating food at www.food-soil-thread.com.