Sunday, April 18, 2010

Nothing Could Be Finer

There is so much pleasure in gardening--all senses involved in the digging and planting.

Then the day comes, maybe sooner than you expect, when you begin to eat the things you've planted and tended.

That day was today in my garden. I picked new romaine, a few leaves only. And two perfect cherry belle radishes. We have had some wintered-over greens, garlic and onions. And we've had wild food--nettles, chickweek, dandelions, ramps.

Do you know how good real food is--food that you pick in the warm sun of your garden and bring directly into your house?

Let me encourage you to carve out some garden space in your yard, if you have one. Grow a tomato plant on your patio or front stoop.

Food, glorious home-grown food!

Thursday, April 15, 2010


Does the word evoke dangerous faery tales?

What would you give for a taste of this delicious green?

Delicious may be in the mouth of the beholder but ramps are in season here in the mountains and you would be wise to indulge.

They are stinky and wonderful, a sovereign tonic for spring.

You can get them at local tailgate and farmers markets. Narrow white bulbs and wide green leaves.

Prep them by taking the roots off the bulb end and washing them thoroughly to remove dirt and old mast. Pinch off any brown bits from the leaves but retain as much as you can of these precious greens.

I chop them up and saute them briefly in olive oil. Sometimes I serve them just like that--with perhaps a grind of light pepper.

They are also delicious in omelettes, with cheese. They can be tinctured in vinegar for future use. They can even be eaten raw.

Find them and eat them...and then stay away from your fellow humans for a few days. Their reputation as the Queen of Stink is well deserved and the stink often comes hours later, when the funk has had time to work through your system.

Brush and floss and use the strongest mouth wash to no avail. The smell remains on your breath, in your pores, in your sweat for a day or two.

But my, o my! is it worth it.

Friday, April 9, 2010

Nettle Soup is Way Too Green

A friend left a super-stinky bag of fresh nettles for me yesterday. They are so beautiful when young--vibrant, bristley. Vast patches grow along the river here and exude a faint sense of cat pee.

Hardly sounds right, does it? Prickles that sting you and the appetizing smell of urine. Can you think of a better starter for a delicious and nutritious soup?

I carefully washed them today and parboiled them in vegetable broth and water. They turned an even brighter green and the smell was more spinach and less...well, you know.

I whipped them through the blender, then sauteed onions, garlic and mushrooms in olive oil. When all that was tender, I blended about half of that and added all the batches into one large pot. Low simmer for 15 minutes or so, to combine the flavors a bit.

Towards the end of that time, I added a half cup of half and half, and turned off the burner.

I served it for supper with a dollop of sour cream, a scrape of aged parmesan and a crank of fresh black pepper.

O, yea. Hot spring in a wide bowl. A glass of pinot grigio and some crusty bread and it's the best spring tonic.

Okay, the best except for ramps. More on those if I get some tomorrow.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Creasies, Dandelions, Nettles...and some excellent fried chicken

The spring greens are starting to sprout up here in the hills of western North Carolina. The weather has turned mighty fair of late and I've been out and about, noticing the spikey dandelion greens that seem to call me to dinner in the spring. Do you love them?

I was raised on a wonderful story of my Great-Grandmother Westmoreland who could go out into bare fields and pick a washpan full of greens for a meal. I pick as much as I can--chickweed has been a recent fave.

Creasey greens and dandelions go beautifully together. Here's how I do them:

Wash them...many times. Soak them in cold water for a couple of hours, to plump them up. Then I chop them a bit and saute them in olive oil, often with a little garlic chopped into it.

Serve them hot, with maybe a scrape of hard cheese, like a Locatelli Romano.

Nettles are also peeking out their pointy selves. I also wash them heck out of them, soak them a bit. Then chop them up and boil them down, using the rich green broth and now-tender green shoots for soup.

The next thing I'll need to sample for my mountain spring tonic?



I came down from the high country today and stopped at Famous Louise's Rockhouse Restaurant. I did not have pie and instead asked for a couple of pieces of the crispest fried chicken. I had it with a glass of cold water with lemon squeezed into it. My goodness, it was fine.

I thanked the woman who served it and the kind man who cooked it. When you get hot crispy fried chicken, you should be grateful, I think. It is rare enough to find it in an edible state. This was excellent.