Using The Whole Dang Thing

So things are rolling in the garden, and I have to say (although I should knock on all the wood I can find) we’ve had a pretty great season so far. My intentional neglect seems to be more effective than drowning the lovelies as I usually do. I harvested my first broccoli ever the other day and it was stupendous. I should add that I really love broccoli – always have. Fresh from the garden broccoli is not as revelatory as fresh peas compared to store-bought; however, it was noticeably more delicious. More tender, sweeter, and green all the way through, rather than white in the middle like the store version.

While I was harvesting, I was thinking of Big Sis’ cauliflower leaf roasting escapades the other day, and so, since the variety I’m growing will still produce more broccoli, I just took the top head and the top of the stem, and then quietly, gently, furtively, I took just a few of the gihugic leaves as well. I chose them carefully so that I could get some more sun on my juvenile beans and cucumbers. My daughter evidenced some small amount of concern as she saw these enormous and, in my view, somewhat prehistoric-looking, leaves in the harvest bucket.

Back in the kitchen, I cut the leaves from the stems and chopped them roughly (is there any other way, really?). I warmed some olive oil in a skillet, placed the stems in and let them cook slowly while I assembled the other elements of my throw-together dinner. I steamed the broccoli, pulled out some bean sprouts, warmed some leftover quinoa, retrieved some cashew cream from its jar (you could totally use shredded cheese or parm), and let the stems soften a bit. Added 2 small cloves of garlic to the pan and stirred.  As everything else became warm, I added the brocco leaves to the pan with a little salt and some red wine vinegar. Then I added chopped spring onions. And thus, the varia-bowl of the week was born. I added some roasted pine nuts, because I can’t help myself when I smell a pine nut opportunity.

So I ate it, and it was delish, and it got me to thinking… what other plant parts am I discarding or relegating to the compost pile when they could well be going in my mouth, which lately has been wanting an awful lot of food in it all the time. Thus far, I’ve discovered that pretty much every part of the broccoli plant is edible (I assume cauliflower is the same) and that Shari Goodman has a few suggestions for all those bits.

Carrot greens are also apparently edible.  Now, in reading it was clear to me that carrot greens are not without controversy as members of their bio family can have toxic greens, so you should probably check this out for yourself just in case I, and other people, are wrong. I have to say, however, that I am looking at the row of carrots in a whole new way. I am ALWAYS up for a new pesto.

Now, I was aware that pea shoots are edible, and have enjoyed eating them (not my own, I simply can’t bear to shorten the life of any pea plant that is growing on my property). My question was whether or not the mature vines are edible. It seems that they are, although I don’t know if that makes them desirable, but I do intend to find out, especially since my pea production seems to be winding down. Wouldn’t that be a lovely way to extend pea season? Seems to me that even if they aren’t so dandy to eat, they might be swell for making bean soup broth.

In my internet searching I tried “eat the whole plant” and a variety of other word combinations that indicated that I wished to eat more than the conventionally farmed bit, but didn’t have a great amount of success. A few sites about how to eat the whole animal came up, and while I have respect for that notion as being both frugal and more respectful (if you’re going to kill it, you ought to at least make the most of it), it didn’t help me out very much. I’m sure this info is out there, I just haven’t hit on the right combination of words yet, or asked enough country gardeners. So I’ll put it out there to you my fine friends. Any of you eating the “other” parts of the plants these days? Veggie offal anyone?

That’s Company Good

Over the years of fiddling in the kitchen, my husband and I have developed a rating system for our creations that ranges from “Hmm, I thought that would work” to “That’s company good.”  In between there are categories like “has potential,” “needs tweaking,” “good kid food,” and “dinner with close friends.”  Well last night, I cooked for about 25 minutes and still scored a rating of “company good.”  The fact that garden vegetables were featured just made the victory that much sweeter.  So for your late spring dining pleasure, I offer you….. Company Good Pea Soup with Crispy Leeks.

Now before all of you pea shunners shrug and click somewhere else, I should tell you that my husband is new to enjoying peas.  Apparently his childhood reaction to the little round greenies was rather on the high side of drama, and yet, when I discovered that the kids would eat ANY kind of peas, he decided to give them another go.  It seems to me that he mostly tolerated cooked frozen peas, and put a good face on it to be a role model.  But when we had pea success in the garden, his love affair with peas truly began.  This soup uses both frozen and fresh peas to the best advantage of each, in my opinion.  If you are not a pea fan, I would encourage you to try them fresh.  It’s a whole different ball of yum.  If you’re already a pea fan, this soup will make you appreciate them all the more.  So here we go……

Company Good Pea Soup with Crispy Leeks – served four for dinner (with enough leftover for lunch for four) with bread and salad

  • olive oil for pan
  • 1 leek
  • 6 c veggie broth
  • 5 c frozen peas
  • 1 t salt
  • 1/2 t ground pepper (I used white to hide it)
  • 1 t thyme
  • juice of 1/2 lemon
  • shelled fresh peas (I started with about 4 handfuls fresh, but you can just use however many you can get your hands on)

Let’s start with the Crispy Leeks.  Cut the stiff green and the root end off the leek (save for future broth).  Using the white and some of the light green part of the leek, cut the leek in half the long way and then in half again, you should have what looks like long pickle spears.  Place the leek into a bowl of water and swish them around (leeks tend to hide dirt between the layers).  Pour glug of olive oil into pan and warm on low.  While oil is warming, remove leeks from water and cut into about 1/2 inch pieces (no, I didn’t measure and never will, so there).  Add leeks to pan.  Proceed to largely neglect them for about 20 minutes, stirring periodically. This should be about how long you need to make the soup. They will begin to brown, and this is GOOD. Do not become alarmed. Reduce the heat a bit and keep an eye on them. You want to brown them as much as you can without burning them. If using cast iron, you can turn the pan off when you’re getting close and just let them sit in the pan to finish up.

OK, so while your leeks are browning…  The SOUP!!!  Pour half of the veggie broth in a blender.  Add the frozen peas and go to it.  If your blender doesn’t like dealing with the frozen peas, add more of the broth.  When blended, pour into a pot and add remaining broth, salt, pepper and thyme.   Warm soup over medium heat (and don’t forget to stir your leeks).  When warm and your leeks are browned as you would like, add juice of 1/2 lemon.  Stir.  Serve in bowls, adding a handful of fresh peas and a spoonful of crispy leeks.  The fresh peas will barely cook (my limit on cooking for most fresh veggies) and will add just the right crisp bite to the velvety soup.  Delish.  That’s company good.