It’s abundantly clear by the state of our nation’s food industry and overall health that we don’t eat enough vegetables. Even more so when it comes to greens and herbs. Partly because low quality foods are subsidized and therefore cheaper and partly because we’ve busied ourselves out of the time to do something very important, prepare food.
I really don’t think that people are too busy to cook. That’s something that may be true a couple days a week but the real issue seems to be that our brains are too cluttered to want to plan, prep and cook food. How many times do you hear people complain about not knowing what to do for dinner? All the time. Myself included.
You’ll find that eating low quality foods or low vegetable content in general is part of the problem. When you eat well, you think well. When you eat well, your head is clearer, you have more energy and you are far more easily inspired, even when you have a lot of things going on in your life.
So we want to grow a garden. It’s sustainable (hopefully), fun and can cut our food budget! Right? Well we find ourselves with a garden that we don’t use. Partially because the things in season in your area might not be things you see in the grocery store much or in those slow cooker cheesy chicken pot recipes. I mean, swiss chard is pretty but what do we do with it? Same with herbs, which are expensive to buy fresh and quality dried herbs are hard to find. Many people don’t use them or settle for the old, flavorless, dried flakes from hyvee.
I want to inspire you. Take the small amount of time it takes to learn the greens that can grow in the spring/summer/fall and invest in perennial herbs. A perennial herb gets planted once and each year come back bigger and better.
Each year I dry herbs to use during the whole year, until the next harvest. To do this successfully you need to have a bit of a rotation going where you harvest and dry, wait, then harvest and dry so that your plants can properly recover from being harvested.
Yesterday I threw a couple trays each of Greek oregano and common sage into the dehydrator.
It took a few minutes to harvest and put them on the trays but then I just left it alone til the next day. Once they’re dried I put them in saved glass spice jars.
Once I have the spice jar filled I can start filling a quart jar for the rest of the year.
I put dried sage on my eggs every day and use oregano in sauces and even my salad dressing. There are endless uses for both flavor and nutrition.
Greens are easy to grow and there are so many wonderful varieties. Even if you just grow kale…salad all year.
Just a really lovely green that comes in varieties for everyone.
If you’re not a fan of kale, I get it. It definitely has more texture and flavor than your average lettuce but when you cut out the stem and give it some dressing and delicious toppings, it will rock your world.
Okay, this salad has a lot more than kale. But kale is my favorite part. It also has arugula, pac choy, swiss chard and herbs. It came from this harvest.
It’s also very beautiful. There are a few different colors and you should really grow them all.
I have these two amazing planters in my yard and this spring when my dad was trashing the last of the pac choy crop going to seed in the trays I snagged one and planted it in the planters.
Not only are they really stunning, but those big leaves are edible and I absolutely harvest from them.
In my harvest this morning I had to add a few baby beet plants. Beet seeds aren’t singles, they’re a little pocket of seeds and so thinning is necessary because each seed comes up in sets of three or four. If you don’t thin they can’t properly form and so even though it feels sad to pull them, I enjoy little beet greens in my salads.
Right now my lettuce and spinach have finished their season and I rely on kale, pac choy and arugula. Arugula has also flowered but the very nice things about arugula is that it continues to have plenty of leaves that seem, at least in my garden, unaffected by going to seed and I’m able to harvest regularly from them until the seed pods start drying.
Finally, I have napa cabbage. This is a cool weather plant and is probably better suited for a fall crop but I planted mine early enough this year to have pretty huge plants now that the weather is getting hot. They haven’t formed much of a head but when one of my big plants decided to go to seed I harvested it for fermenting.
Napa cabbage has a bit of a fuzzy leave and that is why I don’t like it raw. It tastes delicious sauteed but I am using it for fermenting because it does an excellent job fermenting. I had a head of regular cabbage as well because I wanted to make a half gallon of kraut. Basically you chop them super tiny, massage them with salt and then add your culture. You can add the left over kraut juice from a previous batch or use a packet of cultures. I massage the cultures in well and then put in a few immunity extras like garlic and orange zest/juice (both are prebiotics, aka, food for the probiotics). Then I pack my jar and add enough water to cover the kraut and smash it down using a half orange. You need to keep the cabbage beneath the water level to properly ferment and an orange does a great job of this.
Wait a few days and you’ll have a lovely product. You can see in the photo of my salad that I put some kraut on it. It really has the power to make you feel amazing on all levels. Fermenting cannot be overrated. It literally is the best food.
So that’s a little bit of what I do with my harvests. It’s important that you find the best way to garden and eat for yourself but always good to have some examples.
If you have any questions, feel free to ask!