Last of the garden food (for now)
Today was our last garden workday and therefore, our last garden food day for the fall. All the For months, we have been talking about rutabaga oven fries. I mean, literally for months. I had comes across the recipe over the summer and shared it with the garden gnomes. Yep, it was decided. Our rutabaga would eventually become rutabaga oven fries.
And so today, when I came to the garden on this freezing afternoon and I saw the pile of rutabaga that had been pulled out of the ground, I knew it was time to make some rutabaga oven fries.
I gathered and armful of rutabaga, soil and all, as well as a few heads of garden garlic and tarragon.
I entered the kitchen and realized there was a crepe-making social going on. So, it was a little crowded. But all good company and good food.
I cleaned off the roots and cut them into fry-esque shapes. (Rather unevenly). I crushed two heads of garlic (yes, two) and along with freshly chopped tarragon, dressed the fries.
While crepes were being flipped on the stove, the fries were baking in the oven.
I began making the dipping sauce. I started with a basic béchamel with another head of garlic. Next I mixed in cream cheese and shredded cheese (not sure which kind, except dining hall). The sauce quickly thickened and I frantically whisked it as my fellow Lowell cooks cooked crepes under my arm.
After taking the dip off of the stove, I mixed in shredded spinach from the garden. Yep, it was going to be a bowl of warm spinach dip for the fries. And so the fries came out of the oven. As I spatulaed the fries onto plates (oh man, so many golden, crispy nuggets of garlic), I made myself a crepe with cookie butter (addicted).
Unfortunately, I had to run to a prior engagement as I finished the garden food. Fortunately, that meant more goodness for my fellow gnomes who seemed to enjoy it, don’t you think?
Last week was the celebration of our fourth annual Harvest Fest!
By far, this has been the most attended Harvest Fest, as Harvest Fest becomes a tradition of the Harvard fall.
Of course, to go along with this favorite tradition, we celebrated with our traditional activities.
One of the crowd pleasers was the cider press, as always. We had boxes and boxes of apples. Students used their energy to churn apple pulp into delicious cider.
And the cider? Well, it was the perfect accompaniment to our garden foods. Obviously, we had focaccia bread. Concerning the bread, the recipe is always fluid. Why? Well, the ingredients always depend on what is harvested. This year, we had plenty of garlic, thyme and sage. Therefore, our batches of focaccia were lathered with garlic oil, fried garlic chips, dried sage leaves and fresh sprigs of thyme. Yep, all those fragrant garden crops. All bathing in olive oil on the golden bread.
Along with the Harvest Fest focaccia staple, we did something very interesting and delicious for this year. We decided to make a salad with the greens from the garden. At first, salad sounds like a bland meal, however, what is special about our salad is how it was made.
We had a large platter on the table. As people came into Harvest Fest, they would harvest different greens, including lettuce and kale, and then they would toss it into the platter. I added a simple dressing of lemon juice, garden garlic, garden thyme and olive oil, along with slivered almonds and parmesan cheese. The salad was a hit! You know this, when the platter was frequently empty but people were constantly harvesting greens from the bed in order to replenish their own lunches.
FLP brought their food talents to Harvest Fest, as well. FLP made their Harvest Fest favorites, including herbed popcorn and sun tea!
In addition to noshing on all of these treats, Harvest Fest gnomes spent their afternoon involved in harvest activities. These included tie-dying our 2013 Harvest Fest shirts:
Face painting (obviously, depicting garden veggies):
And in time for Halloween, pumpkin carving!
More importantly, Harvest Fest celebrated the final harvest and planting of overwintering crops. Harvest Fest gnomes were able to plant garlic cloves in several of the garden beds.
More garden means more focaccia bread in the future.
More focaccia bread, along with the enthusiasm to celebrate fall means more Harvest Fests.
Can’t wait for the 5th!
So we have a lot of lettuce. And I mean a lot.
Lettuce can be pretty bland. Most of the time, that’s why I don’t eat salad.
What could we make with lettuce that we could really enjoy?
That’s an easy question to answer, lettuce wraps.
I am all about the lettuce wrap, especially the ones that my family and I always get when we order dinner from P.F. Chang’s.
I had my inspiration: yummy take-out dinners with the fam and a desire to make lettuce a delicious vesicle.
The ingredients that I needed from lunch?
I filled up my Tupperware with edamame, cucumbers and tofu. I mixed several spices with the tofu, including coriander, cumin and added some dashes of teriyaki sauce and siracha.
Once in the garden, I snagged a few eggplants and bunches of cilantro and chives and a head of garlic from the office.
Let’s begin with frying the garlic in the pan. We have a basket full of garlic in the office. Basically, this means garlic will be used in all the blogs from now on. Anyways, garlic is always a nice way to start. The small bits start frying, turning into golden, sweet flakes. Yep, that does sound nice.
The eggplant would join the garlic in the pan. I cut the aubergine into pretty fine chunks, thinking that small pieces would be a nicer bite in the wrap.
The garlic and eggplant cooked down nicely, especially as I got distracted with my paper due at 5pm. So, as I was typing frantically away, the eggplant and garlic carmelized.
5pm! Finally! I added the cubes of tofu and seasoned aggressively with hoisin and soy sauce.
Oh, and I was pretty aggressive with the red pepper. Adding a little more flare to our garden workdays.
At last, I mixed in the chives and cilantro to brighten up our lettuce parcels.
This workday definitely made us realize the best way to eat your food. Yes, most of us enjoy eating our food with our hands, but it’s even better when you have a vibrant, green leaf to scoop up the goodness.
Lettuce wraps need to happen more often.
As the title suggests, I had some yellow and crookneck squash and some parmesan cheese.
Originally, I was going to make some parmesan squash crisps but the amount of squash that I had and the lack of baking sheets, the parmesan squash crisp dream was somewhat crushed.
But then I picked a pot of sungold tomatoes and a handful of basil and oregano. Dreams were re-discovered.
So, I had lovely fruits and herbs to work with. I stood in the kitchen and started washing and chopping. I was a little over zealous with my chopping. The tomato juice splattered. Fortunately, it missed my computer by an inch. Even though I was making a mess, something tasty would be whipped together.
I had a few slices of stale bread to make bread crumbs. Using one of the many frying pans, I baked the slices until they became toast. Then the problem was making them into breadcrumbs. I started by chopping the toast into little cubes. I really didn’t know what I was doing. After I had chopped the toast, there were crumbs all over the cutting board.
Next frying pan in the oven? I dipped the squash slices in the seasoned cheese and breadcrumb mix. I baked them until they were nice and crisp. Wait, I think I actually made parmesan squash crisps.
I wanted to use the tomatoes. I would have roasted the tomatoes but being a student, a two hour cook time was too stressful. I quickly fried the oregano in olive oil and then popped the tomatoes into the pan. Quickly, they began to pop open. I seasoned the tomatoes and put the pan in the oven along with the squash.
Every cook has to taste their food, right? I took out the pan of tomatoes and using some of the toast that was left over from the crumbs, I took a little taste. Damn, I wish I had had more bread. Though, it’s probably a good thing, I still needed to share with my fellow gardeners.
When the squash were cooked through, I flipped the bake onto the plate, spooned the tomato sauce onto the top and finished it off with fresh basil and toasted bread crumbs.
With spoons, hands and mustard greens, the gardeners happily ate the yellow squash and cheese ting with tomato sauce.
It’s the start of a new school year!
And along with the new stresses of moving boxes up five flights of stairs (yes, I am still whining) and picking new classes, there are also lovely fruits from the garden!
So obviously, wanting to alleviate my stresses, I did some cooking.
What was the occasion? Firstly, a flourishing garden. And secondly, a “Welcome Back” treat for part of the CityStep family. As it was a holiday weekend, (one extra day to pretend school wasn’t going to begin) our CityStep board organized a retreat. Realizing that it was a holiday and that we would soon be dearly missing our home-cooked meals, I knew that I had to make something special to celebrate.
Unlike most of my previous food posts, I didn’t have an idea of what I was making until I walked into the garden on Sunday afternoon. I had spent the morning searching my brain for something creative to highlight what was currently growing in the garden. I came of with nothing. Nada.
The only thing I could think of that was easily transportable and could be prepared in advance was pasta. And really, who doesn’t enjoy noodles?
So, I trekked to the grocery store in search of farfalle and any other staples that I could stumble upon that could possibly make sense in a pasta salad.
Now that question may be asked: why didn’t I go to the garden before the grocery store?
I really don’t have a good answer. It could be because it was raining. But then, I walked to the grocery store. It must be that my mind hasn’t readjusted to being back on campus.
After my grocery detour, I made my way to the garden to find the star/s of this pasta. The garden beds were overflowing with goodies. Ah, what a difficult decision.
I had to think. What was I going to make for this celebratory lunch???
I noticed the sungold tomatoes. The bed was plentiful with sun-ripened gems. After working in the garden for two years, I knew that tomatoes were one of our biggest producers. Countless fruits that needed to be enjoyed and obviously added to my pasta. The paper bag quickly filled up.
I needed something more. I turned to my right. There were the eggplants, hanging heavily from the green stalks and playfully peaking from behind the broad leaves. I nodded in their direction.
I found you.
I moved to the herb table. After waving my nose across all four corners, I grabbed several twigs of oregano. The right bright bite to soak in the tomato juices.Now something that was going to pull all these ingredients together.
The kale had been mostly picked, but there seemed to be enough leaves left to make a healthy portion of pesto.My mom had packed countless bags of almonds for my personal brain breaks. Why not make a pesto with the kale and toasted almonds?
I had what I needed. Next, to the kitchen.
As the noodles were cooking, (trick: place a wooden spoon over the pot and it won’t bubble over!) I diced the eggplant so that it could roast in the oven. I had grabbed some asparagus at the market and along with the eggplant, the duo roasted until succulent and caramelized.
The tomatoes! Their color was too precious to roast. I wanted to keep them raw. I simply chopped them and let them sit in their own juices over night, sprinkled with the leaves of the oregano.
After everything was prepped, the noodles were cooked and the veggies were roasted, I packed everything for transport.
The next afternoon, as lunch was being served, I began to make the kale pesto. The almonds had been roasted the day before. I planned to blend the kale with several garlic cloves, the almonds and oil to a rather smooth consistency.
That did not happen. Unfortunately, I had some trouble with the blender. In the end, it became what is now known as a “rustic” pesto. Along with the chunky topping, the garden vegetables coated the noodles with feta and roasted chicken.
Finally, retreat lunch was served!
(The lack of pictures is due to rapid devouring of pasta salad that ensued once the bowl hit the table.)
How often do we eat radishes? Not enough, that’s for sure. Probably because we never encounter them outside of fancier restaurants; they don’t accompany sandwiches, breakfast foods, and even the vast majority of salads. Even at the vegetarian co-op where I lived for the past year, where some of the foodiest Harvard undergrads live, we didn’t buy them once. All this is a problem, because like all vegetables, radishes are tasty and good for you.
Good thing they are mad easy to grow in a garden! You can sow your radishes densely, as we’ve done here at the Community Garden. Radishes are a cool weather crop, so plant them in the spring and fall, when temperatures are in the 60′s. For us in New England, we plant them in mid April, and then harvest them in May. Sow the seeds 1/2″ deep and keep them well watered, since they like moist soil. Wait 30 days and then POW! You got as many radishes as you want. For home growers, you probably don’t want a ton of radishes at once, so you’ll want to plant them in succession for a longer harvest. You can be eating radishes for over a month. Don’t plant them too late though, because hot weather will burn their shoulders and make them tough.
So radishes, probably the fastest growing vegetable out there, are easy to grow. But why eat them?
a) Bomb flavor! At first, your mouth will taste the mild, butteriness of the inside, but after 3 seconds or so, your tongue will sizzle a little bit with a spicy sensation. 2 flavors in 1? Check.
b) Bomb texture! Radishes are crunchy! They have a lot of water, so biting into them is satisfying for the crunch and also the quench. They're softer than carrots, and wetter too, so you'll never have to work to eat them.
c) Bomb healthiness! Radishes got mad potassium, Vitamin C, and dietary fiber. They also got your Riboflavin, vitamin B6, calcium, magnesium, copper, and some other things. What else, they are filling, but they are low on carbs. You want a high five from your doctor? Eat a radish.
But whaddya do with a radish? Given that radishes most notably show up in French cuisine, open up a french cook book if you wanna get fancy. Or you could just put them on some bread with a bit of cheese. Baguette+sliced radishes+brie=mmmmm, but there are a bunch of substitutes in that equation, clearly.
Or you can throw it in a salad, like my friend Lauren Chaleff and I did. This way, you can use the WHOLE PLANT. The leaves make a good salad, so after pulling radishes from the garden, cut off the leaves. Doing so makes washing the radishes and their leaves easier. It also means that if you want to store your fresh radishes, they won't dehydrate themselves trying to keep their leaves alive.
So Lauren chopped up a bunch of lettuce, threw it into a bowl with the radish leaves, threw in some grated carrots, some beets, some sunflower seeds, and topped it with sliced radishes and a dressing.
And then BAM, a bomb-ass salad in no time. This was super filling, in fact, Lauren and I had this for dinner, and couldn't even fit a 2nd course in.
One of the most exciting and colorful things in the garden right now are the strawberries. More and more of them are ripening every day, faster than we can eat them. In order to get them to grow bigger, we pruned many of the flowers and teeny-weeny berries so that the plants could devote more energy to fewer fruit.
Did you know that strawberry plants are only good for 3 years? After that, they start to produce less and less delicious fruit. Here in the garden we have some 2 year old plants and some 3 year old plants, and there is a very noticeable difference in taste between them. The nice thing is that strawberry plants send out shoots that root themselves in the ground, making new plants. So at the end of the season we will collect some of these shoots and save them to replace our old, obsolete plants, without spending any money on seeds!
Here is a picture of our strawberries. Even after the pruning, they are still pretty small.
We are very excited to announce our coming Movie Nights in the garden! Every Thursday starting next week (6/20) except for the 4th of July, we will be showing movies on a big screen projector in the garden! Come by at 8:00 on Thursday evenings to watch a wide variety of movies and to enjoy the summer air and the growing plants. Bring your friends! There will be popcorn! And other tasty treats. See a full movie list and synopses below.
June 20th: Wall-e (2008, 98 min, G). Following the budding romance between two sentient robots in the distant future, the film explores the dangers of consumerism and the enduring power of human relationships.
June 27th: Babe (1995, 89 min, G). The underdog story of a piglet who becomes a farmer’s favorite sheep herder and wins the trust and affection of the other barnyard animals.
July 11th: Greenfingers (2000, 91 min, R). A classic of the gardening genre, this film recounts the real-life story of a group of inmates who enter a prestigious flower show against all odds.
July 18th: Tampopo (1985, 114 min, R). A sometimes strange, sometimes heartwarming, always poignant tale of a quest for the perfect bowl of ramen told through a series of vignettes about our relationships with food.
July 25th: Ratatouille (2007, 111 min, G). Two aspiring French chefs battle comedic foibles, conspiring enemies, and inter-species prejudice in order to pursue their passion.
August 1st: When Harry Met Sally… (1989, 96 min, R). The archetypal romantic comedy that follows two friends over the course of many years as they navigate various relationships and fend off sexual tension.
August 8th: Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind (1984, 117 min, PG). Hayao Miyazaki’s visually stunning tale of environmental degradation follows the title princess as she fights to save the human settlements and the vast forest that stand poised to destroy one another.
August 15th: Up (2009, 96 min, PG). The instant classic that follows two (and then three) unlikely friends on an even unlikelier adventure in a floating house.
August 22nd: The Princess Bride (1987, 98 min, PG). The beloved fairy tale of romance and swordfights and feudal structures of privilege that reminds us all of the strength of love and friendship.
We are Hannah and Matt and we are working in the garden all summer, digging around and eating yummy things and making food happen. Come hang out with us! We would love to see you at our Friday Workdays (3-6) or at one of our many movie nights (Thursdays at 8:30, coming soon, but not quite yet) or just any time you want to stop by!
Now for some more personal introductions.
Matt is from Charlotte, North Carolina, and spends his time walking around barefoot (unless health code forbids it), cooking scrumptious vegetarian food, reading philosophical things, and sometimes herding cattle. He spent the first two years of his college experience in the deserts of California at the mysterious Deep Springs College, where he learned many important things including the growing and care of alfalfa, and has since taken Harvard by storm. He has made it his mission to rid the garden of pesky carpenter bees, though he appreciates the importance of pollinators. Fresh chiles, radishes, bees, and other things that sting are no match for Matt’s ninja-like reflexes and gustatory courage. He eats multiple lunches a day and has a passion for sweet potatoes. If he were a fruit he would be a pear, but the classy kind that goes well in salads with parmesan cheese.
Meet Hannah. She is a native Cantabridgian and a native gardener, cutting her teeth for a year at the illustrious Farm School before wandering her way back to the red-bricked urbanity of Harvard. When school is in session, you can find her in the QRAC honing those those sweet dance moves, or maybe getting comfy with some gender theory. But during the summer (or at least this summer), the garden is her domain. Fiercely protective of her wildflowers and snap peas, Hannah does not take kindly to pests or blights or other maladies that nature wreaks upon itself. She has already established herself as the aesthetic visionary of the garden space. Keeping things spruced and tidy with promises of flowers on every picnic table and colorful labels in every garden bed. If you couldn’t already tell, Hannah’s spirit fruit is the blueberry, preferably the wild kind that is sweet and succulent and available in natural, almost Arcadian abundance in the woods of our imagination.
We are very excited about the garden and kicked off the season with our first real harvest, which featured snap peas, red russian and green curled kale, collard greens, rainbow chard, chives, turnips, and lettuce. Stay tuned for our tales of glory and defeat, terror and triumph, plague and plethora in the Harvard Community Garden.
All are invited to the first workday of the Summer in the garden! Meet the new summer interns, Hannah and Matt, and celebrate the season. Bring your friends, get your hands dirty, spend some quality time with the plants. See you there!