One of the main reasons I started expanding my garden this past year was to try to grow as much our food as possible. With finally owning a house with yard, and with the onset of Covid, it seemed the perfect time to do so!
Since I spent so much time and energy expanding and growing the garden, I was often at a loss as to what to do with thing things I grew. I came across the “Melting Greens” recipe from The Splendid Table and loved it. I was able to use my home-grown onions, garlic, peppers, and Swiss Chard. After trying a few variations, I found that I preferred Spinach in this recipe and the addition of onion really helps boost the mouthfeel. Here’s my adaption of that recipe:
1 T olive oil
5 cups (1 bunch or so) Spinach (you can substitute kale or Swiss Chard)
1 dried chili pepper
4 cloves garlic, chopped
½ medium onion (white or yellow), chopped
1 cup chicken broth (or vegetable broth)
salt and pepper as needed
Directions: sauté garlic, onions, and dried pepper briefly, then add in chicken stock and spinach. The spinach will cook down dramatically, so feel to pack your pot as full as it can handle. Cook everything until the spinach is completely wilted, remove the chili pepper, and serve.
I usually make a quadruple batch and freeze it. Today I had some for lunch as a main meal, added a tablespoon or so of fresh goat cheese, and it tasted amazing. If you cut down on the liquid, this plus the goat cheese would probably make a great tart.
I use this as a side dish, or to boost my immunity when I’m sick. I love the mouthfeel of sautéed spinach and the onions. And the chicken stock plus spinach and garlic is great for colds!
So my first live plants arrived a few days ago! Dixondale’s leeks and onion starts have arrived. I knew they’d ship in March but the posted ETA was 3/15 and I assumed they’d arrive a few days after that. They did not. They arrived 3/11/21. I was caught unprepared.
This was not necessary Dixondale’s fault. I had not read the website thoroughly to begin with and originally had them scheduled to arrive back at the end of January. Dixondale, however, being the professionals that they are, checked my zip code and decided that I really wanted the leeks to be shipped mid-March. Once I finally found the email that told me this (several weeks after the fact-my inbox has been getting really strict in deciding which emails are junk and which ones are not), I relaxed. At least, I did until my knee surgery got more complicated than expected and I found out I’ll be on crutches for at least 6 weeks, not 2 weeks as originally planned. On top of that, they did actually arrive at least a week before I expected. While the snow has all melted, I haven’t gone outside to even look at my garden. Nothing in my garden is prepped yet.
When the leeks and onions arrived, I wasn’t even really mobile enough to get the materials to unpack and store them properly in my back hall (which in the winter works well as cold storage). Luckily, a gardening friend was stopping by that day anyway and helped me unpack and store them. The “plan” is for her to come over again tomorrow to attempt to get out into the garden tomorrow and plant some of them, at least. Dixondale’s website states that, since leeks and onions are part of the lily family, they can store up to three weeks in a cool, dry area, and not to been worried if the tops and bottoms turn brown b/c they will revive once planted in the soil. To be fair, given our current weather and the temperature of our soil, this week really would have been an ideal time to plant the starts, had I not been injured.
Luckily, I did do a pretty good job tidying up last fall, so the garden is not a mess. And I have a large tub which was going to hold sweet potatoes but for now can hold most, if not all, of my leeks starts. I think I’ll try to plant the onions in the beds that already are half-filled with garlic; those beds are already prepped, and I might as well keep the alliums together. And I’ll likely have extras to give to my friend should she want them. No two-person household really needs that many leeks or garlic.
I ordered one bunch of Lancelot Leeks (the only variety they carry) and a mixed bunch of long-day onions, which ended up being comprised of Walla Walla sweet yellow onions; Ringmaster white onions; and Redwing red onions. (I’ve only ever tried the Walla Walla onions, but onions are onions, I guess.) Each bunch has 50-60 starts in it. I’m mostly excited to grow the leeks. Over the last few years I’ve picked up a couple of staple recipes that use leeks, and they are a pain to get from the store as they are not always in stock and are often expensive. Luckily they do store quite well in the fridge, even already chopped and cleaned.
Here are my favorite recipes for which I hope to use my own home-grown leeks:
Potato Leek Soup — I substitute cauliflower for the potatoes–it has a better glycemic index, and I think it tastes better with cauliflower anyway.
Chicken and Leek Pie (William Sonoma) — This recipe tastes amazing. I make it exactly the way the recipe calls for (which is almost unheard of in my kitchen). It really is that good. The way I make it is essentially as chicken pot pie, with bottom crust but no top crust. It freezes well, too.
Triple Mushroom and Leek Soup –A great soup for a cold day. I omit the cream in this soup (as I do with most soups, as I’m lactose intolerant). I think it tastes amazing either way. For this soup, I recommend a health dose of shiitake mushrooms, with a few white mushrooms and the rest crimini mushrooms (or whatever version of portobello that looks good at the store that day). I’ve also made it using chantarelle mushrooms once; it was divine.
I’ve also been told that the leek greens are also good in veggie and chicken stock, though I usually just toss or compost them instead.
Leeks are amazing. They are one of the few plants I’m growing this year that I’m really counting on to succeed. The rest (tomatoes, peppers, sweet potatoes, et al) are honestly just a bonus.