Greens peasI want to tell you about a small vegetable patch at our city's community garden that we challenged ourselves to take care of last year (as strange as last year sounds). Even though it seems wild to all those experiencing the bite of winter frost, Florida is right in the middle of its growing season and we're here to take full advantage.
Freshly picked radishesI grew up in a community, where gardening was always on the summer agenda. My mother used to grow many of the fruit and vegetables that we ate, and canning the harvest was mandatory in preparation for the winter. I was very excited to finally test my own green thumb.
A few friends were regulars at this garden and offered some much needed planting help and advice. Certain things turned out to be easier to grow than I thought and others - (cucumbers!) - not so much. I was curious about the appearance of the garbanzo plant, so I sprouted and planted some garbanzo beans, ending up with a plant that blooms purple and sports small, individual garbanzo pods. We've also had success with sweet peas, green beans, tomatoes, broccoli, eggplants, and herbs (chocolate mint!).
Baby Swiss chard / Baby tomatoesBut most abundant are radishes, all kinds of them. They take very little time to grow and are practically maintenance free. Every visit to the garden results in a nice bunch of fresh, bright radishes. Their leafy tops are so rich and green, that I've had a hard time tossing them. One of my fellow gardeners mentioned that some cultures grow radishes for their tops specifically, while feeding the bulbs to animals. I was intrigued and decided to give radish greens a try, sauteing them with Brussels sprout leaves until barely wilted. They contributed a slight bitterness and definite freshness to the dish. I've seen many other interesting recipes online, where radish greens are sauteed with onions or added to soups. Please let us know if you've had any tasty experience with them, we'd love to hear.
Garbanzo beansI also had some new potatoes from my gardening friends and decided to use them in this creamy parsnip soup from the beautiful cookbook Small Plates and Sweet Treats by Aran Goyoaga, which I want to talk about more in the next post. The soup is perfect for winter - warming, creamy, and very nourishing - and even better when topped with sauteed Brussel sprouts, radish greens, and pink peppercorn.
Roasted Parsnip and Apple Soup
(adapted from Small Plates and Sweet Treats)
1 lb parsnips - peeled and diced into 1/2-inch pieces
3 tablespoons olive oil
3/4 teaspoon sea salt
freshly ground black pepper
1 medium yellow onion - diced
2 cloves garlic - minced
1 celery stalk - diced
2 medium Pink Lady or Granny Smith apples - peeled, cored and diced
2 medium or 3 small potatoes
5 cups broth (I used water, the original recipe calls for chicken stock)
1 teaspoon ground coriander
minced fresh radishes for garnish
1. Preheat oven to 400 F. Prepare a foil-covered baking tray. Toss the parsnips with 1 tablespoon of oil, 1/4 teaspoon of salt and pepper to taste. Place the parsnip pieces on the tray and bake for 30 minutes, flipping the parsnips after 15 minutes.
2. Heat 2 tablespoon of oil in a large pot over medium heat. Add onion, garlic and celery, cook for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally.
3. Add the roasted parsnips, apples, potatoes, broth or water, coriander, and the remaining salt and pepper. Bring the liquid to a boil, then reduce to a simmer and cook covered for 15 minutes, until vegetables the are tender.
4. Puree the soup in a blender and enjoy.