First fall harvest
Today was the first day of fall harvest! It was only a very light cutting, only a few leaves, but enough to whet the appetite for good things to come. Bring on the greens!
We spent Labor Day weekend direct sowing kale, collard greens and turnips, along with several of our other fall crops. The great thing about these plants is that they are very forgiving…they would prefer a cooler environment than we gave them at first, but they germinated just the same. Early on it was still hot enough to make them a little sluggish but they have grown really well over the past few weeks since the nights have finally cooled into the lower 60’s. So we decided to get just a little bit greedy, which brings me to another benefit of these crops. They are entirely and repeatedly edible.
Harvest the baby greens
Obviously collard greens and kale are grown for their leaves, but gardeners often harvest the whole plant at once. Early on, we learned the value of light, frequent cuttings on all of our leafy greens. This practice will allow continued production throughout Fall and Winter.
Turnips are often grown solely for their roots, but we love turnip greens too. There are varieties like ‘Seven Top’ that are sold specifically for greens, but my choice has always been ‘Purple Top’ which is the old favorite white-fleshed round American turnip. We eat the whole thing, only harvesting greens lightly. The roots take about 50 days to develop to harvestable size, and we harvest greens for the second half of that time. To ensure good root production, we take only 25-30 percent of existing foliage at a time and let them grow for about a week between cuttings. Planting small batches every two weeks until just prior to frost provides turnips until after New Year’s Day.
We are now watching the broccoli very closely; that is another overlooked green that should be consumed by all greens lovers. Broccoli greens taste similar to the florets, and add another dimension of flavor to the mixed greens pot. When broccoli heads are harvested, the plants should be left to produce side-shoot florets for a succession harvest. Also, broccoli stems are delicious cooked or raw (shredded).
How to eat the greens
Our three favorite generic ways to eat our greens are: 1. Salads, when harvested very young and tender; 2. Braised with a pork product, allium, and sweet acidic liquid of some variation (the cruciferous crops); 3. Sauteed with olive oil and garlic (spinach, chard, beet greens, etc.). For the details, Debbie will takeover…
Braised Mixed Greens
Growing up, we ate greens only one way: boiled, with onions and a hamhock. My father would boil the greens for hours with a few sliced onions and a hamhock. He said that was the only way to “tenderize” the tough leaves of collards and kale. Needless to say, I was never a huge fan of greens when I was young. As I grew older and started to cook on my own , I began experimenting with cooking greens.
My first though was why can’t you just quickly blanch the greens, then saute them to help”soften” the leaves and remove some of the bitterness. It does work and I did it that way for years. But, nowadays I prefer to braise them in apple juice, especially the young tender leaves. I use bacon instead of a hamhock and top it off with either molasses or a balsamic syrup. My father used to refer to my method as “Yankee” greens, but he liked them nonetheless.
- Serves 4
- 1 bunch of mixed baby greens (turnip, kale, collards, etc), washed and sliced~about 6 cups
- 1 medium onion, sliced
- 2 slices of thick bacon
- 1/3 apple juice or apple cider
- 1/4 cup molasses
- salt and pepper to taste
- Preheat a large skillet. Cut the 2 slices of bacon into 1/4 in pieces. Add them to the heated skillet and brown the bacon.
- Once the bacon is browned and crispy, remove it from the pan and reserve some of the fat.
- Add the sliced onion and saute until translucent.
- Add the washed and sliced mixed baby greens.
- Add a pinch of salt and pepper
- Saute the greens until they get wilty. You can add some more bacon drippings or another oil if the pan gets dry.
- Add the apple juice and bring the greens to a light boil. Reduce the heat and let the greens braise for about 15 minutes or until tender.
- Once the greens are tender, turn off the heat and drizzle the molasses on top and mix.
- Sprinkle the cooked bacon on top before serving.