Asparagus season is done, rhubarb is chest high, flowers are in full bloom and tables at farmers’ markets are overflowing with beautiful produce. Suddenly, it’s summer.
This morning on CBC Edmonton A.M., I spoke with Tara McCarthy about garden greens. You can listen to the segment here. This blogpost has more information on the leafy greens and herbs I mentioned, names of some of the vendors who grow them, and some cooking suggestions.
Like all dark leafy greens, spinach is a nutritious and versatile garden green. It cooks down well (think creamed spinach as a side for barbecue) and it makes a magnificent salad that begs for fruit like field berries or pears and a creamy dressings. I bought a bag of gorgeous, crispy spinach from Riverbend Gardens and it fed me for almost two weeks—in morning smoothies and as the main component of many a meal during that hot spell we had in June.
If you’ve never tried sorrel, seek out Mary Ellen Grueneberg at the Greens Eggs and Ham Family Farm booth at Bountiful Market. She and her husband, Andreas, grow several interesting greens, potatoes, and other unique items.
Sorrel is leafy green from the same family as rhubarb. it has a tangy, almost sour, lemon-like flavour which makes it a perfect ingredient for salad dressings, dips and soups. I used it into a dip that I pressed into service each day in one way or another as some part of a meal: a spread on a sandwich, an accompaniment to potato chips one day, raw carrots the next. It flavoured a simple omelette for breakfast, and when I added more olive oil, acted as a salad dressing at dinner.
The Gruenebergs grow a variety of interesting items including peppergrass, fenugreek shoots and mustard greens, all of which can be used in salads or sauces, etc. Go see them at their booth, or register to work for your food at their farm near Leduc. You can earn $15/hr paid in fresh grown produce. That’s an amazing way to obtain your food and help a good farmer in the process.
Because of limited time, I was only able to talk about dill and basil but really, buy all the herbs out right now and use them in everything. Herbs turn drab food into fab food.
Basil loves fruit. Scatter it on strawberries, peaches, or tomatoes. Mix it with blueberries and cream, muddle it in cocktails and of course, use it to make pesto.
For dill, add it to a salad dressing, use it in a cream sauce for perogies or in quick pickle items like asparagus or new carrots. Dill is the star of the show on new potatoes (which should be at the market this week). Simply boil the potatoes, add butter, salt, pepper and a whack of chopped fresh dill.
Eat your greens, eat them often, and if you’re not growing them yourself, please support our local producers. A list of approved Alberta farmers’ markets can be found here.
Here’s the rough recipe for sorrel dip. I’ll be tweaking it for the cookbook that my foodwriting friend, Dan Clapson (co-founder of Eat North), and I are writing for Random House Appetite, due fall of 2023.
Sorrel Feta Dip
- 1 generous handful sorrel leaves (washed and dried)
- 1 to 1.5 cup feta, broken into chunks
- 1 clove garlic (1 large or 2 small)
- 2 tsp apple cider vinegar
- 3 tbsp olive oil
- 3 or 4 grinds of fresh pepper
- Add all ingredients to a food processor (I used a mini) and pulse until desired consistency. You might want to start with 1 cup of feta and add an additional 1/2 cup amount if you need it thicker. Also, adjust olive oil amount if needed. You shouldn't have to use salt as feta is quite salty on its own.