The Milkweed Diaries

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Eating from the garden in the very early spring

Our spring garlic at the tailgate market this time last year

This time of year things are just on the cusp of full-on Spring in the garden. Perennials are pushing their miraculous first green shoots up through the April mud, crabapples and apple trees are coming into bloom, and the summer annual veggies are hard at work growing inside, waiting waiting for the moment that it's warm enough to plant them out.

It's a time of year that I find deeply satisfying as a kitchen gardener and garden stockpiler. Having put away food in every way imaginable in order to eat from the garden through the winter (and maybe going a bit overboard, I have to admit), I'm still pulling jars and baskets off the shelf and finding canned goods, dry beans and peas, cured winter squash and sweet potatoes and garlic, dried tomatoes, and the last of the (slightly spongy, at this point) fall potatoes. There is still pesto in the freezer and the last of the fall-planted carrots are lingering in the bottom of the crisper drawer.

I always start the winter out hoarding those preserved foods, rationing out tomato sauce, weighing sweet potatoes in my hand to measure out just the right quantity for dinner, and skimping on the garlic. As the Spring gardening season begins, a sense of impending abundance overtakes me, and those preserved foods start flying in the kitchen as I dive into the stockpiles with reckless abandon.

And just as the preserved foods have their last hurrah, the first few early Spring vegetables and herbs are beginning: spring garlic, sorrel, chives, and hearty biennials and perennials like celery, lovage, and parsley.

I still get a thrill being able to make a meal at this time of year, before spring and summer abundance begin, with foods almost exclusively harvested from our garden.

Here's tonight's homegrown soup:

  • 2 cups dried soup peas (I used some of the Blauwschokkers we dried last Spring)
  • 4-5 cups of water
  • A couple/few bay leaves
  • 3 good sized potatoes, thinly sliced
  • A few carrots (I used some lovely little oxhearts from our fall garden), thinly sliced
  • One large onion, chopped
  • 4 or 5 spring garlics, greens and bulb, chopped
  • A handful of lovage, parsley, celery, mustard greens, sorrel -- whatever combination of greens you can get your hands on, roughly chopped
  • A generous Tbs or so of dried thyme leaves
  • Salt to taste
  • Butter and/or olive oil for sautéing
  • Pinch of dry mustard
  • Splash of red wine
  • 1/4 or so of red wine vinegar

Gorgeous heirloom Blauwschokker peas as they looked on the vine last May

And the Blauwschokkers today after cooking all day on low heat

Lovage, potatoes, carrots, onions, garlic....

  1. Soak the peas overnight and cook on low heat all day with bay leaves in a crock pot or over a low wood fire
  2. Sauté everything else in butter or olive oil with salt and thyme, adding the greens at the last minute so that they just get cooked to bright-green and tender
  3. Pour a little of the pea broth over the veggies and let simmer for a few minutes until all of the flavors meld and the veggies are soft enough for soup.
  4. Combine everything in the soup pot, and add wine, vinegar, and dry mustard. Add salt to taste.
Pea soup, yum. A perfect combination of fresh Spring garden goodness and the last of the winter kitchen stockpile. With a glass of red wine and a hunk of bread and a little cheese, this is a meal that makes me very happy.