Friday, February 24, 2012

Creamy Collards Soup and Greening Your Winter Windowsill

Although the climate in Portland suites me perfectly, it seems everyone else has complaints about the grey and drizzly winters, longing for the dry, sunny summers.  I love it all.  Just as each season is on its way out, I welcome the next.  Winter is not too cold, calm, and comforting.  Spring is still cool and provides the excitement of seeing new buds and flowers.  Summer is warm (luckily, on too-hot days I can retreat to the basement to sleep) and sunny and colorful, but can also be exhausting.  Fall is relaxing and allows me to use the oven again.

It's still winter here and right now, we're not growing much in our vegetable garden except for some greens and herbs.  I'm happy to have year-round collards, because, among other dishes, I'm able to make Creamy Collards Soup.  This recipe, found below, was one I posted during VeganMoFo 2011.

If you don't have a winter garden, or any garden space at all, I have a solution to winter blues you may be experiencing.  The first item is something I started doing when I lived in a Philly apartment that was lacking in the natural light department.  It's not a novel idea, but it's a fun way to have a little "garden" on your windowsill.

Idea One: Sprouting!
All you need is a clean jar with lid and a small handful of sprouting seeds.  I've had success with dried mung beans, lentils, alfalfa, etc.
Here "salad mix" seeds have sprouted.
Day 1: Place a tablespoon or so of seeds in the jar and cover with water to soak overnight.
Day 2: Drain water by placing lid loosely over the jar and turning upright, removing as much water as possible.  Replace lid and set on a windowsill.
Day 3-7 (or longer): At least once a day,  rinse and drain the seeds/sprouts, until they're ready to be eaten!

If you want to make your job easier, you can get a small section of screening, place it over the mouth of the jar with a rubber band, instead of dealing with the lid.  Alternatively, you can get an actual sprouting jar, equipped with a fancy lid-with-screen.

Idea Two: Continuously grow your own green onions

I learned about this idea on Pinterest.  And thought "of course!"  Simply purchase a bunch of green onions at your grocery store.  After use, save the bulbs and roots, stick the roots in water, and watch the green grow back!  Empty and refill the water once per day.

Creamy Collards Soup
makes two generous bowls of soup

1 large yellow potato, peeled and cubed
1 small bundle of collards, stems discarded, and chopped
1-2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1/2 carrot, shredded
1/2 small onion, diced
1 sprig parsley, chopped
1 clove garlic, smashed
4ish cups vegetable broth (I just used "Better Than" bouillon and added water until the right consistency was achieved)
salt and pepper to taste
Hot sauce to drizzle on top

1. Boil the potato in water until soft (about 8-10 min).  Meanwhile, steam collards (about 5-6 minutes) until bitterness is gone and collards are soft.  Reserve about 1 cup of the potato cooking water, draining the rest.  Cool.

2. While potato and collards cool, saute the carrot, onion, parsley, and garlic in olive oil for 5-7 minutes.  Add vegetable broth.  Add half the cooked potato.

3. Blend the other half of the potato and the collards in 1 cup of the potato cooking water until smooth.  Add to the vegetable broth mixture and stir until the contents are well combined.*

4. Serve hot with a swirl of hot sauce and nice piece of sourdough and a salad.

*If you have a high-powered blender (like a Vitamix) you may need to spoon foam off the top of the soup.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

My Dear Meadowfoam

Spring brings many happy things: longer days, warmer weather, and, in my case, the reemergence of forgotten or presumed lost garden friends.

Last spring I visited an annual native plant sale at the Audubon Society and bought a little flower called "Douglas' Meadowfoam" (Limnanthes douglasii), known also by the less desirable name "Poached Egg". 
Sweet summer flowers
I enjoyed this sweet, yellow-flowered herb in the summer until it lost its flowers and the foliage started to wilt.  I thought I had killed it.  Luckily for me, it turns out Douglas' Meadowfoam is an annual, and a self-seeding one at that.  Last week I noticed new growth in the pot that formerly contained my little yellow friend.  Sure enough, after a quick image search for Douglas' Meadowfoam's winter appearance, I established my meadowfoam hadn't been lost.  Where once there was one plant, I now had over a dozen!

Today, I took advantage of a sunny window in an overcast day to transplant the bitty seedlings to their new home along the top of our urbanite wall (more on that later). 
Welcome home, little ones.

Here, they're nestled between coastal strawberry (Fragaria chiloensis) and western bleeding heart (Dicentra formosa).  My hope is that they'll continue to spread by reseeding and fill in this space nicely over the years.

As I was nestling the babes into their new home, a woman walking by asked me what I was planting and if she could have one for her garden.  It's amazing how interactive a home garden can be!  Being out in the garden has allowed me to meet more of my neighbors and become more a part of my community.  Gardens are great things, aren't they?

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

An Introduction

Welcome to the first post of In My Vegan Garden!  For those of you who followed my previous blog, you'll notice a similarity in titles.  It's no coincidence, believe it or not.  However, in addition to serving as a keepsake from my previous blogging venture (and a smooch to Matt*), the title of this site acknowledges that there is something specific about gardening when one is vegan.

Veganism is not a diet, but a lifestyle, that incorporates compassion throughout every intention and activity.  Living compassionately means perpetually learning.  As I continue my education, I strive to use strictly cruelty-free methods and products in my garden.  I aim to create an outdoor space that provides an abundance of resources for wildlife, as well as my family.

This blog will serve as a scrapbook to track the progress of my gardening history and will hopefully be useful to others.  I enjoy taking photos of the plants and projects around my garden and watching their progress.  If you follow along, you'll see my garden transform in appearance, wildlife-friendliness, sustainability, and profitability.  To me, this is fun, fun, fun!

I'd like to introduce you to my garden!

My partner, Matt, and I bought our house in August 2010.  The outdoor space was full of invasive plants: grass, Himalayan blackberry, laurel hedges, trees-of-heaven, English ivy, and English holly.  These are some photos from the beginnings of our garden.

That's the neighbor's grape vine mixed with blackberry along the back fence.
Although heavily invaded and lacking an existing garden, this outdoor space had some pretty great things going for it.  There was a composite deck and a beautiful old brick wall along the property line on one side.  The best feature?  It's on a double lot!  This is an huge piece of land for being so "close-in" in Portland. 

In the spring, we invested many hours in digging out a half-circle vegetable garden bed. 
This was taken in April 2011, after way too much work pulling up sod!

 In the summer, we realized this large space and our plan of weekly weeding, was just not going to work.
Too many weeds- this was taken in June 2011.
We put in a cedar fence around the yard and planted 12 trees and several shrubs, including this plum tree, which fruited a few months later!

In our vegetable garden, we grew many things including kale, collards, spinach, lemon cucumbers, ground cherries, tomatoes, peppers, carrots, and beets.

The dogs enjoyed the bounty too.
 We had some beautiful garden surprises, like these irises.

Mostly, we just enjoyed being outside in our space, planning and preparing the garden, and reveling in the enthusiasm with which our Philly city dogs were finally able to run around.

*The original "In My Vegan Life" blog title is a love note to my partner, Matt.  We share an appreciation for Beatles' music and their song, "In My Life," holds significance for us.  What can I say?  I love that guy.