Kitchen Garden

Late Spring in a Kitchen Garden

Radicchio Leaves, June 11, 2021.

These late spring days of gardening are among the best of the year. Produce is coming in with variety and quantity, the ice box is filling faster than we can eat and preserve everything. It’s why we garden.

There was a time when I didn’t consider leafy green vegetables important in a garden-based meal. I hoped to grow spinach and lettuce, and maybe that’s it. That changed and now I have an entire plot devoted to different kinds of greens. Greens I used to compost now go into vegetable broth or main courses.

This year I successfully grew mustard, chard, kale, collards, turnips, kohlrabi, beets, arugula, lettuce and spinach for leafy greens. I am also experimenting with radicchio.

Radicchio is a bitter green. Based on my research it can be eaten at any stage of the plant. Ideally one gets good sized heads, and I may yet do so. I didn’t understand how big the plant grows, and thinned some to make room for a couple with heads. That produced an opportunity to try some things.

The first leaves I picked went into a fresh salad. Next, I separated and sorted the culled leaves and pickled the larger ones in a brine made with malt vinegar mixed with my own apple cider vinegar. The pickled leaves will be ready in seven days. Like with any pickle in this household, a little goes a long way. What else?

We have not eaten much arborio rice yet have a couple of bags on hand. I thought to use some of it in a radicchio risotto. I searched my main cookbook library and found radicchio recipes in Molto Italiano by Mario Batali, Fields of Greens: New Vegetarian Recipes from the Celebrated Greens Restaurant by Annie Somerville, Lidia’s Italian-American Kitchen by Lidia Matticchio Bastianich, Classic Italian Cooking for the Vegetarian Gourmet by Beverly Cox with Dale Whitesell, and Local Flavors: Cooking and Eating from America’s Farmer’s Markets by Deborah Madison. There were a couple of recipes for risotto and other interesting options. What surprised me was how many cookbooks did not mention radicchio.

Next step is to read all these recipes, pick a risotto plus one other dish to try with the leaves depicted above. The next couple of days are already busy, yet I hope to work this in. Radicchio was comparatively easy to grow, although some refinement is needed in my future cultivation of the plant. I can likely start another crop for fall harvest.

With the garden in and weeded, I can work on other projects in the yard and house. Broccoli heads are beginning to form and cauliflower won’t be far behind. I monitor for predatory pests, as insect life in the garden is vibrant and hopeful. There are likely some cabbage eaters coming, maybe some squash beetles, Colorado potato beetles, and others. I’ll pick them off as I’ve always done without insecticides. My post-pandemic schedule enables me to keep watch over the garden.

I’m planning two main garden harvests per week. One Monday morning for the food bank, and another toward the end of the week for preservation and cooking. This year’s garden has been satisfying on many levels. So much so, I hung a sign on it.

Garden 2021

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