Monday, June 16, 2008

This Land is Your Land, This Land is Kai Lan

Ignore what your calendar says about the impending solstice. Summer is here.

Don't believe me? Well, I have proof. The lightning bugs are offering their twinkling lights to the evenings, the first crickets are raising their songs, and the garden is going crazy.

Despite the abundance of weeds (and wild edibles) in the garden bed and the fact that I took this photo from the more open end of the garden (leaving room for melons to sprawl out), you can see that certain areas are getting a little more lush with every day.

Might be hard to tell, but the mizuna at the near end of the bed is already bolting, the Tiger Eye beans in the middle are thickening, and the Hopi red amaranth at the top has jumped up anywhere from 6" to 10" in the space of a week. Thank you, rain and heat!

Given that garden growth appears to be accelerating, I know it's time to step up my visits to twice weekly. And I find that if I make my first visit on Monday after work, at least I'm halfway to my goal early on.

I spent about twenty minutes weeding, and though I didn't get everything, I managed to clean out the biggest and boldest of the weeds.

Then I picked. Yes, I took home more greens -- again -- including pac choi and lettuce, along with fresh cilantro and a sturdy handful of kai lan, the Chinese broccoli.

There weren't many kai lan stems growing, but since a couple had already started to bloom, I figured I'd go ahead and pick them all and use them in dinner tonight. I knew I wouldn't be able to recreate the delicious dish I used to get at the dim sum restaurant, drizzled with oyster sauce, but I had something equally delectable in mind.

As I cooked a pot of whole wheat spaghetti, I prepared vegetables: a garlic scape from my CSA, pac choi and mizuna greens as well as the kai lan from my garden, and a small handful of dried red pepper from last year's preservation stash. Once the pasta (and kai lan) were done, I sautéed the rest and added tamari, toasted sesame oil, lime juice, and a touch of cilantro and threw it all together.

The flavor turned out to be a cross between my fried rice, my broccoli pasta, and something a little lighter and almost Thai-flavored -- in short, a very satisfying meal for a summer evening!

It's a pity there isn't more kai lan growing in the garden (unless it decides to surprise me!) because I really liked its taste (a little stronger than broccoli) and texture (firm, almost crunchy, even after boiling). It would be nice to share it with other friends, so I may have to get more seeds next year.

After all, this kai lan could be made for you and me.

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