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Posts Tagged ‘greens’

The warm weather continues to draw up delicious flower stalks from my Asian greens. I harvested a large colander full of tsatsoi leaves and flower spikes, as well as spikes from my joi choi in the hydroponic fence planters. The choi in the ground-level planters is barely starting to form central buds, as it gets less sun.

I did a very nice stir-fry with some Trader Joe’s gyoza (they have both chicken and veggie, btw) in garlic and ginger slices, then added some leftover red rice and red quinoa. I rinsed the stalks and made sure there was plenty of water on them, and put them on top to steam, covered. When they turned bright green, then started to deepen in color, I added the tsatsoi and choi leaves, also dampened, with a little extra water. Another 2 or 3 minutes of steaming and everything was done beautifully. The stalks are substantial, but not crunchy or mushy, and the leaves are still squeaky.

And now for the surprise– ripe tomatoes! I pulled my poor dead Costulato Genovese tomato bush a couple of weeks ago, as a windstorm had blown off the floating row cover and it had gotten obviously frost-bitten. I harvested the tomatoes still on it, and brought them in to fry up green. After a couple of days, though, they were clearly ripening! So I left them alone to go at it, and they ripened up beautifully. I just had a couple last night over brown rice with yellow split-peas, with broccoli and soy sauce and cheese. Yum! A nice taste of summer from the garden, long before time.

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Welcome, Weekend Herb Blogging readers!

Not only are winter greens easy and fun to grow, they like to surprise you now and then by deciding that Spring must be here. With all the recent (relatively) warmer rain, some of my asian stir-fry greens seem to have decided to Go For It and see about flowering. Hmm, can you spot the joi choi who is thinking it’s Spring?

Fortunately for us, these flower spikes are not only quirkily charming, but are also a special, nutrient-packed treat. Eat flowers? Isn’t that just for fancy salads and goat cheese? Nope! For instance, most of us have eaten this edible flower, broccoli!

Broccoli has many tasty cousins to enjoy. There’s Italian broccoli raab, and a number of friendly flower spikes that often go by the name Chinese broccoli but which can be anything from flowering choi to various mustards. Here’s some tsatsoi that has decided to reach for the sky.

Along with the cultivated greens, we have some tasty stir-frying options mixed among our cover crops. The early flower clusters of culinary seed mustard, such as this lovely example in my side tomato bed, can be snipped and added to other greens, or tossed daringly in a cream sauce over pasta. Yum!

It’s not only little Ralphie’s mom in Rabbit Hill, always making peavine soup, who can appreciate winter peas extravagant growth habits. The tender tops, not yet in flower, are delicious steamed or gently toss-cooked in light olive oil, with or without matchstick ginger and a little garlic.

Plant some extra peas to snip periodically for the table, or just snip bits here and there for a special treat– not too much if you want a good crop of pea pods. I think I still have some slack left on the main pea-patch. Thinning them out a bit also helps prevent powdery mildew when the weather gets warmer, but it’s not going to be warm enough for that for quite a while yet!

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Welcome, Weekend Herb Blogging readers. Doesn’t that look scrumptious? A crisp, shiny rosette of tsa tsoi, a tangy Chinese green that makes excellent stir fry material.

The best part is that I’m getting these delicious winter greens with almost no work, and I won’t be composting them or digging out the planters to refill them with dirt for a second crop. I also don’t have to worry about scrubbing dirt out of my sink; a post-harvest rinse and I’m done. How can all this be? I’m growing them hydroponically!


A colorful head of forenschluss speckled lettuce, plus more tsa tsoi; I’d better start my next batch of seedlings, and harvest these beauties soon.

About a month ago I had an ‘aha!’ moment while cleaning up in the back yard. In an untidy pile were a bunch of 3-foot long self-watering planters, the long window-box type, sitting empty. They’re very shallow, so they’re only good for things with shallow roots. Another item that needed putting away for winter was a giant 2 cubic yard bag of perlite. It was purchased by accident when I wrote “perlite” instead of “vermiculite” on a shopping list for someone else. Wups. Perlite, though, is one of the better mediums for hydroponics. I knew that I still had a good-sized container of dry mix for hydroponics solution in my garden storage bench. A plan was born!


My favorite red mustard seedlings, about 2 weeks along, with assorted lettuces and some ruby chard. The brown is harmless algae– my fault for watering the seedlings directly from the top once. Note the handy little water level gauge built into this planter.

Now why did I have hydroponic fertilizer mix around? Some long-time readers may recall that when I lived in San Jose in 2003 and 2004, I had very little usable yard space for gardening– our rental’s sunny space was white pebble landscaping. Undaunted, and because I’d always been meaning to learn this stuff, I went out and got some hydroponic units and grew marvelous cucumbers, tomatoes, squashes, and peppers hydroponically. I’d started out buying gallon jugs of nutrient solution to dilute, but soon realized I was paying a lot for what was mostly water, and that buying dry mix would be better. A tiny bit goes a LONG way, so I still had plenty left over.


My San Jose hydroponic garden in late April 2004. Imagine everything tripled in size about 6 weeks later!

The main cloud around this hydroponics silver lining is that I don’t like using artificial nutrient mix. I want to try doing hydroponics on filtered compost tea– it should work just as well as the mix, as long as I dust some greensand into the perlite for extra minerals. I’ll try that in the spring, or next fall, now that I have a baseline to work from and compare.

Self-watering planters are a really excellent choice for lettuce and greens, as so much of the plant is dependent on abundant water to grow crisp and strong. Even if you don’t try hydroponics, it’s worth putting some lettuce or stir-fry greens into a self-watering planter and letting them party on. You’ll usually see a noticeable improvment in growth vs typical ground soil conditions.

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