Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Of kids and kale

Vegetables are much like children: you can try your best to cultivate them, but they really grow mostly of their own accord.  Sometimes you give them every advantage and they simply fail to thrive, for reasons that defy comprehension.  Other times you ignore them completely and they sprout vibrantly wherever they happen to land.  The prevailing environmental conditions have an effect, but it can be an unpredictable one.  Here are a few scenes from my winter garden illustrating these basic realities.
I can't intentionally grow a dill plant to save my soul, but it will root spontaneously in the strangest of places - such as this beach rock mulch area which doesn't even have any soil beneath it - it's underlain by a thick landscape fabric to prevent the emergence of (you guessed it) weeds.  Despite these seemingly harsh conditions, this dill is divine. 

More dill volunteers, mixed in with the St. Augustine lawn.

More dill sprouting beside some delicious mint, which also appears to prefer growing where there is no real soil or water. 
Like a masochist, I insist on planting tomatoes every fall, but it's futile.  Tomatoes are a high-light plant that won't grow well this time of year because sun angles are too low.  I get a couple of handfuls like this, tops - not enough to justify the growing effort.
A cauliflower, finger for scale.  My caulis grew wonderfully last winter, which was abnormally warm.  This year, which has also been abnormally warm, they seem to be producing leaves like never before, but no heads are forming. 
These caulis may end up mostly being great fodder for vegetable macro photography... and great fodder for the compost
George Bush may not like broccoli, but I love the stuff.  It's a cold-weather plant and, last year, because of the abnormally warm temps, all my broccoli bolted - meaning, it turned into flowers before the heads had time to form.  I got a few nibbles out of it, but no real feeds.

Inexplicably, the heads formed better this year despite the fact that, until two days ago, we were having night-time temperatures 20 degrees above normal - conditions worse than last year.  This one shown above is still not a very well-formed head, but at least it's edible, and with the now-colder temperatures, I may get a few more days of growth out of it before I'm forced to harvest. 
Oh, and in case you're wondering what I did with all that backyard okra that I grew, blanched, and and then froze many weeks back, here's one of the results - shrimp and sausage jambalaya, heavy on the okra.  I based this dish on the Whole Foods recipe EXCEPT for the following foodshed-minded alterations intended mostly to increase protein and reduce carb content and reflect responsible buying to the extent possible:

(1) I use only Texmati brown rice, non-GMO and grown right down the road in Alvin, Texas.
(2) I increase the proportions of all ingredients relative to the rice, such that the rice becomes a more minor component.
(3) I use only fresh local Gulf shrimp from Rose's Seafood in Kemah.
(4) I use a Texas artisan sausage when I can find it - here, Poffenberger's jalapeno sausage.
(5) I use Tony Cachere's seasonings because they're really good!!
(6) I also use spices from The Spice Lady in Kemah when I can find them at the Clear Lake Shores Farmers Market.  A good chipotle ground peppe is a must for this dish (not just plain cayenne as the Whole Foods recipe calls for). 

This stuff freezes very well, and I usually make massive batches - at least five meals worth at a time - and store for future dinner efficiency.  Goes wonderfully with a heaping side of corn chips and some fresh fruit. 
Anyway, there are some pretty pics for your Tuesday morning.  Enjoy the brisk weather while it lasts. 

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