Rhubarb ready for cooking

This year, the rhubarb has flowered or bolted early and has an abundance of tender stalks for cooking now.

Since rhubarb stalks dry out quickly once picked, here’s two tricks to storing the stalks in the refrigerator and preserving their moisture before cooking. First, it’s best to pull the stalks straight off the plant rather than cut them.  Just give the stalk a good tug and it will slide off the plant. Second, rather than cut off all the leaf which is indigestible,  trim the leaf to look like a duck’s webbed foot so the moisture stays in the stalk while you refrigerate it. (Make sure you remove all the leaf when you’re ready to cook your rhubarb.)


Rhubarb harvested by pulling the stalks off the plant and with trimmed leaves to preserve the moisture and tenderness of the stalk. Taken at the Madison Farmers Market, Memorial Day weekend.

And, if you do cut the stems top and bottom, all is not lost. You can cook it right away and freeze it. Or you can put the trimmed stalks in a freezer bag and freeze them until you’re ready to cook them.

Passel of parsnips

The Kitchen GardenerAll winter long, the parsnips were caramelizing under ground and under snow. I planted these parsnips late Spring 2013 for harvest now.  Lovely to spy their feathery, deep green tops in the early spring garden.

Parsnips are related to carrots, only sweeter and much more deliciously flavorful. Before the potato was brought from the New World to Europe, parsnips were immensely popular in everyday dishes from baby food to stews to chips to cakes. The Romans adored parsnips, considering them a great delicacy, and used them to make cakes. (Mark Bittman in How to Cook Everything Vegetarian has a recipe for parsnip cake with fresh grated nutmeg and a not-too-sweet buttercream frosting (p. 852). I will let you know how it turns out.)  Sadly parsnips are ignored and unknown now.

I am roasting mine because roasting condenses all the sugars and flavors. It’s also nice to roast carrots with parsnips for your Easter dinner. Parsnips are wonderful steamed until soft and mashed with butter. You can also add sautéed spring leeks or onions with them for a savory dish.

And parsnips are relatively easy to grow. I will be planting my seeds for the Spring 2015 harvest next month in May. Plant, water, enjoy the pretty foliage, and let them do their parsnip thing.

Learning organic gardening


Photo by Patricia Evans

As some of you know, I started my professional life as a librarian so it gives me pleasure to see public libraries serving the needs of our changing, churning society. The New York Times covers why libraries have not gone the way of the postal service: “In upstate New York, the Library Farm in Cicero, part of the Northern Onondaga Public Library, lends out plots of land on which patrons can learn organic growing practices.” Just how cool is that? Got your library card ready to garden?


Great success growing tomatillos this past growing season. A huge crop which allowed me to experiment with different recipes.

Of course, I made salsa verde.


Best of all, the roasted tomatillos mashed into a green sauce. The roasting brought out delicious citrus flavors along with a tart sweetness. Amazingly delightful. I put it in sandwich-sized zip lock bags and froze it. All winter I’ve been defrosting a batch to stir into guacamole or use as an enchilada sauce.

And a little spice too. These serano chili peppers are hot! Both fresh and dried.


And even more to do with green tomatoes

IMG_0880Fall is here. Cool days and nights. My tomatoes ripened into early October which is quite a wonder to have red, sweet tomatoes so late into the year. I don’t mind harvesting green tomatoes because I’ve learned how wonderful they are to cook with and to eat. In fact, in the Middle East, green tomatoes are a cuisine staple. Tonight I’m making green tomato soup, my favorite.

Nourished Kitchen, a great site for preserving and other how-tos, has a great recipe for fermented green tomatoes and hot pepper pickles. Fermenting is an easy and tasty alternative to vinegar pickling. And a good way to use up the last of the garden’s harvest.

See the topic cloud to the right and click on green tomato to find more tasty recipes to use your green tomatoes this season. Enjoy!

A hill of beans

Edaname (soybeans)

Edaname (soybeans)

What a great year for beans! Green beans, yellow beans, purple fillets, edaname. Sweet and tasty.

This year, I harvested a huge crop of edaname, soybeans. Roasted and salted, they were tasty and nutritious for noshing.

The trick to growing beans is to harvest daily. Then your crop will last all season. If you remove the perfectly ripe bean pods, the plant will be spurred on to create new bean pods and on and on until you enjoy an entire season of delicious beans.

I like to grow fillet beans because they are thin and tender, without strings. They  can be eaten raw, lightly steamed or roasted. Delicious.

Scarlet and sunset runner beans growing up a tower

Scarlet and sunset runner beans growing up a tower

And I grow broad beans, mostly scarlet and sunset runner beans. They have beautiful red and coral flowers that attract humming birds. The beans are long and wide. They can be sliced diagonally and added to soups, eaten raw or lightly steamed. The pods can also be dried and the beans removed from the pods to be added to winter soups and stews. Nice flavors.



edible landscaping: eat well from your own backyard