Left to Right: Lamb’s Quarter (Chenopodium album) and Garden Orach (Atriplex hortensis).
It was overcast and warm this morning, so I took advantage of the mild conditions to harvest and wash greens for salad. A combination of rain and warmth has the greens going gangbusters over the last few days and I am starting to really reap the benefits of several, generous sowings that I did early in the season.
In among the greens that I harvested were two nutritious greens that I did not need to sow. The first (shown on the left in the above photo), lamb’s quarter aka goosefoot (Chenopodium album) is a common North American and European “weed.” It comes up abundantly in my garden regardless of how diligently I weed. Chances are good that you’ve got it growing in your garden, too.
Fava beans, broad beans, Vicia faba, whatever you prefer to call them… they’ve begun to show up at my local Italian greengrocer. There was a time when I was committed to growing both peas and fava beans during the spring season, but once I moved into an Italian neighbourhood I decided there was little point in pushing to make both happen in a small space and so these days I grow loads of peas and buy favas.
Last summer I resolved to try and make further use of the plants that I grow by employing them as natural textile dyes. When their season was through, I did a few experiments, dying various fabric scraps with the burgundy leaves and immature blooms of the large false roselle plants I had grown that year. Unfortunately, time quickly slipped through my fingers and the other plans I had in mind did not come to fruition.
This winter I have made a dramatic shift back to embroidery and my brain is consumed with thread. Recently, in preparation for the growing season, I have returned to experimentation, but this time I am dyeing threads rather than fabric.
Here’s a homemade holiday gift from the garden that there is still time to make. It took me about an hour and a half to make the caramel slab and I’ll probably be cutting and packaging individual caramels until the second coming, but it will have been worth it. To say that these are gorgeous and addictive is an understatement. The best way to savour them is to put one in your mouth and let it melt slowly. They’re buttery, sweet, and salty with just enough lavender and a taste of honey. I can’t get these packaged, wrapped, and out of here fast enough because I CAN’T STOP EATING THEM.
For the Cook:
Schmidt Brothers – 15 PC. Knife Set with Block $165.32 CAD: This sleek knife set probably won’t cut it in a professional kitchen, but it is a good deal and well above average for the home cook who doesn’t mind putting in the extra care that is needed to preserve the beautiful acacia wood handles and block.
Cuisinart Cast Iron Enamaled Dutch Oven $60-130 US: If you want the best dutch oven that will last a lifetime, get a Le Cruset. You really do get what you pay for. But for those of us who can’t make that investment, a more affordable Cusinart pot is a reasonable alternative. I have two: a 3-quart and a 5-quart that I got on sale at Winners, the Canadian TJ Maxx. I honestly didn’t realize how useful these pots would be until I got them. The smaller of the two quickly became my go-to pot and is used daily, if not multiple times per day. The white enamel interior has suffered some staining from added use as a jam making pot (I hear that Le Cruset pots don’t stain as easily as they have more layers), but other than that it is in really good condition and I expect to get plenty more years out of it.
GreenPan Non-Stick Fry-Pan Set $82.77 CAD We’ve tried a handful of “eco-friendly” ceramic, non-stick pans over the years and like all cookware it comes down to this: you get what you pay for. All of the cheaper pans we tried were crap, losing their coating quickly with careful use, or simply not working at all. We bought a 2-piece set of GreenPans very similar to this about 3 years back and they’ve been great. Although, there is some noticeable wear and tear, it’s in keeping with what you’d expect with daily use. I do agree with some consumers that they can be difficult to clean, but beyond that we’ve been really happy with ours.
For the Home Baker
Good to the Grain: Baking with Whole-Grain Flours by Kim Boyce $19.77 US: This is our go-to book when we are baking from a recipe at home. No other baking book has seen nearly as much use as this one. While I have been baking primarily with spelt flour for years now, when I bought it in 2010, this book really pushed me to start experimenting with other overlooked grains such as buckwheat and barley. I also like that many of the recipes aren’t sugar-heavy. P.S. I have tried all of the scone recipes and while I tend to cut back further on the amount of sugar used, they are all really exceptional. This book is worth it for those recipes alone