Saturday, July 17, 2010

Letting the garden call the shots

One of the things that gardening teaches you is how to let go. Every gardener starts the season with a plan-- the lettuce gives way to the peas which lead to the chard, then switch over to beans, after which the broccoli starts bearing. Mother nature is extremely clever this way.

You can find books and charts and advice that will give you a perfect succession of veggies so that you have your own fresh farmer's market out back all summer, with something new just about to ripen every week.

And then the rabbits eat all the beans. And the slugs get the broccoli. Because, as every gardener knows, Mother Nature, while extremely clever, is the original Bitch Goddess.

You can be a gardener all your life and still get caught flat-footed by each year's special problem. Last year-no tomatoes. This year the carrots were slow and the rabbits prolific. I decided to try pole beans this year, just because I never have, and turns out I hate growing them. They're slow and ugly and don't bear very well. But the space is committed. So between them and the rabbits, no beans this year.

On the other hand, the swiss chard took off like a rocket, and has continued to bear and bear and bear through storms, cold, heat, drought and critters. So I've adapted my expectations, and my menu. You can plant whatever you like, but the garden is in charge.

Portobello-stuffed swiss chard leaves

20 large Swiss chard leaves
2-3 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil *
1 shallot or onion,diced
3 Portobello mushrooms diced
2-3 Tbsp soy sauce
1 cup rice*, cooked
3 Tbsp crushed walnuts*
herbs, dried or fresh, to taste (I used tarragon)
1/4 cup chicken or vegetable stock

bowl of ice water

Preheat oven to 350°F (180°C).

Wash chard and cut stems from leaves. Dice stems very fine and saute in the soy sauce until the liquid is gone. Set aside in a large mixing bowl.

In a pot of boiling water, blanch chard leaves for 1 minute, then immerse immediately in a bowl of ice water, drain and set aside. (This will stop them from continuing to cook).

In a skillet over medium heat, saute onion in olive oil until just going soft, add mushrooms, and cook 3 - 4 minutes until all oil and liquid is absorbed. Mix with chopped chard stems, walnuts and cooked rice. Add seasonings.

Carefully lay out chard leaves-- lay one leaf then place a second one across it in the middle at right angle s(so you have a chard "X"). In the centre spoon some stuffing, then fold over the crossed leaf, tuck in the corners, and fold the bottom leaf to create a flat pocket. Place the stuffed leaves in a lightly greased 9x9" baking dish with stock in the bottom.

Cover and bake 15 - 20 minutes. Makes 10 child-fist sized wraps.


  1. Aw, Xan. Can we hold hands and mutter together? Madame Bitch Goddess has been stomping over at my place as well. My tomatoes have blight, my beans have been consumed by grasshoppers, my peppers aren't producing and my okra is slow to come along.
    At least the pumpkin vines haven't been consumed by borers yet!
    Oh crud, I just jinxed myself, didn't I?

  2. Nah, I turned in a business card the other day at one of those meetings where they raffle something off, saying "well I never win, but what the heck." Lady said "don't jinx it, and then I won! (A beautiful necklace)

  3. It is funny, isn't it, how Mother Nature likes to shake it up and provide different and new challenges each year! :)