Wednesday, August 12, 2009

master gardeners visit edible lanscape

 On Saturday August 8, 2009 a group of about 40 Master Gardeners attended a conference session at the Edible Landscape. We talked about the whats and whys of edible landscaping, and (despite the rain) spent some time in the garden exploring a few of the plants one might not often think about using in the landscape, such as kale and chard, as well as others that are more common. Participant groups searched the garden for information cards about their assigned plant which included plant species and family, cultural information, and culinary qualities of the plant. Participants then summarized this information to the rest of the group and offered their ideas on how their assigned plant might be utilized in the landscape. Some of the great ideas included:
  • strawberries as a ground cover
  • kale used to add height to the garden and interplanted with a colorful, low, trailing ground cover
  • chard in mass plantings or as border plants to show off their colorful stems
  • calendula to add structure and color to the garden

One of the questions that arose during the session is where to find information on good uses for things like kale or mizuna mustard in the kitchen. One easy way to find information is to do a Google search. As an example, try typing in "kale recipes". You'll be amazed at what you find. I always try to find a site with recipes that are rated by users, because it saves me time deciding if the recipe is worth trying. A few of my favorites are Epicurious, MyRecipes, Food Network and Eating Well. There are countless others that are either online magazines or collections of recipes posted by users. It's fun to search and try new things. And don't be afraid to substitute new ingredients in recipes you know and love. For example, if a recipe calls for spinach, try chard or kale from your edible landscape. You may be surprised to find you like it even better than the original! Here's an example that I've adapted from a recipe I found on Epicurious. It's a little out of season for right now (the thought of eating soup today, when it is 89 degrees, isn't so appealing), but you'll get the idea.

Fast White Bean Stew (and it is really fast!)
adapted from Epicurious
My adaptations are noted in italics.
  • 2 large garlic cloves, chopped
  • 1/4 cup plus 1/2 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 (14- to 15-ounce) can stewed tomatoes
  • 1 3/4 cups reduced-sodium chicken broth
  • 2 (19-ounce) cans cannellini beans, rinsed and drained (3 cups)
  • 1 (1/2-pound) piece baked ham (1/2 to 3/4 inch thick), cut into 1/2-inch cubes (or cooked bacon broken into pieces, thinly sliced prosciutto, or other flavorful meat)
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
  • 10 cups loosely packed chopped kale or swiss chard
  • 8 (3/4-inch-thick) slices baguette
Cook garlic in 1/4 cup oil in a 3 1/2- to 4 1/2-quart heavy pot over moderately high heat, stirring, until golden, 1 to 2 minutes. Coarsely cut up tomatoes in can with kitchen shears, then add (with juice) to garlic in oil. Stir in broth, beans, ham, and pepper and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer, uncovered, 5 minutes. Stir in greens and cook until wilted, about 3 minutes.
While stew is simmering, preheat broiler. Put bread on a baking sheet and drizzle with remaining 1/2 tablespoon oil. Broil 3 to 4 inches from heat until golden, 1 to 1 1/2 minutes.
Serve stew with toasts or with crusty bread torn into pieces.


The internet is a great resource for recipes, so don't be afraid to plant things like broccoli raab, mizuna mustard, pak choy, true siberian kale, okra and tomatillos. Not only will they bring delicious new flavors to your table, they look absolutely stunning in the garden! Of course, if you have any recipe ideas, please feel free to share them here by clicking on the "comment" link at the bottom of this post.

Thanks to all the Master Gardeners who attended the Edible Landscape session at the 2009 MN State Master Gardeners Conference. It was a great morning of sharing ideas!

1 comment:

  1. Edible landscapes are indeed wonderful. My own, in west central MN includes strawberry ground cover, neon chard, pepper plants, mixed greens, tomatillos, carrots, spinach,snow peas & sugar peas, raspberries, blackberries, apples, thyme, a variety of basils, grape tomatoes, and more. I'vehad so many compliments on the looks and practicality of the plantings this season. I highly recommend edible landscaping to everyone and have many ideas to share at
    All the best!