think green: as in leafy, beans and herbs

IAM UP TO MY KNEES IN GREEN(S)—chard, arugula, and beans (sometimes yellow-green!), with kale coming on. I’m also up to my ankles, or at least toes, in deliciously lovable green frogs (Rana clamitans, a native species here). The amphibians seem to be sticking close to my home, where a few backyard pools and ceramic troughs provide respite in dry times. The botanicals do best near my sprinkler, which I’m moving every two hours practically 24/7, hoping to be fresh looking for today: Herbs, Greens and Beans Week of our 3d annual Summer Fest, a giant cross-blog recipe swap featuring nonstop green. Welcome!

Confession: I’m an Herb Cheapskate

IHATE SPENDING $1.49 OR EVEN 99 cents for a bunch of herbs, when all I ever need is a few springs at a time. And so I try to strive for herbal self-sufficiency, using simple tactics of growing and storing all the herbs I want all year—mostly in one of two basic frozen forms.

You can make a “pesto” (as in: a sauce of crushed herbs) with many of your green garden flavors. Not just parsley (above), but sage, basil, rosemary, chives and garlic scapes will work—and probably more, using a little water or oil to semi-liquefy the harvest. I’m putting up some cilantro and dill, using both the ice-cube and rolled “log” tactics below, as a test this year, too.

The recipes and how-to’s:

A Life Lived With Leafy Greens

AFTER 30-PLUS YEARS of vegetarianism and vegetable gardening, I think I should automatically qualify as a greens expert, no? I’ve eaten, and grown, more than my share.

Some of the greens I grow—like kales—taste best after a touch of frost, and so I wait hungrily, making myself happy with spinach, pak choi, sautéed chard and then more spinach and such meanwhile. When the time is right, though, there’s an old-style peasant Italian recipe called Farinata that I like to incorporate kale or cabbage into on the first cold nights—and many that follow.


Note: This is not the chickpea-flour flatbread, Farinata di Ceci, but a polenta dish sometimes called Farinata di Cavolo Nero (meaning of black cabbage, also known these days as ‘Lacinato’ kale or ‘Dino’ kale in seed catalogs—the unfrilly, dark-green type with the elongated leaves). You can use any kale, or as I say cabbage or another green if you prefer, to make this Italian peasant porridge that’s quick, filling and perfect for those of us who consider such things as soupy polenta to be comfort food—and also love garlic. Count me in on both scores.

The recipe I use is for the very simplest of versions (others have added vegetables or even cannelloni beans). It was inspired by something a friend scribbled down from the old public-television show “Cucina Amore.”
½ lb. kale or cabbage

6 cups water or vegetable broth (if the broth is salted, or you like a lot of Parmesan, adjust salt below)

1½ teaspoons sea salt

¾ cup polenta (cornmeal)

½ cup grated Parmesan

4 cloves minced garlic

½ cup olive oil (with extra for garnish)

Bring salted water (see above note) or stock to rolling boil.

Meantime, wash and chop the vegetables; I use a coarse chiffonade cut, removing the toughest stem bits.

Simmer the greens until just slightly tender, just a few minutes; remove and set aside, but keep the water going. (Note: If I am using tender young greens, I do not pre-boil them, but simple fold them in toward the end of the polenta cooking to wilt.)

Gradually whisk in the cornmeal.

Cook until creamy.

Fold in the minced garlic, grated cheese and the oil; remove from heat.

Serve in bowls garnished with more oil and pepper.

More greens ideas:


GREEN BEAN SEASON IS HEAVEN here; what could be easier to grow, cook, combine, or consume? I eat them on everything–and some are pure gold.

They go in soups, of course, like minestrone, and I gently steam them and toss the inch-long pieces into pasta or brown rice with red sauce, or pile them over baked potatoes with lots of butter. Leftover cooked beans can be refrigerated and tossed into tomorrow’s salad, with a vinaigrette. You get the idea: nonstop beans (provided you pick daily, or your plants will stop producing, and also provided you succession-sow).

And then there’s this possibility:

The Loveliest Greens of All

THIS CRAZY GUY lost the race for domination in the bigger water features here in my garden, so he got smart: He moved from a 10-foot-across pool where a bigger male got all the chiquitas to a 3-foot-long ceramic trough right near my door, and has yelled all night the last month to get a chick (er, female frog). Match made; everyone’s happy ever after (well, except me those first loud nights after his move, when he was advertising his new circumstances extra-loud: Frog Love For Sale!).

This Week’s Summer Fest Links

How You Can Join in Summer Fest:

So now it’s your turn: Have a recipe or tip that fits any of our weekly themes? Starting with our posts of Wednesday, July 28, for five Wednesdays, you can contribute in various ways, big or small.

Contribute a whole post, or a comment—whatever you wish. It’s meant to be fun, viral, fluid. No pressure, just delicious. The possibilities:

Simply leave your tip or recipe or favorite links in the comments below a Summer Fest post on my blog, and then go visit my collaborators and do the same.

The cross-blog event idea works best when you leave your recipe or favorite links (whether to your own blog or someone else’s) at all the host blogs. Yes, copy and paste them everywhere! That way, they are likely to be seen by the widest audience. Everyone benefits, and some pretty great dialog starts simmering.

Or think bigger: Publish entire posts of your own, if you wish, and grab the juicy Summer Fest 2010 tomato badge (illustrated by Matt of Mattbites.com).

The 2010 Schedule:

  • Wednesday, July 28: CUKES AND ZUKES. Read it here.
  • Wednesday, August 4: CORN. The details.
  • Wednesday, August 11: HERBS-BEANS-AND-GREENS WEEK (any one or both/all, your choice).
  • Wednesday, August 18: STONE FRUIT.
  • Wednesday, August 25: TOMATO WEEK. How do you like them love apples?
  • And then…more, more, more if you want it (potatoes? sweet potatoes? root veggies? winter squash?). You name it.

And in case I forget what week it is, won’t somebody remind me on Twitter? Thanks. We’ll be talking it up there, too.

That’s how a Summer Fest works.

  1. Lana says:

    Margaret, I am thrilled about your recipe for Farinata. Yes, polenta is one of my favorite comfort foods, and the swiss chard would fit right in (I cannot always find “il Cavolo Nero”).
    One of these days I hope to exchange some garden love with you.
    Mu contribution to the Summer Fest is a story and a recipe for a wonderfully comforting Bean Stew.

    1. Margaret says:

      Welcome Mary, Fran, Lyndsey, Christina, Karen, Jennifer, Jodi, Aimee, Rhonda, Kim, OneHungryMom, and Lauren. Sarah, too. (Whew!) I am so happy to meet new faces for Summer Fest each week. I thank you for your links/tips, and also hope you’ll be here again in the weeks to come. Yes? Maybe? Please? :)

      @Lana: Anytime! Love your site, and the recipes!

  2. Michelle says:

    I love Farinata, have been making it for years (prob weekly in the winter) but never knew the name! I use cabbage, kale or spinach, or a blend of “mystery greens” from my CSA.

  3. Michele says:

    Thank you all for contributing recipes and inspirations. You had me at dilly beans! I’ve always wanted to try making those. Cheers!

  4. Jayne says:

    I am glad someone has crops. I am in trouble if I ever have to provide real food from my vegetable garden. I think I would have to be a little more aggressive with the wild life. (Is there anything cuter than a woodchuck family? Yes, dinner on the table) No green beans – someone, maybe Chuck, really enjoyed all the leaves and little flowers of the beans. And yes, loved the lettuces, chard, dahlias….long list. One survivor -The bird house gourds grow so fast that only the bottom was eaten.
    I DO have tomatoes, so I will try not to miss the recipes that week!

  5. Evelyn says:

    dear Margaret,what can we do about a big fat groudhog that has figured out how to climb up a small tree and fall into our garden to distroy allot of veggies,tomatos,melons ect.We go through this every year,the animal must live near the woodline in his den,rabbits ate all my flowers this year,merigolds, Zineas,Impatients.it is so dishatenig I just want to quit all my gardening.Need some advice on what to do -traps dont help,because there will be another one next year. Thanks Evy.

    1. Margaret says:

      @Evelyn: Oh, my. I trap madly, because as you say there will be more coming…but what else is there to do? Other than enclosing the vegetables in a wire pavilion with a mes roof and all, likea giant chicken coop…which is not realistic/attractive. So I deal with them one animal at a time, 25 years now, UGH.

  6. Evelyn, have you tried spraying Liquid Fence? It smells terrible but it works great. We have a family of groundhogs on our property but they really don’t bother the garden since we spray the perimeter a few times per season. I can’t be sure that it’s because of the Liquid Fence, but we’ve been quite blessed to have no groundhog damage now for 2 summers straight, even though there are several of them, sometimes even walking on our lawn!

  7. Lelo says:

    Yeah!!! I just came in from the garden with a bowl full of rattlesnake green beans, not sure what to do with them. So many great links: thank you!

    1. Margaret says:

      Welcome, Alison. So nice to see you here! Yes, the frogboys are a delight. Thanks for your kind words of encouragement.

  8. Judi says:

    Wow so much to till into my brain this morning, I am not a vegetarian but we actually eat very little meat here, I have log rolled an entire bin of herbs so far this summer. I am in the process of dehydrating more for the pantry. The garlic scapes are gone and the garlic is in the freezer. I have tomatoe coming in by the bushel and will can them this weekend too. By the way…Thank you so much for the refrigerator pickles. I will make another batch today they have been voted the best pickles so far here in southern Michigan. 7 jars and only 2 left. I guess it doesn’t matter how long they keep, they don’t stay around long enough to go soggy.

  9. Janie says:

    I Love simple toss together recipes. I Love green beans sauted with garlic and tossed with cooked red skinned potatoes and pasta.

    Margaret, you have some very talented followers….

    1. Margaret says:

      Thanks, Billy — and yes, that’s why I do like to pre-soak, change the water multiple times, and simmer them until tender. See you soon.

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