Wednesday, December 28, 2011

December Recipe Round Up: Savoy Cabbage

The ingredient of the month is cabbage, specifically savoy cabbage. This kind of cabbage is milder, sweeter, and more tender than the traditional green cabbage you will find in Irish corned beef and Korean kimchi. This has made it a favorite among chefs as a way of showcasing winter greens without overpowering the other dishes. It also lacks the sulfur-like odor that other green cabbages have when they are being cooked. Its outside leaves are a deep blue-green and turn paler green toward the heart-like center. These crinkly leaves are wonderful in hearty soups such as minestrone, in meat wraps as the wrapping material, and it is even mild enough to add uncooked to winter salads. Unlike other green and purple cabbages, it does not keep as long. After week in the refrigerator and it will need to be thrown out.

While I am usually not a big fan of cabbage, I do like the milder Savoy. It is the perfect example of the “eat your vegetables” mantra, containing fiber, vitamins and minerals, and may have cancer-fighting properties although more research is needed. As Michael Pollan says, “Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants.” I know he approves of the lovely Savoy cabbage.

For this variation on the Asian peanut slaw, Hubby swapped the peanuts for peanut butter, giving a wonderfully creamy texture to compliment the crunch of the savoy and purple cabbage. This is one of my favorite winter vegetable recipes thus far. We went with the pork as the recipe recommended, but chicken or tofu can be an easy substitute. Forgo the meat, and this is a delicious vegetable side. We will definitely make this again when our purple cabbage is ready to eat!
Hubby loves to substitute using on hand ingredients. This time he swapped the prosciutto for spicy Italian sausage. He cooked down the chicken broth and made more of a savoy cabbage, white bean, and sausage chili as opposed to the soup - very hearty and spicy! For vegetarians, remove the meat and swap the chicken broth for vegetable - the vegetables and herbs are hearty enough to carry the dish. Perfect for a cold, dark winter night!


Happy New Year! I will be back in 2012 with more tips, (mis)adventures, and recipes. May your holidays continue to be happy and bright!

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Edible Education 101

Edible Education 101 is a complete course in modern food production. Video lectures at UC Berkley are available for free online, featuring the likes of Michael Pollan himself. It's required viewing. Check it out here.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Basic Poinsettia Care

Happy Holidays from the Victory Garden! We have been busy with preparations for Hanukkah and Christmas, buying and wrapping gifts, party planning and entertaining, mailing holiday cards, and generally attempting to keep the house in order.

For the first time, I have purchased a poinsettia with gorgeous red blooms. I tend to see all holiday plants as annuals, for one season only, one and done. Being a newbie, I started with a bit of research. Poinsettias like bright light, so place in the sunniest location possible if placing indoors (but do not place close to a heater; it will dry out the plant). My poinsettia is outside my front door welcoming guests, where it gets lots of lovely sunshine from the southern sky. Although a winter plant, poinsettias will not tolerate overly cold temperatures, so in the event of a frost warning, please bring it inside for the evening. Do not over-water, water logging will make for one unhappy and potentially dead plant. I recommend a light drink two to three times a week, more of a splash than deep watering. I purchased this lovely specimen from my local Armstrong Nursery; the white pansies surrounding the festive flower is a nice touch. Some people like to plant their poinsettias after the holidays. While the plant will thrive in the Southern California climate, I don't recommend it. The plant will turn tall and leggy, unattractive except for its winter blooms. If you don't have the heart to toss it, place it outside, but keep it in a pot!

Scraggly poinsettia - this is what happens when you plant them!
Rumor has it that poinsettias are poisonous to both Fido and Fluffy. The ASPCA has debunked the death by poinsettia myth as false, however, keep out of the reach of pets since ingestion of the plant will lead to upset tummies and consequent fall-out.

May Sandy Claws bring you treats not coal . . .
. . .  And may your Hanukkah be filled with sacred light!

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

'Tis the Season (December Bloomday)

December is usually a slow time in the garden. Frost warnings have been posted for the inland valleys and it has been unseasonably cold for us near the coast. Time to curl up on the couch in a snuggie, cat on lap, and watch a football game. Nah - I am getting bored with that. Besides, I have a chrysalis, a bona fide pupa of a monarch butterfly! My first sweet little caterpillar survived! And now I find that I have a full-blown, unanticipated caterpillar nursery! I rushed off to the nursery in search of more Butterfly bush/ Butterfly milkweed, but they were all out. I had to satisfy my urge to do something by buying seeds. Will my little babies have enough food to get through their larval stage? I check on them every day. It figures that in my drive to plant nectar plants, I forgot to create a good size shelter for the babies. As soon as it warms up, I am planting those butterfly bushes in spades!

My biggest muncher so far
The nursery
There have been other good signs of the turn of the season. Life goes on and continues even through the cold months.

My nasturtiums are popping up!
Moss in between the pavers
This is what happens when you compost sunflowers
Tangerines, just in time for Christmas
Pomegranate tree turning golden
Plum leaves turning red - will we get fruit this year?
New limes

Monday, December 5, 2011

From Patriotism to Protest: A Victory Garden Retrospective

I have to admit, I am more than oblivious to most politics, most of the time. I subscribe to the theory that the further one is from the Beltway, the less one cares about it. That is certainly true for my corner of Southern California.  We tend to absorb ourselves in local matters, school and library cuts, sales and property tax rates, and ever more glaring infrastructure issues (hello potholes the size of hubcaps). However, thanks to social networking, I recently came across an article on Victory Gardening and the Occupy Movement that presented a correlation that had completely escaped me. I stopped to think, is the act of growing vegetables at home a political statement?

World War I Victory Garden Poster
Kitchen gardens were the norm rather than the exception for much of our country’s history. If one wanted it, one grew it in the appropriate season. Mass urbanization of the population in the late nineteenth century made this less feasible for many depending on their living situation, but the parallel development of commercial, industrialized farming began to meet demand for foodstuffs. War threw a monkey wrench in that process, and as early as American entry into World War I, our government advocated the home Victory Garden as a means for feeding the homeland while industrialized agriculture fed the troops overseas. World War I victory gardening resulted in the planting of 5 million gardens and produced food valued at 1.2 billion dollars! World War II victory gardening was even more impressive with a total of 20 million gardens planted and yielded a total of 9-10 million pounds of produce, equal to commercial produce farming at that time. I can only imagine this awesome feat, half of all the produce in the nation, grown locally for local consumption! It is interesting to note the U.S. Department of Agriculture feared the Victory Garden would hurt the food industry. Since it was portrayed as an act of patriotism, they could hardly protest too much.  After World War II, much of the energy and enthusiasm of the Victory Garden movement petered out and was soon eclipsed by the return to peacetime, renewed agricultural industrialization and the arrival of the baby boom generation.  Who has time to tend garden when tending lots of babies?!

World War II Victory Garden Poster
For the rest of the twentieth century, victory gardening fell by the wayside, but thanks to a dash of revolution (Environmentalism, Back to the Land Movement, and anti-Corporation advocates) and traditional heritage gardeners (grassroots seed banks, heirloom growers, and bloggers), the victory garden has experienced a popular resurgence. This grassroots movement is now so mainstream that mass media print has joined the party. There is a vegetable garden at the White House for the first time since World War II. Occupy protesters now view home gardening as an anti-corporate response the over-commercialization of food; grow local and eat local. Homeowners are killing their lawns to make room for food, fostering community, and wrecking zoning havoc in residential areas. Some see the home garden movement as a component in turning the tide of obesity in our country, providing nutritious, unprocessed, and cheap food to the masses as it did during the war years. I find myself bewildered at times with all the politics. The reasons I started victory gardening were seek a connection to my immigrant heritage and to grow good-tasting food. (I HATE CARDBOARD TOMATOES!) But all actions have consequences and perhaps we are only just beginning to see the results of our home gardening choices.