Monday, July 22, 2013

Planting a Fall Garden and Japanese Coconut Soup

When I started gardening all those many year's ago, first in my parents backyard and then in Grandma Gerarda's backyard, across the walkway from her awesome garden, I thought you planted in May and maintained whatever you planted until the frost.  When I moved to the country, the size of the space I've been gardening for the last 22 years necessitated prolonging the planting season, but that's different than succession planting.  It just took a month or more to get everything in.  Over the years, I started practicing succession planting, but it was more about planting a couple crops of lettuce because that spring lettuce bolts and unless you have more coming, you are without garden lettuce after about July 1.  That's just wrong.  My successions have extended over the years.  With the addition of the greenhouse, I can pick lettuce from about March 15 to the first of the year.  The garlic came out around the 4th of July to be replaced by fall brassicas: cabbage, cauliflower and kohlrabi.  It takes planning for brassicas, but there are plenty of veggies that just need a packet of seeds and a spot in your garden.

And it is that time: to think about planting veggies to take you into the frost.  What a weird thing to think about on July 22, when the green beans are flowing, the tomatoes are turning and you're getting the wagon dusted off so your kids can walk door to door hawking all that extra zucchini (true story: my sister and I shlepped zucchinis the size of baseball bats up and down our suburban neighborhood, selling them for 50¢.  More often than not, the wagon was still heavy with green clubs on the return loop and my family overdosed on ratatouille).

Despite today's bounty, this is your window.  Your window into fall greens.  You can plant lettuce, arugula, spinach, bok choi, kale, even beets from now until the first week of August.  With the earlier nights, nights that are getting cooler, it is the perfect time for these cool weather veggies.

Don't worry if you don't have seeds.  You have plenty of time to order, if you get on it!!  The most important thing to remember with seeds is that they are certified nonGMO.  (All organic seed is nonGMO.)  As we're learning, this is not only important for the environment, for the integrity of our food supply, to maintain the viability of small farms, but it is increasingly important for our health.  If you haven't seen Genetic Roulette or any of the other documentaries that are exploring the effects of genetically-altered food, they are real eye openers.  Here's a link to some nonGMO seed companies if you need to order:

For local folks, Roots has organic, nonGMO seeds on sale.

In case you aren't motivated, today's recipe, once you try it, will find you pulling up the flowers to make room for more bok choi in your garden.  You could say I'm a bit obsessed.  The only thing keeping me from making it twice a week is that my son doesn't like coconut, so he eats a soy dog when we have coconut soup and I can't justify him eating soy dogs more than once a week.  Sacrifice.  Parenthood is all about sacrifice.

Japanese Coconut Soup

For the Broth:
2 TBS. Miso (I like white, but any kind is fine)
4 cups water
1 tsp, crushed garlic or 2 cloves minced
1 tsp. minced ginger
1 TBS. sesame oil
1 TBS. lime juice
1 TBS. maple syrup or agave or sugar, whatever you have on hand
1 TBS. tamari, shoyu or soy sauce
1 can coconut milk
Salt and pepper

peanut oil for sauteeing (you can use olive oil as well)
1/2 cup chopped carrots
1/2 cup chopped onions
1/2 cup shitake mushrooms sliced
1 package extra firm tofu, cut into 1/4 inch cubes
1 cup roughly chopped bok choi, tatsoi or if you do not have Asian greens, you can substitute spinach or chard or kale

Rice noodles (optional)

Add miso to a large bowl.  Boil the water and add to the miso, stirring a couple times to help the miso dissolve.  While it is dissolving, heat some oil in a pot and add carrots.  A couple minutes later, add mushrooms and onions.  Sautee for 3 to 5 minutes.  Meanwhile, add all the other ingredients for the broth to the bowl.  Stir and taste, adjust seasoning, then add the broth to the pot.  Add the tofu and bring to a boil, then turn down to a simmer. If you are adding noodles, put the noodles in the bowl you used to make the broth, boil water and pour over the noodles.  Let stand for 4 minutes, then drain.
Just before serving, add the bok choi to the soup.  Put the noodles in the bottom of the bowl.  Ladle the soup over noodles and voila.  Perfection!