It's the first weekend of official summer, time to celebrate with a big supper salad from the garden. The cool, rainy weather has brought along a mass of plump edible greens. A recent foraging expedition into the salad patch produced a gorgeous Bronze Guard lettuce, young kale leaves, baby bok choy and frilly endive.
Both the white-stalked Joi Choi and the small, light jade green Mei Qing Choy have produced nice heads of stalks and darkgreen leaves this year. I prefer bok choy stems to celery. They are always crisp, juicy and flavourful. Bronze Guard is a new lettuce listing in the 2012 Salt Spring Seeds catalogue. It's a beautiful bronze and green, tasty oakleaf lettuce.
A bowlful of mixed garden greens can become a whole meal if combined with toasted nuts and seeds and perhaps small cubes of feta or tofu. Smoked tofu is nice in salads, and I often toss in pumpkin and sunflower seeds and walnuts. A light toasting in the oven doubles their flavour.
I usually start the dressing, in the salad bowl, with fresh lemon juice and olive oil and then add a little salt and pepper and a small dollop of Dijon mustard. Depending upon my mood, I may add finely grated garlic and ginger root, or a little anchovy paste if the lettuce is romaine. I simply whip together the dressing, add the greens, and toss. Then there's freshly grated parmesan for scattering on top.
More garlic, and a caution. A delicious addition to salads this month are the "scapes" or curly flower stems that appear on our garlic plantings. Used young and chopped, they add a garlicky crunch to salads. They're good in stir-fry dishes, too.
Removing the scapes diverts the plants' energies away from producing flowers and seeds and toward bulb formation. Next month the plants will begin yellowing and drying. Once that process begins, stop watering, and when most of the top growth has dried, the bulbs can be dug.
A reader has written to comment on my description of how a friend dried sliced garlic cloves to fill the "garlic gap" in the spring and early summer, after stored bulbs begin sprouting and before new bulbs are mature. My reader describes her way of preserving garlic. She peels the cloves, purees them with oil and a little salt, and refrigerates the puree for use in various cooked dishes and salad dressings.
The garlic-in-oil story set off alarm bells in my mind as I recalled warnings about the potential for extreme danger in the combination. Garlic, as a lowacid food, combined with oil, which creates an oxygen-free environment, creates a perfect environment for the botulism bacteria to grow. Botulism is deadly; neither smell nor taste gives away its presence.
Left at room temperature, garlic in oil blends must be discarded after two hours. Keep any garlic and oil blend in the fridge for only seven days and in the freezer for no more than several months. Date the blends as they are packaged. Be safe.
Deep Cove summer festival. The North Saanich Farm Market is hosting the second annual Summer Garden FÃªte in Sandra and Phoebe Noble's beautiful gardens at 377 Wain Rd. in North Saanich on Sunday from 1 to 4 p.m. Visitors are invited to stroll through the gardens with a glass of wine, listen to Brad Prevedoros on guitar, indulge in strawberry treats and enjoy viewing the works of local artists. The fÃªte is a fundraiser for the North Saanich Food for the Future Society and the North Saanich Farm Market. Tickets, at $25, $20 for NSFF Society members, are available at the market information table, Russell Nursery and Dig This in Sidney. Or call 250-656-1236 or 250-656-3054. northsaanichfarmmarket.ca.
VIRAGS meeting. The Victoria Rock and Alpine Garden Society will meet on Tuesday at 7: 30 p.m. in the Gordon Head United Church, 4201 Tyndall Ave. Harvey Wrightman of Wrightman Alpines (wrightmanalpines.com) in Ontario will deliver a presentation titled Clay/Crevice: New techniques for new plants. Wrightman will be bringing in plants to be sold. Visitors are welcome.
Orchid auction. The Victoria Orchid Society is holding an orchid auction on Tuesday at 7 p.m., before the regular meeting and AGM, at the Garth Homer Centre, 813 Darwin Ave. The auction is open to the public, and flower lovers of all sorts are invited to attend. There are some lovely plants looking for new homes. Photos of the flowers will be shown on screen for plants not currently in bloom.
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