The quail are back. Almost every day I see them on the driveway, under the living room window, on the back lawn. I am rooting for their survival. It seems a risky thing, those plump and no doubt succulent bodies wandering about in exposed places, and I eagerly anticipate seeing scraggly rows of tiny fluffballs trailing after the parents when the babies arrive. Quail families are a quiet, peaceful presence in gardens.
The garlic gap. From around early April through early July, it's hard to find good garlic bulbs. Stored since being harvested in July, the bulbs usually start sprouting and the cloves turn a bit woody by the folone of the two stems yields early garlic, and later this month curly flower stems will appear. They need to be removed anyway, and are lowing spring. For fresh garlic, it is often possible to find a few plants with double stems in the spring garden. Carefully pulling up also delicious in salads and soups.
A friend who grew a large garlic planting on her farm last year found a creative way to use some of it and, at the same time, fill the garlic gap. She cut each large clove into slices and dried them. Some, placed in attractive glass jars, served as Christmas gifts. I've been using mine, chopped, in salads and pasta dishes along with my own dried tomato slices.
To preserve their beneficial qualities and prevent burning, garlic slices need to be dried at a low temperature of 100 F. This produces high-quality dried garlic with a wonderfully concentrated flavour.
The Book of Kale: The Easy-to-Grow Superfood, by Sharon Hanna (Harbour Publishing, 192 pages, paperback, $26.95). When I saw this title in a catalogue of newly published books, I jumped on it like a slug on lettuce, not only because of my own extreme enthusiasm for this easy-growing miracle food, but also because it is becoming so rightfully popular.
Throughout last fall and winter, almost every time I dropped in to a local healthy food store where people tend to gather and chat, gardeners were found to be rhapsodizing over their kale plantings.
As well as offering more than 80 recipes, The Book of Kale does a thorough job of exposing kale's many virtues.
Kale is one of the oldest and most nutrient-dense vegetables on earth. It is beautiful in its many forms, which include a rainbow of colours and foliage that is ruffled or curly. Kale thrives in cold weather, and self-sows in spring.
Kale can be grown for harvesting over a long season. Last month, as the kale I'd been eating all autumn, winter and early spring grew tall and full of yellow flowers, an early spring sowing was flush with fresh young foliage. Another sowing this month will bring along another long coolseason harvest. The late spring flowers feed bees and other beneficial insects.
Following sections on growing kale in the open garden and in containers, kale gardening with children, and an exposition of kale varieties, the book rolls out the recipes.
Under Breakfast, is a green smoothie designed to encourage children to consume healthful vegetables.
In Starters & Light Meals are kale chips, pizza, bruschetta and Lemony Kale and Goat Cheese Dip. Here, I found the ideal recipe for my next pot luck: Kale Edamame Fritters, served with Gorgeous Green Chutney.
The salads include a quickly concocted Teen Apple Kale Toss, Tabouli with Quinoa and Kale and Kale Caesar!
To introduce skeptics to kale, the author recommends adding a little finely chopped kale to pasta for the last few minutes of cooking time. "Tell them it's parsley."
I have my eye on a recipe for Creamy Polenta with Kale and Slow-roasted Tomatoes, to make when the summer's tomatoes are ripe.
And for winter there is a recipe for potatoes mashed with squash and topped with an onion-kale blend, and a Big Mess o' Winter Greens.
Take a look at this book, and eat your vitamins.
Lily meeting. The Victoria Lily Society will meet on Sunday at 1 p.m. in the Horticulture Centre of the Pacific, 505 Quayle Rd. in Saanich. Linda Dowling of Happy Valley Lavender and Herb Farm will delve into the topic Edible Flowers.
Flower arrangers. The Victoria Flower Arrangers Guild will meet on Tuesday at 7 p.m. in the Garth Homer Centre, 813 Darwin Ave. in Saanich. The evening's presentation will be made by Jennifer Roberts. Admission is $10.
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