Saturday, March 24, 2012

Picking Dandelions

Hey Y'all,

Now that daylily time is over (it only lasts about a week or two), I have noticed all the dandelions popping up everywhere.  That's awesome!  Free food! God bless America!

A Few years ago, the owner of a florist turned me on to dandelion kimchi.  I was wary (as usual) and asked where the dandelions came from, and will I truly not die if I eat them? The kimchi tasted AWESOME.

For those of you who don't know, Kimchi is a very spicy pickled condiment that is the staple of Korean food.  My father has drilled this into my mind since I was a wee babe. He insisted Kimchi could cure all sorts of ailments, and spark wars and feuds. Growing up in America, I always gave a good eyeroll and grumbled about my father's blind nationalism for Kimchi.
However, come to find in books and articles (,,20410300,00.html )
that there is a grain of truth in what he's said.  It is one of the top ten most healthy foods of the entire world.
Due to its fermentation, it contains the same bacteria that is in yogurt.  Therefore, it helps in a probiotic way, which means good stomach digestion, less yeast infections, and some studies show it can prevent the growth of cancer.  Well, I guess dad wasn't just being overtly enthusiastic about it.  Maybe there was even more than just a grain of truth.  Maybe I owe him an apology.  Maybe someday...

Dandelion kimchi has a flavor I can't quite put a finger on, but there's definitely a flowery hint in the aftertaste.  Mrs. Oak the florist gave me some basic sage advice:
Do not pick dandelions from the side of roads,
and make sure to pick ones that did NOT flower already. I took mental note.
I have known others to use dandelion greens in salads, and the repeated counsel is to eat them before they allow a flower to bloom, as it will get bitter beyond that point.

Last year, I thought I'd try this venture, myself. I asked my friend Ben if he could take out some dandelions from my yard while I was at work.  I wasn't expecting much, but when I came home, I was surprised to find his hands black, and a bag full of dandelions.  Rockin'! I cleaned them at my parent's house and had them make the kimchi.  It was not the same as the florist's, but still had a similar flavor which I could only affirm was the dandelion.  Mmmmm so goooood with rice.

So this year, I armed myself with the taproot/dandelion/weedpuller device, and set to work in the backyard after a good rainfall. FYI, friends, taking anything out of the soil is a thousand times easier after the rain.

Got some over here (my daughter was the camera woman.  I insist on doing all these things while the kids play in the backyard. That way I can be an adult presence while they play, or indirectly they can help or observe... but they will grow up being around these activities).

and s'more over here

and even over here.  The last time we painted the deck was two years ago,
so I felt it was safe to partake of this proximity, but they were smaller so I gave up quickly.

Many hands lighten the load?  In this picture,
I am removing some small and dried out looking leaves by the taproot.

Here it is a little clearer.

I washed them best I could, and it needed not triple washing, but something like quintuple washing. Fine grains of dirt, and nooks and crannies of clay tied with bits of grass. HOW ON EARTH DID THE FLORIST LADY DO IT?!  I'm not sure, and when I called her to ask, she said in Korean "Oh, y'know if you wash it well, then that's good!"  ...ehhhh  -_-*

So all in all, I've got three grocery bags full of dandelions washed a few times, and cleaned. I will give them a final rinse tomorrow at my parent's house.  They have giant steel tubs made solely for kimchi making.
They even have a refrigerator solely for kimchi making.   Therefore, I will document the process and let you know how my family's super not-so-secret kimchi recipe is adjusted to make DANDELION KIMCHI.

These times spent with my parents learning their recipes are the treasures I hope to receive as an inheritance.

Seacrest out!

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Eating Day lilies aaaand How I cook it.

Well, this is a long overdue post. How overdue? Oh I'd say about two years.
I've been meaning to write it, but day lily greens time is so short, it is pretty much over as soon as it starts!

It all began long time ago in a galaxy far away...
when I read that day lilies were edible.  That's really funny, because I was planning to dig the darned things out until I read that article. LAFF! DERP! I'm an edible laaaaandscaper! I don't even know all the edibles!

Let's move on, shall we?

I was told by a nice lady, "If you have a plot of day lillies, you will never go hungry".  Considered as a delicacy by wild food gatherers and knowledgeable chefs, the day lily has a long history in Chinese medicine and cuisine. While it's true that the flowers, tubers, and leaves are edible, I've found the leaves can only be eaten when they are very young and tender.

 The first year,I tried some with speculation, and it wasn't too bad. Actually it was pretty darn good, but there was just one problem. IT WAS TOUGH. Like eating a flat leaf with the texture of twine.  I still kept chewing and insisted it was delicious, as the rest of my family gave me the stink-eye, and I finally said... yeah it's tough. Don't eat it.

The second year, I was determined to give it another try because it DID taste good.
This time, I harvested it when it was younger, and SUCCESS. The kids loved it and were begging for a second round.  By the time we got around trying a third time it was too tough. Crazy, I tell you.

Much older and wiser,  here we are at year 3.

here's a bowl of freshly cut Day lily greens. At most they are 2".
Like I said, a very limited performance contract.

here I have a pan with butter, and minced garlic --- because everything tastes awesome with these!!

HISSSS POP CRACKLE.  Ohhh yeah the sounds and smells of stir-fry

After a few minutes of cooking, you can see they are like Spinach or broccoli. Turns an awesome shiny and VIBRANT green after cooking!

You will also notice that kind of like spinach or other greens, they've reduced to half the size. 

Here it is. In all it's glory.

Now, there are a few people out there who are allergic to day lily greens, so please try a few pieces and see how you handle it before eating them all.  It was a learning process, but now my kids and I look forward to the time of the year where we can eat the day lilies. :)

Starting next week:  Dandelion Kimchi   :)  


Summer in March... craziness

What Magicks is this!?

Recently Chicagoland has been in the high 70's to 80s.
That is just madness. We went straight from winter to Summer!
This has me thinking a few things...

1- July might be 160 degrees, and the power will be out everywhere. We're paying for those two mild summers in a row... 
2- Welp, there go the brassicas!!
3- I should focus on more heat tolerant plants.

Here's the status of some of the things around the ol homestead:
Spinach! Sprouting from the fall planting! YESYESYESSSSSSSS
Although who am I kidding? With this hot weather, it's probably going to fast forward to bolt.
With that in mind, I have Indian Malabar spinach in a seedling tray.  The Indian climbing spinach loves the heat, and will be great to take over for the rest of the season.

French Tarragon.  I don't know what to use this for,
but I am glad to see the mild winter had it coming back on its own!

Our lovely Sage! I took a gamble and left it outside by the front door.  I read online they are zone6, but hoped the proximity of the home would shelter it somewhat  and HUZZAAAAAH it worked!  In fact the brown leaves on the plant were the only ones affected by frost!  
The blanket of leaves might have helped, too.
Unfortunately, this successful experiment means it's certain
I will try to overwinter a fig outdoors next winter.
I have been dreaming of doing such, but we were zone 5A.  Recent news said we are now 5B. MU HU HUHA HAA  ::Evil cackle::  It's all coming to plan nicely.

Rainbow Heirloom Tomato seedlings, and Korean Giant asian pear in the background.

Oh, Hello, Ladies....

The ladies would like you to know they have overwintered just fine, too.  Two eggs each day, give or take one every so often due to lack of daylight.  We had a few predators stop by, but nothing the locks didn't keep out. The bottom of the coop is also double layered wire, and the previous owner made it raccoon proof.  The #1 thing backyard chickeners encounter is neighborhood friendly predators.  We had foxes, and Raccoons come by, and we are surrounded by homes!

  They are a rough and tough bunch of Austen era ladies, though.  Maybe more of a Mother Jones.
Just look at those disapproving glares.
 Love you too, Watermelon and Bully! Gorgeous!!

All of the front yard boxes have their uh... spiky things coming up.  In front of us, we have Garlic which was planted last fall.

The flat Italian parsley overwintered pretty darn well.  You would never have known winter came!  The English chives are coming up around it as well, and it'll be soon enough before we have purple flowers everywhere that look like the "Horton hears a who" flower.

yes, that one...

All in all, I am very wary of what the rest of this month and the next will look like. I can't depend on the normal planting chart, and it'd be a complete shame to play it safe and wait...

then again, if you know me, 
Possibly kill all my seedlings with an errant frost?!



Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Starting Seedlings for 2012

It had been months of staring at seed catalogues prior to this. Amongst the groups I'm a part of, there was this hilarious picture that describes my fanatical drooling over the photos in vegetable seed catalogues:

Here's a list of some of the seeds I have chosen to grow in 2012

Shiso Perilla (Korean sesame leaf)
Chinese Garlic Chive
Rainbow Mini bell peppers
Rainbow Full size bell peppers
acorn/Butternut squash (Got mixed up and I can't tell em apart)
turban squash
Long of naples squash (a gamble w.germination bult rare in the USA)
Orange hubbard squash
scarlet runner beans-prizewinner (photo to right)
Scarlet runner beans - DWARF Hestia
rainbow swiss chard
rainbow carrot
Thai basil
Italian Basil - regular
Italian spicy Globe basil
purple broccoli
Black Palm kale
marigold flower
Balsam flower
viola/Johnny jump up flower
Cosmos flower

I'm getting some Jalapeno and Zucchini from my friend Pam
and some currant bushes and borage from my friend Ed.

It looks like too much... and it probably is. I got the kids involved, and showed the technique of using a pen to make the hole, and leaving the holes until you're done with that seed type. This way, you know which cells already have seeds in them.

The girls are always super excited...

I let the little guy do the tomatoes in the jiffy pellets. Tomatoes are probably the easiest and most forgiving seed known to mankind. Break a sucker off the plant, throw it on the ground, and it grows! The seeds fall to the ground and you're practically overrun with tomatoes. It's a relative of the nightshade, which is a weed... if that's any indicator.
                                      Cliffs: Tomatoes are so easy a 3 yr old can kick butt at it.

I took the cell flats to my office where it's consistently warmer and sunnier, but left the tomato flat at home so the kids can see the sprouts when they come up. :)