Light Through the Swiss Chard

swiss chard leaf

Gardening with kids is a joy, but often it feels like double the work.  Its more messy and exhausting.  Now that it’s summer and my son is out of school, it will be  hard to get all the work done in our garden plot.  While I focus on my gardening tasks, I need to keep an eye on my son.   He will wander off from our plot, visit our garden neighbors and chat with a busy gardener or experiment with a hose nozzle that is not ours.  He forgets that he can not hurl sticks and stones in the garden or cut the grass near the plastic deer fence.  He is just too busy to help me weed, plant, or pick.  Except for yesterday, when he watered his garden bed and created a mud pool at our plot entrance.

All the chaotic and frustrating moments gardening with my son are tolerable when I remember the many priceless life lessons he has learned while at our plot.   Yesterday, I gave a bag of our swiss chard to the community gardener collecting donations for our local food bank.  My son asked me, “What is a food bank?”  I explained.  He asked more questions until I had no more answers.  I picked a bagful of Romain lettuce, gave it to my son and told him to give it to the “food bank” woman.    He carried the bag past several plots and hundreds of distractions to the right woman and cheerfully gave her our lettuce.

What lessons have your kids learned while gardening with you?

Spinach Pesto

spinach picked from our plot

The spinach in our garden plot is starting to flower so I picked a grocery bag full of spinach this week.  Slugs like green leafy vegetables so I always clean greens by putting them into our kitchen sink filled with water.   If there are slugs hidden in the greens they will float to the water surface in several minutes.   Before I cleaned our huge batch of spinach, I soaked a batch of fresh picked green leaf lettuce and found two small slugs!  Spinach leaves are tough so I put them through a soak and rinse cycle three times.  We ate the squeaky clean spinach in salads all week!

Today I made spinach pesto, mixed it with ricotta cheese and created a white pizza topping. Yummy!

Spinach Pesto is easy to make by pulsing the following ingredients together in a food processor.
2 cups fresh spinach leaves, well-washed and stemmed
1/2 cup walnuts
1/4 cup parmesan cheese, freshly grated, not canned
2 garlic cloves
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1/4 teaspoon sea salt
1/8 teaspoon fresh ground black pepper

Do you have any surprising spinach recipes?

Growing in Our Mini Plot

Mini Plot Salad Table Made by My Husband

My husband built a salad table one Saturday afternoon this past spring.  He followed the plans for the Salad Table from the Grow It Eat It Network.  He built it from wood piled in our garage.   After he completed it,  we had a little more space in our garage and a mini plot on our deck.  A variety of crops grew in our salad table this year.  In early summer,  swiss chard, romaine lettuce, green leaf lettuce and arugula grew in it.   My son helped me pick  the tender leaves.  The table is the perfect height for him to reach and pick without bending over or standing on his toes.   We ate lots of mixed salads and swiss chard this summer. I sautéed the swiss chard in olive oil with garlic, salt  and pepper then tossed with pasta.  Swiss chard is good in minestrone soup, too.

Wild Fennel

The fall crops are now growing in the salad table.  Recently, this wild fennel shoot popped up unexpectedly.  I learned that wild fennel can be an  invasive plant.  It does not have the celery-like stem of sweet fennel.  Its delicate leaves have a strong anise  or licorice flavor.   Clippings of fennel leaves in a salad are a happy surprise to taste buds.  Along with the wild fennel there is spinach, radishes and two mystery greens growing in the table.   The mystery greens are transplants from my husband’s coworker.   Our mini plot’s first growing season was a success.  It grew some gregarious greens!