Monday, September 19, 2011

Gardening = learning + food

I love learning, and I love food, so it should come as no surprise that this spring and summer's gardening adventure has me learning and cooking, a lot.

Some of the best learning is the informal kind, a passing comment that makes not just a light bulb, but an entire Christmas tree go off in my head. That happened today.

This morning, my co-worker and fellow American Family Community Gardener Nate walked by my desk on his way to his. We talked about the produce that our gardeners have donated to local food pantries, and then the chat turned to our own plots. Nate has his mostly cleaned out, while I have lots left. I bemoaned my tiny brussel sprouts (both stalks and sprouts) compared to my mom's stalks that are twice as high as mine. I explained my dim hope that the sprouts get a little bigger before a hard frost kills the plants.

"Well you know," Nate said, "If you take the tops off the stalks, the plant will put more energy into  growing the sprouts." Why hadn't I thought of that? Just last week I spent an hour trimming flowers off my tomatoes to force them to move those green fruit along. But Nate had one more thing to say on the subject.

"You can eat the tops."

My mind raced to memories of a cabbage soup that I just adore, and I imagined that these brussel sprout leaves would be very similar to cabbage leaves. After work today, I chopped those tops off and took them home and made one of the simplest yet tastiest soups I know of. And yes, I'm going to share the recipe with you. Thanks Nate, for a delicious dinner!

One of the few times I'll eat meat - bacon makes this recipe.


I can't leave a recipe alone (due either to ingredient substitution or an excessive appetite for food experimentation). I used waaay more brussel sprout leaves than the equivalent of 6 leaves of cabbage, double or triple. Cooked 4 slices of bacon (more leaves needs more bacon) and I don't use olive oil (there's plenty of bacon fat). And 1 clove of garlic? How about 5? I also use Better than Bouillon Not Chicken broth.

From Modern Cooking, Creative American Cooking with an International Flavor, Landoll's, Inc., 1996.