Seasonal Recipe: Falafel Spice Tomato Flatbread

As a final goodbye to vibrant Summer produce, we’re savoring this flavorful and seasonal flatbread from Bon Appetit. Do justice by those final ripe tomatoes, the last of your crisp cucumbers, and that medley of aromatic garden herbs one last time before next Summer. 

INGREDIENTS

  • Flat bread, naan, or pocketless pitas (original recipe includes instructions, but you can use store bought, too!)

Tomatoes and Chickpeas

  • 2 garlic cloves, finely chopped

  • 1 teaspoon sumac (if unavailable, you can substitute lemon zest)

  • ½ teaspoon each of crushed red pepper flakes, ground coriander, and ground cumin

  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt

  • 2 large heirloom tomatoes, any color, thinly sliced

  • 1 15.5-ounce can chickpeas, rinsed

  • 2 tablespoons red wine vinegar

  • 1 small shallot, thinly sliced

  • ½ cup parsley leaves

  • 3 tablespoons olive oil

Yogurt Sauce

  • 1 Persian cucumber, peeled, chopped

  • ¾ cup plain yogurt

  • ½ cup each of coarsely chopped fresh mint and parsley

  • Hot sauce

RECIPE PREPARATION

Tomatoes and Chickpeas

  • Combine garlic, sumac, red pepper flakes, coriander, cumin, and 1 tsp. salt in a small bowl. Arrange tomato slices in a single layer on a rimmed baking sheet and sprinkle garlic mixture evenly over top. Let sit at room temperature at least 30 minutes and up to 1 hour.

  • Toss chickpeas and vinegar in a medium bowl; season with salt and pepper. Mash chickpeas with a fork until about half are smashed. Add shallot, parsley, and oil and toss to combine; season with salt and pepper. Set aside.

Yogurt Sauce

  • Combine cucumber, yogurt, mint, and parsley in a medium bowl; season with hot sauce, salt, and pepper. Let sit at room temperature at least 15 minutes.

Assemble

  • Top each flatbread with yogurt sauce, chickpea mixture, and tomatoes. Drizzle with more oil and season well with salt and pepper.


Seasonal Shifts

As much as we don’t want to say goodbye to Summer produce we are beginning to dream of spicy mustard greens, crisp cabbages, tender kohlrabi, and sweet, sweet beets. That’s right - just because Summer is ending doesn’t mean our supply of fresh produce needs to! There is so much to love about Fall produce. And an added bonus? Working in the garden in crisp Autumn air can’t be beat. 

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Cilantro and coriander

A couple of months ago we wrote about bolted plants in the garden. When plants bolt they send up tall stems and flower, often changing the flavor of otherwise tasty leaves. This is a signal of the end of the plant’s season and is often triggered by hot conditions.

If you’ve left any brassicas or lettuces in your garden, you’ll likely have seen them bolt by now! But many herbs are also sensitive to the heat - basil, parsley, sage, and mint will all send out stalks of dainty, clustered flowers at some point during the Summer. But there is one particular herb that you should watch closely: Cilantro.

Coriander Seeds - Image from  http://www.vegetablegardener.com

Coriander Seeds - Image from http://www.vegetablegardener.com

Cilantro is a unique herb insofar as it gives us two harvests! Throughout the Spring you can enjoy cilantro leaves on tacos, pad thai, in salads, and more. But if you leave the bolted cilantro flowers in your garden long enough they will produce seeds which you may know by the name of coriander. 

Coriander seeds are mainstays in Middle Eastern and Indian spice mixes like dukkah and garam masala, important ingredients in classic dill pickles, and are delicious flavor pairings with meats and citrus.

To harvest coriander seeds, wait until they have turned brown. You can either clip the whole stalks off, hanging them upside down within a paper bag. They’ll fall off and collect in the bottom of the bag when they’re all the way dry. Or allow the seeds to dry thoroughly on the plant and collect directly. Dried coriander can be stored in an air-tight glass jar. 


Nitrogen Fixing Legumes

Nitrogen fixation is the process of pulling atmospheric Nitrogen into the soil to make it accessible for plants. Legumes and a handful of other plants have evolved complex symbiotic relationships with Rhizobium bacteria that live in the soil. The bacteria live in nodules on the roots of these plants. The plants send sugars down to the bacteria and the bacteria use the energy from these sugars to fix Nitrogen into the soil around their host plant. 

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Refreshing Summer Drinks

Staying hydrated and refreshed in the midst of the August heat can be a chore. While an ice cold soda may quench your thirst initially, it’s ultimately dehydrating and chock full of sugar. Meanwhile, drinking enough water to replenish oneself (especially when you spend a lot of time outside like we do!) can be daunting. This month we’ll give you some ideas for healthy, hydrating, and refreshing options straight from your garden.

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Seasonal Recipe: Gazpacho

Summer in Baltimore: the sun is out, your garden is full of produce, the heat and humidity weigh on you ‘til you can barely stand up! It’s hard to think about cooking at all when it’s so hot, let alone turning the oven on!

Lucky for you, this month we have the easiest, most refreshing, heat-free recipe possible - AND it showcases all of your favorite Summer veggies! 

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Garlic Scapes

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It’s been over 6 months since you’ve put your garlic in the ground. Maybe you’re tired of the patch of straw reserved for garlic that could be full of tomatoes right now. Don’t get discouraged!

Just about now, your garlic will form scapes - what is a garlic scape and why should you be excited? A garlic scape is the long, curly shoot sent from the top of the garlic leaves to hold the garlic flower. For our purposes, we want to cut the garlic scapes before they flower. This helps the plant redirect energy to forming a bulb rather than forming a flower and seeds. But that’s not the only reason we pluck off the scapes -- they’re delicious! Enjoy their garlic-y flavor raw, cooked, pickled, or grilled. Really, they’re delicious in anything.

Need some garlic scape inspiration? Try these:

Grilled or Roasted Scapes

One of the simplest and purest ways to enjoy garlic scapes is simply tossing them in olive oil, sea salt, and fresh pepper and throwing them on the grill or in a 400 degree oven until golden brown on the outside and just tender on the inside. Be sure to flip them halfway through to cook both sides.  The garlic flavor is mild, sweet, and tangy - the perfect side for your Summer barbecues.

Sauteed Scapes with Lemon

Looking for something slightly more refined? Cut the scapes into 2 inch spears and toss into a pan over medium heat with a pat of butter. Sautee until bright green and just tender, add a splash of water (2 tablespoons or so should do) and cover the pan with a lid. Cook for another 2 minutes. Remove from heat, top with sea salt, fresh pepper, and a squeeze of lemon. Serve with fish or on top of rice.

Garlic Scape Pesto

Feeling like a garlic scape pro? Try making pesto to slather on your pasta or chicken.

You’ll need:

1 cup garlic scapes, sliced crosswise (about 10 to 12 scapes)

¼ cup raw sunflower seeds, pine nuts, or walnuts

½ cup extra virgin olive oil

¼ cup Parmesan cheese

½ cup basil leaves

Juice of one lemon

 Pulse the garlic scapes in a food processor for 15 seconds. Add ingredients in order, processing for another 15-30 seconds after adding each. Once everything has been added, process until pesto reaches desired consistency. If it’s too thick, add more olive oil. Add salt and additional lemon juice to taste.


Spotlight on Comfrey

Long grown for its medicinal uses, Comfrey is a favorite among herbalists and permaculture gardeners alike. Traditionally, Comfrey is used as a healing herb to be rubbed raw or as a salve onto rashes, lesions, sore joints, and broken bones. But to gardeners, comfrey is also celebrated as an effective Dynamic Accumulator.

Dynamic Accumulators are plants that send down deep roots that access and collect nutrients too deep for many other plants. As a consequence of its deep tap root Comfrey leaves are rich in nutrients which can be shared with other plants in the garden.

One way to take advantage of Comfrey’s high nutrient yield is by using it as a “green mulch.” Comfrey is a hardy perennial that can easily return after being cut down. Chop down your comfrey leaves with a machete or a weed wacker and spread the resulting leaves around perennial gardens, veggie gardens, or fruit trees. Not only will this serve the purpose of a traditional mulch - keeping moisture in and shading out weeds - it will provide a slow release of nutrients and organic matter as the leaves begin to decompose.





Comfrey flowers are beautiful and great for pollinators, too!

Comfrey flowers are beautiful and great for pollinators, too!

Garden Transitions: Bolting

Bouquet of broccoli flower, chive flower, and lemon balm

Bouquet of broccoli flower, chive flower, and lemon balm

Late May to early June is a transition period in the garden. We’re replacing bitter spinach with baby squash and planting tomatoes in the holes left by harvested head lettuces.

We don’t pull out Spring crops just to make room for Summer crops; many greens and brassicas (generally, the plants whose leaves we eat) will “bolt,” or flower, rendering their flavors bitter and their textures tough. You can spot the beginnings of bolting on most plants when the leaves begin to elongate and the plant begins growing tall rather than leafy. In the rosettes, or on the top of the stem, you’ll see a bud forming. You may be able to delay the process of bolting by removing the shoot, but for most crops, once it’s begun it can’t be reversed.

Bolting normally evokes groans from gardeners mourning the end of tender greens til Fall - but bolting isn’t all bad! Most crops send up tight clusters of small flowers whose close proximity makes them favorites of pollinators. These flowers also add pops of bright color to your garden and, in many cases, are edible! For example, kale or broccoli flowers are just as pleasant in a vase as they are on a plate, sautéed with garlic and a squeeze of lemon. The petals of chive flowers add a subtle onion flavor and act a beautiful garnish when sprinkled on top of pasta or fish. The peppery Arugula flowers lend themselves well to salads or scrambled eggs, and basil flowers can be used to make infused oils for salad dressings, dainty dessert toppings, or fragrant centerpiece bouquets!

So go ahead and take out your bolted plants when you’re ready to put in new crops, but enjoy the flowers while they’re there!


Tomato Tips

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Nothing says Summer quite like the fragrant smell and succulent flavors of the tomato. Friends, family, and clients have been asking about it for months and it’s almost here - tomato season. While getting our plants in the ground, we collected some basic tomato tips to share with you.

As with planting all seedlings, it’s important to start with healthy plants. Wherever you buy your tomato plants, check the seedlings for signs of pests or diseases: discolored foliage, spotted leaves, holes, and dried up branches are all symptoms of an unhealthy plant.  

When you get your tomato seedling to your garden, it’s essential to find the right spot for it. Tomatoes thrive in full sun and they’re prone to diseases that occur in damp conditions, so good drainage and air flow are a must. Caging, staking, or tying up your tomato will help increase air flow around the plant and will expose fruits for easy harvest.

Tomatoes are one of the only crops that should be planted deep. Snapping off any leaves that might get buried, plant up to ⅓ of the tomato stem. New roots will grow along the buried stem and will provide a more robust root system for feeding and support.

Because tomatoes are so sensitive to damp conditions, observing proper watering technique is especially important. Avoid overhead watering by watering the base of the plant rather than the leaves. It’s best to water in the morning so that any excess moisture can evaporate during the day rather than sitting on the plant overnight.

Once your tomato is established, it will start to grow fast. Pruning will keep growth in check, encourage airflow, and produce a more flavorful crop. When pruning tomatoes, look in the joints of the main stem and primary branches for side growth. These branches are called “suckers” and can be removed with pruners or shears.

Harvest tomatoes when they are plump but have some give and when their color has fully changed. They should come off of the vine easily with a twist. Store deep ridged heirloom varieties upside down to discourage pooling moisture and rot.


Chickweed Pesto

 
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Last month, our team celebrated the Spring season by getting out of the garden and learning about edible wild plants! Our operations manager, Brody, invited us to visit his property and learn about the abundance of food growing there (both cultivated and wild). Among the “weeds”, we found chickweed, nettles, watercress, garlic-mustard, and violets - all of which are edible and have unique, delicious flavors. We enjoyed the medley of greens sautéed with some of Brody’s home grown Shiitakes and he graciously supplemented the bounty we collected with some chickweed pesto that he had made a few days earlier.

We loved the pesto so much that we thought we’d share it here - so go grab a few handfuls of chickweed from the backyard (or woods, or farmers market) and let’s get cooking!

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup walnuts, cashews, or pine nuts

  • 2-3 cloves garlic minced

  • 3 cups chickweed loosely packed

  • 1 Tbsp lemon juice

  • 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil

  • 1/2 tsp salt

  • 1/4 tsp freshly ground black pepper

  • 1/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese

Instructions

  1. Place all ingredients into a food processor and process until smooth. (A blender can be used instead, but the chickweed should be finely chopped first)

  2. If it's too thick, slowly drizzle in a bit more olive oil.

  3. Keep refrigerated. Eat or freeze within 3-4 days.

This recipe is courtesy of www.growforagecookferment.com



 

Fish Emulsion

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The sense of accomplishment after getting all of the Spring plants in the ground is hard to beat. It’s a beautiful sight: the vibrant greens and purples of the lettuce leaves, the tiny curly-qs of the pea shoots, the bright pink stems of the radishes about to bulb up. But after a few weeks, those colors might have faded and your plants might not looks so fresh. What’s a gardener to do?

To keep our plants healthy and growing with vigor all season long, we use a product called fish emulsion. Fish emulsion is made of ground and fermented by-products from the seafood industry. Much like the rice hulls we wrote about last month, fish emulsion is made of materials that would otherwise go to waste.

High in ready to use nitrogen and other nutrients, this organic fertilizer gives our seedlings an extra boost. You can read the general nutrient break-down of fish emulsion and other fertilizers by the N-P-K number. The N-P-K number provides the percentage by weight of nitrogen to phosphorus to potassium, the three major nutrients required for plant growth.

We apply this fast acting, liquid fertilizer to all of our transplants to help them acclimate to their new homes and help them grow quickly early in the season. We may apply a second helping a few weeks later to plants that look a little droopy due to insufficient watering or nutrients. We also focus particularly on plants in the Brassica family, such as kale, cabbage, and broccoli,  which can be heavy feeders.

So how can you use fish emulsion at home? Most garden centers will carry a few brands of fish emulsion or fish fertilizer; these will be heavily concentrated and will need to be diluted. In a sprayer or watering can, add two to three tablespoons of fertilizer for each gallon of water (double check the instructions on the label as it will vary depending on brand, nutrients, and concentration). The resulting mixture should look a little murky but should not be thick. You can apply fish emulsion by watering the plants with the mixture as you would normally, or by spraying it over the leaves as you would with a foliar fertilizer. Applying fish emulsion can be a bit smelly, but there are products that have been “deodorized” with wintergreen or lavender. We recommend trying these out if you want to apply fish emulsion on your houseplants indoors!


Ramping up for Spring

Ramps, or Wild Leeks, are wild edible plants in the allium family. Growing natively in the Appalachian mountains from Canada to North Carolina, ramps only appear for a few weeks before going to seed and disappearing for the Summer. As the first green to appear in early Spring, ramps have historically been celebrated as a sign of Spring and a tonic to the traditional Appalachian meat-heavy Winter diet.

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