How I love surprises!

You know one of the things I love MOST when going away, even for the smallest vacation, is coming back and finding SURPRISES.
That is something really rather endearing about our very modest garden.  We can leave for even a very small time, come back and VOILA. We have new things popping up.
This past weekend we escaped to one of our favorite State run campgrounds for a bit of R&R, came back and found this!

Ostrich Ferns Barely peeking through the soil.

These are Ostrich Ferns which I planted in this area that has barely EVER produced ANYTHING. There are many areas of our yard that have massive handicaps.  This one has massive shade and very poor soil.  We have slowly added things (including manure and compost) here to see what WILL grow in this area. Most plants have died, failed to thrive or just simply didn't grow at all.
Well lo and behold we have found Ostrich Ferns will grow here. 
Now the really great bit about Ostrich Ferns.  I've wrote it before and now I'll write about it again. I love planting things that look nice but are also functional (aka EDIBLE). 
Ostrich Ferns during the spring months can be harvested as a wonderful treat. Fiddleheads!
Many years ago while visiting one of my favorite cities, Ottawa, we found these at the Byward Market and really had no clue what these were.  They looked odd and unfortunately we walked away without them, instead spending our money on something else. Later we found them again, and decided to try them after all.
These taste almost like fresh asparagus to me.  Somewhat nutty and almost grass like, Spring incarnate.  Saute them with a bit of butter and maybe some shallots and you have a wonderful side dish that you really can only get one time of the year, that is if you are buying locally.  To me, that makes these even more special.

Next, to check on the seedlings.  Most of them are doing well and are in the later stages of hardening off.  Within the next two weeks or so, most of these guys will be going into their new homes at which point I will being listing what extras we might have for sale.  Keep an eye on my Facebook page for that!

But once again, SURPRISE!  It looks like my son, Nick, has the lucky touch.  I have planted a total of three Moringa Oleifera seeds with NO LUCK. So, about a week and a half ago, I dragged my son away from the Wii and requested that HE plant two seeds.  He stuffed them (literally) into the soil, watered it quickly and announced "THERE!  DONE!" and raced back to Super Mario bros.
Sunday night we discovered this!
Moringa Oleifera Seedling.

The Moringa Oleifera, also called Tree of Life, Miracle Tree and Drumstick tree, is completely edible. From its leaves to its roots, its bark to its stems.  Everything is edible.  Not only that, it boasts some pretty dramatic health benefits to boot!
This is a fast growing tree that tolerates poor soil and is native to the southern foothills of the Himilayas in northwestern India. 
Now, here is a positive for all of those container gardeners out there (to which I still belong) The Moringa tree will be somewhat content to grow in a pot as long as it is 12 to 18 inches wide at the very least and at least 2 feet deep.  Instead of reaching its normal height of 20 feet tall, they can be trained to grow up to 2 feet approximately and then just become bushy.  One does have to "train" it though, by pinching off growth once it has more than two branches.  I have read that its important to remain vigilent to this as this little tree has impressive ability to grow fast. 
Another bit to keep in mind, the Moringa does not like wet roots as they will rot easily so it's important to let it dry off some before watering it again.  Lining the container with rocks or pebbles on the bottom can also assist with this.

Why grow a Moringa tree?  Here is a list of just a few of the health benefits.   
• 46 Antioxidants
• 36 Anti-Inflammatories
• 18 Amino Acids, 9 Essential Amino Acids
• Nourishes The Immune System
• Promotes Healthy Circulation
• Supports Normal Glucose Levels
• Natural Anti-Aging Benefits
• Provides Anti-Inflammatory Support
• Promotes Healthy Digestion
• Promotes Heightened Mental Clarity
• Boosts Energy Without Caffeine
• Encourages Balanced Metabolism
• Promotes Softer Skin
• Provides Relief From Acne
• Supports Normal Hormone Levels

Examples of some few nutritional value of Moringa-
  • 2 times -the Protein of Yogurt
  • 3 times – the Potassium of Bananas
  • 4 times – the Calcium of Milk
  • 4 times – the Vitamin A of Carrots
  • 7 times -the Vitamin C of Oranges
The most common way of harvesting from the Moringa tree is simply grab a few leaves here and there to be eaten fresh, or, if you are like me and you have a dehydrator you can dehydrate them and then use them in tea.  This will make the nutrients more concentrated therfore making one heck of a healthful cup of tea.  Once the tree starts to produce pods they can be steamed and eaten like peas and once the pods become hardier they can be boiled and then the pulp can be scooped out and added to soups or stews. 
The flowers can also be added to salads, sandwiches or even as a wonderful topping to plain yogurt. 
As I grow this new addition to our garden I will be writing much, much more on it!
By Sunday afternoon, after coming back from our camping trip we were so enthused and energized by all of these wonderful surprises that we dug down deep and found some extra energy to well, dig down deep.  In the raised bed where our Sunchokes were planted last summer.  And lookie what we found.
We know that we probably left a few in the ground there which, actually is okay by us.  It just means more plants will come up this summer.  Sunchokes (also called Jerusalem Artichokes) are somewhat invasive so one does have to exercise a bit of caution.  If you do not want them taking over an area you have to make sure to get all the tubers that might be left behind.  In our case, we won't be here at this house next summer and we're pretty certain whoever inherits this house will have no clue what the heck is coming up. That actually applies to most of the plants we have planted in our yard, in the dirt.  I do have to suppress a giggle when I think of the next occupants trying to figure out "what the heck are these fern like things/these dang sunflower like things/these dang plants with thorns/these vine like plants that...wait...grow grapes?"
That's always the downside to the military way of life.  We move to an area, plant some roots, then leave.  And leave behind our plants for someone else to either love or hate.

Later this week I will be making a recipe borrowed from Food & Wine.  Since we have kale out front that is going nuts, and now we have freshly harvested sunchokes, I think it's time to use some of it all up.  Serve that with a loaf of fresh baked bread straight from the oven and we've got a wonderful dinner. 

Sunchoke-Kale Hash with Farro

  • ACTIVE: 40 MIN
  • SERVINGS: 10
Comfort food is rarely healthy, or vegetarian. This soul-satisfying winter hash is both. The recipe from F&W Best New Chefs 2009 Jon Shook and Vinny Dotolo, of Animal and Son of a Gun in Los Angeles, combines crispy sunchokes, silky oyster mushrooms, tender kale and chewy farro. It’s wonderful served with grilled steak or on its own as a meatless main course.

  1. 3/4 cup farro
  2. 2 1/2 pounds large sunchokes, peeled and cut into 2-inch pieces
  3. Salt
  4. 1 pound Tuscan kale, tough stems discarded
  5. 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil blended with 3 tablespoons of vegetable oil
  6. 1 small red onion, sliced 1/4 inch thick
  7. 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
  8. 1/2 pound oyster mushrooms, halved if large
  9. Freshly ground pepper
  1.  In a medium saucepan, cover the farro with 2 inches of water. Bring to a boil, cover and cook over low heat until the farro is tender, about 25 minutes. Drain the farro.
  2. Meanwhile, in a large saucepan, cover the sunchokes with water and add a pinch of salt. Boil until the sunchokes are tender, 10 minutes; drain. Slice the sunchokes 1/4 inch thick.
  3. Fill the large saucepan with water and bring to a boil. Add the Tuscan kale and cook until just tender, about 3 minutes. Drain the kale and let cool slightly. Squeeze out any excess liquid from the kale leaves and then coarsely chop them.
  4. In a small skillet, heat 2 tablespoons of the blended oil. Add the red onion and a pinch of salt and cook over moderately low heat, stirring occasionally, until browned, about 12 minutes.
  5. In a nonstick skillet, melt the butter in 2 tablespoons of the blended oil. Add the sunchokes in an even layer and cook over high heat until browned on the bottom, about 3 minutes. Turn the sunchokes, reduce the heat to moderately high and continue cooking until starting to brown, about 2 minutes. Push the sunchokes to the side of the skillet.
  6. Add 1 more tablespoon of the oil and the oyster mushrooms. Season with salt and pepper and cook over moderately high heat until browned, 3 minutes. Add the remaining 1 tablespoon of oil along with the farro, kale and onion and cook, stirring, until hot. Season with salt and pepper and serve.
Make Ahead The recipe can be prepared through Step 4 one day ahead; refrigerate the components separately.

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