The garden has made some major progress over the past 6 weeks and today I have progress shots and some golden beet + fava bean action to celebrate! With cheese.
A few more details, for those that are interested…
– The dream team consisted of my mom, husband, and I. We dug up a lot of sod (the top grass/root/soil layer of the lawn) and manually tilled the soil. Once done, the neighbour offered us his tiller machine thingy. Thanks, friend… right on time. In retrospect, I would’ve planned this a bit earlier and considered the lasagna bed route, but last minute, as always, sod removal/tilling was our only choice. The amount of severed worms was heartbreaking.
– We decided to DIY the raised beds. It was pretty quick, relatively cheap, and the beds were actually the easiest part of this whole thing. If you’re interested in the process, send me an email and I can give you a run-down and send some pictures of how we put them together.
– We got 5 cubic yards of soil dumped on our tiny front lawn. After quite a bit of deliberation, I decided to go with triple mix, mostly for budget reasons (~$30/yard vs. ~$130/yard for the good stuff. 5 yards? ouch). I’ll see how it goes this year and work on developing the soil gradually. We learned that having soil dumped on our front lawn was the best way to meet some of our lovely Italian neighbours. They were SO impressed…and all very curious about our plans to have children. I told them about all the tomato babies in our basement, but apparently those don’t count.
– It turns out that my clear little plastic cups were a mistake. I’m not sure if it’s because the roots were exposed to light, if the cups were to small, or maybe both, but my plants struggled as they got bigger (the ones in larger yogurt tubs did great!). The weather was warm so I planted them out a few weeks ahead of the recommended schedule, and they’re still alive.
Remember this little opakla? He’s a big kid now :) I wasn’t kidding about tomato babies.
I decided to grow some fava beans before actually trying them. Maybe a little backwards, but they were so cute in the seed catalogue, and I couldn’t resist (legit reason for most of my seed purchases). As I often do with new-to-me vegetables, I turned to Vegetable Literacy, by Deborah Madison, one of my faves when it comes to figuring new things out. I love how the book is organized into plant families, and how Deborah shares a wealth of information about the common members of each family. She talks about how the cultural history, how vegetables are generally grown, how to use whole plants, and offers bits of kitchen wisdom to get you started.
What I love most, however, are the beautiful recipes, which I’ve been slowly making my way through over the past few years.
I was actually planning ahead for once, and wanted to share this if/when my own favas matured. Once I decided on one of the recipes in the book, which involved sweet golden beets and a meyer lemon vinaigrette, I knew that sharing it now gives you guys the best chance of finding favas and still scoring a meyer lemon to make this salad happen. In the south, favas mature at a time when citrus is in season, but that doesn’t work so well where here. Use a regular lemon if you must.
Linda from Garden Betty has a really sweet guide for growing, harvesting, and shelling fava beans. Go there if you’ve never worked with them before. As labour intensive as they may seem, you don’t need a lot for this salad, so it wont take more than a few minutes to peel and shuck them.
Adapted from Vegetable Literacy by Deborah Madison
- 1 shallot, finely diced
- grated zest of 1 meyer lemon (sub regular lemon, if you need to, but Meyer lemon is pretty special here)
- 1 Tbsp. meyer lemon juice
- 1 Tbsp. regular lemon juice
- 1 Tbsp. dijon or grainy mustard
- 5 Tbsp. olive oil
- sea salt, to taste
- 4-6 smallish golden beets
- 1 – 2 lbs of fresh fava beans, in their pods
- 1 heaping Tbsp. slivered mint leaves
- ~1/4 cup crumbled ricotta salata (or sub dry feta)
- salt + pepper, to taste
- Steam the beets for 25 – 35 minutes. The exact time will depend on the size of your beets. They should be tender enough to pierce with a sharp knife, but still retain enough a bit of a bite.
- While the beets are steaming, prep the dressing: Combine the shallot, zest, lemon juices, and a few very generous pinches of salt in a small bowl, stir, and let sit for about 10 minutes.
- Whisk in the mustard and olive oil, taste, and add more salt if necessary.
- Shell and blanch the fava beans in boiling water for about a minute, then transfer to ice water. Peel off the white outer skins (see note). Toss with a few spoons of dressing and set aside.
- When the beets are done, run them under cold water and peel off the skins. Cut them into bite-sized wedges.
- Toss about half of the dressing with the beets and let them marinate for about 20 - 30 minutes. Taste a piece and season with salt and a squeeze of lemon juice, if necessary.
- Arrange the beets and beans on a plate. Top with crumbled ricotta salata and mint leaves. Drizzle the rest of the dressing over the salad.
Favas can be a little tricky as the outer bean skins (not talking about pods) are tender when the beans are very young, but chewy later on. That's why they're slipped off. If you happen to get the beans right in between the two stages, they're impossible to peel off, yet chewy and unpleasant to eat. I've lost a batch of favas due to that. Trial and error, friends. If you find yourself in this situation, I can imagine half a can of chickpeas or some barely blanched peas will do just fine.