To end this first week's roll call of how I am putting up the harvest 2015, I am going to make plenty from the spoils of Mother Nature. Well, not really spoils, but to some may be seen as spoils. See, here in Calgary this week, we've been hammered by a few big storms as they have swept through our town with deluges and flash floods and huge garden-decimating hail. There was even a tornado spotted just outside of the city this week. I don't know how it is where you live, but our summers here are so very brief that for one to dedicate your time and love to growing a vegetable patch in this so very short season (always turbulent; hey, it's the Prairies!), it's pretty heart-breaking when in one fell swoop of Mother Nature's whim, your hard work and dedication can be wiped out just like that.
Know that not all is lost. I was visiting a friend when the second hail storm hit, and we sat open-mouthed at the windows watching the downpour, hoping our gardens and cars and roofs would be spared. I remembered a particularly devastating storm from last summer where I had lost most of my greens to big pock marks from hail, and grabbed a plastic grocery bag and ran out the back door. My friend Liz and I went through her garden patch and pulled out all of the dark leafy greens that had been damaged (either by the storm or by little critters) and quickly filled that bag up until it was overflowing. Resolved to add to my downtrodden loot, I headed home to find that my patch had been spared this time around.
Never you mind. This is the pile on my butcher block I saved from Liz' garden. In it, there are two kinds of kale (siberian is THE BEST), nasturtium greens, amaranth leaves, swiss chard and spinach.(Thanks for letting me raid/forage your garden, my friend!)
I took those greens, folded each leaf in two and cut that middle tough stem out of each leaf. When you're dehydrating greens, I find it is always best to discard the tough stem, as they will end up being super chewy bits in your finished product. Never a delectable thing, I assure you.
So I dutifully chopped all stems, and loaded up the 8 trays of my dehydrator. You can do this with all kinds of garden greens, from tatsoi, broccoli and cauliflower leaves, kale, swiss chard, beet greens, collards, amaranth, lettuces, mizuna, arugula, nasturtiums, parsley, whatever the hail and bugs have tried to claim for their own, claim it back.
I loaded the trays up, turned the contraption on to 105F (in order to preserve the nutrients and enzymes, anything under 118F is good). It certainly didn't take very long, about 3 or 4 hours later, the leaves were completely dried out.
This is the rocket scientist part. I put all of the greens in my big food processor fitted with the blade, and minced those greens until they were down to teeny flakes. And then I bottled them, a jar for me, and a jar for Liz. Total end volume: 1 cup of dried greens flakes for a full plastic grocery bag.
Tuck these babies in your pantry, and pull them out when you want to add a nutritional punch to your smoothies, or sprinkle on your pizzas, add these to a soup or sauce or stew. Wouldn't it be good on top of popcorn, along with a dusting of parmesan and lemon juice? Delicious.
Also. Know that once a plant gets damaged by either pests or hail, it starts producing protective compounds in order to ward off predators and as it turns out, these chemical compounds increase the nutritional punch of your produce. So go ahead, eat those damaged greens.
Incidentally, should you not have a dehydrator at your disposal, you can certainly do this in your oven or toaster oven, with the temperature set to the lowest possible, with the door cracked open to let the moisture out. There is always someone looking to get rid of their dehydrator on kijiji, or at a garage sale. Keep your eyes peeled!