Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Sorrel Soup

Sorrel is a hardy perennial that we grow in one of our winter cold frames. The plants are starting to bolt right now. A perfect time to cut it back and have sorrel soup! 
Sorrel is high in oxalic acid so it is best to eat it cooked, but it’s ok to eat it raw occasionally like we did over the winter. Raw sorrel has a distinct and pronounced lemony flavor making it really zippy in a salad. Cooked it is milder, making a mellow and pleasant soup. It is also used in sauces, which I haven’t tried yet. In a quicky Google search I found that in France sorrel sauce is a common dish served alongside fish.  

Here is our soup recipe along with some adaptations so you can suit your own taste and ingredients. 
Sorrel Soup
Serves 6
2 Tbsp butter (or olive oil)
2 large perennial onions (or shallots), chopped
1 lb of sorrel leaves, washed and with large vein removed
2 large potatoes cut into 1/2” cubes
6 cups water (or chicken broth)
Salt and pepper to taste
Optional: a few tsps of fresh herbs such as thyme or marjoram
2 large eggs
Sour cream
Heat the butter in a non-reactive 3-quart saucepan. Add the perennial onions or shallots and cook for 5 minutes until softened. Add the sorrel and cook on low heat until wilted, about 10 minutes. Add the water or broth and the potatoes and bring to a boil. Lower to a simmer and cook for about 15 minutes until the potatoes are done. Remove from heat and let cool a bit. Puree in a blender. Add back into saucepan, add salt and pepper to taste, add optional herbs, and bring to a simmer. Break the eggs into a small bowl, and beat them with a fork. Slowly drizzle the egg over the soup while stirring with a whisk, breaking up the egg into fine bits. Simmer 5 minutes. Serve hot or cold with a dollop of sour cream.
Enjoy! -jmm

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Cold Frames for Extended Season Gardening

I love that surprised look I get when upon commenting that we just had a fresh salad made out of greens picked from our garden in January. That's from our garden in MAINE in January- no heated green house nor grow lights. All it takes is Mother Nature and a little ingenuity. 
We eat garden fresh vegetables all through the winter. Lettuce and spinach last until about late January, then more seeds are planted, and the new plants are ready to pick in April. Carrots, swiss chard and sorrel graced our table as well. Hardy greens like mache and claytonia thrived until going to seed in April. We love the variety of greens! 

The cold frames are made from old windows and some two by eights or twelves, and placed in a couple of sunny spots near the house. In winter we keep the windows lowered at night and on especially cold days. When daytime temperatures were over 35 we propped them open so the veggies wouldn't get baked from the heat that builds up through the glass. 

In the top photo are cold frames set aside for the summer. In about August we will set them up again and plant seeds. The lower photo shows cold frames that are almost empty this time of year. These will be left in place and planted with summer veggies. 

Originally we heard of cold frames as a means of starting seeds earlier in the spring or for prolonging the growing season later in the fall. We thought of them like the green houses we see around Maine, lush in spring and summer but empty and dismantled through the winter. Traditional northern gardening thought is that there's not enough sunshine to garden once the fall harvest is completed. But, au contraire. Winters may be cold in Maine but there is still plenty of sunshine. Grab an atlas to check this out- here in Maine we are at the same latitude as southern France. Hey, I was skeptical too. The difference between Maine and France is that Maine has arctic weather patterns invading from Canada where France is more temperate. Using a cold frame takes advantage of the adequate sun while minimizing temperature extremes.
More on cold frame gardening in future blogs. -G.H.