Fresh from the Garden for Dinner

Harvest basket

This simple basket of fresh garden vegetables represents dinner for three on three occasions, a total of nine meals. Now that the days are getting longer and nights are warmer, the vegetable garden is gearing up to take off and keep us fed until well after the leaves fall from the trees come autumn.

Brian Small harvests 'Bright Lights' Swiss Chard

Friday afternoon I wouldn’t let Brian start harvesting dinner until I’d photographed the asparagus. I also asked him to model for me, taking a bit more time picking the chard from the greenhouse than he otherwise would have. This ‘Bright Lights’ Swiss Chard was planted late last summer. Then we built a plastic greenhouse over it, up against the wall of our shop. We ate some chard in the fall, but mostly it sat in the ground all winter until it started growing again this spring. It’s a beautiful vegetable, also sweet and tasty and full of nutrients.

'Millennium' Asparagus spear

Friday wasn’t the first day we picked asparagus this year, but it was the first full harvest of the season. We’re growing a variety called ‘Millenium’. Since asparagus takes three years from planting until you can make a full harvest, we put this in the ground in the spring of 2015, the first year we had a vegetable garden at this house. This is the third year we expect a full season-long crop.

'Millennium' Asparagus spears

Asparagus is a weird vegetable. Whoever thought to eat the emerging stems of this plant? If you wait too long to pick it, then the leaves come out and you have this big ferny looking thing that you really can’t eat. I don’t think it would hurt you, but the stems get tough and woody and who wants all those little leaves getting stuck in your teeth. Better to pick those stems while they’re young and tender.

An established asparagus bed will produce for years to come and is well worth the effort to get it established. We’ll be eating all the asparagus we care to eat for about the next month. Then something else will take its place in our diet.

The picture makes it look like our asparagus bed is on a hill. In reality, that’s just the dirt piled up from the adjacent bed (which will be planted to squash) when it was spaded up earlier in the day.

Fresh spring vegetables

Along with the asparagus and Swiss chard, Brian also picked a nice handful of leaves from our pak choi. Rather than harvest the whole plant, like you’d see in the grocery store, we like to pick the largest outside leaves and save the rest of the plant for later. We’re able to eat off it for a longer period of time without being overwhelmed by having too much of a good thing all at once.

We’re thankful for our gardener-in-chief, Natalie, for knowing just when to get everything in the ground and for getting seeds started for those things that need a head start.

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