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The Garden Harvest That Lifted My June Gloom

Yes, June Gloom is a legitimate meteorological phenomenon. This June has been particularly cloudy and drippy, don’t you think? It’s great for gardens, but not so great for outdoor fun. There are actual scientific reasons for this weather. According to Cliff Mass, a meteorologist with the University of Washington, it starts at about Memorial Day and lasts until about July 4th.  At that point, the coastal clouds move up to Canada and Alaska. So, take heart, fellow Ferndale-ites, we are nearing the end of Junuary. Even if we can’t cross the border right now, our clouds can. Sorry Canada.

Cliff Mass attributes our moist, grey ceiling to massive amounts of stratus and stratocumulus clouds over the eastern Pacific. Furthermore, there is an offshore high-pressure system that pushes the cool, cloudy marine air inland to hover over our heads. Knowing the science, however, doesn’t compensate emotionally for that rained-out camping trip. The only consolation for me is fresh produce from the veggie patch.

We Washingtonians plant our gardens in April and May during the few sunny stretches. Then, June provides the watering and the long days of sunlight. It’s a veritable greenhouse here, but a cold one. How is your garden? Are the weeds out of control yet?

To brighten the gloom of this June, my garden has provided some delicious treats. We have baby red potatoes, spring onions, spinach, Thai mint, strawberries, lettuce, cilantro, green chilies (I know, it’s a bit early for chilies. Kudos to Joe’s Gardens for such hardy seedlings!) I also have garlic chives, Italian herbs, and a laundry basket full of chamomile.

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The puzzle is how to combine these things cohesively. Could someone please write software that takes in a crazy list of ingredients and produces a couple of recipe suggestions? In lieu of that, I turn to my instincts.

  These are the raw building blocks for what became some gourmet meals this June.

Here is how it all came together. On day one, the theme was German. On day two, the leftovers became Vietnamese. The desert lasted both days and its flavor harmonized with both dinners. How did I do this? Read on.

I coated the baby potatoes with olive oil, sea salt, and fresh chopped oregano, thyme, and sage. These were roasted and served alongside pork schnitzel with mushroom sauce. I cannot take credit for the schnitzel, though. I sheepishly admit that it came out of a box from Costco. However, this quick fix gave me more time to focus on vegetables. Besides that, the schnitzel was tender and delicious.

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For a salad, I chopped the raw spring onions and tossed them with spinach, strawberries, and Thai mint. To add soft and crunchy textures, I added goat cheese with chopped hazelnuts and some crispy crumbled bacon. For the dressing, I put a handful of strawberries and a pinch of anise seeds into the blender with a glug of olive oil, an equal amount of balsamic vinegar, and a couple of tablespoons of fermented honey. We poured this over each individual serving.

Now for dessert. The most classic way of serving strawberries is atop a cheesecake with a graham cracker crust. I simply picked out a standard recipe online. But I added my own twist: anise flavor in the strawberry topping. Believe it or not, it’s really good. Simply stuff a teaspoon of anise seed into a home-made tea bag and drop it into the berries as you’re boiling them with sugar and corn starch. Remove the tea bag as you put the sauce into the fridge to chill.

Let me tell you, the dinner and dessert were heavenly!

After dinner, I pondered over a large bowl of radishes. We’re not going to eat that many before they go bad, so how can I preserve them? Freeze? Dehydrate? Can? No – Pickle them!

I looked up a “quick-pickle” recipe online. No canner required. It simply involves slicing the radishes and stuffing them into pint jars with garlic, dill, and pickling spice. Thankfully, one of my dill plants survived in the garden and I have some young garlic that I could harvest a bit early. I heated a solution of vinegar and water until the salt dissolved and then poured this into the jars. After a night in the fridge, they became perfectly pickled pink radishes!

How can you combine pink pickled radishes with leftover pork? Vietnamese (Banh Mi) sandwiches, of course! First thing in the morning, I started the bread machine. I used a recipe that called for mostly semolina flour. This is the flour used for making pasta. I added a tablespoon of whole fennel seeds into the dough. This flavor mimics star anise which is the signature ingredient of Vietnamese Pho. After forming the dough into hoagie shapes, I let them rise, coated them with egg wash, and baked them until golden and crispy on the outside and soft in the middle. Perfect. The semolina flour makes a fluffy, moist crumb, but one that is robust and holds up to slicing and squishing. Just what you need in a sandwich.

While baking, I prepared the filling. From the garden, I harvested cilantro, Thai mint, a little chili pepper, spring onions, baby carrots, and garlic chives. I chopped and coated these with last year’s canned sweet Thai chili sauce – which I made from the garden, of course.

I sliced open the warm hoagies and laid sheets of crisp lettuce upon them. Next came the slices of leftover pork and a generous scoop of the cilantro-chili mixture. Finally, I layered on the pink pickled radishes. In one bite, I tasted all the diverse flavors and textures. They mingled in a way that said Pho in a sandwich.

After lunch, I couldn’t resist finishing off the strawberry cheesecake. Then I burned those calories out in the garden.

As we near the end of June, I am picking and preserving berries. But my harvesting sessions have to tuck in between rainy, misty, drizzle episodes. This week, we had Moroccan Fish Tagine from June’s edition of Cooks Illustrated. I adjusted the veggie ingredients according to what I have in my garden right now, including baby zucchini and green peas. My family gave it rave reviews and asked for an encore.

Perhaps this weather will brighten up soon. At least the cloud cover lets me plant new crops without getting sun burned. I’m putting in more lettuce, spinach, basil, beets and cabbage seeds.  I hope the cabbage will ripen before fall’s first frost. I’ll let you know. My plan is to make kimchi.

So, although we’re mostly stuck at home, my garden takes us from Germany to Vietnam, then over to Morocco. And my cabbage is booking us a trip to Korea. Where is your garden taking you?

Nichole Schmitt

Nichole Schmitt

Nichole retired early from a technical career to stay home and raise children and vegetables. She enjoys feeding a large extended family using home-grown goodies and foraged foods.

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