Well, it has been a little while since I posted, which I blame on having broken my camera. It also means that I am about to do something that you should never do on a food blog, and that is publish a post without a photo of the food. I did have a corker to share, but it is lost, so you will have to wait until next I make this recipe. In the meantime, please enjoy the view from one of my favourite foraging spots, complete with convenient resting place for my containers.
In this area, people have also planted a guerilla garden. It has been here as long as I have been coming, and probably longer. You may be able to make out Jerusalem artichoke in the picture, and there are potatoes, pumpkins and corn at various times of the year. There is also a lot of mint, which I think was planted initially, but the conditions in the Netherlands are perfect for this herb, and now it is running rampant.
I may have mentioned that we are trying to eat healthily but with all the flavour, and one of the salads that really fits the bill is fattoush. This is a Lebanese salad that uses sumac and lemon to give a really zingy dressing. I have been buying sumac, but I’m delighted to learn that you can actually forage for this plant. It is a native of North America, but apparently it has been a popular garden and municipal plant in the UK. I shall be looking out for it here too.
Despite trying conditions for many of our crops this year, our herbs have gone crazy. So, I didn’t need to forage the mint for this recipe, but at least I’d have known where to go. I don’t take any of the other plants in the guerilla garden, because they are clearly loved and cared for, but there is enough mint here to keep Cuba in mojitos for a decade.
I am also proud to say that this salad contained my first ever Little Gem lettuce.
Since my course back in March, I have been trying to garden according to permaculture principles. Part of this is that you try to avoid bare soil in an effort to preserve the soil microbiology, take advantage of microclimates, and to prevent the army of local cats from pooing near your veg.
OK, that last one is more a principle of mine, since they used to see our dug over soil as a litter box, little*ahem* darlings. But it does adhere to the principles of using and valuing diversity, letting a problem become the solution, and (literally) reducing waste 🙂
Based on companion planting charts that are widely available on the internet, I decided to underplant my asparagus with lettuces, marigolds, and chicory. These included red velvet, a leaf lettuce called “Australian Yellow”, a mixed salad, and the aforementioned Little Gems. Most of them have done well, apart from the red velvet. I think this is because a cat got to the spot that night I planted the seed.
So with parsley and mint in abundance and Little Gems and radish doing well, garden fattoush was the salad of choice. A lot of flavour, with the potential of foraging. Could you ask more from a salad?
I’d be really interested in hearing about other people’s efforts at companion planting. Do you have any particular favourites that grow well, or help against pests? Please do share them in the comments.
Recipe: Fattoush Salad
2 pita breads, diced
1 tsp oil for frying
2 Spring onions (or more if really like them), finely sliced
Zest and juice of one lemon
3-4 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 tsp sumac
200 g cherry tomatoes (or baby plums), halved
½ cucumber, chopped into large dice
small bunch radishes; roots quartered lengthways, and smaller leaves
2-3 Little Gem lettuces, leaves only, chopped in half
Large handful of flat leaf parsley, leaves whole and stalks finely chopped
Smaller handful of mint, leaves only, roughly chopped
In a frying pan, heat a little oil until it is quite hot. Fry the diced pita breads until they are golden. You will need to stir them occasionally. Drain onto kitchen paper.
While the bread is frying, mix together the lemon juice and zest, the good olive oil, the sumac and the spring onion. Leave aside for a few minutes to take the raw edge off the onion.
Combine the tomatoes, cucumber, salad leaves, herbs and the radish roots and leaves in a large bowl. Dress the salad with the dressing, and toss well.
Add the pita bread, stir briefly, and serve immediately.
Sounds appetising, doesn’t it? I’m sure you can picture this one without a photo.