Local chef gets his greenhouse groove on
Story and photos by Tom Castrigno
SUMMIT COUNTY — Backyard vegetable gardens are gaining lots of attention lately. It’s no surprise, with all the talk about locally sourced foods, not to mention rising food prices. The rewards of growing your own vegetables are numerous. Chief among them is a readily available source of fresh, delicious produce.
Here at 9,000 feet, our garden choices are generally limited to cold-tolerant varieties like kale, lettuce, and spinach. Herbs like cilantro, mint, and parsley can also be grown fairly easily.
If you want to expand your gardening horizons, a greenhouse is a good option for peppers, tomatoes, and zucchini, but success can depend on their specific location inside the greenhouse.
Our plot in the community garden greenhouse in Frisco features radishes, lettuce, mustard spinach, kale, collards, rapini, arugala, spinach, and cilantro.
It has been amazing to witness the process from start to finish. Placing seeds in the dirt, seeing them sprout, harvesting the new growth, and finally tasting that incredible flavor of homegrown food. Mostly the kale and collards get cooked. The other varieties end up in salads or on sandwiches.
Recently, I have started using the tender greens in a new way. I like my greens lightly cooked. Stirring them into a hot pot of freshly cooked grains does the job quite well.
Last week, I cooked a pot of Qquinoa flavored with curry powder and some shredded zucchini. As the pot came off the stove, I stirred in a variety of chopped greens. My recent harvest included arugala, mustard spinach, and rapini. All of these have a bright, peppery flavor that compliments the quinoa beautifully.
To finish the dish, I sprinkled on garam masala, a spice blend, and a bit of flax oil. A topping of fresh cilantro and diced radish, also grown in the greenhouse, added an extra kick of greens and some crunch. This is quite a change of pace from a bowl of oatmeal. I find the savory combination of greens and seasonings gets me going much more than the typical sweet flavorings of oatmeal.
I highly recommend growing edible crops. Even if you are limited to a flower pot in a window sill, the rewards are worth the effort.
Tom Castrigno lives in Frisco, CO where he is known as The Mobile Chef. Learn some of his secrets for healthy eating and find great recipes on his blog at www.healthymealsmadeeasily.com/blog/.
Nancy’s Greenhouse in Frisco, CO was started in 2010 as an outreach program of LiveWell Colorado. Greenhouse number one has 19 plots held by community members. A few plots are also gardened by organizations such as Timberline Adult Daycare, Women, Infants, and Children (WIC), and the Senior Center. Clients of these groups benefit from access to fresh produce they may not otherwise have.
There is also an educational component aimed at introducing those clients to unfamiliar foods such as Swiss chard and kale. Two additional greenhouses are farmed by as a Community Supported Agriculture (CSA). Revenue from plot fees and the CSA are used to offset operational costs. Nancy’s Greenhouse welcomes donations. Contact Joanna at LiveWellSummitCounty@gmail.com to support healthy food for under-served populations.