But I Really Liked Summer!

Our seasons here in Oregon are in the process of changing, and even more than I, the plants in my garden can sense that change. But I’m teaching myself a few new garden skills that I hope will short-circuit this annual shutdown of the seasonal garden – I’m doing some “winter” garden plantings, in an attempt to have some veggies to pick in December and January.

This sad fact is not due to dropping temps, which in our locale, hang in the general area between upper 30s to lower 50s as daytime temps all winter long – and there are few nights where the temperature dips below 25 degrees. This range should allow for many kinds of garden plants to survive all winter long. However, the lack of consistent sun (very important to plants!), and the deluge of rains combine to discourage even the most hearty of otherwise happy winter vegetables.

But there are some garden veggies that, with a little attention, can either continue their growth (like kale), or sit and wait until spring to renew their growth (like garlic/onions and sprouting broccoli), or simply sit there waiting to be picked and eaten (like beets, rutabaga, carrots). But it’s the first category that I know the least about, and which I’m concentrating on this year – and the group of plants I’ve chosen to teach me these mysteries are Asian greens, which amazingly seem to tolerate cold temperatures better than most garden veggies.

Komatsuna - Ready to be Picked

Komatsuna - Ready to be Picked

My current favorite winter veggie is Komatsuna, a Japanese green that has many positive attributes – it’s fast, taking only 3 weeks from sowing to reach maturity (this fact must be seen to be believed!) – and is perfect as a salad ingredient even at 10 days! It makes a wonderful spinach substitute, and has that mild, mustardy flavor like bok choy – and it’s a “cut and come again” vegetable, so that it just keeps on giving! In the following pic, you can see the tiny internal sprout of Komatsuna’s next leaves, which will be ready to pick once more in about 2 weeks – amazing!

Komatsuma - Harvested, but Eager to Regrow

Komatsuma - Harvested, but Eager to Regrow

Komatsuna is also a beautiful plant, with deep green, spoon shaped leaves – it’s easy to pick, clean, and ready for cooking. At full maturity, it has a long white stalk, which may require longer cooking than the green, leafy top, which like spinach, cooks very quickly. But I’ve found that when stir-frying, I just throw them all in the wok together, and they cook up nicely together. When using Komatsuna as a spinach substitute, sometimes I’ve even thrown the stalks away and just used the tops (we gardeners can be such wasters!).

Baby Bok Choy - Another Winter Asian Green

Baby Bok Choy - Another Winter Asian Green

I’m including a recipe for Twice Cooked Pork with Komatsuna, which I made last night, because I had just picked up some Pork Blade Roast at Safeway for .99 a pound, and I cut it up into several packs of meat for the freezer. I was left with the bone and scraps, from which I made a pork broth (heavily flavored with ginger, garlic, onions and carrots) – I added a bit more chunks of meat to give the broth a little more flavor – and those chunks will be my “twice cooked pork”.  I’ll use the broth later as the base for some Asian soups.

BTW, my inspiration for this recipe comes from a recipe for pork belly, but I’ve found that using fatty pork shoulder works perfectly well – although I love the idea of using pork belly as well. When I see some at a decent price, I’ll be happy to try it with this recipe – but until then, this works quite well.

Twice Cooked Pork with Komatsuna

    • 1 lb. pork belly or fatty pork shoulder

    • about 6 cups of chopped stalk and tops of Komatsuna

    • 8-10 green onions, white and green parts, sliced in 1/2” pieces

    • 1 tsp chili garlic sauce

    • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil

    • 1 tablespoon Shaoxing cooking wine

    • 1 tablespoon Sichuan hot bean paste

    • 2 tablespoons hoisin sauce

    • 1 teaspoon sugar

      Process:

    • Put strips of pork belly or 1” chunks of pork shoulder in a pot and completely cover the meat with water. Bring the water to a boil and immediately turn the heat down to a simmer. Cook the meat for about 30 minutes. Skim the scum that forms on the top regularly as the meat is being cooked. Drain the pork and let cool. Cut the pork belly into slices of about 1/8 inch thick and set aside.

    • Mix Shaoxing cooking wine, Sichuan hot bean paste, hoisin and sugar in a bowl and set aside.

    • Heat the vegetable oil in a wok until just beginning to smoke. Add the Komatsuna and stir-fry for about 2 minutes. Be sure to keep stirring so as not to burn the Komatsuna. Remove from the wok and set aside. Put the sauce mixture into the wok and stir-fry for about 30 second or until fragrant. Add both the pork and Komatsuna into the sauce and continue to stir-fry for another 2 minutes or so. Then add the green onion and stir-fry for additional 30 seconds. Serve with rice.

I hope you’ll forgive me for not having a picture of this dish – I find food photography to be the most challenging part of doing this blog, and my results are usually poor – and that’s to my standards, which are next to non-existent. Maybe some day I’ll work on that. But in the meantime, this is still a nice dish.

Enjoy!

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About drfugawe

I'm a guy with enough time to do as I please, and that my resources allow. The problem(s) are: I have 100s of interests; I have a short attention span; I have instant expectations; I'm lazy; and I'm broke. But I'm OK with all that, 'cause otherwise I'd be so busy, I'd be dead in a year.
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3 Responses to But I Really Liked Summer!

  1. There is no way I’d call myself a gardener, but I’ve decided to try to grow some greens this winter. Komatsuma is new to me, but with a recommendation like this how can I resist?

  2. Mimi says:

    Komatsuma. What an amazing plant! What is it like? Spinach?

  3. drfugawe says:

    Susan/Mimi,
    Thanks for popping in! Yes, it’s very much like spinach – often called Japanese Mustard Spinach – cooks just as fast as spinach, but w/o the “irony” taste – mildly mustard taste. I love it.

    Here’s where I get my Asian seeds
    http://www.evergreenseeds.com/komjapmusspi.html
    I’m growing the hybrid on the bottom. In CA, it should grow all year long – it does best in rich soil.

    Susan, I’m surprised you have the time for blog reading – have I told you how jealous we all are?

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