Sorry for the delay in posts. We just got back from a week’s vacation/family reunion with Dave’s family. I’ll write more about that later. For now, let’s get caught back up…
So not only are we living on a farm, but all of Vancouver Island is a massive gorgeous forest. We have seen a number of eagles, an otter crossing the street, and a seal hanging out at the crabbing dock looking for a handout. But mostly there are plants, plants, plants everywhere. And my son is afraid of every single one. He throws his bouncy ball into the grass that has tall dandelions, and he squeals if his hand has to get too close to one. We were on Vancouver Island University campus today, walking on some of the trails through the trees while Dave unloaded boxes into his new office. As Little Man and I were “trail blazing” he would squeal if a branch had the audacity to cross the trail. If he had to maneuver too close to a dangling flower, he squealed. If his mommy took a leaf and tickled him behind the ear while he walked, he squealed. Hence the rub, by being so cute when he squeals at the greenery I’m inspired to cause more squeals.
Little Man also must contend with various gardens up and down our street. At the end of the street live two dogs that he loves to visit, and they have a lovely garden that I like to visit. The next house over has a prolific garden whose owner consistently presses bulging shopping bags full of English cucumbers and zucchini at us. Needless to say I walk past that house as often as possible. There is also our house, which does not have its own garden yet, but we do have the farm garden more or less in our backyard and we have been granted free access for whenever we want. All of these visits cause more squealing from the short member of our family, and chuckles from us. Poor boy…
One of the first times we went “shopping” in the farm garden behind our house also happened to be a weekend when Dave’s parents were visiting. On this particular occasion, Dave, his mom, Little Man and I were in the garden, harvesting a head of cauliflower that was almost overblown. While we were out there and Little Man was squealing at the pepper plants, Dave’s mom commented that the cauliflower leaves looked incredibly similar, almost identical in fact, to collards. I took a second look as well, and the huge leaves fanning out from around the cauliflower stalk do look just like collards. Now mind you I have no experience with collards “in the wild,” but if these cauliflower leaves were off the plant, tied together with a rubber band and put in a bin at the grocery store, they would look just like collard greens. This led to her next question; are cauliflower leaves edible?
A little internet research later, and yes, cauliflower leaves are in fact edible. Even more impressive than the fact that they are edible is that they are delicious. I have found that cauliflower leaves are more bitter than collards, which I don’t mind, but if you are not fond of that particular flavor you can just cook the leaves for a longer period of time like in traditional southern recipes for collards.
The overall internet opinion about harvesting cauliflower leaves is that you likely want to wait on harvesting the leaves until the cauliflower head itself is harvested, or at least leave some leaves on the plant that can protect the head. Before the cauliflower head is harvested the leaves can be tied up around it for protection from the sun and insects. Once the head is harvested, the leaves are fair game. This also allows you to eat more from the entire cauliflower plant, rather than simply harvesting the head and then composting everything else.
Another little beauty whose leaves you can eat is broccoli. This should not have been too surprising to me, but I am still learning my way around the relationships of the plant world. Apparently collards, cauliflower, broccoli and kale are all related. Who knew?
The one bummer side to this information is that if you do not grow these plants in your own garden or do not have access to them through a farmers market, you will likely have a hard time finding access to the leaves. While I have not yet grown them myself, it sounds like cauliflower and broccoli are relatively easy plants to grow. Or at least so say my gardener friends on the street. If you have space for a planter on your deck or front step, you likely have enough space to grow a couple of these for yourself. We got to the island a bit late in the planting season for me to have started some of my own cauliflower this year, but I am going to get some lettuces and kale going in containers later this week.
But first, back to the cauliflower leaves. Once we learned that they were edible, I started plotting ways that they could be used. Our cauliflower leaf harvest coincided with the gathering of a batch of potatoes and peas from the garden as well. Then I came across a Pintrest picture of a gorgeous potato and pea curry. I thought that the julienned cauliflower leaves would be an amazing addition to this curry, so I tried the link… and I’m still not sure what language that is. Perhaps something Eastern European? I have a little bit of experience with a number of languages (not enough to be fluent in anything but English), but for this recipe I could not even recognize the word for onion. So I gave that recipe up for lost and instead used the picture itself as inspiration. After combing through a number of different recipes on the internet and my own cookbook collection I came up with this Curried Potatoes and Peas with Cauliflower Leaves recipe. When I came up with and tested this recipe I was not yet blogging so I don’t have lovely pictures of the process yet. I promise to get back to that and will load those once I have them.
Curried Potato, Peas and Cauliflower Leaves
This recipe was inspired by the gorgeous produce I found in the farm garden, and given shape by an online picture of a gorgeous curry. This has some hints of Indian influences through the spices, but is more reliant on preblended curry powders that you would not find in “authentic” Indian food. If you cannot find cauliflower leaves, please feel free to substitute them with collard greens or another sturdy green of your preference. The recipe also calls for peas. When I first made this I used fresh peas from the garden. Frozen peas work well too, but you do lose some of the sweetness and texture of the fresh produce. Lastly, a delicious way to boost the protein in this vegetarian dish is to add quartered boiled eggs at the end with the peas. This is done in some traditional Indian curries, and works wonderfully with this recipe. In fact, that is exactly what I did the first time I made this dish and Little Man gobbled them up. Serve this over basmati rice or with flat bread to soak up all the rich, spicy broth.
Curried Potatoes with Peas and Cauliflower Leaves Recipe