Before I post the very simple recipe for the green garlic and kale mashed potatoes I made last week–I wanted to take a few minutes to talk about what I have come to call my “Veggie Friends.” My Veggie Friends are the little bugs that I find clinging to my farm-fresh produce on pretty much every trip back from a CSA pick-up. I wanted to bring this up because when my family first decided to join a CSA I wasn’t sure what to make of them. I have to begin by admitting that the sight of them on my produce initially caused a bit of an “ick” factor for me. I mean, there were little black bugs and sometimes little green aphids crawling around on my food. I didn’t want to eat them. I knew my bug aversion was ridiculous. I knew that they were there because, obviously, my produce had not been sprayed with poisons to kill the little critters. I knew that I would be washing them off. It took some reflection, but the bugs that I find in our CSA veggies have now become my Veggie Friends.
What helped me get over my aversion? My daughter.
I thought about the alternative–conventionally farmed produce which has been sprayed with pesticides or grown with GMO seeds. I decided a few little bugs were a small price to pay for not only superior vegetables, but also the peace of mind that I was not unwittingly harming my family with the food I was feeding them. Also, I don’t want to eat produce that not even a bug will eat!! I involved my daughter in our bi-weekly veggie storage prep. Instead of quickly rinsing off the buggies, I began showing them to her. She would ooh and ahh and sometimes touch them. I marveled at the simplicity with which she accepted their presence. I never once saw her hesitate to eat a vegetable after she had helped clean off the mites, or aphids. I explained to her that the bugs live off of the produce. It’s their food. I explained to her that our produce had not been sprayed and had allowed the bugs to live and grow and continue their cycle of life as much for them as for us. I tell you all of this as a sort of marker of growth for me. Finding Veggie Friends in my produce has become a discussion; a sharing moment, and a learning opportunity for all of us. It is defining what my daughter knows about where food comes from and how it grows. It has established a basis for her understanding of life, and that sometimes bugs can teach us a little something about mercy.
The day I made the tuna patties I found a caterpillar living in my Napa cabbage. When I cut the cabbage in half and began stripping away the leaves to wash and chop. I found him. He had been in my fridge for a few days. He was alive and wriggling around. I called my daughter and she came excitedly to see. My daughter asked if she could hold him. I gave her the leaf and we watched him crawl around. I couldn’t even think about washing him down the drain and I felt kind of guilty to remove him from his food source so we took the leaf outside and laid it amongst fallen leaves at the root of a tree and watched him wriggle around. I gave a silent thanks to the little guy as proof that the produce I held in my hands is sustenance, for us, for him, and for the earth. That moment was a reaffirmation for me that the choices I am making for my family are steps in the right direction. The presence of my Veggie Friends is now a welcome one.
I’m pretty sure green garlic is still available in some parts of the country. Saturday’s trip to the farm stand will tell. Hopefully the green garlic is still in our harvest rotation.
Potatoes and kale seem to work so fabulously together. I pair them up whenever I can. This is a super simple side with tons of flavor. I used Lacinato kale for this recipe.
Green Garlic and Kale Mashed Potatoes (makes about 5-6 servings)
1 whole stalk green garlic, halved lengthwise and washed well between layers
5 large potatoes
3 Tablespoons butter
1 Tbsp olive oil
1/2-3/4 cup milk(measurement not exact. You may need a splash more or less. Pour a little a time to get right consistency)
1-1/2 cups of shredded kale
1/4 cup shaved parmesan cheese
salt to taste (start with 1/2 tsp)
fresh ground black pepper to taste
Peel (or scrub well) potatoes and chop into quarters. Place into a 2 qt pot or larger and cover with water. Place over medium heat and bring gradually to a boil, cover and cook until potatoes are tender. Drain and return to pot. Mash with a potato masher. I like my mashed potatoes a little lumpy so I don’t mash too much. Add milk, salt and pepper and stir. Taste check for salt. Adjust if necessary.
Chop green garlic. Add 1 Tbsp olive oil to a skillet and place over low heat. Add chopped green garlic and saute for a few minutes until soft. Add butter to green garlic skillet and once melted, add kale and just toss quickly. Add the kale/garlic contents to the potatoes. Combine. Add shaved parmesan, stir, and serve. Top with extra shaved parm if desired.