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Sustainable Life: Winter kitchen garden

Mia Swainson

Broccoli, cauliflower, pea shoots and baby spinach are in the garden right now.

They’re green, they’re crunchy and they’re helping us to stay healthy as the cold weather settles into our lives. The short days and cold weather make growing anything from scratch almost impossible in Canberra’s winters. To harvest in winter, you almost certainly will have planted in autumn.

So, for those who were organised enough to get dirt under their fingers at the right time, here are three of my favourite kitchen garden recipes for winter.

Wilted Bok Choy

This is the easiest, tastiest recipe for Asian greens. I like the tender sweetness in bok choy, but you can use almost any leafy Asian greens in this dish.

Take about 10 outer stalks from a few of your bok choy plants, leaving the inner stalks to continue growing. Alternatively, you could harvest two whole plants.

Place the stalks in a shallow, heat proof dish. Boil the jug and pour boiling water over your bok choy. Let it stand for about 2 minutes, then drain the hot water.

Meanwhile, prepare the dressing by combining a tablespoon of rice wine vinegar, a tablespoon of soy sauce and a teaspoon of sesame oil. Serve wilted bok choy immediately and drizzle the dressing on top. Want a little extra pizzazz? Garnish your wilted Asian greens with black sesame seeds.

Roast cauliflower, quinoa and baby spinach salad

Cauliflower is the king of winter veggies in the garden. It’s light green leaves are elegant and when it’s ready, you can pry them away from the centre of your plant to reveal an enormous, white flower in the middle – the very flower that we eat.

To make this salad, chop a whole cauliflower head into florets. Pop them on a grill tray with a generous splash of olive oil, the finely grated rind of a lemon and some salt. Grill them for about 15mins, or until the tops are starting to blacken, then turn off the grill and leave them in there to continue cooking in their own warmth. Meanwhile, cook about a cup of red quinoa to instructions on the packet. Then lay out your salad by placing a generous layer of baby spinach on a serving platter. Place the grilled cauliflower on top of the baby spinach and the red quinoa on top again. Garnish with a cup of chopped parsley and serve with a dressing of olive oil, red wine vinegar and salt.

Caramelised balsamic Broccoli salad

Broccoli cut freshly from your garden tastes sweeter than broccoli that’s been picked, cold stored and transported to a supermarket shelf. If you haven’t already, try it and you’ll be hooked forever on the good home grown stuff.

My favourite broccoli to grow at home are the sprouting varieties. You can get purple as well as plain green. While spectacular in the garden, they look the same when they’re cooked. Sprouting broccoli doesn’t form one large head; it produces many heads that will give you a longer harvest.

To make this salad, harvest the equivalent of a head of broccoli either in one go or in shoots from your sprouting broccoli. Cut the broccoli into florets and lightly steam it on the stovetop. Working quickly, prepare your other salad ingredients.

Lightly toast about half a cup of sunflower seeds. Then, lay out a generous layer of baby spinach on your salad platter. Place the steamed broccoli on top and then sprinkle the sunflower seeds on too. Drizzle your platter generously with olive oil and caramelised balsamic vinegar. Grind a little salt over the top of it all. Yum, scrum.

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Mia Swainson

Mia Swainson is passionate about creating a more sustainable world and believes that everyone can make a difference. Trained as an environmental engineer, Mia has worked in sustainable development with the Australian Government and community sector for more than 15 years. Mia’s work has taken her around the world to Papua New Guinea, Solomon Islands and back to Canberra. She currently tends her kitchen garden, cares for three young boys and is growing her executive coaching consultancy (miaswainson.com.au/wp). More about the Author