Turkey Tracks: July 5, 2020
Garden Garter Snakes and Garlic Cream Kale
I was in the garden all day yesterday, the 4th of July. The weather was overcast, the temps cool, and the ground was so soft that weeds just leaped into my hands. Restoring order is going quicker than I would have thought. And I hope to get back into the garden today.
It was my first big day in the garden this year, since the Brown Tail Caterpillar hairs have been so toxic that it has been impossible to weed without encountering the discarded hairs that were on all the plants. The hairs make a rash that is filled with blisters and that itches like mad, for days. My arms are only now healing up.
AC was “on it” with me. He is fascinated with the garden snakes and is getting braver about grabbing them. He has come close to catching them several times now and almost got one the other day with me looking on. The snake was hiding under the spent daffs by the strawberries—it was a longer one—about 18 or so inches. I stepped in to give the snake some time to retreat across the path and into the growth and rocks on the other side. I think AC did grab it but jumped back with his mouth open as if the snake had shot it with some sort of noxious fumes. These snakes can do that, actually. It is a protective measure.
I uncovered a little one yesterday—6 or 8 inches—while trimming back the climbing hydrangea on the wall along the path—s/he was up by the house and went under the lower set of shingles above the concrete strip on the ground. So, AC spent most of our many hours outside going from one “snake” place to another. And, of course, checking on “mouse” at the compost bins, and “squirrel” on the upper porch, and “chipmunk” on the stone wall in back. He was really tired after his dinner. But happy.
Garter snakes work hard in the garden. They are a sign of a healthy garden, I’ve always been told. They eat insects, among other things. I know I have several here. And each year I see new little ones. The female snake gives birth to live little snakes. They don’t hatch from outside eggs. These snakes live together in a den. In the wild they can live to around five years. Some online sites say much longer. It probably depends on each snake’s habitat. Anyway, here they love the rock steps and the stone paths, where they lie in the sun. That is, until AC arrived. He does not allow such snake displays.
Yesterday I really wanted to grill something—it was the 4th after all. I wound up grilling chicken thighs for a salad lunch and, later, a little steak for a dinner that included corn on the cob, kale in garlic cream, and a bowl of summer berries (raspberries, blueberries, cherries, and strawberries from my garden).
Kale, garlic, and cream are a magic combo. Add nutmeg, for an even more magic treat.
Kale in Garlic Cream
Remember that it takes a LOT of kale to make enough food for more than two people. I count on one bunch for two people.
First, prep the kale. Put the kale in a sink and run water over it to knock off any sand or other debris. Start a big pot of water to boil—you only need about 3 or 4 inches of water. (This method is good for collards, too, but not chard or spinach, both of which are more delicate. Chard and spinach are better pan wilted in a good fat with only the rinsing water clinging to the leaves.)
I strip off the leaves with my hands. They come away from the central stem easily. Keep the leaves in big pieces for now. Some would lay the leaf on a cutting board and cut away the stem with a knife. I think that’s too much work for kale, but that is good for collards which have a tougher leaf. But, whatever.
When the pot of water is boiling, throw in the kale leaves and push them under the water with…something. Let them cook until they wilt really well—no longer than 5 minutes, which is probably a bit too long for kale. You don’t want to cook kale to death.
Drain into a colander and run cold water over the hot mass. When you can pick it up, ball it up with your hands and squeeze out all the water. Put the mass on a cutting board and cut it into smaller pieces—about one inch along the mass, then turn it, and cut the other way. Don’t cut it into tiny, tiny bits. You won’t some texture.
You can prep the kale at any time—even the day before. I prepped my kale at lunch while grilling the chicken.
Second, chop as much or as little garlic as you like. (You could do this step while the kale is cooking.) In my world, there is no such thing as too much garlic. Heat a knob of butter in a smaller size frying pan—enough to allow a generous coating and warming of your kale. Add the garlic and let it just simmer until it smells lovely. That will take only 30 to 40 seconds. Add the kale and turn it all around until it is coated and is warm.
Add a LOT of heavy cream—what looks good to you. For my one-bunch of kale, I probably added 1/2 cup of heavy cream. You could also add some nutmeg if you like it. Nutmeg on greens is magic. I can’t do it, so I added tarragon to my butter and garlic. Tarragon is sweet and adds a kind of licorice taste. Definitely add some sea salt. Pepper wouldn’t be bad either. Hmmm. I’m wondering if adding some heat wouldn’t be nice? Something in the hot pepper range? Then you would get a sweet/hot taste. Cook until everything is combined and is warm.
My batch left me with about half the batch for another meal. I’m going to put it into an omelet for a meal today, probably with some mozzarella cheese added, since I can eat that cheese. Ricotta might be nice too instead if I had some here today. And maybe more tarragon.