Hello everyone! Spring is here at the Build It Up program in East Tennessee and our gardeners just got their first plant starts of the season. We partnered with a local farm to grow a variety of different plant starts for our backyard gardeners. Gardeners picked up orders filled with broccoli, cabbages, different kales and collards among other plants. We were fortunate that our diligent farmer had sprouted beautiful plants. He also went ahead and hardened off all of the plants before they were sent to their permanent homes. Our gardeners have now received spring plants and seeds, tools, landscape fabric, staples and fertilizer and are ready to plant!

Tips for Planting Brassica

When planting brassica starts it is good to plant deep enough that just the leaves are left above ground and any part of the stalk is buried beneath the soil. This will leave you with pants that rise up and begin leafing out right at the base of the soil where they were planted. It is common for early spring plant starts to get a little bit leggy when the young plants can’t get enough light from the late winter sun. If planted out even with the soil, the leggy plants will transform into plants with curled stalks laying on the ground before shooting up to grow. As the soils stay so moist in the spring any stalk that is left above ground runs the risk of early rot. Best to bury those stems. After planting a good watering will help the plants get off to a great start.

What to do with all your spring greens!

With so many gardeners growing kale this spring we thought we would share a recipe for kale pesto. As backyard gardeners it is common to find yourself swimming in greens come springtime. It is a welcomed predicament, as it allows us enough extra to begin putting up for the winter. It may seem odd to think about winter in May but it can be the perfect time to start if you’re serious about eating local year round. As I work on finishing up the last bag of pesto from our freezer I am thankful for our foresight in putting away fresh greens to eat through the winter. I am so happy to have made it back into greens season without a skip. So here is our go to for putting up greens if you too find yourself swimming in them. 

Kale Pesto Recipe

3 cups kale (or arugula, basil, or other sturdy green)
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup olive oil
1/4 nuts (we’ve been known to take liberty with this, walnuts, pecans, almonds, pine nuts, sunflower seeds, they’ve all shown up in our pesto over the years. Use what you have or if you don’t have any nuts in the pantry pick up your favorite.)
4 cloves garlic
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
Juice from half a lemon

Start by pulsing whatever nuts you choose to use in the food processor along with the whole cloves of garlic and salt. After pulsing the garlic and nuts until they’re small, take off the top of the food processor and pack in the greens.  Return the lid and pulse while drizzling the olive oil through the top opening. After the leaves have broken down into small pieces add in the cheese and lemon. Pulse one last time until everything is combined. If you are not planning to use this right away, it stores wonderfully in Ziploc freezer bags. If freezing, label what kind of pesto, Kale/Walnut, Arugula/Almond, etc. and date it. Then stick it in the freezer making sure it’s laying flat. This allows you to stack up a bunch of these bricks over the season to use at any time.

To enjoy your pesto you can use it in standard fare like pesto on pasta or as a sauce on homemade pizza. Or, you can enjoy it by mixing it into quiches, rice, salad dressings, etc. Let us know how you’re eating it if you decide to give it a try!