Month: October 2011

Collards to Keep the Cold Away

Last night was the first snow of the year, and as the residual flakes melt away in the cool autumn sun today, I needed something hearty and warm to comfort my soul in mourning of summer’s end.

Earlier this week, we harvested our collard green plants and pulled up the remaining stalks to make room in the hoop house for some kale. Because collards are sort of outside the typical college student cooking repertoire, I ended up with a trash bag full of it, and what better on a cold day than to make braised collards and qunioa!?

For those unfamiliar with collard greens, they are a member of the Brassica family (read: broccoli, cabbage, mustard greens, etc.) and provide large hearty green leaves commonly used in cuisines of West Africa, Portuguese-speaking countries and the US South. And quinoa is a protein and fiber-rich “ancient” grain from South America, which has seen a culinary renaissance in the last years, making it more available in mainstream markets.

Below are the recipes for both – hopefully they bring you warmth and nourishment on a cold day, too!

Kickin’ Collard Greens with Quinoa

Yields about 6 servings


– 1 tablespoon olive oil
– 3 slices bacon (alternatively, for vegetarians, wild mushrooms might be a great choice)
– 1 large onion, chopped
– 2 cloves garlic, minced
– 1 teaspoon salt
– 1 teaspoon pepper
– 3 cups chicken broth
– 1 pinch red pepper flakes
– 1 pound fresh collard greens, cut into 2-inch pieces

– 2 cups dried quinoa
– 3 cups liquid (water, chicken or vegetable stock, or both)

For Collards:

1.     Heat oil in a large pot over medium-high heat. Add bacon, and cook until crisp. Remove bacon from pan, crumble and return to the pan. Add onion, and cook until tender, about 5 minutes. Add garlic, and cook until just fragrant. Add collard greens, and fry until they start to wilt.

2.    Pour in chicken broth, and season with salt, pepper, and red pepper flakes. Reduce heat to low, cover, and simmer for 45 minutes, or until greens are tender.

For Quinoa:

You’ll need a 4 quart pot with a tight fitting lid, and a fine mesh strainer

1) Optional: Soak the quinoa for 5 min in the cooking pot. Soaking helps quinoa to cook evenly, and loosens up any residue of saponin (usually removed in processing), which can give a bitter taste. Most quinoa sold in the US these days has been cleaned, and steamed to remove the saponin, so don’t worry about that overly much.

To Rinse: Stir the quinoa with your hand, and carefully pour off the rinsing water, using a fine mesh strainer at the last

2) Drain quinoa well in the strainer, transfer to the cooking pot, add 3 cups liquid

3) Bring to a boil, cover with a tight fitting lid, and turn the heat down to simmer

4) Cook for 15 minutes

5) Remove quinoa from heat and allow to sit five minutes with the lid on

6) Fluff quinoa gently with a fork and add to pot of collards when done

7) Mix and allow to sit for a few minutes, then serve!

Adapted from recipes at and

Garden Winterization (Part 1): Hoop House

Going into the garden’s first winter, we decided to investigate different methods of winterizing the garden, and, in this case, prolonging the growing season. One common technique is a structure called a hoop house. With an appearance similar to the Iroquois longhouses of the past, this PVC pipe and plastic sheeting structure acts like a greenhouse, insulating its contents from the dramatic temperature outside. While not able to extend the growing season through the entire winter, our research has found testimonies of being able to grow cold-hardy crops (leafy greens, root vegetables, etc.) into February!

Now, finally, after over a month of construction, the hoop house is complete! Inside we have radishes, cilantro, and Toscano kale (recently seeded) growing. The real test of its structural worth will be when we check on it in a few days (considering that it snowed last night and temperatures are expected to dip into freezing for the next few days.)

This structure, with its impeccable construction and incredible engineered stability, believe it or not was the first one we ever built, and it wasn’t even that hard!!! Below are instructions for how we did it!

Materials (all available at Home Depot!):
– 4  10 ft. x 1/2 in. pvc pipes (available in the plumbing department)
– 3.5mm plastic sheeting (available in painting supply section)
– 8 1/2 brass pipe brackets
– Wood screws (length dependent on surface they’re drilled into)
– Scissors
– Measuring tape
– Staple gun
– Additional able-bodied, coordinated individuals


*All of these instructions are based on the dimensions of our garden bed, which is approximately 4 ft x 8 ft (we never measured.) Accordingly, the lengths of your PVC should be adjusted – take the half-circumference and add a foot on each side.

1) Ideally the brackets would be evenly spaced and matched the the ones across the bed, but we didn’t really do that. We trust out eyeballs. We started by drilling each brackets (4 on each side) half way into place. This was important, because if screwed all the way in, the pipes would not fit in.

2) Fit the PVC pipes into the brackets created four parallel arcs. From there, screw the brackets the rest of the way in.

3) Once you have the skeleton (it reminded me of a whale skeleton….don’t ask me why) – now is the time to measure out your plastic. You want it wide enough to go all the way over the arc with 6 extra inches from the top of the bed to where the plastic hangs; and long enough that when folding in the excess (like you were wrapping a hoop house-shaped present,) it about touches the ground.

4) Once it is measured and draped over the structure in the way you wish, it’s time to attach the plastic! This is where we got held up for weeks, because we lacked access the a stable gun. If you can think of more creative and/or less permanent ways to attach the plastic, please be my guest. Everything I learned was from YouTube, so it’s pretty easy to find. On one long side (the side where the brackets attach) fold the plastic edge under itself by a few inches. Using your staple gun, put a row of staples along the bottom edge, about 6 inches apart, making sure to hold the plastic taught so there are no creases or flabby folds (this is like plastic surgery.) Once complete, add a second row of stable above the first near the top of the bed’s side board, again, assuring taughtness.

5) Go to the other side (and this is where extra hands help) and pull the plastic fairly taught, then repeat the first sides actions. For BOTH sides, I would recommend putting at least the first staple in the middle first, to assure you are not lopsidedly stapling the plastic. Taughtness is important so that rain and debris does not collect on the top of the hoop house, but note that without the ends being pulled taught, also, it may not appear to be as taught as it will be. Don’t pull it so taught that it threatens the integrity of the plastic. A tear would be counter to the idea of sealing in warmth.

6) Now’s the easy (or hard) part. We labored over how to close up the ends, because you want it to be a fairly tight seal to keep in warmth, but also have it be accessible to reach inside. We talked about trying to attached zippers or velcro, but eventually just ended up using two large cinder blocks on each side. As I said earlier, fold the ends of the plastic down as though you were wrapping a present, and then use the cinder blocks to keep them in place.

Then, TAH DAH! You have a hoop house!

We’ll see how successful ours is and keep you posted. There was even talk of dressing up our hoop house for the holidays – cute. Happy winter gardening!

Our first skill share

On October 5th, Devyn and Jake represented the garden club at the on-campus Farmers’ Market (Wednesdays 11:30am-1:30pm on the lower Campus Center Patio) behind a table inviting people to come plant herbs for the winter in recycled containers:

Fall recipe from Jacob

Sweet Acorn Squash~

Acorn squash
brown sugar

Preheat oven to 350
Spray cookie sheet with non-stick spray
Cut whole Acorn Squash in half.
Scoop and scrape out the seeds and fibers.
Lay squash cut side down on cookie sheet
Bake for 40 minutes
Remove from oven and turn squash over with tongs
place a tablespoon of butter and brown sugar in each acorn half.
Return squash (butter side up)  to oven to bake for 10 more minutes (or until soft to fork).

A growing garden

In my last post I promised I’d put up pictures of the completed raised beds built for use this semester in the Sustainable Food Systems Ex-College class. Well between that moment and right now- we’ve also received a truck-full of soil from Cambridge Bark and Loam, built a hoop house (that I hope Alex and Carolyn will write more about), cleaned up the garden a little, and planted some yumyums.

The Sustainable Food Systems Class’ raised beds, constructed Saturday, September 17th and filled with soil Thursday, September 22nd:

3 of the 4 finished raised beds built with stacked 2x4s and Ikea bed slats

The next Monday (when the class is held), they planted some seeds, labeling the frame as they went.

Sustainable Food Systems Class bed- identifying their plants (French Breakfast Radishes here) by writing on the frame itself

The next time I took my camera to the garden, they had sprouted!

Sustainable Food Systems Class's raised beds with sprouts in the foreground, hoop house frame in the back

Also in that time Alex and Carolyn led the construction of a hoop house:

Sketchy night photo of the (almost) completed hoop house!

Radishes, collards, and something seeded in-between (someone help me out here) in the hoop house bed!

And when we got the soil to move into the beds we also cut the grass around the garden to use it as mulch and transplanted some radishes:

Either the beets or the radishes (I don't remember which) in bed with a melon plant

And we applauded our peas:

Yeah, we're trying to grow peas in the fall. It's working. We're winning.

But we still have more soil, more wood for another raised bed, and even a couple existing open spots in beds if someone wants to plant something!

We've got an open small bed. What should we plant?

What’s coming up?

-Planting herbs in recycled containers for winter growing skill share on Wednesday, Oct 5 at the Farmers’ Market 11:30 – 1:30, lower Campus Center patio. If you wanna help out, just show up! Bring some recycled containers if you can!

-Liam’s lookin to make some cider. Let him know (  if you find any solid wood (2×4’s or bigger) that we can fashion a simple press out of- or if you just wanna help out! Might be scroungin for apples tomorrow, Oct 2!

-We need to put up some shelves and hook in the shed so things are organized! Again- if you find any wood scraps, shelf braces, or hooks, let me know (! We’ll probably try to install at least a couple of shelves on Columbus Day.

-People are on watering schedule. If you want to help out with that, contact Or just contact her because she’s super cool and you should probably want to meet her.

-If you do anything or even just check in on the garden, write it in the log! It’s a testament to all the work we put into this little patch! We’re going to try to scan some of the pages to put up on the blog soon!