Spring seems to finally be here at last, and that means lots of you are probably thinking about digging, planting and growing flowers, herbs and veggies. I was outside yesterday digging weeds, moving plants and thinking about the advice I wish someone had given me when I was just beginning to garden. So, for anyone new to gardening, thinking plants are hard to grow, worrying whether you have a green enough thumb, I'm about to give you a bit of advice that you should heed. As you peruse the garden centers, farmers markets and catalogs, beware, be cautious, watch out for the three words that can spell disaster. These words are: easy-to-grow. Easy-to-grow. Sounds so promising, doesn't it? Actually, easy-to- grow can be a euphemism for invasive species. That's right. They hook you with that easy to grow jargon and sell you something you will regret planting for a long, long time. Just google "plants I wish I'd never planted" and you will find lists of easy-to-grow plants. Plants like Lysimachia clethroides, otherwise known as gooseneck loosestrife. Ahem. Just do your research to make sure the easy-to-grow plants you've selected aren't also on an invasive plants list.
My house suffers from what I call the "sleeping beauty effect." Some day I fear I'll oversleep and have to hack my way out through the vines with a hatchet. The person who lived here before us planted every invasive plant in the universe, and we've spent countless hours (and dollars) trying to remove the tenacious plants that wreck our stucco walls and grow with abandon throughout the yard. Vines have damaged our phone lines and covered our windows. One thing is true of all the invasive plants on our property — they are easy-to-grow! Easy, easy, easy to grow.
Of course not all easy-to-grow plants are bad. Some are great. On a positive note, here's a tasty plant that's easy-to-grow and recommended! It's not hard to control if you give it its own area in the garden. Egyptian onions look like normal green onions at first, but grow bulbs at their tops, fall over and plant themselves, to reproduce and spread. They come up early in the spring and are used like green onions. I harvested two to use in the tempeh salad I'm about to describe.
We recently hosted a party for my husband's grad students and one of them graciously brought a vegan cake from Whole Foods. As I was putting the leftovers away, I noticed that the cake had come from The Chicago Diner, a favorite vegan restaurant in the windy city. It's been years since we've been there, but we have "The Chicago Diner Cookbook," and for old times sake, I got it out and found some recipes to try. I've changed the quantities and added an ingredient or two, but this recipe for tempeh salad is based on one from the cookbook.
- 1-2 tablespoons olive oil
- one 8-ounce package tempeh
- 1 tablespoon tamari or soy sauce
- 1/2 cup finely sliced green onions
- 2 heaping tablespoons chopped parsley (about 1/2 cup)
- 1/2 cup grated carrot
- 2 tablespoons chopped fresh basil
- 1/4 - 1/2 cup vegan mayo (I used Veganaise.) I think 1/4 cup, or even less, is enough but you might like more. Try the smaller amount first.
- Split the tempeh through the entire cake so you have two, thin, large pieces. Cut these pieces into small squares.
- Sauté the tempeh in the oil in a wok or heavy skillet until it turns golden, about 5 minutes. *see note.
- Turn off the heat and stir in the tamari to coat the tempeh evenly.
- Place the tempeh in a bowl and add the chopped vegetables and the mayo and mix well.
- This is delicious as a salad on a bed of lettuce, or as a sandwich filling. Even my tempeh-resistant son ate it and said it was really good.
EXTRA EXTRA: Ricki over at Diet Dessert and Dogs is giving away copies of her newly published cookbook, "Sweet Freedom." Click over to DDD and enter to win your copy.
MORE GIVEAWAYS: You can enter to win a new 6-quart Crock-Pot Slow Cooker at Mudpies and Mary Janes.