Kale is a Sneaky Vegetable

Grocery GardeningI’d like to introduce you to Jean Ann Van Krevelen, author and edible gardener extraordinaire. I met her at the Independent Garden Center Show in Chicago when she and co-host Amanda interviewed me for their podcast “Good Enough Gardening.” She gave me a copy of her book, Grocery Gardening, and it’s a must for both the garden shed and the kitchen. Whether the topic is planting, purchasing or preparing it’s one of those books that will have you saying, “I can do that.” I highly recommend it for both gardeners and non-gardeners alike.

If you want more of Jean Ann’s gardening wisdom check out her blog, GardenerToFarmer.Net and definitely pick up a copy of Grocery Gardening.

I have long espoused the virtues of growing and cooking kale…frankly, I am nuts about this particular vegetable. First of all, it is insanely easy to grow…just sow the seeds in late winter and as soon as the ground warms a bit, little green sprouts will emerge. If you have cool damp springs, you likely won’t have to do much else. In other areas, keep fairly well watered to produce tender greens. In all regions, the plant benefits from soil that’s been amended with compost and a bit of fish emulsion fertilizer once a month or so.

Unfortunately, many people aren’t sure how to prepare kale. I suspect it is due to the sense that it should be cooked like a traditional “green”. And while kale can be prepared this way, it is far more versatile than tradition might dictate. Personally, I like to think of it as the ultimate “sneaky vegetable”. Its flavor is so mild that it adapts to almost any recipe. I have used it in pasta dishes, meatloaf, meatballs, shepherd’s pie…the possibilities are endless.

To get your creative juices flowing, here’s one of my favorite kale recipes.

Photo: Jean Ann Van Krevelan

Asparagus and Kale Pasta

This dish is a great way to use two seasonal ingredients together. Combine it with a handful of asparagus and a big can of chopped tomatoes and this dish is absolutely full of nutrition.

  • 1 lb ground hamburger
  • 1/2 lb kale, stems removed and leaves chopped
  • 1 12 oz can of diced tomatoes
  • 3 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 1 medium yellow onion, diced
  • 1/2 cup grated Parmesan
  • Splash of half and half (optional)
  • 1 tbs fennel seeds, 1 tbsp oregano, 1 tbsp basil, 1 tsp rosemary, 1 tsp thyme, and 2 bay leaves
  • pinch of red pepper flakes
  • generous amounts of flaky salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 1 package of conchiglie pasta

Brown hamburger and onions in skillet. Drain some of the excess fat leaving enough to prevent burning, omit draining if meat is lean. Add spices and herbs, salt and pepper, sauté for a few minutes. Add tomatoes and garlic. Let simmer to combine flavors and reduce liquid from tomatoes.

Start a pot of water to boil. Add conchiglie pasta and cook according to directions on package. Conchiglie is also known as shell pasta and is great for this recipe. Since this isn’t a really sauce-y pasta dish, the cupped shape of the pasta will grab up the bits of veggies and meat really well. To blanch the kale, add to the boiling pasta for the last 2 minutes of cooking. Drain.

In the last couple of minutes of cooking, add half and half and cheese. The Parmesan and half and half create a lovely pink sauce. Add pasta and kale to sauce. Toss to combine and let stand for a minute or two to allow the pasta to soak up the fantastic flavors. Serve.

Deer + Drought = Disappointment

Those of you who have a problem with deer might be surprised to learn that they are actually quite particular about something. That something is where bucks like to rub their antlers to remove the velvet. It seems they are especially fond of young, soft barked trees because their antlers are hyper sensitive when the velvet is shedding. Who knew?!

The deer at the farm have been considerate neighbors, but in late spring the heritage apple orchard turned into a popular “rub spot” for bucks. While this gives me something to watch as I sit on the porch, it’s not a form of entertainment I enjoy because it strips the trees of their bark. No good.

The young bucks affection for our apple trees coupled with a terribly dry summer resulted in the loss of several trees and those that survived produced a paltry number of apples. It’s a disappointment, but the garden is a great teacher in rolling with the punches.

If you are having a better apple year than I am I suggest making this rustic apple tart. I made it last weekend with some apples I picked up at the grocery store. I can only imagine how delicious it would be with homegrown fruits. You’ll have to try it and let me know!


  • ½ cup apple juice
  • 3 cups thinly sliced apples (choose a tart variety)
  • ¼ cup light brown sugar
  • ¼ cup agave syrup
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ½ teaspoon cinnamon
  • 2 premade piecrusts


Pour the apple juice into a sauce pan and heat until reduced by half.

In a large bowl combine the apple juice, apples, brown sugar, agave syrup, salt and cinnamon. Toss until the apples are well coated.

Lay one pie crust on a greased cookie sheet and crimp the edges to form a lip.

Spread the apple mixture evenly over the pie crust.

Top with a second pie crust. Pinch the edges to seal.

Sprinkle the top with sugar and cinnamon. Pierce with a fork to make vents.

Bake in a preheated 375 degree oven for 45 minutes or until the crust is golden and the juices are bubbly.

The Doors at Canterbury Shaker Village

Doors are symbolic of opportunity, new life and passing from one state to another. But what about the doors that welcome us home everyday? It seems to me these passages represent a return to shelter and comfort, a return to the familiar.

During a recent trip to Canterbury Shaker Village in New Hampshire I couldn’t help but wonder over the building entrances. Since the late 18th century these entries have ushered residents and visitors into meeting halls, workshops, dinning rooms and living quarters. What stories they could tell! Each door must have represented something different to every person who crossed the threshold.

Canterbury Shaker Village is located in Canterbury, New Hampshire. Built in 1792, it was one of 19 Shaker communities in the United States. The last Shaker resident, Ethel Hudson, died in 1992. Today Canterbury Shaker Village is a non-profit museum tasked with preserving the heritage of the Shakers who called the area home for 200 years. It was declared a National Historic Landmark in 1993. If you want to see the Canterbury Shaker Village doors in person you can tour the site May through October and for special winter holiday events. Learn more by visiting www.shakers.org.




Guest Post from Tobi Fairley

Hello readers of Allen’s Blog! I’m so thrilled to be here with my first ever guest post. Allen has been guest blogging on my blog, Tobi’s Blog, for a while now and it’s great to return the favor.

Allen has been teaching all of us about creating the “Garden Home” for many years and today I’d love to share my insights on bringing it all indoors. There are so many ways to do this when decorating your home. From fabric to floral arrangements to art, nature provides so much inspiration! Today, I thought I would focus on collections of framed prints. The photo above shows the dining room in my own home. The crewel upholstery on the dining chairs and the framed botanical prints on the wall help to establish a room filled with the beauty of nature. Let’s take a look at some of my favorite collections from a company called Soicher Marin.

Ghost Herberia in Celadon Collection

Black and White Malabar

Malaberica Details

Botanical prints are a great way to infuse a little nature into your home. A collection of prints definitely has more impact than a stand alone. Fill up a wall to bring the beauty of the outdoors into your “Garden Home”!

Happy Decorating,

Monticello Heritage Harvest Festival

“But though I am an old man, I am but a young gardener”
Thomas Jefferson to Charles Willson Peake 1811

Thomas Jefferson is one of my biggest heroes. He and George Washington loomed large in my imagination as a child and throughout my school years. In fact my graduate work focused on the tour of English gardens that Jefferson and Adams took together in 1786. I’ve been happy to see the renewed interest in the personalities surrounding the founding of our country and have enjoyed the numerous histories and television programs such as the John Adams series.

Although I’m a few centuries too late to meet the man, I can still learn a lot from Thomas Jefferson by visiting his home Monticello. In fact, I used many of the ideas gleaned there to design the Garden Home Retreat.

On September 16 I’m heading to Monticello for the fifth annual Heritage Harvest Festival celebrating Jefferson as America’s “first foodie.” Appropriate title don’t you think?

You can learn from Jefferson too when you attend this family-friendly weekend featuring food, music and workshops.  I’m giving the keynote address Reflections on Jefferson: Gardening, Farming and Democracy on Friday the 16th at 6 p.m. Hope you can join me for a lively discussion and good food. Click here to learn more.

The mountain top estate and other farms encompassed over 9,000 acres at its peak.

Construction on the house that we know today was started in 1769.

Lord Burlington's Chiswick house and gardens. Jefferson visited English gardens with John Adams in 1786

The 1,000 foot long vegetable terrace with views of Mount Alto beyond.

Flowers specific to Jefferson's time line the walks at Monticello today.

A springtime view of the gardens and orchards, which were essential to the vitality of the estate..

Jefferson's garden book, which he kept from 1766 - 1824, illustrates this commitment to trialing new plant varieties & his scientific appraoch to botany, farming & gardening.

Jefferson kept a pet Mockingbird sometime during his tenure as president between 1801 - 1809..

Photos courtesy of the Thomas Jefferson Foundation.