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On Saturday, needing a day away, Tim and I went up to East Hardwick, Vermont, to a plant nursery/tea shop known as Perennial Pleasures. We enjoyed the show gardens, especially the herb garden, and then had a full cream tea, sitting outside until the rain began. I highly recommend the place, both for its flower selection, and for its tea garden experience.

Gorgeous purple columbine!

Gorgeous purple columbine!

Visitors may play croquet on the lawn.

Visitors may play croquet on the lawn.

They sell statuary, too. Most of it is traditional, some of it is . . . not.

They sell statuary, too. Most of it is traditional, some of it is . . . not.

Good spread!  (But . . . how do they slice bread that thinly?)

Good spread! (But . . . how do they slice bread that thinly?)

On the way home from East Hardwick, thinking about what we’d make for dinner, we stopped at what I thought was a farmstand. It turned out to be a store full of kitsch for tourists. The shopkeeper asked if she could help us, and I said “oh, no thanks, I just thought this place sold vegetables.” She said,” oh, no, it’s a little early in Vermont for vegetables,” clearly thinking we were tourists. We left, thinking, “so what have farmers markets been selling for the past month? Lettuce, beet greens, new potatoes, baby spinach, hothouse tomatoes? Aren’t these things usually known as ‘vegetables’?”

On top of these, of course, we have wild vegetables. Every time we weed our garden, we get to incorporate lamb’s quarters—a wild relative of quinoa—into our dinner that evening (lamb’s quarters grow prolifically as a garden weed). A few weeks ago were the milkweed sprouts, and today the first milkweed florets were big enough to harvest. I was in the mood for capers and had some hothouse local tomatoes to use, so I put together a simple pasta sauce (it took me only about 15 minutes to make this meal).

Ingredients:

  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 medium onion, diced
  • 3 cloves garlic, diced
  • 2 cups milkweed florets
  • 2 medium tomatoes, chopped
  • 2 tablespoons capers
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice, plus a few pinches of zest
  • 3 sprigs fresh oregano, de-stemmed and chopped
  • short, chunky pasta shape
  • salt and pepper, to taste

Serves 4

Instructions:

Prepare pasta. While water is coming to a boil and pasta is cooking, carefully wash the milkweed florets by dunking them vigorously in a mixing bowl full of cold water. Sauté the onion and garlic in the olive oil for a couple of minutes, then add the milkweed. After another minute, add the tomatoes, capers, and oregano. Simmer gently in the pan for about 5 minutes, then add the lemon juice and zest. Serve immediately over pasta.

So good, I want to make it again already.

So good, I want to make it again already.

See also Making a Meal of Milkweed and Milkweed Propagation Society for more on this vegetable!

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