For the Love of Kale!

Baby Kale - Francis Guenette photo

Have you heard the news? Kale is a trending vegetable. Kale is out in the Twitter world with its very own hashtag. You know something has ‘arrived’ when that happens. Until quite recently, I was not sold on the wonder of kale.

Let me take a gardening digression, here. Many years ago, my father-in-law presented me with an envelope that had the words Russian Kale written on the sealed flap. He proceeded to tell me, “I brought these seeds home from the prairies on our last visit. It’s a particularly hardy variety of kale. It might grow well where you guys are.”

Kale gone to flower - Francis Guenette photoTruer words were never spoken. That year we planted a few of those kale seeds. Not understanding that this type of kale is best eaten when it is young and tender, we let it grow and we weren’t wild about the strong taste when we tried it. We didn’t bother with the rest of it and a few of the stalks got as thick as a small child’s wrist, overwintered and flowered the next spring and into the summer. Quite pretty, really – assuming, of course, one didn’t realize the inevitable outcome – four or so feet high, delicate green leaves with deep purple veins and yellow flowers. These huge plants, bearing innumerable seeds, eventually found their way into the compost.

Suffice to say, we never planted kale again. Every single year we get carpets of tiny kale plants coming up everywhere that we had spread compost and even some spots that I am sure we didn’t. What a pain! We patiently weeded these kale plants out, letting a few go to flower for the drama of it all. We were not kale eating fans.

This year all that changed. We discovered how wonderful the small kale is as a salad green. I tried out a recipe for quinoa/kale patties that we simply love. Kale, chopped fine and layered into lasagne – let me just say, you will not miss the spinach. Our newest garden strategy is to allow those baby kale seedlings to grow. As they get to be 3 to 4 inches high, we thin them out and use them. Eventually, the other plants take over.

Baby Kale - Francis Guenette photo 2

Here is my somewhat adapted recipe for the quinoa/kale patties. There is a bit of chopping involved, so I like to make a double batch and freeze the excess. You can tell from the photo that these are the frozen ones – we ate all the fresh ones before I could take a picture – darn! They were so good, though.

Kale-Quinoa Patties

Kale-Quinoa Patties - Francis Guenette photo

  • 2.5 cups of cooked quinoa – I use an organic red variety
  • 4 cups of kale, chopped small
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • ½ cup diced onions
  • ½ cup chopped chives – I’ve used fresh parsley or basil or a combination of all three
  • 2 cloves minced garlic
  • ½ cup grated cheese – I used a really strong Romano last time and it was great.
  • ¾ cup finely ground bread crumbs

Form into patties – this is a cinch since cooked quinoa is really sticky. Fry on each side, in olive oil, for approx. 5 minutes. And there you have it – a delicious treat with two super popular foods rolled into one yummy package.

May Garden Musings


I love spring anywhere,

but if I could choose I would always greet it in a garden.

Ruth Stout

On this wonderful May long-weekend, I find I must agree with Ruth Stout. This might be the loveliest time for our wilderness garden.

Guenette 2

I know that later in the summer it will be lusher, more crowded with colour and production. It will present itself as an overdressed grand lady who flouts herself to the world. But now, as spring reaches its zenith, the garden is a young slip of a girl dancing along the paths, her brightly patterned dress flashing colour as she races by.

Guenette 7 (1)

Everything is crystal clear and wonderfully set off against the background of the evergreens.

Red Rhodos @ the Lake

Guenette 7 (2)



The rhododendrons, lilacs and apple blossoms cause me to catch my breath with pure joy.




Apple Blossums - photo by Bruce Witzel

The erupting profusion of the Hostas make me think I might actually see them growing, if only I watched closely.

Guenette 8

A Japanese Maple showers a garden bed with blood-red leaves.

Guenette 3

Lest I seem to have fallen too far under the month of May’s spell, I offer you this poem I discovered this morning – point and counterpoint.


by Jonathan Galassi

The backyard apple tree gets sad so soon,

takes on a used-up, feather-duster look

within a week.

The ivy’s spring reconnaissance campaign

sends red feelers out and up and down

to find the sun.

Ivy from last summer clogs the pool,

brewing a loamy, wormy, tea-leaf mulch

soft to the touch

and rank with interface of rut and rot.

The month after the month they say is cruel

is and is not.

(North Street & Other Poems, 2001, HarperCollins, NY.)

Witzel - Iris

Gardening in the Wilderness

I’m going to shift gears a bit today and write about my garden. This is partly due to separation anxiety. I love my garden and I’m going to leave it for three weeks. I’m leaving at a time when there will be many wonderful and appealing things happening! Well – I love my kids and my grandkids more.Image

Gardening in the wilderness presents lots of challenges among the many, many rewards. Clearing for garden space is labour intensive – the ground is uneven and filled with roots and stumps. We aren’t immune to visitors who can cause havoc.

Billy Bob the bear wandering the garden paths

Every garden space has to be regularly augmented with soil we either need to provide through composting or bring in by the truckload. Building garden structures to set off the limits between garden and wilderness takes time. Perennial plants are far more expensive now than they used to be and forget about buying flats and flats of annuals like the old days. Way too costly. We also don’t have the time we used to have to grow all our annuals for the vegetable garden and flower baskets from scratch.       

Ahh – but the rewards and how we go about addressing these issues is worth noting. We have become very tolerant of working around stumps – they provide a nice contrast to tended beds and when we consider how hard it is to remove a stump – we pat ourselves on the back and tell each other how really great that old stump looks! The visitors may cause havoc but they sure did lend themselves to great pics.

Looks like a guy in a bear suit but it’s Billy Bob going after the huckleberries

Composting is good for the soul so it’s good to be motivated to actually do it. We love every single garden structure to such a degree that we immediately forget the work involved. Not buying so many perennials really has its advantages. Sometimes we have ended up with a backlog of plants in pots and no cleared areas to put them in. Not the best way to go about clearing – though that has advantages too – we’ve ended up concentrating on gardening when we didn’t think we had the time and loving the results. Lately we have been dividing our own perennials and asking for bits of things from other people’s gardens. Ask and you shall receive is a pretty good bet with most people who love gardening – they also love sharing! We’ve really become adept at looking around for bargains – this time of year you can find perennial prices just slashed. Annuals may be showy and nice but they are a lot of work for the amount of time you get to enjoy them – we concentrate more on the perennials that give quite the pay back year after year as they mature.

A garden in the wilderness has to look a bit wild so the contrast between the borders of the true wilderness and the cultivated areas blend and blur. Though we sure don’t want to see deer wandering  through the garden – it can be picturesque.

My garden is the template for Izzy’s garden(check out my board – Izzy’s garden –  on Pinterest )  in Disappearing in Plain Sight – though I was able to make her garden at least three times the size! Oh – the freedom of fiction. But fiction can cross the line into reality just as truly as reality can cross the line into fiction. After reading about Izzy’s garden we wanted garden art for our own garden.  

I’ll miss this garden over the next three weeks. At the same time one of the great things about gardening in the wilderness with a partner is that someone will keep an eye on things. I look forward to the changes I will see from the perspective of not looking for a while.

(Bloggers note: I use the word “we” pretty loosely in this blog – the hard labour work in the garden as well as the actual building falls, almost exclusively, to my husband Bruce – I am the partner who wanders the garden trails enjoying what I see and pointing out what needs to be done – not a bad gig – I don’t think I’ll trade spots with him! But I do want to thank him!)

A husband and a granddaughter – pretty cute