Growing your own food, you sometimes forget how much better it tastes than the stuff at the supermarket. Then a small bite shakes you back into reality.
Case in point: our spinach.
Spinach is notoriously difficult to grow here in the District of Columbia. Our springs are too short. It gets hot and sticky too quickly. Spinach is one of those cool-loving plants that bolts at the first sign of any real heat.
Back in December, before the ground froze, I planted spinach along with a number of other hardy greens under a plastic tunnel. It’s a rather long story why I chose to do this in December. Everything went fine–my seeds all germinated–until a huge wind came along and blew my plastic away. I gave everything up for lost and we had some desperately cold winter days afterward. But guess what survived just fine? Right, the spinach.
My amazing spinach plants, having suffered through a stretch of near-record high April temperatures, are now reaching for the sky trying to go to seed. This morning I clipped the biggest of them and harvested the leaves for my usual egg and bacon breakfast. What I’ve discovered since I stopped eating starchy carbohydrates is that spinach and other greens are a terrific stand-in for toast in soaking up my egg yolks. I simply wilt the greens in my saute pan before cooking the eggs, giving them a little drizzle of extra-virgin olive oil, a pinch of salt and black pepper.
Until now, I was buying spinach either in bulk at Whole Foods or in a bag at Harris Teeter. They did the job just fine. But this morning something exploded in my mouth. It was the flavor of my own spinach, freshly cut in the garden.
It would be pointless for me to try and describe the flavor of fresh spinach. Let’s just say that switching from store-bought to garden-fresh is like moving from black and white to color. It’s a moment wherein the flavor seems to permeate every cell of the gardener’s body and he thinks, Yes, this is real food.