Here comes summer in Colorado!

And here it comes, summer! Time for picnics, summer concerts, weekend excursions, and hammock habitats.

The farmers markets are opening with their offerings of fresh produce, flowers, artisan breads and crafts, entertainment and dining options. A great way to spend a weekend morning. Go to www.denverfarmersmarket.com and www.localsustainablility.net for lists of local farmers markets, farm stands and if you are considering a CSA.

Seasonal produce for May includes baby greens, spinach, dandelion and chickweed, asparagus, brussel sprouts, new potatoes, artichokes, snap peas, snow peas, fennel, beets, sweet onions, rhubarb and strawberries. Let the nutritious, delicious feasting begin!

 

Upcoming classes

Wild Foods Gourmet – Denver Botanic Gardens, Saturday, May 16, 10am – 1pm,

$52 member, $56 non-member, info and registration, 303-865-7287.
Explore the fascinating world of wild edibles. We’ll begin with an herb walk, identifying local wild edibles. Discover the optimum nutrition and delicious tastes provided by plants you usually weed and toss in the compost pile.

Back in the kitchen we’ll prepare a delicious meal using common wild plants, including nettle, chickweed, dandelion, lambs quarters and more. Learn how to make conifer needle vodka and enjoy a cocktail as we prepare an appetizer, fresh greens salad, a savory cream soup, and a delicious pesto for our wild foods pasta. Explore all the ways you can add wild edibles to your current recipes to boost nutrition and flavor. Recipes, cocktail and lunch included. Discover the fun and benefits of eating on the wild side!

Estes Park Wild Plant WeekendFriday, May 29 – Sunday, May 31. We sold out and added 2 rooms, one room is left and we will be at our limit. Enroll now if you are interested, should be a great weekend in the Rockies with plant walks, crafting, and learning all about using wild plants for food and medicine. Mountain lodging, meals and all classes and materials included. info and registration here

 

Things to Do

Celebrate Cinco de Mayo this month at Civic Center Park, the largest two day Cinco de Mayo celebration in the United States. You’ll find traditional arts and crafts, Mariachi bands, dancing, food and three stages of entertainment. The parade kicks off on May 2 at 10am. info here

The Denver Botanic Gardens is holding their annual plant sale on May 8 and 9. Satisfy your garden fever with some unique offerings and free admission. info here

For a great selection of herbs, veggies and ornamentals at great prices, check out the Rocky Mountain Herb Society and Front Range Organic Gardeners plant sale on Saturday, May 16, 9am – 1pm at the Presbytery Center, 1710 S Grant St., Denver. info here

The Tesoro Indian Market and Powwow, May 16 and 17 is at the Fort Restaurant in Morrison. Award winning artists, dancing, drumming and food are featured. info here

Get out your dancing shoes for the Denver Day of Rock, Saturday, May 23. A free event with 5 stages of local and national bands organized to bring awareness to local children’s charities. http://denverdayofrock.com/

Memorial Day Weekend heralds the start of summer with the 2012 Downtown Denver Arts Festival at the Denver Pavilions. Lots of arts, crafts, fun and food. info here

 Free days this month include;

Denver Art Museum – May 2

Hudson Gardens – May 13, 19, 25

 

Gardening

May is THE gardening month of the year here in Colorado.

Remember the most important item for garden success is soil. Get that right and the rest is a breeze. An ideal soil is the texture of crumbled chocolate cake. Amend your soil with compost and consider raised beds if your soil is uncooperative.

Before you stroll into the buying frenzy of a Saturday morning at the garden center, have a plan, make a list. Go with plants that do well in this area. I always tend to veer towards the low water plants which also tend to be low maintenance. There is no point in planting azaleas and beef master tomatoes when there are so many plants that do really well here.

For a treasure trove of information about what does well and when to plant it check out http://www.ext.colostate.edu/ . You’ll find a calendar there featuring what you should be doing now and in the coming months, and information on everything from canning beans to the tastiest tomatoes.

Start small and go from there. You can always add on later if you have the time and energy. A small, well-kept garden is a source of infinite reward. A large weedy one? Not so much. Don’t overlook container garden. Easy and great for small spaces.

 

Herb of the Month – Chives

Chives are one of my favorite herbs. Easy to grow, long harvest, perennial, edible flowers, what’s not to love? Chives like a loose, well-drained soil and will tolerate drying out but prefer regular watering. They will grow in sun to part shade and work great in containers. During the heat of the summer they may appear somewhat weary, but should revive once cooler weather returns. They appreciate a dose of fish emulsion from time to time. The leaves are grass-like and should be snipped from the base. Garlic chives are a larger variety with thicker leaves, a zesty garlic flavor and beautiful white flowers.

You can harvest chive flowers and dry them by hanging them upside down and then storing in glass in a cool dark place. Scatter the pink and purple petals over casseroles, soups and sauces in midwinter for a lovely shot of color. You can also use them in herbal vinegars and fresh in salads and summer dishes. Allowing them to flower will cut down on flavor, so designate a few plants for this purpose and remove flower buds from the rest.

To preserve the leaves, wash, air dry, then chop and freeze, or freeze in an oil paste or chive butter. Chives are great with sour cream in classic baked potatoes, and great with eggs, cheeses, butters and to flavor and decorate dips and veggie dishes. Use them wherever you would use onions, leeks or scallions.

 

Recipes of the Month – Let’s Celebrate Cinco de Mayo!

Aqua Fresca with Fresh Fruit Light and refreshing! Use berries, mango, melon, whatever is in season.

  • Fresh fruit, coarsely chopped – 3 cups
  • Water – 6-8 cups
  • Sugar – 1/2 cup or to taste, for better blending make a simple syrup, recipe below.
  • Lime juice – 1/4 cup

Add the fruit and 2-3 cups of the water to a blender and puree until smooth. Strain through a sieve into a large pitcher.

Add the rest of water, 1/2 cup of sugar and lime juice. Stir well and add more water and sugar if needed. Serve chilled.

Simple syrup – Heat ½ cup water and ½ cup sugar stirring until sugar is dissolved. Bring to room temperature.

 

Hibiscus/Lime Concentrate Great to make for a crowd, you can also add grated fresh ginger root.

  • 8 cups water
  • 2 cups (3 ounces) dried hibiscus/Jamaica flowers, You can get this in Hispanic markets.
  • 1 cup sugar, or to taste
  • 4 tbs. fresh lime juice

In a saucepan, bring water, sugar and hibiscus flowers to a boil. Turn heat to low and simmer, covered, for 40 minutes. Turn off the heat without removing the cover and and let sit overnight.

Strain mixture, add lime juice and stir. Store in glass bottles, I reuse emptied iced tea and Kombucha bottles. To serve add about 2 tbs to a tall glass, fill with water or seltzer, add ice and a slice of lime. Hibiscus is not only delicious but used to lower high blood pressure and cholesterol.

 

Crispy Chorizo Quesadillas with Guacamole Delicious and so easy!

  • 6 flour tortillas
  • ½ lb cooked chorizo sausage, avoid the tubed chorizo, very oily.
  • 3 scallions, thinly sliced
  • 12 oz freshly grated pepper jack cheese or other cheese of choice
  • Fresh cilantro, chopped
  • Flour tortillas
  • Vegetable oil or butter

Mix cooked, cooled chorizo with grated cheese. Spread 3 tortillas with mixture and top with scallions and cilantro. Top with remaining tortillas. Heat oil or butter in skillet, add quesadillas one at a time, carefully turning when browned on one side.  Keep warm in oven while you cook the rest. Cut in to slices and serve warm with guacamole.

 

Quick Pickled Jalapenos These will last 2-3 weeks in the fridge. Jalapenos with a bark like texture on the outside will be the hottest. Pickling them removes a lot of the heat.

  • 8-10 jalapenos, sliced into rings
  • ¾ cup water
  • ¾ cup vinegar of choice, you can use wine, rice or apple cider
  • ½ tsp kosher salt
  • 2 tbs sugar
  • 2-3 cloves garlic, minced

Pack jalapeno rings into glass canning jars. Bring all the other ingredients to a boil, Cover the jalapeno rings with the vinegar mixture, cool and store in the fridge. Great on nachos, burgers, sandwiches, all your Mexican meals.

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