Signs of the Season: Breakfast Quiche with Fresh Chives

After I made this breakfast quiche, I realized almost every ingredient was sourced locally!  The eggs and cheese curds I got at the farmer’s market, and the chives were from my front yard.  The only thing that isn’t local is the milk, s&p and breadcrumbs!  I love eggs, they are a source of comfort, a childhood favorite, and a quick source of protein in the morning.

When I moved back to Lethbridge, I was determined to find a local source of eggs.  I don’t want to support the factory farming system and I knew there are plenty of acreages and farms that have chickens.  So I put an ad on kijiji saying I was looking for some local, hopefully free-range eggs.  After the second bite, I found my source.  I order in bulk; often 8 or 10 dozen at a time since they are from out of town.  As I awaited my next big order, I still had a half dozen in the fridge that I picked up from the Exhibition Park Farmer’s Market so I decided I should use those up.  And I also had some wonderful cheese curds left over that I purchased there too.  Delighted I was, to find out there is some local cheese being produced in these parts (if I remember correctly, its made in Iron Springs).  I have 3 clumps of chives growing in different places in my yard, too- cheese, eggs and chives?  Sounds like a good breakfast to me!

Flowering Chives

This recipe is super easy, and can be altered in many different ways.  You can add different veggies and combinations of cheese and even veggie meats if you like that kinda thing.  The layer of breadcrumbs forms into a beautiful crust and is even better if you use homemade breadcrumbs (an easy way to use up loaf ends, and day-olds).  Its easy to mix up and perfect if you have company.  Add some toast, fresh fruit or hashbrowns and you’ll have one deluxe start to the day!

Breakfast Quiche with Fresh Chives

Preheat oven to 350 C
In a bowl lightly beat:

  • 5 eggs
  • 1/2 c milk (as usual, i  used almond) or plain yogurt
  • s &p to taste
  • any other dry spices you fancy

In a standard pie plate prepare the crust & fillings:

  • lightly spray or coat the pie plate with oil or butter
  • sprinkle breadcrumbs generously- shake from side to side gently to distribute evenly.  My crust is usually a few mm thick
  • add your fillings- in this case about 3/4c  cheese curds and 2-3 Tbsp chopped chives

Then gently pour the egg mixture over the crust & fillings.  Cover with tinfoil and place in your pre-heated oven.
Bake for 20-25 min
then remove the tinfoil for the last 5-10 min of baking.
Quiche is done when eggs are set and quiche is slightly brown.

 

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Signs of the Season: Rhubarb Muffins

In addition to asparagus and chives, rhubarb is a springtime favorite around these parts.  A super hardy plant, it can be found growing in a wide range of places from abandoned lots to the most pampered gardens.  Its been a constant in many prairie gardens for years; as it can tolerate some of Southern Alberta’s toughest conditions.

It is one of the first perennial plants to pop up in the garden and perhaps one of the most beautiful.  I love watching it grow and change every day in the spring- what starts out as a few curled up yellow leaves poking out of the ground soon springs open into a mass of leafy abundance.  The tart, celery-like stalks can be used for muffins, pies, crisps, jams, chutneys and can even be simply stewed and put on your morning oatmeal or your midnight ice cream.

My grandma has always made the best rhubarb muffins- and as soon as there was enough of the reddish-pink goodness to harvest, I braved the rain and picked some rhubarb to whip up a batch.  I didn’t have any walnuts in the cupboard so I omitted them- feel free to do the same if you are allergic or don’t have any either!

Eat ’em up fast- muffins are at their best the same day you bake ’em!  And I promise you, they won’t last long 🙂

Rhubarb Muffins

preheat oven to 350

Combine in one bowl:

  • 2 c flour (I used half white and half whole wheat)
  • 3/4 c sugar
  • 1 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 3/4 walnuts or pecans, chopped

In a second bowl combine:

  • 1 egg
  • 1/4 c oil
  • 3/4 c orange juice
  • a few pinches of orange zest
  • 1 1/4 c chopped rhubarb

Mix the 2 bowls together until batter is moist.  Portion out in muffin cups and bake for 25-30 min.
This made me 8 large muffins; but I filled the tins pretty full.

** Two notes about the leaves:

  • They are apparently quite toxic, so don’t eat them!
  • I use them as mulch in my garden- simply cut a slit half-way into the leaf and place around your tomato plants.  Keeps moisture in and weeds out!  They eventually dry out and form a nice ‘seal’ around your plant.

Stalking the Wild Asparagus: Lethbridge Style

It’s asparagus season here in southern Alberta.

Last year, I attempted to stalk the wild asparagus but had no success.  I had heard for years that Lethbridge has wild asparagus growing in the coulees and surrounding farmland ditches.  But never once, had I spotted this Lethbian asparagus- until it was too late.  Walking the dog in the coulees one day, there it was: probably two feet high.  A striking, stubborn, bamboo-like spear sticking out of the prairie grass.  I couldn’t believe my eyes!  The friends I was walking with didn’t believe me that it was, in fact, real, wild asparagus.  Everyone’s first instinct was to “take it!”  But I couldn’t- it was just too beautiful and likely too far gone and woody to eat.  Sure enough, we came back the next day and it had been lopped off.  I was sort of sad.  But it sparked an interest in me to learn when and how to pick wild asparagus.

So over the rest of spring and summer of 2010, I tried to learn more about wild asparagus.  I asked around and there were a few people who agreed that yes, it did grow in the coulees, “somewhere”, or that they’d heard it “grows on slopes and ditches”.  I even went searching the slopes and ditches of the coulees- but little did I know, by that time, it was too late.

Wild asparagus seems to have a really short window of perfection- and then it goes to seed.   As we continued our walks in the coulees over last summer, I started to notice these large, green, spindly fern-like plants.  As autumn arrived, they turned brilliant yellow-orange.  Some even had round, red seeds and sort of looked like Charlie Brown’s Christmas tree with tiny little red bulbs.  Doing some looking around on the net, I was pretty sure these were mature asparagus plants.  You could spot them from a far ways away- so I started to keep a mental record of where I saw them.

As things started to turn green this spring, it quickly came to mind that stalking and locating the wild asparagus was of utmost priority.  We hadn’t had rain for a few weeks and so I knew that once the rain came, it was time.  So about a week ago, we went to scout our hopeful asparagus harvest spots in preparation for the rain we knew would come just in time for May long weekend (because honestly, when has there been a sunny May-long weekend around here?!) Last year’s plants were still intact- now straw colored and rather tumbleweed-like.  We spotted a few little asparagi popping their heads out of the ground… my suspicions confirmed!  But the little ones weren’t yet tall enough to be harvested.

After the recent rain storm, we trekked on down to the coulees.  Sure enough, our efforts were rewarded.  Though our patches didn’t yield a lot, we were inspired to seek out other patches.  I don’t find that you come upon a clump or large amount of asparagus at once.  We found sporadic plant patches scattered along both the slopes and ditches of the coulees.  We tasted a raw spear, and my.  Nothing like a store-bought asparagus.  Sweet, and a tad starchy.  They currently rest in the refrigerator, waiting for the monumental feast (well, not really- we didn’t get that many).  I will probably just lightly boil or steam them and add butter, lemon and parmesan.  It doesn’t get any simpler or better than that.

If you are inspired to stalk the wild asparagus I have a few tips-

  • Tread lightly and don’t overpick.  Don’t take everything you find.  After all, if you take it all, how will it grow back next year?
  • Learn to identify mature plants and remember where they are for next year (or this year, if you go now!)
  • Be careful if you harvest near roadways and ditches– pesticides, cars and sharp objects may all be present.  None of these go that great with asparagus.
  • If in doubt- don’t eat it– though I am pretty certain that most people would know asparagus when they see it (it looks almost the same as store bought), if there is any doubt at all, please don’t eat it!

It truly is exciting to source food this close to home.  Growing a garden is one of the joys of life, but learning about nature’s garden is another one.  Our coulees are so full of beautiful plants- flowers, berries, greens… watch for a post later this season on saskatoons.  For now, I’m trying to find out just how long this wild asparagus harvest will last.  I’ll be out on another expedition this weekend for sure.

Have you ever stalked the wild asparagus?  What’s your favorite way to cook (wild or domesticated) asparagus?  Share your thoughts in the comments!

***ps: Stalking the Wild Asparagus is the name of a book by Euell Gibbons; “one of the few people in this country to devote a considerable part of his life to the adventure of “living off the land.” He sought out wild plants all over North America and made them into delicious dishes.”  While googling the book, I also found this great article out of Mother Earth News magazine