Last night I grabbed about 10 of bags of leaves from alongside my neighbor’s trash cans. My friend and I couldn’t decide if they’d end up in a landfill or be composted. Concerned that it’d be the former, I dragged them over to my back yard and emptied them willy nilly around the raspberries, some shrubs and our coldframe. One bag was super heavy and clearly not leaves — funny the contents didn’t surprise me more; it was a bunch of swiss chard that looked like it had been pulled a day or two ago. The chard leaves were not yet wilty but they were large enough so as not to be tender. There were beet greens, too, and some still attached to their beets. The tubers were old but still edible. I’m roasting them now in the oven. Aside from the beet bottoms, the contents of the bag didn’t cause me to raise a brow; I’ve thrown my share of fresh-grown garden greens in the trash too. In my case, I throw it in the compost, but the idea is the same: my neighbor and I, we’re growing more greens than we’re willing to eat.
I threw two or three enormous collard green plants into the compost pile a few weeks ago. I’ve also been foisting fresh kale off on my neighbor’s chickens since mid-September. The truth is I tire of eating collards and kale myself. I feel guilty about letting nutritious produce go to relative waste, but I haven’t found a good alternative. The pattern’s been similar every growing season: I start kale from seed in early March, relish eating it for a couple of weeks in June and lose all interest in it by July. I try my darndest to revive some life into my repertoire of kale recipes for a brief spurt at summer’s end, but I ultimately neglect harvesting cooking greens in favor of fall lettuces, brussels sprouts, and tomatoes.
I might have considered saving some of the chard from the big brown leaf bag except that the gardener two doors down laid a heaping bag of swiss chard on my doorstep a few days ago, and I’m doing my part to cook that for dinner. The freeze is upon us in Chicago and it’s time to clean up what will otherwise die out there in the earth. It’s time to plant onions and garlic, too, which might just be the answer to this dilemma of the greens gone to waste. Who ever tires of an onion in their kitchen? Who would compost a perfectly usable head of garlic? And who’s going to fill up a brown bag of either of those pantry staples and throw them out alongside their garbage cans? Because that would surprise me.