Happy Spring! Gumbo Z’Herbes recipe

A Louisiana Spring tradition

Vegan / Gluten Free


  • 4 ‐ 6 bunches of greens, including nearly any combination of at least 5 – 7 different “herbs”, such as: dandelion leaves, lovage, mustard greens, kale, escarole, turnip tops, watercress, endive, nettles, chicory, spinach, radish tops, beet greens, scallions, ramps, parsley, arugula, chickweed, nasturtium leaves, etc.)
  • 1 onion and / or shallots, diced
  • 3 celery ribs, diced
  • 1 small fennel bulb & fronds, chopped
  • 1 Anaheim or poblano pepper, diced
  • 6 ‐ 10 cloves garlic, smashed & chopped
  • 2 bay leaves
  • Good‐sized handfuls of fresh herbs to taste, including: thyme, oregano, marjoram, tarragon
  • Dashes, to taste: ground allspice, ground cayenne, smoked paprika, ground cloves, black pepper, white pepper, salt
  • 8 ‐ 10 cups stock / broth; can include some white wine
  • Small amount of thickener (gluten free flour, corn starch or potato starch)
  • 1/3 cup olive oil
  • Gumbo file powder, for serving
  • (Optional‐but‐not‐traditional: sliced okra, zucchini, sautéed after adding the celery but before adding the stock.)

Wash greens well to remove grit. Remove & compost tough pieces of stems, ends, etc. Chop greens & set aside (I don’t recommend pre‐boiling them as many recipes suggest – it ruins the nutrients and the beautiful green color fades!)

In a large, heavy‐bottomed stock pot make a roux of the flour and shortening. Add the onion, garlic, green pepper, and celery. Sauté for 10 minutes. Add the tarragon, thyme, bay leaves and sauté 5 more minutes.
Add the stock / broth, greens, spices, and remaining seasonings. Simmer on low heat for 1 hour. Adjust seasonings as necessary. (Keep some greens out to add at the last minute if a brighter green color is desired). Add more stock if the gumbo gets too thick.

To serve, scoop gumbo over your favorite rice (basmati, jasmine, brown, white, red, black), sprinkle a bit of the file powder on each bowl, & pass the hot sauce (smoked Tabasco is nice).

Homemade vegetable stock in progress for use in Gumbo

“Back Porch Farm” debuts at the Wagner Farm Arboretum’s Butterfly Festival

IMG_0655Welcome to the Back Porch Farm!

Uncommon Produce & Herbs… Organic Gardening Services, Consultation, & Education

The Back Porch Farm is now open for business – the “Farm in My Heart”, now has roots in the soil!  Check our out list of services here!

We had a vendor table at the Wagner Farm Arboretum’s Butterfly Festival this weekend, featuring trays of pea shoots, heirloom seed potatoes, mini “porch farms”, herbs, strawberry pots, and vegetable starts.

Look for Back Porch Farm at events and farmers markets in North / Central New Jersey and beyond.


In Celebration of Pea Shoots!

IMG_0669Pea shoots are a delicious Spring delicacy which can actually be enjoyed all year round, since they can be grown easily as “microgreens” indoors or outdoors.

About Pea Shoots:

Pisum Sativum (garden pea) are in the Fabaceae family. Normally, pea plants take months to mature and produce peas, but the shoots can be grown as microgreens to eat in about 10 days. Seeds may be sown in a small amount of potting soil in shallow trays.  Since the shoots will be harvested young, they can be sown thickly, without thinning out.

Nutritionally, pea sprouts are high in Vitamin K, Vitamin C, Vitamin A, and folic acid.

Recipe Ideas for Pea Shoots

  • Stir Fry with garlic, ginger, some fresh cilantro & a dash of tamari
  • Braise in a little olive oil with a mix of greens (kale, dandelion greens, mustard greens) & garlic
  • Toss raw in salads with other greens, edible flowers, & fresh herbs
  • Toss raw with shaved raw asparagus and dress with lemon vinaigrette
  • Braise with fresh fava beans and toss with pasta and lemon zest
  • Chop and blend into dips with chives
  • Include on sandwiches as fresh greens
  • Include in Spring Rolls
  • Make Pea Shoot Pesto
  • Include in Pita pockets or tacos
  • Use as a fresh garnish, sprinkled with some lemon juice

Spring Fever

imageThe signs are subtle at first. A robin here, a tuft of new green there… Then it crescendos undeniably, reaching a fevered pitch – until the snow and cold winds are gone without a doubt… and life starts bursting at the seams again, in a new cycle of growth and lush greenery.

To me, the first signs of true spring are always the mosses and the ferns in the forest, and the garlic and lovage shoots pushing up through layers of compost and mulch in the garden, undeterred by s few more frosts – certain that the sun’s warmth will continue.

Whether you are in a place you can forage safely for wild greens or not,  one of the best antidotes to Spring Fever is a fresh green salad, vibrant with the flavor of Spring. Here is a recipe for one of my favorite salads, which we used on a Talkeetna River rafting trip to film an episode of the Food Network’s “Beach Eats” several years ago…

Spring Salad of Mesclun & Wild Greens with a Lovage-Allium Dressing

The International Year of Pulses

The International Year of Pulses

The United Nations has declared that 2016 will be the International Year of Pulses in order “to raise awareness about the protein power and health benefits of all kinds of dried beans and peas, boost their production and trade, and encourage new and smarter uses throughout the food chain.”

The UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), has a great website with information about everything you ever wanted to know about pulses, which are are a subgroup of legumes. (The term”legume” applies to the whole plant, whereas “pulses” are the dried seeds of legumes – such as dried beans, peas, and lentils.)

To celebrate the IY of Pulses, here is a garlicky lentil soup recipe which can be adapted in many ways.  It may be thickened a bit more with less liquid and more vegetables, to use as a stew or over rice.

Lentil Garlic Soup

Serves: 4-6

Ingredients: (all measurements approximate, adjust “to taste”)

  • 1 or 2 large shallots, diced
  • Several cloves of fresh garlic, smashed and chopped
  • 2 stalks of fresh celery, diced
  • 2 fresh carrots, diced
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 tablespoon of thyme and / or oregano
  • 1 cup of lentils
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil (organic, extra virgin)*
  • 1 teaspoon sage
  • about 5 cups vegetable broth or water
  • Fresh ground black pepper to taste
  • Paprika or Pimenton
  • Optional: sea salt or umeboshi plum vinegar to taste
  • Optional: ½ cup dry sherry, Manzanillo, or Marsala wine
  • Optional: fresh or dried lemon peel
  • Optional: Chopped tomatoes to taste


Heat olive oil in heavy large pot over medium heat. Add shallots / onion, carrot, and celery; sprinkle with salt and pepper. Cook until onion is translucent, stirring occasionally. Add half of chopped garlic; stir for a few more minutes. Add herbs, and stir more.  If using sherry add now.  After stirring again for a few minutes, add lentils, liquid, bring almost to a boil, then turn low and simmer for a while to blend flavors.  Garnish with chopped parsley or scallions, and a squeeze of lemon.

*Note: For folks on a whole-foods-plant-based diet who wish to consume no oil, water or broth may be substituted for the initial saute of the onion, garlic, and herbs.

A Farm in the Cloud

Pumpkin vineI suppose you could say that this new little blog is a farm “in the cloud”, since there is not yet any earthly real estate connected to it. This farm is full of life, though… an organic, lush, and productive place  full of garlic, lovage, herbs, weeds, ladybugs, frolicking goats… with plenty of inspiration and rambling stories of blood, sweat, and tears.

Like any worthy journey, this one is circuitous, like a river with many eddies, rapids, and waterfalls along the way.  If you stumbled in here seeking information about farming or gardening or homesteading, there will be some of that – and celebration of the magic of compost. There will be recipes – plenty of botanically-oriented, vegetarian, vegan, pescetarian… most garlic-infused, of course. There will also be eddies, stories, and travelogs.

Who knows – as this journey progresses, it may even root the farm in the clouds and the heart to the earth.