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COME INTO THE KITCHEN, GARDENER: Porch Bed, Potatoes & Arugula

By Karen England, for Let's Talk Plants! February 2022.

Karen England.
This entire bowl of herbs and potatoes, sans the baby zucchinis, harvested from just inches away from a porch bed, became a luscious soup.

Those of you who attended the "*Coffeeless Coffee in the Garden" back in November at my house in Vista, California, saw my porch bed as a part of the garden tour, as well as the raised vegetable beds that are literally located just off the front porch.

Karen England.
Bottom left hand side of this photo of the porch bed at Karen England's home that she calls Edgehill Herb Farm is the arugula about to be harvested for soup.

The ocean view to the West from the bed and porch is spectacular and the lovely sound from the nearby front fountain only adds to the magic of this accidental garden feature.

Karen England.
The porch bed is a favorite spot to put up one's feet and relax.

Karen England.
Clearly, I'm very busy . . .

karen England.
The fountain is just a few feet from the porch bed and the raised vegetable beds.

Long story short; five years ago, my brother-in-law was buying a vacation home in the mountains and in need of furnishings. I had a no longer needed bed that had to be either stored or given away so I offered it to my BIL for his getaway spot. He accepted but couldn't take the bed right away as the escrow was long. I had to move the bed out of the house no matter what, so "temporarily" it was stashed out on the porch by my front door. It was not a particularly nice sight. After some time went by, I thought, since it was on the porch anyway, I might as well make the bed up, and that would at least make it look nicer. Oh, my goodness, I'm so glad I did! I climbed into the freshly made bed and it felt like I was napping in the garden! It was heaven. Lovely breezes, sunset views, birdsong, roses and geraniums blooming nearby sweetening the air - I could go on. You get the idea!

After some time went by, as I was enjoying the bed daily, I wished I hadn't given the bed away, when my brother-in-law called to say, 'bad news', the owner had backed out of the deal and he had no place for a bed. I couldn't believe my luck! I was now the proud owner of an intentional porch bed. (The porch bed has proved so popular over the last few years that I have overnight guests that actually dibs getting to sleep in it when they are here and several think I could Airbnb it out for extra money.)

Karen England.
Freshly harvested arugula leaves and flowers, nasturtium blossoms, calendula flowers, new potatoes and Italian flat leaf parsley all went into a lovely soup. (The zucchinis were used later in another dish.)

The vegetables and greens that are growing in the raised beds off my porch can almost be harvested from the bed, and while I was taking a break from editing this issue of Let's Talk Plants! I became hungry while snoozing in the porch bed by the parsley, arugula and potatoes, which by the way, happens to be my first ever home-grown potato harvest, but that's another story for another newsletter . . . that I decided to make Julee's Garlic and Arugula Soup from The Silver Palate Good Times Cookbook by Julee Rosso & Shelia Lukins with Sarah Leah Chase, Workman Publishing Company, ©1984.

Be aware that this soup made from older arugula plants like mine is quite bitter and spicy, substantially more bitter than when made with baby arugula from the grocery store. I love it hot, spicy, bitter and biting but I can't imagine anyone else will, so, if you are making this soup from home-grown maturing arugula use much less than the called for three bunches or, do what I do, and taste it made with three bunches of older home-grown arugula but add lots more cream (I double the amount cream) to soften the arugula bite to your taste. Also, although not called for in the original recipe, a few tablespoons of granulated sugar added along with the salt and pepper does wonders for balancing and bringing out the flavors. Additionally, because my potatoes were new, I did not peel them. And, for the record, I don't strain the soup as directed in the recipe. I'm happy with a somewhat smooth soup and don't mind a few lumps. I want to enjoy my whole potato harvest, peel and all. Also, because I have complimentary herbs growing all around the porch, I made the parsley-garlic compound butter in the recipe with the addition of fresh edible flowers; orange and yellow calendulas, red and yellow nasturtiums, and white arugula blossoms.

Julee's Original Garlic and Arugula Soup

7 tablespoons unsalted butter, room temperature

1 large yellow onion, coarsely chopped

3 large Idaho potatoes, peeled and cut into 1/2-inch pieces

6 cups chicken stock or broth, homemade or canned

1 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

1/4 cup fresh parsley leaves

2 cloves garlic, peeled and minced

1/2 cup heavy or whipping cream

3 bunches (store bought) arugula, rinsed and patted dry, and leaves finely chopped

1. Melt 3 tablespoons of butter in a Dutch oven over medium heat. Add the onion and 2 heads of garlic and sauté until the onion is translucent, about 5 minutes.

2. Add the potatoes, stock, salt and pepper. Heat to boiling. Reduce the heat and simmer uncovered until the potatoes are tender, about 20 minutes.

3. Make a garlic-parsley butter for the topping the finished soup: Process the remaining 4 tablespoons of butter and the parsley in a food processor fitted with a steel blade until the parsley is finely chopped. Add the minced garlic and process just to combine. Spread the butter mixture onto waxed paper and shape into a log. Freeze until ready to serve.

4. Process the soup in batches in a blender or food processor fitted with a steel blade. (Karen uses an Immersion/Stick Blender.) Strain through a sieve back into the Dutch oven and reheat over low heat. Stir in the cream and taste and adjust the seasonings. Stir in the arugula and simmer 5 minutes. Taste and adjust the seasonings again and add more cream as needed before serving.

5. Cut the garlic-parsley compound butter into 6 to 8 slices. Ladle the soup into bowls and top each serving with a butter slice.

Makes 6 to 8 portions.

Karen England.


(*See the February 2022 Board Report for the winning new name of the Coffeeless Coffee in the Garden and the winner who submitted it!)


Karen England hopes you'll all grow herbs and make delicious soups.

Public service announcement if you do:

Remember to brush your teeth after enjoying your herby harvest soups, especially before going to Zoom meetings . . .


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