If you are interested in any aspect of permaculture, such as organic gardening, herbs, planting native plants, aquaponics, natural ponds, beekeeping, keeping chickens, and so much more, then you must come to the Southern California Permaculture Convergence. It happens on March 9th and 10th at the Sky Mountain Institute in Escondido. The keynote speaker will be Paul Wheaton, lecturer and permaculturalist extraordinaire of www.permies.com fame. Oh, and I’ll be one of the many speakers as well (cough cough). The Early Bird special of only $50 for both days ends at the end of January, and then the price will rise, so buy your tickets now!
Also, for a full-on demonstration of taking bare land and creating a permaculture garden, there will be a three-day intensive class taught by Paul Wheaton on site the three days prior to the Convergence.
You can read about the convergence here at the official website, which will give you the link perm.eventbrite.com where you may purchase tickets. Also visit the SD Permaculture Meetup page to see all the free workshops that happen monthly all over San Diego.
This convergence is such a deal, you really shouldn’t miss it! And such a bargain, too. One of the best things I find that come out of these convergences is the exchange of ideas and networking among the attendees, and all the practical information you can take home and use right away. One of the largest parts of permaculture is building community, which means sharing with and assisting others.
Mixed greens plus blossoms, herbs and tiny potatoes
Crazy Pot Salad is what my daughter calls a main dish I make because it involves many different ingredients that vary as to availability. It always turns out great, though, which is truly amazing. It is a greens salad that also has cooked items and a balance of flavors, textures and colors that make every forkful slightly different. It involves both cold and hot ingredients, all thrown into the same bowl and mixed together to create a melded warm dinner that is as healthful as it is delicious. It is even good as cold leftovers the next day.
Tonight’s salad was born of the need to eat the mixed salad greens that were overgrowing in the garden. I cut and picked various greens and started from there. To create a Crazy Pot Salad, I keep in mind these components:
Fresh Greens: the more varied the better. Fresh herbs such as dill, basil, chives and cilantro, along with arugula and a lettuce mix, work well. Don’t forget some iceberg for crunch. If you don’t have or want to use iceberg (a much maligned vegetable) then cut up fresh celery.
A mix of colors and textures is essential
Protein: Tofu, soy chicken strips (such as Morningstar Farms), soy bacon, soy tuna, etc. Beans such as garbanzo or Northern white work well. Using a couple types of proteins are tastier and more nutritious. Cook the protein and use hot.
Starch: Pasta in small shapes, rice, or a cooked grain such as quinoa. Use the starch hot.
Quinoa (pronounced keen-wa) is high in Omega-3.
Other additions: diced carrots, steamed tiny potatoes or potato chunks (hot), feta or cotija cheese (crumbly), marigold petals, nasturtium blossoms, squash blossoms, capers, heart of palm, mushrooms, pea pods, avocados, green beans fresh or cooked… whatever you have that you need to use. Look for colors to add. I can’t stand Bell peppers, but that is usually the go-to choice when people want to add color to anything. You can avoid the Bell pepper taste-takeover of your salad if you want with a little creativity. Stir-fry up some chopped red cabbage and throw it in with some raw carrots.
Crunch: Nuts, such as pignoli (pine), cashews, sunflower seeds or almonds. Toast them in a little olive oil or in the toaster oven to bring out their flavor.
Dressing: This salad just about makes its own dressing. I like to make Italian dressing with a packet of Lowry’s Italian dressing mix, using red wine vinegar and olive oil. Or I make the dressing as I cook, which I’ll include in the recipe. The cooked shiitake mushroom gives the olive oil a deep, savory note and adds a very interesting flavor and texture. Along with the pignoli nuts, chives and crumbled soy bacon, this makes a delicious subtle dressing that is mixed into the salad rather than adorned on the top. The hot starch, including the potatoes, will readily absorb the hot flavored olive oil.
Shiitake mushrooms, pignoli nuts and soy bacon dressing
Remember, this is a salad of opportunity; use what you have and what you love, but keep in mind the different components, the shapes and colors of the ingredients, the texture and nutritional value. Bland foods such as the potato will balance strongly flavored ones such as arugula.