From Garden to Soup

Stepping back into my vegetable garden after three months away, I’m immediately overcome with horticulture shock. It’s not only a sense of disorientation and sadness over neglect, but a looming frustration that the work ahead might be too difficult. The cavolo nero plants are now treelike, with thick grey trunks and yellow flowers waving in the breeze high above my head. The bees are happy. Mizuna lettuces resemble a triffid forest, delicately frilled in maroon and topped with more yellow flowers. The coriander, endive, parsley and chicory follow on their march towards the sky. There are weeds galore, some trying to smother the garlic, requiring gentle hand pulling so as not to disturb the still emerging bulbs of our precious annual crop. Most weeds are valuable additions to the compost bin: they might not be edible, but many have sought out valuable trace elements in the soil. Those in flower are drowned. Beds full of broad beans support each other like good friends, their black eyes winking with promise, roots setting nitrogen in the soil.

Once the borders are clipped, the pathways revealed, the beds pulled into shape, the snow peas supported and tied, and edible greens harvested for pies and soups, I can see my way forward. My vegetable patch, my precious orto, is a labour of love, it’s a statement about the value of fresh food, and it’s an act of defiance against the capitalist diet.

Ingredients for a Garden Soup. Minestra dell’Orto

  • 1/2 kilo fresh borlotti beans, podded or substitute dried borlotti if fresh are unavailable.
  • 3 cloves garlic, 2 finely chopped,
  • fresh rosemary branch
  • 1 medium onion, finely chopped
  • 2 celery sticks, finely chopped
  • 2 Tablespoons EV olive oil
  • 4 large silver beet leaves, finely shredded, or more if small
  • 3 handfuls big pasta, such as mezzi rigatoni
  • homemade vegetable stock ( ingredients listed separately in method )
  • salt, pepper to taste

Steps for a tasty spring soup

  1. Make a vegetable stock from chopped carrots, onion, celery,bay leaves, parsley stalks, mushroom stalks. Cook for 30 -45 minutes.
  2. Pod the borlotti beans, add to a pot, with one whole garlic clove and one small rosemary branch. Cover with water, bring to the boil, lower heat and cook till beans are soft and liquid is brown and thick, around 30- 45 minutes. If using dried beans, soak overnight, then cook until soft. Time will vary depending on the age of the beans.
  3. Make a soffritto with one chopped onion, two chopped garlic, chopped celery in the olive oil. Add a little dried chilli and more finely chopped rosemary to the mix if you like. Cook on gentle heat, stirring occasionally, until the onions have softened but not coloured.
  4. Add the silverbeet ( chard) and toss around for a minute or so to coat in oil. Then add the cooked beans with some of the cooking water. Add stock, enough to well cover the beans and silver beet. Bring to the boil then reduce heat and cook for five minutes or until the greens have softened. Add salt.
  5. Add the pasta, making sure there is enough liquid in the pan, and cook until the pasta is al dente.

Serve topped with a drizzle of good olive oil, grated parmigiano reggiano and crusty bread.


17 thoughts on “From Garden to Soup”

  1. Hmm, Madam. you did not really expect to return from being our Bali correspondent for three months to find your garden had dutifully cleared itself from all excess, banished all weeds, found fertilizer to self-apply and to be standing, proud and tall. to show off its virtues ๐Ÿ™‚ ! Methinks, with the help of some liquid from the skis, it has done remarkably well. Now it is a matter of a judicious half hour daily to say hello to each bed and pathway !! The waves of heat methinks have yet to arrived to drain energy . . . The soup looks fabulous and presents a moreish full meal with that piece of bread . . . like the pasta, must look up . . . glad to see you back . . . wondering for what length time . . .

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I like being called Madam. It was worse last year. This year, with many beds planted out with broad beans, the weeding was not as onerous. I am surprised to fin plenty to eat, though mostly unusual greens, bitter and old fashioned.


      1. My ‘apologies’ Fran – as the term was used with love it should actually have been ‘Ma’am’ ๐Ÿ™‚ ! I disagree with your summation of ‘bitter’ and ‘old-fashioned’ . . . everything we regarded as ‘old’ surely has become ‘new’ again whilst we were not looking . . . think of arugula. endive, turnip greens and kale, kale, kale . . . did I say kale . . . ? Methinks we can look a wee smug . . .

        Liked by 1 person

        1. I much prefer Madam to Ma’am. I really do like being called Madam or Signora. The terms bitter and old fashioned are meant in earnest. One cannot purchase most of the greens I grow, Not in the supermarkets anyway. Yes, maybe we look smug, but I am hoping to encourage vegetable growing as a return to real food varieties that are often only available from the home garden.


  2. “Those in flower are drowned”

    Never having had a garden to tend., I’ve always enjoyed a walk in a patch of garden gone to wild, looking for caterpillars, pupae and butterflies. This sentence was an aha moment, looking at it from the point of view of a gardener reclaiming her land.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Sometimes we drown the weeds that we don’t want in order to prevent the seed from spreading. After the weeds have been submerged for a few weeks, I return the stuff to the compost heap as there is still good nutrients there. A way of disposing of unwanted seed. Some weeds are so noxious here, they can strangle everything else.
      Yes, wild gardens are a joy and a pain simultaneously.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. You just described my garden! Iโ€™ve been gone a lot in September and not only is it all overgrown, but tumbling tumbleweeds have moved in. Today is the day I tackle the garden. Not looking forward to it, but of course itโ€™s part of the process. Fortunately I still have tomatoes, eggplant, pumpkins, and flowers. I love your soup. Itโ€™s so Italian!!!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I look forward to having this problem, though I fear any long term absences here will result in only dry and dead plants, the lack of water is so signficant in Brisbane these days. We have started planning our raised beds and have acquired some of the sleepers needed as well as posts recovered from a diving fence that was removed by builders next door. Realisically, I can’t see us planting until autumn next year as it is already so, so hot and dry but we can go about preparing the beds and ensuring they are full of good soil and nutrients for the crops to come.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Have you considered getting rainwater tanks for your garden?
      We also suffer from water problems in summer and autumn, but pump from a dam to a header tank then gravity feed the veggie patch and orchard , about an acre in all. Our house runs off tank water. We save the shower water for plants out the front. Good luck Fiona with composting and enriching your beds.


  5. The soup looks delicious and even the overgrown garden sounds wonderful, biodiversity at its best, and an opportunity for seed saving. I dream of harvesting half a kg of broad bean pods… but thanks to your inspiration we so far this season have harvested enough to make a simple pasta dish topped with our chooks eggs. Similiarly, because of an appreciation you’ve shared I also encourage volunteer greens and leaves that are not available or not worth buying in the shops, and celebrate the food we make from what we or our neighbours grow and forage.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Years ago when my dear friends were broke, the harvested broad ben tops, the delicate leaves, and added these to stir fries. Delicious and nutritious. Tge supermarkets here don’t stock things like endive, chicory, mizuna, and other traditional greens. They pay ‘their’ farmers to grow specific lettuces a0nd greens, thus determining and limiting the range of foods available to the modern consumer.
      I’m expanding the patch today Dale, nothing like making more beds for more variety.


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