Stir-fry vegetables are some of my easier to grow vegetables here in the mountains. I use about anything available in stir-fry, and it is an easy way to cook for just one or two people. I cook white rice and freeze in single servings, just enough to use with whatever I collect straight from the garden. Quick and easy summer cooking that best showcases the freshest garden ingredients.
Cool season vegetables I have planted have worked insofar as growing well, but voles get right after them. I decided to solve several problems I had with the area around my proposed house with a single solution.
My small garden area has a large amount of concrete laid in an unusual pattern. My small home design and placement emphasized my desire to utilize the concrete instead of having it broken out for gardens.
I reserved a 10×10 pad under a pinyon for a seating, dining, barbecue area. The rest of the concrete is getting 24 inch high concrete block raised beds in patterns suitable to the underlying concrete pads. It is easy for me to build the beds with block, it keeps concrete pathways between beds, 24 inch high beds are easy on backs and knees, high enough to exclude rabbits, solid bottoms exclude voles, and filled with hugelkultur make them richer than my sandy soil.
24 inches of rich, moisture holding hugelkultur expands the range of vegetables that I can grow during my summer monsoons without supplemental water. Raised beds warm up earlier in the year and extend my short growing season. At some point I might try hoops or cold frames on top of the beds.
My first stir-fry vegetable will not live in these luxurious raised beds because it is already naturalized and living in my wildflower beds. I caught one seeding out along the road and brought the seed home. Then I noticed I already had them uphill. Yellow Salsify (Tragopogon dubius) was widely eaten 200 years ago and brought to the US by immigrants. It is a hardy cold weather crop that tastes best after the first winter freeze, but before it blooms and sets seed. I find it to be a hearty and tasty addition to my soups, it is a workhorse root crop.
Although I include Salsify in my root vegetables, it is an amazing delicacy if you harvest the unopened flower buds with about an inch of stem and stir fry them with shrimp and water chestnuts. I use rice wine in a delicate sauce and serve over rice.
I do my best to catch the dandelion type seeds before the wind scatters them, to keep them in my wildflower garden. The spidery leaves and pretty yellow flowers hold their own with my wildflowers. The ultimate survival food, they can be dug and eaten year round. Nobody passing by will know they are edible.
Another naturalized edible is the common ditch lily (Hemerocallis fulva). These were so prevalent in Oregon, you could eat them without worrying about eating them out. One reason I include scientific names is for surer identification. If you are unsure about ID, order some online and learn that way. They will naturalize.
If you are digging daylilies for tubers, be sure to replant a few along with the root mass. They regenerate quickly. Don’t peel, just scrub clean and stir fry. These are a treat in a spring stir fry, but mush up after blooming starts, so dig early.
Daylily’s spring shoots, harvested at about 6 inches, are a tender spring green. Cut carefully just above the soil line and they will resprout. These are also a nice addition to your stir fry… or an early salad.
Already past spring? No problem, harvest firm flower buds for your dinner. You can steam or boil them, but I usually stir fry them. They make a good pickle for winter storage. If the flower is open, grab it quick and chop it for a stir fry or salad garnish. If you collect them, dry for use over a clear broth. That is delicious.
If you have “wild” daylilies on your back forty, well and good. If they are in a polluted ditch, pass. Mine will have pride of place in a raised bed by my patio door, where a quick grab puts the best flavor straight into the wok. Gorgeous, too.
I interplant Cherry Bell radishes with my daylilies. When I am gathering buds for stir-fry, I also harvest young radish greens. Drop then into your wok at the last, and you will be pleased. You don’t have to grow these together, but the deeper green leaves set off the graceful day lily foliage very well. This is another stealthy food patch that just screams decorative flower bed.
One plant you don’t want to leave out is edible Chrysanthemum coronarium. Garland Serrated has a special flavor and elegant appearance that is perfect for a soup garnish. I also have the round leaf for milder flavor. This is not kale! It is delicate and should be added at the last moment. Chrysanthemum is nutrient dense and high in minerals. Once you taste it, add to any dish.
Daikon radishes are easy to grow and if you want, plant them in hard pan soil and wait for these behemoths to break it apart. Beats hard labor with a pickaxe for the patient gardener. I grow them for stir fry, mainly. I also harvest them before they are 2 feet long. I don’t feed enough people at this time for that to be practical. I harvest at closer to 1 foot and use in my stir fry, except when I just eat them plain.
Because stir fry is about variety in color, taste, and texture, I use carrots. Orange carrots are perfect, but Atomic Red are even better. Both are Dacaus carota, both are easy cool season roots for my mountain garden, but for a little flash in your stir fry, vivid red is awesome. I matchstick mine for no discernible reason other than appearance. This year I ordered Solar Yellow and Lunar White, too. Not to mention Cosmic Purple. If not stir fried, they are wonderful in salads or munched plain. My experience is that a raw carrot a day keeps my cholesterol down. Try it and let me know if it helps moderate your cholesterol too.
You can use many vegetables in your stir fry, I usually use the “gee what is ripe today” method, first cousin to my winter soup “everything but the kitchen sink” method. For me, these vegetables add a distinct flavor and look I like especially for stir fry.