In The Kitchen with Linda Ly of Garden Betty


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All photos photographed by Will Taylor

All images photographed by Will Taylor

We love getting to meet interesting people and we were thrilled to have to opportunity to chat with Linda Ly of Garden Betty and have her curate the Krrb homepage! We’re big fans of her blog—how could we not be? The gardening tips and healthy recipes are awesome and getting to see behind the scenes tidbits of her life have left us beyond envious! What has excited us even more is that her first book, The CSA Cookbook, has just been released! The cookbook is filled with recipes that teach the everyday person how to efficiently use up the vegetables, fruits, herbs and everything else that we get from our local CSA. Check out what Linda told us about her go to recipes and her favorite tips and be sure to pick up a copy of her new book today!

What is your favorite go to recipe?
I like to make pizza from scratch. I give an easy recipe in my book for a homemade dough that doesn’t need any resting or rising, which makes it possible to have pizza on a weeknight. It’s the perfect meal for using up all those odds and ends in the fridge — I love to load mine up with veggies! And lately I’ve been favoring pizza from the grill rather than the oven, as it’s quick, really fun for parties, and so conducive to dining al fresco.

If you’re going to a dinner party—what is the one dish that is sure to be a crowd pleaser?
In the summer, my Watermelon, Tomato, and Basil Salad with Tangy Red Onion is a refreshing treat, especially if you have a lot of heavy, smoky meats at a barbecue. I’d also go with a dish that can travel well and is easily reheated, like my Kickin’ Broccoli Mac and Cheese, or a dish that can be eaten cold and gets better the longer it sits, like my Soba Noodles with Spring Root Veggies.

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Where do you get your inspiration from for new recipes?
My garden. The daily harvests force me to be creative in the kitchen, especially if I’m growing something new for the first time that I’ve never cooked before.

Let’s say it’s 7 PM after a long day. What is your favorite thing to make when you’re too tired/lazy to cook a big meal?
I almost always have a jar of homemade pesto in the fridge or freezer for this very reason. A simple plate of pesto pasta with a shave of Parmesan and a glass of wine is sometimes all I need.

What do you think is the most surprising part of a vegetable that you can use to turn into something delicious?
Kale stems. People usually think of them as bitter and fibrous, but they’re one of my favorite things to turn into a bright and tangy pesto. (The recipe is in my book!)

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Have you ever encountered a fruit or vegetable that you didn’t love?
Bitter melon is a common vegetable in Vietnamese cooking and my parents liked to stuff the gourds or make a stew with them. There’s no doubt that bitter melon is a highly nutritious vegetable, but it’s very appropriately named and I happily haven’t touched it since I moved out (seventeen years ago)!

In your opinion what is the hardest food from a CSA to use up?
Aside from vegetables that might be unfamiliar to most people, like kohlrabi, I think big bunches of herbs are hard to use up before they spoil. This is partly because of a storage issue, and partly because we often only add a few sprigs here and there when we cook. It can take a while to go through it all!

What should a newcomer to CSA’s look for before choosing one to join?
Not all farms are vegetable-focused; some specialize in fruits, or flowers, or meat, dairy, and baked goods. Choose a farm that offers the types of things you like to eat, and whose values align with yours. You’ll also want to sign up for a CSA that’s most convenient for you in terms of pickup days and locations. Sometimes farms will even deliver to your workplace if enough of your co-workers sign up for a single drop.

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What tips do you have for someone who is just starting to garden on their own?
Start with something easy. I always recommend starter plants for slow-growing vegetables like tomatoes and peppers until you have a season or two under your belt and know what to expect. But don’t be afraid to start with seeds for plants that establish themselves quickly, like radishes, beans, and squash. Those crops are so effortless that they’re a real confidence booster in the garden.

You have your own chickens! What’s one crucial thing that people need to know before getting their own chicken?
The backyard chicken movement has brought these sweet birds into the mainstream more, but people should understand that they are still animals requiring our care and attention. They get sick, they get old, and their health and well-being are directly linked to what we eat. Other than that, I think a lot of people don’t realize that chickens are full of personality and whether it was part of the plan or not, chickens often end up as household pets! They’re surprisingly smart, love to socialize and often follow you around the yard, waiting for their next treat.

You have an awesome place in Mexico. When you’re there what do you eat? Do you cook or hang out at local places?
We normally cook our own meals. We have a propane stove, a charcoal grill, and a fire pit that can handle any beachfront feast for two or ten! But we also have our favorite local joints in our little corner of Baja. Where we’re at, the restaurants are all family-owned and they truly focus on fresh, homemade food for their neighbors.

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Why did you decide to take the next step and write this book?
Every time I hosted friends for dinner, I’d bring in a bundle of leeks or a handful of radishes and they’d always be surprised when I started cooking with the tops they habitually threw away. One day I declared to my husband, “Someone really needs to write a book about how to use all this stuff!” And he said that person should be me.

In our society, a lot of food myths are passed down through generations and persist even when science says otherwise, like the oft-held belief that carrot tops are poisonous. (They’re not.) We tend to write things off as bitter, toxic, tough, or too plain weird when we’re not familiar with them. I wanted to write a book that celebrated vegetables in their entirety, and embraced all the unconventional parts of plants we commonly buy or grow. It’s a way of reintroducing people to vegetables they already know, but giving them a whole range of textures and flavors they never knew existed.

If you could describe your new book in 140 characters, what would you say about it?
The CSA Cookbook takes a no-waste, nose-to-tail approach to cooking and eating all the vegetables from your CSA box or our own backyard.

Make sure to pick up a copy of The CSA Cookbook, on shelves now! Let us know what recipe you decide to cook and how it turned out!

  • Thanks Linda Ly! Your food are not only exquisite presentation also attractive, I can feel the love cooking in your dish.

  • Thank you for introducing me to your great site and for this fun interview!