Thursday, October 29, 2009
Tuesday, October 27, 2009
I have never eaten a winter squash at my parents' house. Until I started experimenting with it last fall, I would have said it tasted bland (based upon little or no experience actually eating winter squash). Last year I bought a booklet on cooking squash because I wanted to support the Moultrie County Historical and Genealogical Society's historical one-room-school project at The Great Pumpkin Patch. Then, I bought some squash so that I could use the recipes. In the end, I wasn't entirely satisfied with the recipes in the booklet, so I searched the Web for more. Toward the end of my squash supply, I found two that my family really likes. This year, we started our squash season earlier, and I have made each of our favorites twice in the past two weeks.
The first is Acorn Squash with Apple Stuffing. Since I don't have the notes for the source, it is probably from either the Historical Society's book or a booklet from Whole Foods Market. My great discovery this year is that I can make it in the microwave, which means I don't have to think about it an hour or more ahead of time:
Slice squash in half, discard seeds, & place face down in a baking dish. In an oven, bake 30 minutes at 350 degrees; in a microwave, bake on high about 7 minutes (depends on the squash size and power of your microwave).
- 2 med acorn squash
- 2 med apples, chopped (macintosh or red delicious)
- 1/2 cup chopped walnuts or pecans
- 1//2 cup raisins
- 5 Tbsp brown sugar
- 3 Tbsp butter, melted
Combine apples, nuts, raisins, and brown sugar in a bowl and mix well. Spoon into squash. Drizzle with melted butter. In an oven, bake 25-30 more minutes at 350 to taste; in a microwave, back on high 2-3 minutes more.
The mix of apple and squash flavors is just great!
Our other favorite is Delicata Squash with Rosemary, Sage, and Cider Glaze. Peeling squash takes a bit of time and muscle, but this dish is worth it. One day I'm going to try the advice of baking the squash whole for a little while before trying to peel it.
On Saturday morning I picked up a supply of squash from The Great Pumpkin Patch as an exchange for the squash in my plot at the Sullivan Victory Garden. We served as an isolation plot for the heirloom squash that the GPP's Mac Condill grows for seed. There are several different species of squash (the correct term is curcurbit), and seeds of different varieties within the same species will cross and produce un-true seed if planted too close to each other. So, our plot hosted several types of squash from different species. Mac kindly offered to trade more common types of squash for the squash that he wanted to keep for seed, and today I took him up on his offer. (Thanks, Mac!)
If you want to get local squash in the Sullivan area, you can find it at The Great Pumpkin Patch through October 31 or at Buxton's Garden Farm into November, while supplies last.
Saturday, October 24, 2009
"Thanks to modern agriculture, we not only have bigger, juicier vegetables than our grandmothers or the old Greeks and Romans ever knew, but because of modern transportation and refrigeration, we enjoy vegetables from all over the country the year around."
I enjoy and appreciate bananas, grapes, and other fruits and vegetables that are difficult or impossible to grow here, and I think that it is important to remember that refrigerating and transporting vegetables was a technological advance that still benefits us today. After all, how many of us have time to can (or even freeze) all of the fruits and vegetables that we want to eat over the winter? Or have a root cellar to store enough potatoes, winter squash, onions, apples, and other produce, some of which will likely rot and be wasted? And, even if we have the time and equipment needed for food preservation, we would also need to find enough time to harvest (if not also plant) quantities large enough to sustain our families.
So, I'm not ready to give up my transported, refrigerated produce.
But, I am enjoying the great flavors that come from eating produce in season. As I became an adult responsible for my own cooking, I gradually decreased my consumption of fresh apples. Too often, grocery store apples were mealy and tasteless. By the turn of the century, I think I hardly ate apples.
Four years ago, I started buying apples in the fall from our local Okaw Valley Apple Orchard and discovered that they are delicious--crisp and full of flavor, like an apple should be. Fresh apples were available from the orchard from August through November, and I enjoyed every month of that time.
Last year, I extended my apple eating season through March by buying a huge bag of apples when the orchard closed on November 15. I double-bagged them to keep in the moisture (as Okaw Valley's Jim Bailey advised) and put them in my refrigerator. I didn't try any of them fresh, but my family and I enjoyed cooked apples through March. At the simplest, just cut them in half and microwave them until soft (time depends on the power of your microwave and the number of apple halves). Similar, yet surprisingly different when eating, cut the apples into bite-sized pieces and microwave until soft. I like to put cinnamon on mine; some people add sugar, and others eat them as-is.
Last winter, we bought lots of pears from the grocery store and enjoyed them every two or three days at supper. I didn't really understand that pears are seasonal until March or April, when fewer pears were available at the store, and those that were there didn't taste as good. Those that did have a good flavor were imported from Chile and New Zealand (if I remember correctly), and cost more. Other fruits were starting to come in at that time (I think it was mostly California fruit--strawberries and peaches, for example), so I stopped buying pears. One of the benefits to eating seasonally is looking forward to the return of each fruit or vegetable as its season arrives. And, these days, I am excited that the time for sweet, fresh pears has arrived.
The final member of my fall season menu is winter squash--we mostly eat acorn squash, butternut squash, and delicata squash. Last year I was disappointed that I didn't figure out how to use squash (the topic of a post to come) until it was too late to get any more local squash. The grocery store squash was satisfactory and available for longer, but I would rather buy locally grown squash if I can. So, as the fall season approached, I began to look forward to winter squash. Today, I laid in a store of winter squash. Supposedly you can keep it for weeks or months, depending on the variety. That will be one of my studies for this year.
If you want to lay in a stock of local produce, it's not too late:
- Get apples at Okaw Valley Orchard through November 15.
- Get winter squash through October 31 at The Great Pumpkin Patch or until supplies run out at Buxton's Garden Farm.
Enjoy the flavors of the season!
Tuesday, October 20, 2009
It's really not that difficult. I spent not more than an hour one afternoon picking out the largest cloves from the largest heads of this year's harvest. This afternoon, I spent another hour hoeing a small patch and planting 80-90 cloves. I used a 4-inch bulb planter to make individual holes. These cloves are planted 3 inches deep and 4-5 inches apart.
The garlic will sprout this fall, grow a little, and then wait dormantly over the winter, like winter wheat. When spring comes, it will start growing again. In late May, the garlic will put up stems to be cut off before they flower (cut them just as they are starting to curl, perhaps even before, and cut below 2-3 sets of leaves). These are called garlic scapes and are delicious. Think of them as garlic-flavored green onions and use them in a similar manner.
In early July, when most, but not all, of the leaves are brown, the garlic is ready to harvest. I loosen the dirt with a shovel and dig them up. Then I put them upside down in a box on my un-airconditioned back porch to dry. After 2-3 weeks, I cut off the stems and roots and put them in a box in a dark place in my basement. They come up briefly to be sorted for seed, and then they spend the rest of the winter, spring, and summer in the basement until they are eaten. The garlic heads keep until summer (or longer), when the next harvest is ready.
I'm still experimenting with the exact timing of the planting. Today might, in fact, have been a little late. Over time, my garlic heads and the individual cloves seem to be getting smaller. I wonder if I don't plant them early enough, so they don't get a good head start on their fall growing. One year I didn't get them in until the second week of November. They grew, and I got enough of a crop to eat, but that was definitely too late.
How did I get started growing garlic? It was originally supposed to be a one-season project to grow out and save my sister-in-law's garlic seed while she and my brother spent a year in Japan on his sabbatical. Four years later, they are still in Japan, and I have come to enjoy growing garlic.
I grow my garlic for the pleasure and because this variety has a really good flavor. However, it is neat to think that we haven't spent a penny on garlic (a staple in our kitchen) for four years!
Friday, October 16, 2009
Already at that time, people in many areas were growing, promoting, and selling local food, and I have seen these activities expand over time. The term locavore, while not yet common knowledge around here, had not yet entered any of the discussions that I read in 2003. By early 2009, the number of people aware of and devoted to local foods had grown large enough to persuade the newly elected President Obama to have a vegetable garden planted on the White House grounds for the first time since Eleanor Roosevelt's wartime victory garden during World War II.
To me, however, the best indication of the widespread penetration of local foods awareness can be found at our local IGA. The IGA has sold apples from our local apple orchard for several years. At first, they had no special labeling. A couple of years ago, the sign in the produce section said, "Homegrown," if I remember correctly. This year, the sign reads something like, "Locally Grown and Handpicked by Okaw Valley Orchard."
And, at the back of the produce section last week, there was a basket of walnuts labeled, "Locally Grown."
When a trend reaches Sullivan, it is truly national.
Here are some places you can look for more information:
Friday, October 9, 2009
In order to save seeds from cucumbers, you must let them thoroughly ripen on the vine. They will enlarge and turn yellow. They should stay on the vines until the vines are dead. Bring the cucumbers into the house and let them ripen further on a dry shelf in the pantry (or someplace out of direct sunlight). When the cucumbers begin to turn soft, scoop out the seed mass and put it into a large jar of water. Let the seeds ferment for five days, then separate the scum from the good seeds that have sunken to the bottom. Rinse the seeds in a colander, then dry hem on screens for at least three weeks, or until the seed snaps when bent in half. Store the seed in airtight containers, label and date clearly. Store the containers in a cool, dark place free of humidity. Seed processed properly will remain good for at least eight to 10 years.Mother Earth News is one of my favorite magazines. It has interesting articles on not just gardening but also cooking, construction, tools, and homestead living. It occasionally has articles on political philosophies and government policies that divide the magazine's readers: some love them; others cancel their subscription in disgust. Overall, though, it's a good read, and their web site has great information.
Tuesday, September 29, 2009
It seems to me that in the past, people solved this by having family vegetable gardens and lots of children to help harvest. Even my 3-year-old has helped me on some occasions already. With industrial vegetable production, part of the solution has been machinery. However, with tender vegetables, not all labor can be mechanized away, and so we have migrant workers as well--agricultural workers who move from place to place following the harvest of various vegetable crops. (Thankfully, vegetables mature at different times. Imagine if everything ripened at the same time, from asparagus to winter squash!)
Our solution was to put a box and a sign to let people know that they could come and pick what they wanted, and leave a donation to support the Moultrie County Food Pantry. (I realize this post is almost too late to be of use in publicizing the availability of these vegetables; next year we'll be more organized.) Some people did pick and leave money, and still there are vegetables going to waste.
How can we make use of it all?
I thought it was a good time to draft up an update to the victory garden website as the DeLong family is traveling home and moving through the Smoky Mountains of North Carolina from my Niece Katie’s (Katie is my brother Jeff’s oldest daughter), wedding to Naval academy graduate and now Marine officer 1st Lt. A.J. Dulik The Stay in Greenville South Carolina was enjoyable as reunion with old friends and family made it an event that will stay with me for the rest of my life. Katie and AJ have deep love for one another and I hope someday they will expand the family tree.
While in Greenville we stayed at the Westin Hotel in down town Greenville and it was very close to a holistic Health care center called Creative Health. The slogan next to the sign read, “Helping others help themselves.” The sign made me interested enough to walk in and check things out. The front door sign made me think this is similar to the concept that we would like to promote at local Victory Gardens. Our slogan is “conquering world hunger one block at a time.” And it will ultimately require new habit and practices from all involved just as improved health required changes in habits to find improved health. The success of the Greenville store made me think that Jean and Terry Titus (important active members of our community Garden and owners of Abundance of Life Health and Wellness Center should have quite a future ahead if they follow in the footsteps of the owner Terry Hall-Hines of Creative Health. I walked in the store to find five people behind the counter all busy taking orders and helping customers fill order and find merchandise… the Creative Health store has a 20 year head start and after inquiring around with some local people I learned that it is quite successful which confirmed my original observation when I walked into the business. A well-timed quote I noticed inlayed on the sidewalk a block away from the store was quite appropriate “ You can observe a lot by just watching.” Yogi Berra.
I soon learned that the owner Terry Hall-Hines had a full schedule of clients lined up to meet and discuss health issues noticed by viewing one’s eyes as well as other techniques. One interesting technique she employs is called iridology which is an alternative medicine practice used widely in the Eastern world. Its beginnings are traced back to the Egyptians, who used examinations of the eyes irises to diagnose internal health problems long before technology performed such tasks. I drafted a quick note to let Terry know I was interested in having an examination since I have been troubled with excessive and serious dry eye condition for quite some time…. But since my time was short I correctly imagined that we would not get a chance to personally meet. Maybe someday we will meet up.
Luckily, a part owner and health care expert, Alison Lively, agreed to give me a quick eye examination and diagnosed my overall health through a magnified view of my iris. Her finding was quite accurate and of no surprise to me, which made me more confident that , this method has merit. More importantly she suggested a few supplements such as magnesium and another herbal treatment that should help me overcome my dry eye medical condition..... I will report on the progress in later postings. The iris revealed or suggested that my heart function was good…. That is always nice to hear. Lastly and most importantly I should eat more vegetables. This is the part that one should come out of with the posting. It is something that is most common method that one will need to practice if one wants to share good health.
From a little searching through the internet I find the quote.
"Vegetable love" is thus a love that grows, takes nourishment, and reproduces, although slowly. It also dates back to the Roman empire and actual can mean strong man although it later changed to mean in 1582.... as I found recorded for the first time the adjective use of vegetable familiar to us, "having to do with plants." In a work of the same date appears the first instance of vegetable as a noun, meaning "a plant."
This is quite interesting that Alison has the last name of Lively which goes quite nicely with the fact that she encourages the consumption of Vegetables which seem to show up all over the internet with the word living or lively.
I will send info concerning our upcoming monthly meeting this Thursday October 1..... later tonight.
Wednesday, September 16, 2009
- Jibby's Restaurant
- Kim's Country Mall
- The News-Progress
- Rural King
- Buxton's Garden Farm
- The Great Pumpkin Patch
- Abundance of Life Health and Wellness Center
One last item..... the County worked in cooperation with the City of Sullivan to prepare plans and bid out the construction of a City-owned oncrete parking lot behind Jibby's Restaurant. As the construction nears completion I see an opportunity to have a small community garden plot in the SW corner of the parking lot. I am lobbying to use this spot... take a look and see if this might be a worthy project!!!!
One last last item....I have been very grateful that Carol has been developing this website... so I have been leaving vegetables at their back door step .... I will try to keep them coming as I have time to pick. Her contribution has been at the computer, not the garden, although they enjoy the fresh food.
Tuesday, September 15, 2009
We have been offered seeds for edible soybeans (called edamame) from Theresa, a friend of Doug's who works in the soybean research department at the University of Illinois. According to http://www.edamame.com, "Edamame is a green vegetable more commonly known as a soybean, harvested at the peak of ripening right before it reaches the "hardening" time. The word Edamame means "Beans on Branches," and it grows in clusters on bushy branches. To retain the freshness and its natural flavor, it is parboiled and quick-frozen. Edamame is consumed as a snack, a vegetable dish, used in soups or processed into sweets. As a snack, the pods are lightly boiled in salted water, and then the seeds are squeezed directly from the pods into the mouth with the fingers."
Madelyn and Doug have eggplants for saving seed. Here are directions for how to do it. We will talk more about seed saving at our October 1 meeting.
Friday, September 11, 2009
I am grateful that Jibby's has found a way to help us out with the mission of our group to conquer world hunger one block at a time. I stopped in at Jibby's with some fresh vegetables last night and had a chance to talk a little more with Jason Smith (weekend chef at Jibby's) about working out details to get shipments to Jibby's in a timely manner. I think it is just one of those things that time will take care of. After dropping off some more tomatoes, peppers, basil and green beans.... I asked Chef Jason if he could use some carrots and he concluded that he did not have time to peel the carrots tonight. I offered to dig some up and peel the carrots for him as I thought it would be a good chance to taste his recipe myself. I preceded to bring the carrots to Jibby to wash, peel and slice. I guess this is my style to get the job done one way or another.... I may be the only County Engineer in the State that occasionally replaces signs and sign posts if everyone is busy or on other assignments. I have not had to do this recently as we have a great sign replacement mechanic, Pat Seeley. Back to Jibby's.... I only got run over once in the kitchen as the door opened up into me as I was at the sink. A kitchen worker complimented my nice pickup truck that was sitting in the back door as I worked in the kitchen. I wonder if he thought that I drove a nice vehicle for a dish washer. Anyway, everyone was quite nice and they do work well as a team as I witnessed first hand. Doug Wilson worked as the Greeter and he knows how to make folks feel welcomed. SOOO! after getting the carrots prepared I decided to dine at Jibby's.
The bruschetta prepared with tomatoes from our garden was a wonderful surprise as I had never had it before and I know why they have been selling so much as an appetizer. I will get Jason's recipe as it is something that must be placed on our future recipe list for our website. I ordered a hamburger and honey glazed carrots from the community garden... they too were good. The green beans were fried up as a appetizer.
PLEASE VISIT JIBBY'S AND ASK FOR VICTORY GARDEN VEGETABLES.
Thursday, September 10, 2009
(From Doug)I think the group may have missed a hidden gem in the contest. Greg Yoder brought a tomato that has been saved by Greg Yoder's grandfather's sister, Elsie. It came out of the Amish community and can be tracked for about 100 years. Elsie has been saving this seed for years and Greg thinks it was used in the Yoder Canning business in the 1940's. I happen to have an advertisement for this tomato that I will show the group later on. I noticed its large tear drop shape and it was quite tasty. It was not one of the better looking ones so it may have been passed over by the group. I would call it a cross between a large Roma and a round slicing tomato. It has all the qualities of a good canning tomato. We shall call this the Elsie Tomato. I will be saving seed from this gem. I love to find heirloom tomatoes like this one that can come out of hiding and shared with the world. My guess is this will make a great salsa variety, with just the right taste, body and consistency.
Keep on gardening!
Wednesday, September 9, 2009
The September Meeting by all measures that are important was a fantastic success. Especially, that the group had a fun time. I have never thought that gardening was work as I have always thought that work could not be defined as FUN.... and garden is fun and is one technique that help rid ones body of stress.
We had Krista Lewin take a group picture that hopefully will be placed in our now available website. John Dean reported in the meeting that the greenhouses will be dismantled by a contractor some time this fall if the current arrangements work out. We will still be able to garden until John finds an owner for the property. John, Thanks again for the use of the property. The website features a picture of John that reminds me of a wise man with years of life experiences. Oh, so true! The hat adds the gardener's look.
And the Tomato Taste Off winner was......
Zak Standerfer with Purple Cherokee tomatoes. Zak won the peoples choice and the judges choice. Congrats Zak!!! Zak was quite helpful starting up the garden by placing mulch in the pathway the Spring. Thanks.
Madelyn and Sharon did much work to set up the office for the meeting. It was a success.... thanks to their work.
The next meeting will be October 1, 2009 on Thursday night at 6:30 at Dean's front office. It should be seed saving night. We will talk about seed saving and the "how to" techniques. Please bring seeds to shares as this is an important function of www.localvictorygardens.com. I will leave seed envelopes at Dean's for you use. They will be the ones with the plastic window so one can see the seeds. Eddie Bell has sent us seeds for sharing and I have packaged them and I will share them at our next meeting. Eddie Bell is our Kentucky victory garden connection and we really have a good source of information with her addition to the group.
I am going to ask Carol to a place counter on the site so we can track the site usage. I am going to guess that we get 50,000 hits the first year. I wonder if this is doable.
[Editor's note: There is one more "gem" that I think deserves it's own post. Stay tuned.]
Keep on gardening!
Tuesday, September 8, 2009
Cherokee Purple, grown by Zak Standerfer! This tasty dark red tomato with blue/purple stripes won First Place from the judges and received the People's Choice award, based on ratings by those at the taste-off.
The judges awarded Second Place to Pineapple, a yellow tomato grown by Doug DeLong:
According to the article on Wikipedia, "Cherokee purple is the name of a cultivar of tomato, unusual for the deep purple/red hue of its fruit. It was one of the first of the "black" color group of tomatoes. It is also unusual in being extremely popular for the sake of its flavor, instead of only its unusual color." Read more.
We had 17 varieties from 6 growers:
- Arkansas Traveler (Tess Melvin)
- Franchi - Pomodoro Redorta (Doug DeLong)
- Franchi - Pomodoro Red Cherry (Jim Bryant)
- Franchi - Pomodoro Red Pear (Doug DeLong)
- Brandywine (Doug DeLong)
- Anna Noir (Doug DeLong)
- Hartman's Gooseberry (Doug DeLong)
- Pineapple (Doug DeLong)
- Brownberry (Doug DeLong)
- Chocolate Tomatoes (Doug DeLong)
- Unknown (Doug DeLong)
- Seminole Indian (Cliff Dobbs)
- Polish Tomatoes (Cliff Dobbs)
- Elsie's Tomatoes (Greg Yoder)
- Cherry Tomatoes (Jim Bryant)
- Cherokee Purple (Zak Standerfer)
- Celebrity (Julie Standerfer)
Thursday, September 3, 2009
"It has been a late season for tomatoes but I still think we will have a good turn out of tomatoes. The tomatoes can come from any garden so spread the word to everyone."
Judges are chef Jason Smith of Jibby's Restaurant, Tanya Rose of TNT Pizza, and Roma Dey of Charleston, Illinois.
Special thanks to Madelyn and Sharon for getting Dean's front room ready for the taste-off!
Leave Doug a comment here if you want to buy some.Mustard Pink Petiole Mix. (b,h) VMUS-PT. Packet: $2.50. OTC ORGANIC SEED. Germination: 96%. Tested: 10/08. 1/4 oz: $7.50.Incredible mix of shapes and colors - creamy yellow to emerald - green leaves, smoothly rounded to deeply cut, all with the leaf-stems in shades of pink or purple. Superb addition to baby salad leaf mixes. Colors best with cool weather and well-spaced plants. Organically grown.
By the way, it makes me think:
The kingdom of God is like a mustard seed that, when it is sown in the ground, is the smallest of all the seeds on the earth. But once it is sown, it springs up and becomes the largest of plants and puts forth large branches, so that the birds of the sky can dwell in its shade.Kind of like what we're doing here.
Kim's farm market is open on Saturdays. She sells local produce, as well as worm castings. Doug has visited her worm breeding operation and says it's neat! She has a fine orchard with trees that have many different varieties on the same trees.
Earlier this year, she had great strawberries, and she also had aronia berries. Doug bought some to save for seed. They are native the to Midwest and are tart but apparently are a great health food.