Monday, June 29, 2009

Tonight's Dinner and Wee Little Carrots

Tonight, I made another heavily local dinner: Veggie, Bacon, and Goat Cheese Oven Baked Omelet.

1. Cut up 3 slices of Bacon (in this case local Blood Farm Bacon) and pan fry it on medium-high for a couple of minutes.

2. Then Add 2 diced green onions, 3 diced garlic scapes, and the chopped stems from a bunch of chard. Sauteed these for around 10 minutes.

3. Added the chopped chard leaves and mix it until the leaves are nicely wilted.

4. In a separate bowl, whisk together 6 eggs, 1/4 cup of milk, and 1/4 cup shredded cheese. Once the chard wilted, stir in the egg mixture, top with a couple of ounces of goat cheese (from Crystal Brook Farm).

5. Baked it for about 25 minutes at 400 degrees (If this was an actual recipe I would have started by saying pre-heat the oven).

If I knew the source of the eggs, then I might be able to call this a truly local meal. Maybe next time. It was definitely good enough to make again.

On a separate note, I decided to pull up my first harvet of carrots tonight. On April 18th, I planned a row of little finger carrots, nantes, and beets. Unfortunately, some early weather, and some ill-timed tarping of the garden, killed off all but 3 of the little finger seedlings. I wasn't sure if they were ready, but I figured I pick them and find out. It turned out that one was ready (they are only supposed to grow 3 inches long), but the others were not quite there. I also learned that waiting for greens to get to be more than 12" long may be a good rule of thumb for deciding when these carrots are ready. I am going to turn over this bed and start another planting that will hopefully be ready in early-September. I also have seedlings that should be ready in 2 weeks and more ready in 4 weeks.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Local Fare for Dinner

A lot of tonight's dinner was not local (peanut oil, cashews, soy sauce, rice wine vinegar, brown rice) so I am hesitant to call it a local meal. With that said, I did use several ingredients from last weeks CSA share in tonight's stir fry, namely green onions, garlic scapes, kale, peas (plus some from our garden too!), and local honey. Here is a rough summary of the recipe (Inspired by a recipe from Mark Bittman's Food Matters):

1. In a couple of tablespoons of peanut oil, I sauteed 2 garlic scapes, 2 green onions, and about 10 kale stems. All were chopped into .5" - 1" pieces before I added them to the pan.

2. While the stems cooked, I mixed together 2 tablespoons of soy sauce, 2 tablespoons of rice wine vinegar, and 1 tablespoon of honey.

3. After about 3 minutes of sauteing, I added chopped kale leaves to the pan.

4. Two minutes later, I added a little more oil, a cup of raw whole cashews and a bunch of sugar snap peas.

5. After about 4 minutes, I added the soy sauce mixture, tossed for about a minute, then served over brown rice.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

CSA: Week 2

The weather here has been terrible in these parts for the past week to 10 days. Everyday has been rainy and unseasonably cool. The slugs apparently are loving it (based on the fact that I pick 20 - 40 off plants in my garden TWICE A DAY), but it is not the best weather for growing warm weather crops. Julie from MHOF apologized in advance for the shares being light this week, but I think it was still pretty good considering. This week we got 3 types of lettuce, green onions, kale, chard, cilantro, garlic scapes, mint, and a handful of snap peas. We also got strawberries as part of our fruit share. I should be able to pick a bunch of peas from our garden to get a meal's worth for the week. Here is a picture I took of my thriving pea plants from last weekend:

I am also a bit excited to get the garlic scapes. I have been reading about them on garden blogs all spring (like here, here, and here) and have never actually seen them in person. They are very cool looking, almost more like art than food. I now will have to come up with some way to use them in the kitchen.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Preserving Strawberries

In honor of Father's Day, I engaged in a very macho activity: I made homemade strawberry preserves. I know, sooo stereotypical. With so many of the strawberries from yesterday still in the fridge and the rain coming down in buckets, making preserves seemed like a perfect Sunday afternoon activity. I have never actually canned anything before, but you have to start somewhere.

I used 5 cups of crushed strawberries, one box (1.75-oz) pectin, 3 cups sugar, 3 cups brown sugar, 2 Tbsp lemon juice, and 2 cinnamon sticks. I also used this project as an excuse to go out and buy a pressure canner (though I just used it as a hot water bath canner for this project). Tomorrow I will check the seals on the lids and find out if I followed the processing procedure correctly. If I did, we will have 2 and a half pints of strawberry preserves!

I also froze a quart of strawberries. I washed them, trimmed the stems, placed them on a cookie sheet lined with wax paper in the freezer for 4 hours. Now we have just one quart of strawberries left, but maybe we will get more from the CSA on Wednesday.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Local Food Field Trip: Tougas Farm

This morning, the family and I trekked to Tougas Farm in Nothborough. Some co-workers told me that the strawberry picking was amazing this spring due to the cool, wet weather this month. The picking was great indeed! Sue and I managed to pick 10 and a half pounds of strawberries in about a half an hour.

Miles contributed a few and Calvin picked the ones we told him were OK and then ate handful as well (at least one he ate leaves and all). Here is Calvin is his red shirt (a smart choice by mom):

Using the chard from this week's CSA and some of these strawberries, I put together a dinner and dessert with a local flare.

I used Sautéed Swiss Chard Ribs with Cream and Pasta I got from Simply Recipes and the Strawberries and Dumplings recipe posted earlier this week on Smitten Kitchen. For the chard recipe I make a few changes. I chop the chard leaves and add them to the butter and stems for the final minute of the saute. I also add 1/4 cup of cheese (tonight I used mozzarella) right before I mix in the pasta at the end. It ends up being more of a chard mac'n'cheese than a cream sauce, but it goes over better with the boys with the cheese.

The only adjustment I made to the dessert was I substituted honey for the sugar. The honey is local (thanks to Mike Perkins) and the sugar probably is not. That's the type of guy I am.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

First CSA Bag

Today we got our first CSA Bag of the Summer! Today's bag had Lettuce (4 heads, 3 types), spinach, mint, Swiss chard, green onions, cilantro, beet greens, and radishes. There was also a quart of strawberries as part of our fruit share. I the strawberries and chard already are destined for set meals, but now I will need to come up with some more recipes for the week to come.

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Carrots, Celeriac, and Slugs

Today has been a beautiful warm day. I spent a while in the garden weeding, hilling up the potatoes and transferring my final seedlings of the spring. I also checked up on the carrots that I planted back in mid-April. They are supposed to be ready at 60 days, which arrives next week. One of the carrots looks very strong, three others have survived but appear to be at least a week behind. I am eager to see how these look when the are pulled from the soil and to compare them to the future plantings that should be ready in a month.

I finally decided to transfer the celeriac to the garden. These are at least 75 days from harvest and still quite small, but they have outgrown their planter. Hopefully they make it!

The white pellets around the celeriac are slug repellent. The very wet week caused an explosion of slugs in the garden. I poured them another beer, but that does not seem to be enough. I used this "natural" slug repellent today (Espoma brand) and I plan on adding diatomaceous earth later this week. If I don't stop these little suckers I won't have many plants to harvest (they have killed all of my cucumbers and eaten several squash leaves). I replanted my hills of cucumbers but I hope this is not too late. If the weather turns hot, I may have missed my cucumber planting window.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

First Tomato Flowers, Climbing Beans and the Baby Bunny

The last few days have been cooler and filled with occasional light rain. I have done some light weeding, but otherwise not much has been going on in the garden. Today, I was pleasantly surprised by a new development: tomato flowers! On 2 of the 4th of July plants (which may be more like the 24th of July if we are lucky), there were a few flowers.

These join the pea flowers that emerged last weekend and the zucchini blossoms that are currently out in the garden. It is not much, but it is a nice early sign of the fruit to come.

I also have an update on the continued saga of the bean brace. I am happy to report that my last attempt has held up nicely and the beans are climbing. I have not grown this type of bean in the past, but it looks like they are growing well now that I have figured out their support system.

In news (hopefully) unrelated to the garden, we have a new creature in our yard: a baby bunny (see if you can spot it in the picture below).

It is very small and appears to live mostly under the step below our side door. It is very cute, but if I find it in the garden I will probably change my opinion.

Saturday, June 6, 2009

Finally an Appropriate Use for Cherry Wheat Beer

I am sure this happens to everyone, but after hosting a few parties and card games I end up with a hodgepodge of different beers in my basement fridge. Most of the beers are pretty good and are eventually enjoyed, but there are always one or two rogue beer-like beverages that take up space without any hope of being consumed. If I cannot come up with a way of cooking with these beers, I eventually end up pouring them down the drain. Fortunately, today I came up with a way to prevent a rogue bottle of Sam Adam's Cherry Wheat from going to waste!

I went out to the garden to cut some greens for a lunch salad (I added the last of the Crystal Brook Farm Goat Cheese, some black beans, a handful of sunflower seed, and some Penzy's salad dressing) and found a couple of slugs and damage to some of the squash leaves. I sunk a couple of small plastic cups into the ground, filled them halfway with beer, and then poured beer around the edges. If the slug problem persists I will try some of the other methods mentioned in my Rodale's Encyclopedia and I will also confirm that Cherry Wheat is not fit for any animal consumption, even slimy little mollusks.

Friday, June 5, 2009

Hilling Potatoes and Other Garden Updates

Yesterday afternoon, I did a bit more work in the garden. With the exception of the celeriac which I will add in a couple of weeks, think that I have added everything that will be transferred this year. I replaced one more zucchini plant (thanks to toppling bean brace), reseeded the beans that had not come up from the previous plantings, added a row of peppers, and hilled the potatoes (see above). Seven of the eight seed potatoes I planted have sprouted and look to be growing quite nicely. I am new at growing potatoes so I hope I did this right.

In fruit news, both the raspberries and blueberries are beginning to show fruit. I would expect to have a pint or two of blueberries and some (I have know idea how many) raspberries by the end of June/early July. So in spite of the fact that my tomatoes are not doing great, I am apparently capable of growing something.

Monday, June 1, 2009

Bean Brace Take 2

After my bean brace fell over for a third time on Friday night, I decided a redesign was in order. I took the supports apart, cut the ends into stakes, hammered them into the ground, and then I strung string through the holes in the supports. It is not as visually impressive as the last structure (and may not be easily disassembled), but it shouldn't fall over any more. Several of the young seedlings were damaged the last time the brace fell over so I probably will have to replant in places. That is definitely a weekend project.

In other garden news, I have had two recent disappointing revelations. First, while I was reading about peas in my Rodale's Encyclopedia, I read that they do not do well near garlic or onions. Unfortunately, I planted garlic outside my garden in a place that happens to be near one of my rows of peas. This may explain why that one row of peas is several inches shorter than the others. In more distressing news, the trees have filled in a lot over the last couple of weeks and the canopy of trees are now choking out a lot of the light in the garden, particularly the end where my tomatoes are trying to grow. I am becoming pessimistic about how much the tomato plants can yield if there is less than 8 hours of light on them each day. I will do a bit of trimming of the trees near the garden, but I may not be able to grow tomatoes on that side successfully. Live and learn.

On a positive note, I have lots of good stuff happening on the local food front. Last Friday I stopped at Crystal Brook Farm in Sterling and picked up some goat cheese. The stuff is very good and I have crumbled it onto my salads the last couple of days. This time I picked up the plain cheese, but next time I go I will be a bit more adventurous and get some of the seasoned varieties. Another exciting development is that we are just 2 weeks away from our CSA starting! Last year we started getting vegetables from Many Hands Organic Farm in Barre. I love picking up the bag from the CSA each week, its filled with all sorts of vegetables that I get to figure out how to cook each week. Even if it takes me a couple of years to get my garden sorted out, we will have great local vegetables from the CSA through October. If you are interested in a CSA and you live in or near Boston/Dorchester, Holden, Fitchburg, Worcester, or Palmer, all of those towns have co-op delivery from the farm. They still have shares left for the summer so sign-up!