Thursday, July 30, 2009

Preserving Kale

Today I froze 2 bunches of kale. To do this, I separated the leaves from the stems, chopped the stems, steam blanched the leaves and stems for 2 minutes, plunged it into ice water to stop the cooking process, drained, patted dry with a paper towel, and put it into a zip-lock bag. The whole process, including clean-up, only took about a half hour. Now I'll have a bag of greens for a stir fry in the middle of the winter!

Here is the final product:

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

CSA Week 7

This week's CSA share included 2 summer squash, one zucchini, carrots, kale, 5 small lettuce heads, peppermint, spearmint, parsley, cilantro, chard, beets, dill, and red raspberries. Julie from MHOF says that fortunately they do not see any sign of late blight at the farm and the tomatoes and potatoes (plus beans, leeks, onions, and cukes) are all looking good. The hot weather crops are behind for everyone I know in the area, but hopefully the recent heatwave will help these crops along.

On a separate note, I am thinking about freezing the kale from the past 2 weeks. We are a bit inundated with leaves at the moment and it is becoming hard to come up with meal variation to use them all. I hate for food to go to waste and the frozen kale could be used in a stir fry in the winter.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Zucchini Blossom End Rot

I have noticed that the zucchini plants in my garden are a bit undersized at this point in the season, but they still seemed to be chugging along (in spite of the slugs constant assaults). Unfortunately, over the past couple of weeks I have seen 3 or 4 zucchini grow about 4 inches, stop growing, and then rot on one end. After a bit of research, I have come to the conclusion that what I am seeing is Blossom End Rot (BER). BER is caused by plants not taking in enough calcium. This can be caused by poor calcium levels in the soil or waterlogged plants that are not taking in the calcium effectively. I might be suffering from both, but I am definitely blaming the recent rains. There does not seem to be an easy short term solution to this problem but fortunately it may be a temporary problem. I am going to add a bit of compost to the base of the plants today to see if that helps. Also this problem reinforces the fact that I need to get my soil tested before next summer.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Peas, Beans and a Local Lunch

Today I picked my first group of Neapolitan Beans and another small group of peas (this represents about a quarter of the peas I have picked to date). The string beans took a couple of attempts to get the trellising right (see here and here) so it is nice to get some actual beans from the struggles. Based on what is still growing in the garden, I would expect to get at least 2 more pickings in the weeks to come. Since this my first attempt with this variety of bean, I have know idea if they continue to produce new flowers and beans throughout the summer. Maybe this is the start of weeks of these big beans.

Inspired by the peas I picked, and by the small zucchini and summer squash that sat on the kitchen counter but did not look like they would survive the weekend, I made the dish above for today's lunch. I pealed the zucchini and summer squash into pasta-thin ribbons. In a small pan, I heated a couple tablespoons of olive oil added a clove of crushed garlic. After about a minuted I added in a bunch of pea pods (I snapped the long ones in half to make them more bite sized) and tossed to cover them with oil. I then added the ribbons and tossed again. I cooked this on medium heat, occasionally stirring to prevent burning. The ribbons gave off water as they cooked slightly softening them and the pea pods. After it was cooked (just a couple of minutes), I topped the mixture with salt, pepper, and shredded Parmesan. It was quick, light, and tasty!

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Local Food Field Trip: Berries & Blooms

Today, I took the boys to Berries & Bloom to go blueberry picking. (31 South Road, Holden (508) 829-5494). This is a little Ma and Pa place that sells some garden vegetables, blueberries and raspberries, but mainly where you can pick your own blueberries and cut your own annual flowers.

There is about an acre of blueberry bushes in rows where you can pick from 8am - 5pm everyday (except Tuesdays) through the season. They opened yesterday so we made our first trip.

Overall, we picked nearly 4 lbs. (they were a little less than $2 a pound). Miles is now to an age where he actually does contribute to our haul but I am pretty sure Calvin ate more than he put in the bucket.

This will be a weekly trip for us through the end of summer since we can easily eat more than 4 pounds of blueberries each week. Plus, I plan on making some blueberry preserves in the next couple of days to see how that goes.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

CSA Week 6

This weeks CSA bag contained the following: 3 heads of lettuce, a bunch of kale, a bunch of chard, beets, beet greens, a bag of peas, carrots, dill, parsley, a zucchini, a summer squash and raspberries.

Now to come up with some recipes!

Monday, July 20, 2009

Garden Updates and Another Local Meal

Above is the largest zucchini growing in the garden as of yesterday (about 6" long at this point). I counted 8 different zucchini growing on 4 plants with several more flowers potentially starting new fruit. That was the good news. I also found one zucchini half eaten by slugs and that particular plant nearly dead from a new swarm of the slimy little buggers. I picked the above zucchini, but the other one growing may not get to full size because I have my doubts the plant will make it through the week.

On the tomato front, every plant has fruit except 2 of my Roma's (which were started 2 weeks after all of the other tomatoes) and those are showing many flowers. The 4th of July's are covered with fruit (the above are some of the smaller ones) and we should be swimming with tomatoes in about 2 weeks (which will be the 4th of August, but whose counting).

In other tomato happenings, this ear I have also attempted to grow hanging tomatoes in 2-liter bottles and gallon milk jugs. My father-in-law was convinced that they were not going to work, which was a little disheartening since he is quite a tomato growing guru. I am happy to say that both of my hanging sweet 100's have fruited! I feel pretty happy about this successful little experiment.

Sunday's Dinner was salt and peppered steaks (a London Broil and a Delmonico from Balance Rock Farm) with collard greens cooked in bacon. I chopped up 2 slices of bacon and started them in the aluminum tray. After 5 minutes I added the chopped collard stems and cooked a couple more minutes. When I threw the steaks on the grill, I added the chopped collard leaves and stirred them in the bacon fat as the steaks seared on each side. The steaks took about 16 minutes (for medium-rare/medium... they were thick) and I kept the collard leaves on a total of 20 minutes. To go along with our meal, Sue made margaritas. These were not local at all, but were pretty darn good.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

This week from the CSA and a Local Meal

I have fallen a bit behind in my postings this week. On Wednesday, the CSA brought us collard greens, one summer squash, two Italian garlic, one bunch of carrots, lots more peas, four different heads of lettuces, parsley, cilantro, chard, and some black raspberries.

On Thursday, I made the local meal below: (Blood Farm) Beef and green onion kabobs with steamed carrots and peas.

It was a super simple meal, only salting and peppering the beef and onions and throwing them on the grill. The vegetables were steamed in the microwave.

In gardening news, summer has finally made it to Massachusetts over the past couple of weeks and the plants are really growing. I will harvest new potatoes in the next week or so, and the tomatoes are on the verge of turning red. The string beans are starting to appear on plants and I may even get a few bush beans (though these are actually rather pathetic this year). I also hope to get one last picking of peas, some more carrots, and then plant for a fall harvest of peas, potatoes, and carrots.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Local Food Field Trip: Balance Rock Farm

Today, Calvin and I visited Balance Rock Farm in Berlin. Sue asked me yesterday about the place, and since I hadn't been there yet, I made a special trip. It is a cool little shop that sells local beef, pork, veal, chickens, eggs, cheese, milk, ice cream and such. I talked to Linda at the farm who said that they raise the meat on site and have it butchered at the Blood Farm in Groton (I asked since I recognized how their meat was wrapped). I bought a couple of pounds of steak, a couple of pounds of ground beef, a package of burgers, bacon, eggs, some local ice cream and a half gallon of milk. This shop is a much more convenient place to buy local meat than blood farm in my normal commute home from work. It was a very exciting find.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Last week's CSA Share

I was away all of last week at a coaching academy so I was not able to enjoy the week's CSA share. Fortunately, Sue took the picture above and stashed the vegetables into the fridge. I will do my best to cook as much as I can this week, but it may not be reasonable to get through it all. Here is what the share included:

Lettuce (3 heads), Radishes, Kale, Peas (shell & snap), Parsley, Dill, Oregano, Mint, Chard, Green Onions, Cilantro, and the end of the strawberries.

In our garden, there are many tiny tomatoes, a couple of small zucchini, flowers buds on the potatoes, and flowers on the pole beans. I hope to do some major weeding done this week and possibly planting some more carrots for a fall harvest.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

CSA: Week 3 and Yesterday's Local Meal

In spite of the continuous rains, and my own personal battle with slugs in the garden, the folks at Many Hands Organic Farm produced another packed bag of vegetables this week. This week the share included: Parsley, Kale, Beet greens, Chard (which were huge and quite beautiful), Radishes, Strawberries, Peas, Lettuce (3 types), Green Onions, Oregano, Cilantro, Mint, and Garlic scapes (our 6 year old referred to these as garlic escapes at dinner, which is awesome). I have been drinking lots of mint tea over the past couple of weeks and really have begun to enjoy the part of the share. The boys and I also finished off the Strawberries this morning.

Yesterday, I made my most local meal so far this summer. Grilled Steak with sesame seasoned chard. I did use olive oil, sesame oil, sesame seeds, rice wine vinegar, and soy sauce, but most of the main ingredients were local. I marinated cube steak (from Blood Farm) in soy sauce, olive oil, with 2 diced green onions and 2 diced garlic scapes. I cooked outside on the gas grill. To prepare the chard, the removed the stems and cut the leaves into long strips. I put the leaves in a bowl and tossed them with a dressing of rice wine vinegar, dark sesame seed oil, honey and sesame seeds. I chopped the chard stems and a couple of garlic scapes into one inch pieces and sauteed them in a little bit of olive oil. After the stems became tender (about 6 minutes), I added the leaves and cooked them a couple of minutes until they were done. This meal was inspired by a steak wraps recipe I have been making for a couple of years (where I marinate slaw mix in the rice wine dressing) and wrap the steak and slaw in romaine leaves. It was not quite as good as the steak wraps, but it wasn't bad.