Sunday, July 16, 2006

Beets & etc.

The Detroit Dark Red beets this year are huge without being woody at the core. I have taken to bringing in one for breakfast, washing it, cutting off the greens and thin-slicing the root into a bowl with about 1/2 cup of water. Cover with a matching bowl. Zap for 99 seconds. Uncover, add onion blossoms, garlic blossoms, or celery blossoms to taste, cover, zap 44 seconds, uncover, drain, and serve.

The drained fluid, a rich magenta in color, I may let cool for a drink later in the day or use in bread or soup.

The greens I use for lunch. Separate the stems on late-season beets as they are a bit too fibrous. Roll up the leaves in two directions and shred with your Chinese cleaver. Place in bowl. sprinkle with blossoms, as above, and spritz with water, or vinegar, or both. Zap for 99 seconds. Serve, with or without your homemade vinaigrette.

Today I did make beet-water bread, using 14 oz. of the red water, yeast, salt, oil, green apples diced small, oats, white and whole wheat flour, baked 1 hour at 300F. A bit crusty on the outside, mushy inside, but good.

We're invited out to eat tonight, or I would make green and yellow squash, with bell pepper rings and the usual garlic blossoms, as I did for a potluck yesterday, to serve with a looseleaf lettuce, bok choi, young chard, and onion greens salad. The squash dish took five minutes to make. The secret of all this quick cookery is to stay away from pots and pans and avoid overcooking anything.

Think about the density of each item, and add it to the dish in the microwave accordingly.

Example: small potatoes or celery, with tofu, two minutes. ADD bell peppers and snow peas. 1 minute. ADD fresh chopped spinach or beet leaves with garlic blossoms, one minute. Serve!


The potluck was to celebrate a friend's fiftieth birthday. I met old friends there from over twenty years ago, many of whom had not seen me in all that time and had to be re-introduced due to my life change. No one seemed compelled to ask if I'm happy; I guess it just shows.

The setting was the farm where my friend lives and works, a large strictly organic operation that does community market baskets as well as specialty crops such as burdock. The view across the valley is spectacular, and as we all held hands in a great circle around the well-stocked tables, our host taught all of us to sing Pachelbel's Canon in D as an Alleluia in three parts, which went better than I would have thought -- Beloved said afterwards, "he must have done this before." The stunning music was the perfect counterpart to the lengthening shadows on the fields, gardens, and paddocks.

And people clearly liked my squash dish! A perfect day ...

Monday, July 10, 2006

Early apples

I got home at a reasonable hour, for once, but was too tired, even so, to take a run at yard work. So I went to bed, read myself to sleep with a book about making soba noodles, and woke up half an hour later ready to look about me.

We have been mowing the grassy parts of the acre with a gasoline-powered push mower, which is kind of against our principles, but we both work, we're between batches of farm animals, so what can you do?

But it does have a bagger.

This grass has been mowed without a bagger for many years, and for my twelve of those, the mowers have been kept at the highest setting, so the grass stays green late in the summer, as its soil is both shady and mulched. We have never used weed-and-feed and such. This has encouraged the worms and a great many other critters, and so things are a bit lush -- suitable for taking off some of the nutrition and concentrating it elsewhere.

I have been spreading the clippings in the garden and around the shrubbery and the trunks of many of our trees. They form a nice, earth-colored mat of interlocking fibers; lets water in but keeps weeds down.

Unfortunately, Julia, Beloved's pet banty, loves to scratch up the mat to inspect its undersides.

I have issues with that, but I know better than to chase her around -- most of the time.

I've hit upon the notion of surrounding the tree trunks with much coarser material -- as in grape prunings, fruit tree prunings, bolted lettuces, and even Douglas fir prunings. These I cut short enough to go round the base of the tree, using a pair of limb loppers, then I go mow until the bag is full, bring the heavy thing over and empty it on top of the other stuff. The mulch looks just as it should, but the branches and such, just beneath, prevent the scratch artist from doing her thing.

You couldn't get away with this in the Northeast; the whole arrangement would make perfect mouse houses and then the mice would chew away the bark all winter. But here, this practice seems fine.

It was while I was putzing about at this job that I began to despair of one of my apple trees.

I don't know the variety; something Granny Smith I suppose, but this tree has a habit of dropping all its fruit well before it ripens, so that you never get to pick the tree. And the other trees won't be ripening their fruit until over a month from now.

Suddenly I had an idea.

I have been playing with the microwave oven -- another gizmo that's supposed to be against our principles -- softening and resurrecting dried-out bread, or moisturizing underhydrated vegetables.

Would it cook young apples in such a way as to, in effect, "ripen" them?

I gathered a double handful of the lightly bruised groundlings and brought them into the kitchen. With a paring knife, I made enough thin slices to fill a small bowl, then spritzed them with a bit of water and posted them to the zapper, setting it on 99 seconds. A couple of minutes later, I collected the bowl and a fork, and made my way out onto the patio.

Under Julia's critical gaze, I conducted the taste test.

Success. Early apples!

risa b

Sunday, July 09, 2006

Full summer

Summer has thoroughly arrived here, and I'm amazed at the height of the tomatoes, corn, squash, and sunflowers -- a record-setting year.

I have been making meals on yellow squash; slice thin, cover with garlic blossoms or onion blossoms or both, put into a suitable bowl and zap on the popcorn setting. Serve.

Or beets: pull one beet about two to three inches in diameter, wash, slice the root thinly, spritz with water, place in bowl with onion blossoms, zap on popcorn setting. While microwave is running, separate the stems from the leaves, give the stems to the guinea pig, cut up the leaves, wait for the bell, add the leaves to the bowl, zap another minute. Serve.

Or salad: Carry scissors and colander to the garden. Cut into colander: romaine lettuce, Grand Rapids lettuce, Bibb lettuce, Bok Choi leaves and stems (if young), ditto red chard, onion greens, garlic blossoms, beet greens, nasturtium blossoms, snow peas. Bring into house, wash, drain, add diced hard-boiled eggs, serve.

The nasturtiums have come up everywhere. I let the excess ones grow to about a foot high, pull them, and use them as mulch around the apples and plums.

The bush peas I've planted appear to be looking more like climbimg peas, so I have "bushed" them with some sapling-like shoots from the flowering "willow" tree. Don't know what else to call it. It's a water-loving spcies that grows to about thirty feet, very rapidly, like a Lombardy polar, and dies out, making strong shoots all the while like those of an unpruned filbert. It makes flower heads in early spring that resemble lilac. The shoots, I have discovered, root easily when used as garden props, so I am propagating them to plant round the place as a supply of garden stakes, withes, and even firewood.

Time to move the water. Love to all,

risa b