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Archive for September, 2008

Rainy

We had a very rainy weekend (plus Thursday and Friday).  From the very non-scientific measure on my back porch, which is actually a rubbermaid container that holds any veggie scraps we take to the farm, we got about 5+ inches this weekend.   It never rained terribly hard, but it was constant. 

Something about fall rain makes me miserable.  I already dislike this time of year, because I fear cold weather, but crisp Autumn days are actually quite enjoyable.  Wet, dreary, grey Autumn days are awful.  The rain was less welcome because my parents were in town this weekend for my birthday.  It was their first visit to Massachusetts since I came here last year, so I had a lot of activities planned.  Mostly we just stayed indoors and made cheese, canned green beans, and played with the cat.  It was terribly fun, but I’m afraid they didn’t get a very authentic New England experience. 

I was hoping to get some stuff done in the garden this weekend.  I wanted to plant my Walking Onions (y’all call them Egyptian Onions up here, I believe) and do a lot of work in my flower garden.  It’s starting to look very, very sad and I was commenting to Pete the other day that I’ve developed a bit of disdain for it.  In a way I feel like since it isn’t doing anything useful, like feed us, I just don’t have the energy for it.  I know it’s temporary, though.  In early spring, nothing in the world makes me happier than flowers blooming.  So I need to put in some good work now or else I’ll regret it come April. 

This Saturday was our last farm-box pickup at our CSA.  We got winter squash, gourds, apples, a few tomatoes, green beans, and a big bunch of watercress.  I’m sad it’s all over- it’s been a fun experiment to have a CSA share this year and we’ll certainly be a part of it next season.  Pete and I have become very involved in the farm, and we’ve already got our plan with the owners for helping out during the winter and early spring months.  Strangely, considering my earlier statement about flowers, they’ve asked me to develop a flower share for the CSA which is something they have always wanted to do but never had the time to do it.  I told them how much I loved flowers so they asked if I’d like to take point next year developing the program.  Hopefully I won’t drive them in to financial ruin. 

I’ll have an update about green beans coming up soon!

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Freezing without Blanching?

My parents tell me that they don’t blanch any of their veggies before freezing them anymore. I was under the impression that blanching was a non-negotiable step in the freezing process. Daddy told me that he thinks it has something to do with the quality of freezers these days- that they cool and retain their temperature so efficiently- that keeps the veggies fresh-tasting without blanching. Mom did make the caveat that if you are planning on freezing something for a year or longer then you should probably blanch.

Does anyone have any insight on this? The blanching process is such a pain for me- I just hate doing it for some reason. If I knew I didn’t have to take this step to freeze my food, that would be such a relief for me.

I tried it yesterday with some broccoli and shell beans that I bought mom and dad bought for me at the farmer’s market, so I’ll make sure to let you know the results when I eventually eat them.

So what do y’all do? Blanch? No blanch?

This yielded three quarts of broccoli florets, a bowl full of broccoli stalks that I’ll use for Cream of Broccoli soup and stock, and about a cup of peeled broccoli stems that I julienned to throw in my bag of stir-fry mix. I also threw in my first handful of Sugar Snap Peas that I’m growing as my fall crop. They are doing pretty well so far!

These are the shell beans that I got at the farmer’s market also. Aren’t they gorgeous? I just LOVE beans. I have no idea what the variety is (forgot to ask!). There were a few pods that had almost dry beans in them, so I saved those 10 beans to try and grow a few next year. I’d love to have some shell beans in the garden. Truthfully, if I had more room I’d probably grow a hundred types of beans. They fascinate me!

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Carrots

I grew two varieties of carrots this year: Red Core Chantenay and Scarlet Keeper. The Chantenays are little short stocky carrots that I grew because of my shallow raised beds. The first ones that I pulled were disappointing in their flavor when I ate them raw- bitter and dry. I’ve still got most of them in the ground and the other day for dinner I was desperate so I pulled a handful and was surprised by how big they had gotten:

When I first picked them, they were all small like the one in the front, but you can see how large they have grown now.

I sauteed them in a little butter then threw in a handful of broccoli and some water to let them steam together.  I tossed them with a little salt and pepper and a few sprigs of fresh chopped parsley and they were divine!  The cooking made them so tender and mild that I was picking them off Pete’s plate when he wasn’t looking.

I didn’t think I was going to grow these again next year, but they surprised me so much that I think I’ll grow them again after all.

I’ve yet to pull up any of the Keepers, since they are…well, keepers.  I just thought I’d leave those in the ground for a while until I needed them.

I was thinking of leaving a few of them in the ground to let them go to seed next year.  Anyone have any experience with this?

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Local Surprise

I just got back from our local Stop N’ Shop (yeah, just like on Family Guy for you non-New Englanders) where I stopped in to pick up some little preserve jars.  I haven’t bought grocery store produce in a few months now, but I usually like to walk through to check to see if they have any local produce for sale.  I’m generally disappointed, but this time I found lots of local squash from a farm in the middle of the state.  Not bad.  They had lots- Buttercup, Butternut, Delicata, Carnival (which I had never heard of- it looks like Delicata but round), and sugar pumpkins.  I was so pleased to see it for sale that I bought 3 big Butternuts.   I’m pretty proud that my first mass-market produce purchase in months was supporting local agriculture.  I didn’t particularly need any squash, especially since my local farm-stand has it coming out of the eaves, but I wanted to support Stop N Shop for stocking it.

I also found some apples from New York state.  Not bad, considering we usually have apples from Oregon and New Zealand and such.  Especially ridiculous considering I live in MASSACHUSETTS and there are literally apple trees on every corner, but I won’t fault New York.

It was heartening, you know?

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Sophie

I had a lot of big plans for this weekend. Now I have 5 pounds of beans in my fridge that were supposed to be pickled and a lot of apples rotting on my back porch that were supposed to be apple butter.

But I also have this:

This is Sophie.  And sorry for the bad quality of the picture.  I’ve yet to see her be still for longer that 2 seconds yet.  This was the best picture out of 50.

I’ve been distracted this weekend!

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Know your food sources

Laurie at Slowly She Turned wrote a post today asking her readers to take action on a USDA ruling.  I’m going to post her entry here in entirity, but I do hope you visit her site if you aren’t reading it already.

Thanks, Laurie! 

CLOSE THE COOL LOOPHOLE
Comments due by September 30, 2008

The 2002 and the 2008 Farm Bills require retailers to disclose the country of origin of beef, lamb, pork, chicken, wild and farm raised fish and shellfish, perishable fruits and vegetables, peanuts and other commodities on their labels. USDA has issued an interim final rule implementing Country of Origin Labeling (COOL), available here: http://www.ams.usda.gov/AMSv1.0/getfile?dDocName=STELPRDC5070926. The rule will become effective on September 30, 2008 which is also the deadline for comments.

COOL is an important tool for consumers. It allows consumers to choose U.S. produced meats, produce and nuts. The COOL rule, however, provides a vast loophole. It specifically exempts covered commodities found in “processed” food items. The processing loophole is available for foods that have been cooked or marinated or cured or simply when they have been combined with other covered commodities. Excluded, for example, are roasted peanuts, marinated pork loin, salad mixes, fresh fruit cups, dried fruits and vegetables, smoked or cured ham and bacon.

This exemption excludes a significant portion of the foods consumers bring home from their grocery stores on a daily basis and it compromises a consumer’s right to know the origin of the foods they are buying and consuming.

Tell USDA to close the COOL loophole.

There are several ways to submit your comment:

  • You can submit your comment directly from the Food and
    Water Watch website:
    http://action.foodandwaterwatch.org/campaign.jsp?campaign_KEY=25598, or 
  • You can submit your comment directly to USDA at their
    website: http://www.regulations.gov/search/index.jsp
    (Check the box: “Select to find documents accepting comments or
    submissions” and search for “country of origin labeling”, or 
  • You can fax your comment to USDA at (202)354-4693, or
  • You can mail your comment to the address below.Comments should be addressed to:

    Country of Origin Labeling Program
    Room 2607-S
    Agricultural Marketing Service, USDA
    Stop 024
    1400 Independence Ave. SW
    Washington, DC 20250-0254

  • Do us and yourself a favor and send in your comments!

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    Haying

    I live quite close to Plymouth (as in Plymouth Rock and the Mayflower), which is a lovely if not kitschy kind of place. Ever since I moved here last year I have had this crush (if you can call it such) on a little piece of land that was somewhat of a mystery to me. At the one point on the main road, amid multi-million dollar homes and a winding view of the lovely Plymouth harbor, there is a rather large open field. It has an ocean view. An open field with an ocean view in the middle of some of the most prime real estate in the area…perplexing, no? How was nothing done with this?

    Well, I just love it because I found it refreshing to have a break in the mansions and have a nice rolling field but I was always curious of the purpose. Surely it was there for something, right? I kept expecting to see it turned into a park this spring or play host to some sort of festival in the summer, but nothing ever seemed to happen there. Every time I drove by the only difference was that the grass seemed taller.

    Then yesterday I drove by and I had my answer:

    A hayfield!

    Isn’t it beautiful?  And what a wonderful use for a beautiful piece of land.  Thank goodness it isn’t covered with McMansions or condos or a damn wal-mart.  It just charmed me to pieces.

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