Tuesday, December 29, 2009

My Syncretic Food Culture - Part 4 - On My Own

“Do you make sandwiches?”
Shortly after I asked, I realized what a stupid question it was.
It was my first week in New York, and I was lured out of my efficiency hotel into a strip mall by a yarn shop. It was situated right next to a deli. I had never been into a real deli before, but at the supermarket, we used to buy fancy rolls and sliced cold-cuts. Then we would take them home and make poor-boys in the oven.
The guys in the deli made a big joke of it, and it was like they were handing out wings, and not the blue cheese and hot sauce variety either.
Once in my own apartment and in charge of my own food choices, I tried many recipes found in my first cookbook, “Recipes for a Small Planet”. My first experiment with soy grits tasted a bit like barfed-up dog food. I made a weekly batch of the granola, and then branched out to various muffin recipes. Upstate New York was dotted with farm stands on the honor system, so in the fall I picked up a bushel of apples and a huge bag of table squash. I joined the local food co-op which offered an additional discount in exchange for extra work hours. My main job was to pick up free-range eggs and fresh milk from local farmers and bring them to the co-op.
One of my favorite jobs was to restock the macrobiotic section. I had never heard of any of these strange foods before, but was intrigued by the large wooden vats of miso and the tofu blocks floating in large plastic buckets. We were the only place in town that carried tofu retail, and we did a pretty high volume on the Saturday mornings I worked there. The macrobiotic way became my new lifestyle, and was really my first formal introduction to eating local foods on purpose. In macrobiotics, it is always better to eat local, both in place (especially latitudinally) and in time. (Of course, it was also OK to eat any kind of food from Japan.) I really warmed up to the idea of eating locally and seasonally, with whole foods. The co-op made it easy for me. All the foods and produce selections were labeled with place of origin, and if they were grown organically or transitionally. I enjoyed making the new signs when we started carrying a new product or vegetable.
When I got to California, macrobiotics didn’t survive the move. Somehow it didn’t seem right to shun certain tropical foods that were growing like weeds in my backyard. What worked in the cold Northeast wasn’t working as well in our Mediterranean climate. I started eating tomatoes, peppers and the citrus fruits that my neighbors gave me. But I never did give up my love of seasonal eating or my favorite comfort food, miso soup.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Stored sunshine

Throughout the summer and into fall, pumpkins and winter squashes have been marching their way into the kitchen.
What is it about pumpkins? At all the corners of my garden, my baby pumpkins accumulate right by the fencing. It is almost like they run run run as fast as they can, and then when they hit a fence roadblock, they say, "Well, this is a good a place as any," and they flower like crazy and all the pumpkins are piled in a heap by the chicken wire.
The tatume plant employs a a different strategy. It likes to run along the edge of the fence, leaving the fruit at carefully spaced intervals along the way. The plants situate themselves so that the fruit sticks out through the chicken wire fence out into the pathway.
Whatever feng shui strategy the mighty orange ones decide to follow out in the garden, I am in charge after the harvest. I try to keep up with a FIFO system, and have put the babies up on cardboard box pedestals so they won't rot as easily. I dust, rearrange and dote over these orange Hummels, and like chickens, I bring the fresh ones in every night to keep them from predators and let them rest in their "nesting boxes". Every few days, an older pumpkin goes to the chopping block.
Today is the shortest day, but I made up for it by eating plenty of stored sunshine. When I am busy or tired, it just seems like too much work to "boot up" a squash. This week I tried something new. I cut up a buttercup and threw it in the pressure cooker. It cooked for only 12 minutes, and when I was still warm, I put on some local butter and honey. I think this is about the best squash I have ever eaten in my life.
The other squashes are looking a bit nervous, and they have good reason to be worried.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Es ist ein Ros' Entsprungen

Behold, a branch is growing, right out of the place where I planted the chayote squash. I guess it is coming back to life after all. There is another branch a'growing on my kitchen counter, of loveliest form and grace, right out of the squash I was to prepare for a Christmas dinner. Right now, it's colonizing the kitchen, wrapping many tendrils around my window coverings and heading towards a light fixture. I must do something.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Cookie Exchange - My winning entry??

Every year my neighbor hosts a cookie and gift exchange, and this year I have decided to use my last December exception meal to celebrate Christmas and eat lots of great locally-made cookies.
I thought long and hard about this one. What prize-winning cookie could I make with red amaranth, honey and chard? One year I DID make some interesting dog biscuits for the gift exchange, and last year made another really popular batch with favorite locally-sourced ingredients such as chicken fat, winter squash and dried kale. They turned out to be less of a hit when my husband popped one in his mouth before fully comprehending what they were all about, but the dog really loved them.
I couldn't do this to my friends again, after all, I want them to remain friends. I decided to make something simple and non-local, something I really like, but with an added decadence.
The cookie would have to contain lots of pecans, for sure, and probably macadamia nuts and cherries. I stopped at a couple of stores looking for cherries, but could find none.
Yesterday at the public market, a man was selling hoshigaki persimmons, so I bought a package to use in January. Today I decided to incorporate them into my oatmeal cookies. Here's the recipe:

Hashigaki Oatmeal Cookies
Use the recipe on the lid of the Quaker Oats box with the following changes:
use only 3/4 cup raisins
Add 1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
Add 1/8 teaspoon ground cardamom
Add 1/2 cup chopped macadamia nuts
Add 1/2 cup chopped pecans
Add 1 cup chopped hoshigaki dried persimmons
Bake according to package directions

Next week I hope to get to the public market again and purchase more of these wonderful persimmon treats before the season is over.

Stepford farmers market?

I went to my new local Farmer's Market today. I guess all the real Ventura county farmers were at the Ojai market. Only a few veggie booths had food that looked real. Several fruit booths were staffed with knowledgeable and friendly merchants, but the fruit was mostly from Northern California. There was an egg guy from San Diego.
What I found most unusual is a complete absence of signage. These farmers and their farms have no names, no business cards, no addresses, no organic certificates on display.
Yes, yes, all the strawberries were from Oxnard, they said.
Then again, I stopped at a booth with all sorts of overpriced candied nuts, and artificially-colored dried fruit. When I asked about origin, the lady with the blank stare told me they were from Lancaster. I mentioned that they couldn't all have been grown in Lancaster, and asked which foods were grown there. She said most of them were. When I asked which foods specifically, she admitted that only the cashews had been grown in Lancaster.
I still haven't decided if I am going to join the Locavore Lites in 2010. I will have to agree to visit a farmer's market at least once a month. I sure wish there was a way to be a Locavore Lite while enjoying my own local vegetables instead of patronizing fake markets.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Hard Frost

This week, I went outside to find that a heavy frost killed several basil plants and the rain that had collected on a container lid was freezing into large sheets, trapping a lone chayote seedling. Unfortunately, I did not move all my tomato and pepper plants out of harms way. I will know in a few weeks which plants will survive and which I will have to replace. The ice-locked chayote seedling is doing well, but unfortunately, another larger seedling located in an open area has died back. Hopefully it will regrow.
The dehydrator is bursting with peppers this week, filling my living room with the scent of sweet peppers and sending me into coughing fits from the drying habanero's.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Packing up for the Winter

My backyard garden is in transition. A few extra kale volunteers and some Chinese kale are safely tucked into a row cover. There is also one row of beets from my own seeds. (They are a cross of Chioggia and Detroit dark red beets, who knows what will happen?)
Today I picked the last of the sweet peppers and trimmed the branches down to stubs. Tomorrow I will tuck the plants under the eaves and try to leave them alone during the winter. I snacked on the last ripe tomato and a few jalapeno peppers. The peppers weren't hot, typical for this time of year.
This weekend I will harvest the rest of the poblano peppers and slowly turn them into ancho's in the dehydrator.
I had planned to remove the summer vines from several planters and start some winter baby greens, but apparently the tomatoes got the demolition twitter and got back to work. Will I have Sungold tomatoes at the final locavore potluck in January? They may be tasteless, but it will still be delicious.

Winter Squash at the Community Garden

It was a real treat to get to the community garden after several days off for the holidays. I don't usually notice how much it grows when I visit every day. Since I am entertaining guests this week, I need lots of fresh veggies for soup and salads. Here's what is in the harvest basket this week:
I am still harvesting a bit of zucchini and baby butternut squash! They are tiny but very appreciated. The beans have been growing and flowering and I was able to harvest several servings. I harvested over a cup of small broccoli flowerettes, and a couple of small fennel bulbs. I left the leeks alone. Before Thanksgiving, I harvested gobs of leeks, only to leave them at home when packing our car for the trip, so I have plenty. I did snag a few scallions. I also brought home plenty of kale and chard, two greens that were greatly missed during our time away. I also harvested plenty of celery for the bean pot.
We made a large salad with freckles romaine lettuce and baby purple mustard. This practice will probably continue almost daily until late spring.
And the new events at the garden? The cabbage is bursting out of its cage, so I set them free. My transplanted lettuce has been eaten down to stubs inside its cage. Slugs? Not sure, but I am sure something is happy and well-fed. The garlic is up, and the newer broccoli plants are ready to start flowering.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Salad competition - Locavore potluck redo

Kris posted his salad, but now we need a salad-off. Since I don't have a camera, I'll have to describe what I got to eat this week. I started with spinach from R, freshly plucked from his garden, crispy-tender and very curly. I added my own freckles romaine baby lettuce, and plenty of lettuce that B gave to me. (She was in Ojai this Sunday and went a little hog-wild at the farmer's market.) The varieties look like cos romaine, red oak, lolla rossa and buttercrunch. She also gave me some tender new asparagus, so I steamed it along with the haricot vert string beans and baby broccoli from my garden. I chopped a huge orange sweet tequila sunrise pepper and a small but deadly orange habanero and added it to the mix. The radishes came from M's garden. They were large and pink, with pink markings on the inside. I also slivered my own celery stalks, scallions and baby fennel.
I did have a dressing, made with local olive oil, sea salt, lime juice from La Casa, Italian and lemon basil from my patio, and R's dried marjoram. I topped the salad with sweet pomegranate seeds that P gave to me.

Monday, November 23, 2009


Rachel gave me some of these interesting squashes last year, but by the time I got to them, they were infested with bugs, and I had to throw them out. This year, I got another set, and they were doing well on the counter. Yesterday I noticed that all of them were sprouting. I planted one squash and cooked another. I still have one left for the Thanksgiving holidays.
I cooked the chayote in the microwave, and threw the cooked insides in the blender with a little water. I was unprepared for how GOOD the squash tastes plain. Creamy, green, buttery. I want to make a cold cucumber soup out of it, or any kind of soup, or a dip, or maybe try to pickle it.
I have grown this plant before. R donated a plant every spring for the garden plot we had for the food bank. I took care of it all summer, waited patiently for it to flower and fruit, took bags and bags of the squash to the food bank and tore the whole plant down after a hard frost, but I had never eaten it. The final year, the weight of the plant broke the metal trellis, and we tried planting another one in the back 40, but unfortunately it died.
This spring I will have to rig up some sort of sturdy trellis and grow it in an area that is protected by frost.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Lazy Housewife Ronco Gardening

I have added another permanent plant to my garden, one that requires virtually no care or replanting, only an undisturbed place in the garden. First it was bunching onions. Then, to my surprise, I found out that overgrown leeks come up with baby plants all around, so when the leek is harvested (for soup!?) the tiny plants can be replanted. I have a couple of pole bean varieties that come up year after year. I just cut them down for the season and throw some mulch on top.
My scheme was to discover and promote plants that re-seed themselves like crazy, ensuring a steady supply year after year with little effort. The list started with celery, and then branched out with Italian parsley, leeks, amaranth, chard, kale, and my new favorite, fennel.
My fennel experiment last fall turned out so well that I tried to sneak another crop in this spring. Both batches of seeds took forever to germinate, and the plants struggled in the beginning, but I decided that the taste was worth it. The spring plants didn't do too well. They took forever to get going and then went to seed with the heat. I kept them around anyway, enjoying the tasty seeds and watching the birds devour them. One morning, the cat was going bonkers, so I looked out the window and saw about 20 flitty birds perched on a single fennel plant, eating all the seeds in a few moments.
Eventually the tomatoes overtook the fennel plot and I couldn't get through the thicket anyway, so I just left it. This fall, while cleaning, I discovered about a million fennel seedlings. After transplanting tons of the seedlings, I discovered that plenty of fennel bulbs were growing out of the roots of the plants I had harvested earlier. And, like the bunching onions and chard before, seed-saving and even transplanting is a waste of time if the plant just won't die and just won't quit. I get to eat fennel every day, tons of these little bulblets, much more sweet and tender than the best of last year's harvests.
A neighbor commented that my gardens had character, but I think that one of them is just overgrown. If I squint hard enough, there is a large area that looks like a lawn. Look closely and visitors will see that it is just a field of Italian parsley and fennel seedlings, mowed down by munching rodents.
I have decided that the many of our favorite foods through the years are just noxious weeds that also happen to be tasty. Ronco-set-it-and-forget-it growing, self-sowing, self-mowing. An elegant kind of laziness. This gives me more time this winter to curl up with a hot mug of herb tea and browse through all the seed catalogs.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Our last Official Potluck for the year

Now we are into full-scale winter hibernation. There are no more official locavore potlucks for the rest of the year, AND the farmers' market is closing. I stopped by the community garden and almost no one else was there. The majority of gardeners aren't really into winter crops, so they don't come as often.
There is no better way to celebrate a hibernation than to make a big pot of soup. This morning I cooked up a pot of turkey, rice and vegetable broth. To the mix I added my last carrot, a good bit of celery, a leek, more string beans, fennel, broccoli, peppers, chard, kale, Cinderella pumpkin, baby butternut squash, dried and frozen zucchini, dried peas and some dried herbs.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Bean Wars

My late beans are finally in! They seem to take so long this time of year, but well worth the wait. The first of the new crop of haricot verts was in this Monday, and now we are fighting over who gets to eat them all. I have only a few plants, but I am getting about one serving per day.
I had such good luck with this variety in the cold spring that it is here for another round. Hopefully the crop will keep going until the peas are ready. That may be a long time, since the first planting of peas is being trimmed mightily by some hungry animal.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Shopping Trip

I can count the number of times I visited a typical grocery store this year on one hand, and still have some fingers left. But this week, I did venture into one to purchase an exception for this month. Turkeys are already on sale and I wanted to get a bird and roast it while it is cool enough to run the oven.
The first thing I noticed is how much stuff there was. Aisles and aisles of different stuff that people call food, and hardly anything out of stock or out of season. Everything was in straight rows and behind some type of square or plastic packaging. There was a notable lack of bluegrass music. It was very shiny and bright and cold, especially in the cheese aisle. I felt like I was in a bowling alley instead of a place to get food.
I checked out the bean and rice aisle and was amazed at the variety and size selection. It seemed endless! And the prices! They sure shot up this year on the formerly cheap staples. I had no clue this price climb was even happening.
I stopped by the produce aisle to check out a couple of prices. Wow, three dollars for a dinky butternut squash, and it wasn't even organic. My squash looks much cuter, and I am not counting the dollar signs going by as I eat a forkful of it.
This is the first time this year that any of my food was swiped. It seemed otherworldly. My checker was super friendly and quite a jokester, as he screwed up my tab and tried to fix it several times. We finally got it straight and they even offered to load up my car. Now that has never happened at the farmer's market.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Amaranth challenge

I sure have harvested lots of the stuff this fall. Several plants ready for harvesting blew over during the Santa Ana winds, chucking lots of their seeds, which sprouted crazily, so I have a second crop. I really want amaranth to work out as a food crop. Who could argue with a plant that grows like a weed, yet grows so beautifully, with almost no water and no care?
Now, what to do with them. I tried cereal awhile back. I roasted the seeds and then ground them up with a mortar and pestle. I didn't get all the seeds, and the cereal was gritty.
Today I decided to give it another try. This time I made sure that all the seeds were crushed, although it sure did take a long time to process. The seeds don't work in the blender and are too small for my grain grinder or my pepper mill, so I am stuck with this hand method for awhile.
While enjoying my pounding meditation, my thoughts drifted to amaranth pancakes with apples. So, I tried mixing up a batter and cooking it in a buttered frying pan. It turned out with the look and texture of a blood clot, but it tasted much better than that. I could eat this again.
After breakfast, I headed to the garden, and stayed there over 5 hours, planting garlic, doing hard labor at the compost bins and helping a friend move a few yards of topsoil. I kept thinking about how unhungry I was, after eating the local breakfast.
I have to figure out more ways to prepare this nice food. This afternoon, the backyard birds were pecking away at the amaranth fronds laid out in piles to dry. They love picking through the leftovers I use as mulch in the kohlrabi bed. There will be plenty for everybody, and much entertainment for the cats.

Saturday, October 31, 2009

Pumpkin at the Potluck

The pumpkin soup I had been planning all year for the potluck was a hit! The hardest part was growing the pumpkins. I started seedlings in February, and got some of them into the ground by March. The Cinderella pumpkin seedlings were transplanted a bit later in April. Both pumpkin patches had lots of compost that I made through the spring and summer of 2008 with horse manure from a friend, food waste from the local food bank and garden refuse. In the early spring, I cleaned out a friend's chicken coop, so the chicken manure was also added to the soil.
Now that I have shared the recipe for the compost and the soil, here's the recipe for the soup. I cooked the squash and made the broth the day before, prepared the tureen on the morning of the potluck and then did all the other stuff shortly before eating. I fully cooked the tureen two days later and it will take us another month to eat it all. That was one big pumpkin!
1 butternut squash
1 small eating-type pumpkin (I used Baby Pam)
1 Cinderella pumpkin
1 orange or red sweet pepper
2 red serrano peppers
1/2 cup raw walnuts
2 leeks
several green onions
several ribs celery
1 clove garlic
1 t coriander
olive oil

Cut the squash and small pumpkin into pieces, remove the seeds for another use, and simmer in a large pan with 1/2 inch of water, covered, for 20 minutes. Let it cool gradually while you are doing everything else.
Soak the walnuts for several hours, and throw the soaking water into the compost pile.
Chop the bottom part of the leek, the white part of the onion, the bottom part of the celery, peppers and garlic, reserving the veggie tops, leaves and skins for broth. Saute the chopped veggies in olive oil until tender and let cool until they are easily handled.
Finely chop the veggie tops and leaves and put in a pan and cover with water, simmer for 5 minutes, cover and let cool for 15 minutes.
Strain the broth and add to a blender with the walnuts. Puree on high until smooth. Pour into a large pot.
Add the sauteed veggies to the blender and puree with additional water until they are smooth. Put the veggies through a food mill and add them to the large pot.
Scoop out the squash and small pumpkin pulp and put through the food mill and add it to the large pot. Add more water or broth until you get the desired consistency.
Toast the coriander seeds until they are fragrant and then grind with a mortar and pestle, and add to the pot. Season with salt to taste. Heat on simmer, stirring, until warm enough to serve.

Tureen recipe.
Cut an opening in the top of the Cinderella pumpkin like for a Jack-o-lantern, scoop out the seeds and strings, put the lid back on and place on a large baking pan and bake at 350 for 30 minutes. This is enough to get rid of the raw taste but not enough to cause the pumpkin to cave in. The flesh of this pumpkin is not scooped out and used for the soup.
While the tureen is still warm, add the hot soup.
The tureen will store very well in the fridge with the lid on for a couple of days, and can then be fully cooked and used for even more soup. You can also toast all the pumpkin and squash seeds the next day as long as they are washed and dried well.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Apple Time

This week has been the time for apples. I have a dear gardening friend who has a few trees, and like myself, not enough time or freezer space to save everything. The dehydrator has been on most of the week, and I have several large containers of the sweet and chewy dried treats.
When I got the first of this year's apples, I made a ton of applesauce. We are tired of it now, and I am tired of cooking it.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

My Syncretic Food culture - Part 3 - Teen rebellion

Once we went to a family reunion far out in the country, held in a large building with white wood siding, as white as the old white limestone foundation that matched the color of the gravel covering the parking lot. There were some older relatives in there, in overhauls, with braided hair much longer than their beards. At the last reunion, they brought squirrel meat, so this time I refused to join in all the fun, and just spent my time in the car, fingerknitting and trying to improve the reception to my favorite top 40 radio station.

Who could forget the year that Taco Bell opened up a store in town? A classmate told me about it, and how she loved tacos. She described them to me, but I didn’t get the picture. In Buckminsterfullerite-fashion, I asked,
“How high are they?”
“They aren’t high, they’re just tacos,” she replied.
“Well, are they flat?”
“They aren’t flat. They’re folded over, but they aren’t high.”
We had to travel quite awhile to get to the Taco Bell, but it was worth it. Finally White Castles had some competition. I fancied myself too cool to “drive through Steak” and quit going to that other burger place when my best friend renamed it McDonny’s. We went there all the time, and lingered for hours because one of the employees looked like Donny Osmond.

I got a job in an institutional kitchen, and started rescuing all sorts of foods that were to be thrown away. Soon we had as many bags of old French toast and containers of pancake batter as we had dabs of bacon fat to re-fry them in.

I wanted to be a hippie, just like my hippie English teacher. He lived downtown in gentrified co-housing with other hippie vegetarians. Unable to move into a hippie commune at that age, I become a vegetarian instead. The early meatless years were filled wheat germ brownies made from Jim’s recipe and home-made stone-ground whole wheat bread. I learned to cook my own soups and fend for myself at breakfast.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Brain food

A week ago I harvested my first Jerusalem artichoke. I thought I would get a few small roots, since the plant had been attacked several times and had blown over during the Santa Ana winds. I was surprised to dig up a very large root, about the size and appearance of a brain.
The next day, the burrowing animals made a dash towards the remaining tubers and created a very large hole necessary to cart off the goods. So I harvested the other plant, and got another really large brain.
I really like the smoky flavor and texture of these chokes, and have let it be known that my temperamental potatoes are in danger of being replaced by a new BFF (best food forever). I think they got the message. After tearing out some old tomato plants, I found some really great potato plants, and they are trying their best to grab my attention.
I am now in the process of preparing soil for an additional choke bed. Thanks to Donna for introducing this new food to the locavores and for giving me the cuttings. Many folks at the community garden are also getting cuttings this year. They appreciate the perennial and drought-tolerant qualities, and it is just so cool to have pretty flowers all summer and then get all this great brain food at the end of the season.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

October exceptions

This month's selections: Rice, cinnamon and something else. Not sure yet. Not sure I care anymore. Now that the dry beans are harvested I am perfectly fine with a wide variety of vegetarian foods for now. Perhaps I will choose milk. I can find local milk, but I miss aged cheeses. I fear that if I pick it as my main protein option, cheese is all I will eat all day long. Any suggestions?

Friday, September 18, 2009


I have been cinnamized! Now that the apples and squash are an every day part of my diet and my canning and preserving routine, I continue to use cinnamon as an exception. I guess I'll have to pick it for the rest of this food experiment, because the craveable spice has worked its way into just about every batch of sauce.
Every year, I promise myself two things. One is to label my seedlings and plantings properly, so that I know what I am working with in case a new plant is successful. The second thing is to label all the stuff that goes into my freezer, you know, all that important information like date and contents.
The other day I almost made a big cooking mistake by defrosting 3/4 cup of melded lime juice cubes and almost putting it into the brown rice. Now it isn't as bad as if I was fumbling for the toothpaste and ended up brushing my teeth with something like progesterone cream or Bon Ami. But I realize that my freezer, and my dehydrated food stash has gotten out of control, and I don't want to wait until January to start enjoying some of my stash.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

29 pounds!

I wish I could say that 29 pounds is the amount of weight I lost so far on the locavore diet, but I have even better news. With just one last pumpkin in the field, it looks like the largest is in, weighing in at the title weight.
It looks pretty nice curing on the patio, and next to it, the baby pie pumpkins look like sungold tomatoes.
This summer I have successfully replaced corn with pumpkins and squash as my ubiquitous food ingredient. I enjoy pumpkin and walnut shakes for breakfast, pumpkin butter, squash chips, squash pickles, pumpkin with applesauce and blueberries for an evening snack, squash "spaghetti", pumpkin seeds, pumpkin seed milk, cheese-stuffed squash blossoms.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Update on the V11

I waited a whole day for the newly-minted juice to chill, and I think it was the oregano or other herbs, but it just did not work. I did have a cup of soup for dinner and it was wonderful.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009


Honestly, I don't know how my aunt canned 40+ quarts of tomato juice every season. Even with my new food mill, it does take some time to make even 1 quart. My first attempt was by accident. I had too many tomatoes on hand, and had to process them or lose them, but I didn't have enough time for sauce so I just cooked them, milled them, and threw the juice in the fridge for later. Well, it sure was looking good all by itself after a hot morning in the garden. I mixed it with a little bit of lemon juice and it was wonderful.
Today I made another batch with other vegetables. I haven't enjoyed very much of it yet, since it needs to be Arctic-cold and that won't be until tomorrow.
Here's my recipe:
4 cups tomato
1 rib celery
1 red serrano pepper
1 slice cooked chopped beet
1 green onion
1 clove garlic
1/4 cup chard (I used the red kind)
pinch oregano
pinch summer savory
2 sprigs Italian basil
1 sprig lemon basil
Cut the tomatoes into chunks. Finely chop the other ingredients. Simmer for 15 minutes and put through a food mill. Chill.

Friday, September 4, 2009

Fall is here!

Not according to the weather, only according to what is being planted and harvested in the garden. The tomatoes are finishing up and I am tearing them out to get the soil ready for fall. I have already planted broccoli, onion, parsley, chard and cauliflower seedlings, and direct-planted bush beans, spinach, daikon radish, and several kinds of kale. I am harvesting many leek seeds, the late amaranth, and the last of the dry beans.
I also direct-seeded lettuce seedlings today. This is the earliest I have attempted lettuce. I just got tired of cleaning and winnowing some seed, so I just decided to toss it into some shady nooks and see what happens. Every year I push the seasons just a little but, but this is the first time I have planted the coolest crops when it is near 100 degrees outside.
I also tried to clean out more of the overgrown chard, and I scattered the seedlings all about. I don't even bother to plant that much chard anymore, unless I need a specific color. This fall, I am looking forward to a variety of gold and red volunteers.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

My syncretic Food Culture – Part 2

Dad was from the heartland, and we lived there, too. He grew up on a farm, and even though he eventually went to school and work in the city, he always had a huge vegetable garden. It wasn’t too fancy by today’s standards, but we had all the basics. The garden was strangely ark-like; there were two kinds of lettuce, two kinds of squash, two kinds of beans, etc. We also had two kinds of apples: wormy macintoshes and wormy yellow delicious.
Summer mornings were spent picking, washing, weighing and delivering tomatoes and squash for sale to all the neighbors. I lined up the tomatoes by size to dry on the patio before packaging them in paper lunch bags. I weighed the tomatoes on an old baby scale, decorated with blocks and a stork. It was not legal for trade, but nobody turned me in to the authorities. As I recall, I did not collect or turn in any sales tax either.
Summer evenings were spent on the porch shelling lima beans or cutting worms out of fruit. Mom made peach and strawberry jam and several batches of grape jelly, and they were lined up in a large red cabinet in the basement, all topped with slabs of creamy white wax. Every year Dad put up a huge ice-cream tub full of sweetened apple sauce that nobody else would eat because of all the “worm juice”. It disappeared into the freezer and I am not sure what happened to it after that.
We lived near a woods that we explored and caught craw-dads. During a thunderstorm, a big old tree was struck by lightening and fell over the creek, simultaneously shortening our travel time to the other side considerably, and revealing a secret and extensive honey stash. Well, you’d think that Dad and discovered El Dorado, and soon we had a pot of honey on the kitchen table.
I was endlessly entertained by Dad’s stories on the farm, especially when he grossed everyone else out at the dinner table with his hog-butchering stories. It really helped if we were eating pork steaks or bacon. And this was often, as most food that wasn’t boiled was cooked in bacon fat. I am not sure how many containers of bacon fat we had in the back of the fridge, but the selection was extensive.
Except for summertime, our other food came from the suburban supermarket. The butter came in a plastic tub, the fish was square, the round steak was flat and the corn, sprouting what looked like a serious case of periodontal disease, was stripped and lobotomized on both ends and placed under plastic wrap. Nobody ever called it sweet corn. I learned that it was supposed to be sweet only after I moved to New York.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Smashing Pumpkins

Of course, all my pumpkins look really great, but that's not what this post is about. Last week, vandals cut off the lock on the community garden gate and had a "field day" with lots of melons, pumpkins and other local food and property.
When I first got to the garden, I found the container for the food bank turned over, and several watermelons strewn about in various pieces. It wasn't until I found a row of ripe beefsteak tomatoes ceremoniously gored on a row of rebar fencing that I realized it wasn't just the work of rats.
This is disappointing because after all our challenges with weather, fires, bugs, rodents and disease, for some gardeners, it all came down to some bored neighbors standing between them and some really great local food.
Luckily, most of my pumpkins have already been harvested.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

New farmers' market

Around here, farmers' markets are springing up on any open bit of sunny pavement, like wayward celery plants after a winter storm. Last summer, there was only one local market, and it was a bit of a drive. Finally, I have a market I can WALK to!!! At a convenient time!!!
It hasn't started yet, but I am ready, market basket in hand. Let's see: straw hat, sunblock, birkenstocks, big organic or bamboo fiber skirt with a flower pot applique, small bills, canning jars waiting for me at home.

May local farmers live long and thrive

I always thought it ironic that at the entryway to my HMO's regional medical center, brimming with "creative and passionate" medical professionals eager to deliver cutting-edge preventive care, stood a coffee kiosk studded with sugary drinks and snacks. During a recent visit, I was pleased and astonished to see the front driveway lined with fresh food tables instead of ambulances.
Read about it HERE

My Syncretic Food Culture – Part 1

Michael Pollan seems to have a clear picture of what his ancestors ate and what we need to get back to. But what is my food culture? It's a little bit country and a little bit rock and roll, with a huge dollop of the food-fads-du-jour.

Mom’s from a tidewater family, so on our frequent vacations to the seashore, while most headed right for the sands, mom and grandma headed for the local fish market. During our stay at the efficiency hotel, we ate “home-made” crab cakes, ocean fish, shrimp and whole fried soft-shell crab. We rarely fished ourselves, and always from a borrowed hook. As a hot young babe in a bikini, I was often offered food, beer and strangely, fishing gear while combing the beach merely looking for seashells. Grandma always knew how to handle whatever I caught, but she did reserve comment about any of the guys.

And then there was the unlimited saltwater taffy, and the huge bag of peanuts that only lasted as long as they did because they had to be shelled first. Grandpa taught me how to shell peanuts. He opened the first one, and then I was on my own. This was traumatic. It took me a long time to figure it out.

On the drive back home we bought a Smithfield ham. I have never tasted a real Smithfield ham. They were always to be used as gifts.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Potato disaster

I finally harvested the last of the potatoes after I found a large one on the open pathway with an animal bite taken out of it. I still rescued a few, and was busy daydreaming how I would eat them in the winter sometime, when it really matters.
When I opened my kitchen cabinet this week, I was disappointed (and a little grossed out) to see that a few of the potatoes had these weird sack-like pro"tuber"ances, and worms were crawling all over the shelf.
Oh well. Those visions of local potato chips might never be translated into reality, at least this season. I just hope the Jerusalem artichokes do as well as I need them to do. Right now they are towering over everything in the garden.
I am also very grateful that I have another kitchen cabinet. The other potatoes are still fine.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

August exceptions

Fish. Rice. Cinnamon.
I could go on no longer without the cinnamon, now that apple season is here. So, to celebrate, I whipped up a batch of fake dried apples out of an overgrown yellow crookneck squash. I just peeled the squash and took out the seed area (mine was old enough to just start being a seed cavity), sliced it up and dipped the slices into a mixture of honey, water and cinnamon and put them in the dehydrator.
Can't wait to try them in a mock apple pie recipe. Of course, the crust has to be made with amaranth, so I guess I should call it a mock apple mock pie creation. I harvested two varieties of amaranth today, and also a bushel of flour corn. The corn won't be fully dry for a week, and who knows how much I will yield. At least it was a better crop than last year. Some of the nicest ears were totally eaten by animals, so I have mostly the smaller ears.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Herb Tea

At first, herb tea fans at a recent Locavore potluck wouldn't touch the tea, hidden in a large far-o-vore wine jug. But it is pretty good on a warm day, and several asked for the recipe. Here it is!
1 gallon water
3/4 cup dried crushed lemon balm leaves
1/4 cup dried crushed mint leaves
large sprig mint
large sprig orange mint
three small rose hips
Boil the water in a large pan and toss in the dried leaves. Boil for one minute and toss in the chopped fresh mints and turn off the heat. Let sit for 10 minutes and add in the chopped rose hips. Cool before straining. Strain into and store in a recycled container. (The last step is optional, but I thought it was lots of fun.)

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Tomato and Cucumber salad

I am off to another summer of boring salads, not yet, of course. Today is just the start. Yesterday I enjoyed my first home-grown-by-me tomato of the season. It was a small Sungold, but very sweet and appreciated. There was another one ready for lunch today, so I combined it with a cucumber that E gave me.
I couldn't believe my eyes when E pulled the cucumber out of the garden and offered it to me! For me??? You'd think she was handing over the Hope diamond or something. I had a pickle chip on an exception night out a couple of months ago, and one slice of fresh cucumber on a salad when I was out of town over a month ago. Finally a local cucumber showed up at our June Locavore potluck. After last summer's bounty, I never thought I would ever crave another cucumber, but it finally happened.
I will be able to pay E back soon, hopefully. I planted three varieties of cucumbers and have a total of 16 plants, but with the cold weather, maturation has been slow. I have 19 tomato plants.
There are three more Sungolds on the kitchen counter, ripening out of the way of the backyard animals. I can't wait to be bored tomorrow.

Monday, June 8, 2009

June Exceptions

A new month!, and already so far into it. I guess I am starting to behave like some others on this challenge. I am not eating or craving the exceptions as much. As the summer garden produce upticks, I find that I am going for plates of fresh-picked stuff instead of the usual staples. This month I will continue with rice and sesame, but add wheat and nix the fish. In the summer, I minimize cooking in the kitchen, so quick-cooking pasta dinners work. I probably won't fire up the oven until some of the winter squash comes in.

Friday, May 29, 2009

Squash Update

As I had predicted, the squash fruits were ready starting this week. The first were in the home garden, which, due to milder weather and hot pavement, can be up to two weeks earlier than the community garden plots. Since no male flowers opened up, I decided to harvest all the baby squashes and their blossoms. The first meal was a basil and cheese-stuffed and fried squash blossom. Next, I added some baby squash in a stir fry, and then diced some fresh squash and added it to a rice salad. Today all the pumpkins bloomed for the first time, but there were no male flowers anywhere around, so I harvested five of the fruits. I am fairly pleased with the results of my summer squash medley roulette. I have two round zucchini's, two straightneck yellow's, one tatume, and one caserta. This week I will be running around to check up on my donated plants. I hope someone has a cocozelle for trade.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

International String Bean Day

There is probably a real day named like this somewhere out in the real world, but I am using it today because its the first day I was able to get two whole servings of real summer green beans to the table.
They almost didn't make it to the table. Late spring frost, bugs, gardenside munching all took their toll.
I learned something new this week. Last fall, as soon as I signed up for the local challenge, I started processing and freezing more summer produce. I also started planning my plantings better to ensure a more steady harvest. As it turned out, one very late bean crop did well, and two subsequent pea plantings also turned out to be both productive and uncharacteristically disease-free. I planted many fava plants in the winter, and started a delicate bush bean variety underneath a makeshift cold-frame in early spring. Proper mulching ensured the early return of six pole bean plants. The result? I still have three frozen ziplock bags of beans in storage. I have more fava beans than I care to shell and peel. There are beans served at practically every meal.
I still have one plug of tomato salsa and half a bag of summer squash, but only because I am making an effort to cook them into gobs of soup before all the new crops come in. I figure I'll have my first crowd of tomatoes by mid-June and the first summer squash by next week.
And the beans will keep coming. I have dry beans, heat-loving beans, cool-loving beans, bush beans, climbing beans, tropical beans, and desert beans. And, I learned that planning for food is easier than putting it by.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Oops! I did it again

Chaos always starts so innocently, as it has been documented over the years. First there was Fantasia. Then there was Lucy and Ethel in the candy factory. Now it's the squash garden.
Last year was a killer year for the squash. I planted several of my own, and there were plenty of seeds in the compost, so I got volunteer squash plants everywhere else. At the peak, I was harvesting over 10 pounds of squash a day. Finally I tore some plants out to make room for other selections, vowing never to do THAT again.
This year, it started out in a similar way. I planted a squash medley in a 6-pack, planning to give any extra seedlings away. After transplanting four of them, I grabbed the 6-pack only to notice that I had planted Baby Pam pumpkin plants instead. I wasn't even planning to plant the pumpkins. I had grown them out for a plant sale to benefit the local food bank. I returned the next day to plant the summer squash. At first I was going to plant only one plant. But, what if my favorite variety didn't come up? I planted three instead, and then planted the other three at home as a shade experiment.
But wait, there's more! I started other winter squash for the plant sale, but it was cancelled. My pumpkins would ripen way too early for fall, I weaseled, and wouldn't keep well and I NEED my local food! A few of each kind went into the garden, and of course, I got high germination and transplanted the extras too.
I started more summer squash for a friend: Black eel zucchini and straighneck yellow. My friend said she didn't want any more zucchini, so I prepared a place for a plant. That turned into a few more plantings and of course, an extra yellow squash just because they are different. So far I have:
4 Baby Pam pumpkin
6 summer squash medley
3 Black eel zucchini
1 straightneck squash
4 Butternut
3 Buttercup
Now all I have left to do is to start the pumpkins I REALLY wanted.
This year will be different. I am armed with a dehydrator, and I have heard that squash chips are really really good.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Local potato chips

No, not THOSE potato chips, mine! Every year I try a few potato plants, mostly because they seem to come up on their own. I had never had much success with them, due to my soil conditions, hot weather, and my lack of knowledge. This year I planted some potatoes in a bed filled mostly with trucked-in soil and protected with hardware cloth on the bottom. They had been growing pretty well, so I hilled the soil up a couple of times. A few days ago, one of the plants wasn’t doing too well, so I decided to dig out anything that might be there before it rotted away. I was surprised to find 5 large, very high quality potatoes and one smaller one.

I had had instructions to bring home a leek or two, to cook a favorite chicken dish for my husband. When I arrived home and proudly displayed the potatoes, he said,

“Oh, potato leek soup!”

Now, that wasn’t what I had in mind at all. While doing other gardening chores, all I could think of was samosa filling. I didn’t have all the spices, or the pastry covering, but with a few substitutions, the re-engineered samosas could hopefully feed my Indian food craving. While I have eaten potatoes at my exception meals and out of town, the last time I cooked and ate a real potato was on Thanksgiving. Someone brought some Jerusalem artichokes to a locavore potluck, and they were wonderful, and surely something I will grow from now on, but there’s nothing like the real thing.

After much discussion about potato allocation, I realized I was too tired to make either dish, so I just whipped up a quick stir-fry and saved MY potatoes for later.

Last night we had potato leek soup. I still have four more opportunities, plus a bit for a pot of vegetable soup. Will one of the dishes be home-made potato chips? If so, they will have to be fried in home-churned butter or in what’s left of my gallon of local olive oil.

Monday, May 11, 2009

May Exceptions

I've had a hankering for my soul food, macrobiotic food. I chose fish as my animal protein selection for the month, along with rice. I didn't use my third selection until yesterday, because I couldn't decide whether to select soy or sesame. After cooking a pot of rice, I decided that sesame would win for the month. (OK, and I also couldn't find the wheat-free tamari on a back shelf somewhere.) Now I have a stylish glass container of gomasio on my kitchen counter, along with the beet chips, which substitute for nori seaweed, and the rice seems more down-home now.
I make my gomasio with a real mortar and pestle after toasting the seeds on an electric stove. Of course, if I were a true macrobiotic locavore I would toast the seeds on a shovel stuck into my hearth. Oh, well, too much of a fire hazard lately, and my shovel is still sitting in the back of the turnip truck, covered with chicken manure.
A gardener friend grew sesame, but decided it wasn't worth it due to the long season and low yield for the amount of space it took. It sure did like our hot hot summers. I might try it next year, but this year I am gardening as if it really matters and I have less space for experimentation.

Monday, April 27, 2009

Am I elitist?

Local food is expensive in my area, but I tell myself that I can safely avoid the “elitist” designation by attempting to grow as much of my own food as possible. Anyone can do it, right? Well, I rely heavily on my plots at the community garden.

Not everyone can do as much food-growing as I can. (M, one of my garden neighbors, insists that I live at the garden, and has suggested that I have a campsite somewhere underneath the fava beans and chard.) Gardeners with unrelenting and inflexible work schedules cannot do as much. But anyone living in an apartment or even in their car can get at least one small plot or share it with others, all for about the yearly price of a pair of Nike sneakers, can’t they?

When I managed the community garden, one of my highest priorities was to increase the number of gardens so that we could spread fixed costs around and keep the rental fee affordable. I succeeded in filling the place so that we could get our landlord to fund an expansion. A year has passed since the expansion was completed and as of a few days ago we are full again. Now, all the sudden, not everyone can do this. This makes me a bit uncomfortable. I want everyone who lives on a budget to be able to eat locally and sustainably.

Friday, April 17, 2009

Going Global

Well, one of the plants in my International Basil Garden bit the dust. I guess there will be no Thai-inspired green bean casseroles this summer unless I start some more planting. But I continue to go global, with Greek spicy globe basil. It has it's own large container so that they can expand into all their spicy globalness without competition.

Sunday, April 5, 2009

April Exceptions and the Promise of Summer

I am back to turkey, rice and mayocoba beans.
I have been working like crazy to get summer seedlings started. I have been double-digging my summer beds. I am looking forward to enjoying some new garden selections in the coming month. My snap peas are mostly finished, but my fava bean plants are flowering and should be producing fresh beans by the end of the month. The bush string beans and the teparies aren't far behind. The cucumber, squash and okra seeds have sprouted. Three tomato plants are in their final lanes and roaring along. The corn is in! This afternoon I planted a tiny international basil garden with Italian, Japanese, Thai and Persian varieties.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

St. Pat's Breakfast

Oh, you probably figured out this was coming. There is only one day I can get away with this meal. Since one of my exceptions for March is oats, I decided to make them green.

Green Oatmeal

Cook the oats in the usual way with a bit less water than usual.
Remove the leaf off one green-, yellow- or white-stemmed chard leaf. Puree in a blender with just enough water to get it going. Strain in a fine mesh strainer and add the chard juice in the oatmeal a little bit at a time until the desired color is reached. Cook a bit more until the raw veggie taste disappears.
Remove from heat and add a touch of honey and cream or half 'n' half.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Why I am called the Chard Lady

Swiss chard is sort of like zucchini, only flatter. One plant will provide more than enough for a typical family, and more than enough to exhaust all your friends. But like zucchini, no good gardener plants just one chard plant. First there are a couple of plants, just in case one dies, then a neighbor plants a couple of other colors and soon there is chard envy and pretty soon there is every color of chard growing in every available corner and chard stuffed in a gaggle of bread bags in the vegetable crisper. And that doesn’t even account for what happens in the next year, when the plants start to send up a seed stalk that needs to be chopped back daily. Pretty soon the greenship is overrun with chardlet tribbles. You know you are really in trouble when the chard starts finding its way into smoothies and breakfast cereal.

I have a really great garden, and some of my friends do as well. Sometimes we grow just a little bit more than we can eat. I’ll admit that I am just a little bit like octomom when I get to gardening. If I get great germination, well, I need to plant each and every seedling, regardless of how I might take care of them or whether my tiny plot is already full. After all, they’re my seedlings, and I am not going to kill them, even if in the end it kills me. I never had chard when I was a kid and now I want to create that perfect chard garden that I longed for in my youth.

Sometimes my friends and I go on long vacations during the peak seasons, so we harvest for each other. Faced with my own surplus, and that of my neighbors’, I started taking all the extra chard to the local food pantry. After a couple of years of almost-weekly delivery, the director started calling me the Chard Lady.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

My Fantastic Fava Falafels!

Well, I guess they weren't all that fantastic, but at least they were more tasty than I had feared. Of course, without the flour, they didn't hold together well, and without the cumin they didn't really taste like falafels and without the pita bread and hummus they weren't really falafels at all. But, the bean paste sucked up the olive oil like an eggplant, so how can you go too far wrong with anything fried in loads of garlicky olive oil? Next time I will try adding some oat flour and my homegrown coriander seed and maybe even a bit of cooked rice for more of a burger texture. If they didn't take so much time and use so much oil, I could easily eat these every day for March.

Sunday, March 1, 2009

March exceptions

This month, my exceptions are turkey, rice and oatmeal. We celebrated the end of the month with an extra pot of coffee last evening, which I enjoyed till almost before midnight. I am also giving up commercial beans, hoping to have enough of my stash to get through this month. Some of these beans I have never tasted, so I hope it works out and that this isn't my undoing. If it proves too difficult, I can always run to a faraway farmer's market and get the local beans. I have several servings of Hutterite soup beans which I have found to be very tasty. I have several servings of blue-speckled tepary beans, which have sort of a hauntingly weird taste too reminiscent of lentils for me to want to try them until the end of the month. I have about a pound of Italian horticultural beans, a pound of Kentucky Wonders and a couple of pounds of the Jack in the Beanstalk beans. All of these varieties I have tried in the shelling or green pod stage and some varieties are my favorites. Lastly, I have a large drawstring bag full of fava beans. They aren't my favorite either, but maybe I will make some hummus with my local olive oil and lemons, my homegrown garlic and sunflower seeds. The good news is that I got 100% germination on the fava beans I planted, and have 10 plants going in the gardens, some already over 1 foot tall.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

My Exceptional February Exceptions

Turkey, mayocoba beans, coffee. The beans are from Mexico, probably closer to me than most beans grown in the USA. The good news is that I am not sick of anything yet.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Leek season

All the papers said that the first lady wore a dress the color of lemon grass, but I know she was really aiming for leek. Leeks are the perfect choice for this time of the year. The color is rich and buttery, with a hint of the spring that maybe will come soon. The flavor is warm and creamy, even before any potatoes are added. They taste expensive but are a cinch to grow, so much easier than onions or garlic. I am cooking them every day.

It has been cold and rainy, so I like to have a big mug of vegetable broth in the mornings, after my coffee.

Local leek broth

Leek tops

Celery ribs and tops

Fennel bulb

Parsley stems and tops


Wash the vegetable leaves individually to remove all sand and dirt. Slice the vegetables into thin strips and cover with water. Add thyme, salt and a dried red pepper and simmer for 20 minutes. Strain and decant into serving mugs.

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Once in a Lifetime

I had given up coffee before, but never both coffee and caffeine together. How hard could it be? My first challenge (other than the constant headache) was when I shopped at a conventional store. Originally I had misunderstood the local challenge ground rules and picked beans as one of my exceptions, believing that any type of bean would be acceptable. The morning of the New Year’s Day potluck, I made a big pot of lentils. At the potluck, I found out that I was stuck with lentils for the whole month. Good thing I didn’t eat those New Year’s Eve black-eyed peas for breakfast!

I also found out at the potluck that my definition of food was way off. I had planned to pick soy or rice milk as one of my foods, but Oh No! they aren’t individual foods. I had to consider all the ingredients. In my mind, soy milk is a food, and so is tofu and soy sauce and curry. On the other hand, Lunchables are not food, or any other plural selection like Skittles, Honey Nut Cheerios, Uncrustables and Cheetos, except bagels and, of course, lentils.

I had already cooked the lentils with a bit of ham. Is ham a food?

“You know what, I am going to eat the ham,” I told myself.

Anyway, after a couple of days of ham and lentils and lentils and ham, and lentils and Spam without the Spam, I was off to the store for more lentils and ham. When I got to the ham aisle, I became overwhelmed. There was black forest ham and honey-glazed ham and smoked ham and a Smithfield ham, all with non-named and probably bad-for-you ingredients all from different foodsheds and maybe even different continents. I picked the cheapest one.

I turned to the next aisle and there was the kiosk where the young woman in a chef hat and apron hands out free food from an electric wok. FREE FOOD! And I start doing the free food bee dance and when I get closer I notice, WOW! they have a large pot of coffee with full-sized cups. Last time I was here, they were still making the coffee, and I had to sample three kinds of pie and some roasted vegetables and listen to the speech about the rosemary gravy and drive the cart around a couple of times before the coffee was ready to drink. But this time, I’m thinking the coffee is ready, so I won’t have to eat all that non-local pie and the jumbo fried shrimp first. Before I can think, I am staring down at the cup of coffee in my hands, and I think of David Byrne, saying,

“You may find yourself behind the wheel of a large automobile,” and I truly don’t know how that cup of coffee got there. I couldn’t throw it out (its about those starving children in Asia) so I drank it. I didn’t enjoy it and I didn’t inhale, but my headache went away for the day.

It took me ten days to lose the coffee headaches. I went out of town twice during January, and each time I managed to get to a bit of coffee.

This month I was going to continue with brown rice as an exception. But, the morning was cold and I decided that it would be better to wrap my hands around a warm mug of coffee instead of a warm bowl of rice. And this whole month, I am going to inhale.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

My local potluck

Today I had planned to go to a local food potluck in Los Angeles County. In the morning, I went through my seeds, picking out the most rare and unusual varieties. Not everyone gets the tepary beans, you know. In the afternoon I went out to the community garden to gather all my best salad greens. The cool rainy weather has been kind.

Tucked underneath the shell peas I found a few volunteer corn salad plants. Last year I had tried to save some seed, but the seeds were so stinky they had to be removed from the house. I threw the rest of the seeds here and there, and that is where all the corn salad plants are this year.

My neighbor offered me some really great arugula in exchange for bean and pea nibbling rights. I cut one buttercrunch lettuce head out of its protective cage, and a few sprigs of cilantro, parsley, Thai basil, and thyme. I harvested another leek just in case.

“Take all you want,” crowed J, another neighbor, after discovering the cut-and-come-again nature of his row of broccoli plants. I picked several mini-spears for the salad.

There was one more plant to be harvested. In the midst of the sweet pea patch, I recently noticed a volunteer celery plant. Since the peas were getting much taller, the celery underneath was sweet and crisp and naturally blanched.

At home I sautéed the leeks in a local olive oil, added slivers of red corno di toro pepper fresh from the backyard and finished it off with a squeeze of lemon from a neighbor’s tree. I carefully sliced the celery into chevrons and assembled the salad.

I drove to the potluck, but upon arrival, I found out that they insisted on a large “donation” to attend, so I turned around and went home and ate the salad locally. Someday I hope to give some seeds to some of the localvores I had planned to meet tonight. In the meantime, I will make sure my neighbors, who contributed to my potluck salad, have all the seeds they need, even the teparies.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Inaugural Post

Hey y'all! I guess it is time to pick myself up, dust myself off, and start an online account of my participation in the Eat Local One Year project in Ojai.