Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Dill Pickles_Naturally Fermented

Too many cucumbers? Pickles of course. And not just any pickle, but the good old fashioned Dill Pickle that we don’t see anymore. No vinegar! 

We’re talking about a simple water-salt-garlic solution (and any other spice you might employ) that is allowed to naturally ferment and create live cultures_ probiotics _ that good bacteria we need in our gut.  Studies show probiotic foods as helpful in keeping our digestive system in balance and combating problems with IBS (irritable bowel syndrome), lactose intolerance, vaginal yeast infections, Chron’s disease…

Sandor Katz is well known for books pertaining to fermentation, including The Art of Fermentation, a rather in depth presentation_ the history and science behind all things fermented, should you be so inclined.

If you want to get right into making the pickles, here is Sandor's recipe for Dill Pickles from his website,  

and this from Mark's Daily Apple if you want to make just a quart _ same principle but useful for those with smaller gardens, no large vessel for fermenting, and a way to see how you like the process. 

Burpless from the garden
Cloudy brine tells you the process is working and part of a good fermentation.
Note: The ingredients used in our first batch: salt, garlic, dill sprigs, black peppercorns, mustard seed, dried hot chili pepper. Now I'm off to try some pickles with fresh ginger and garlic.

Sunday, August 10, 2014

Tomato Jam

Easy and delicious! What could be better?

The ever-sweet-tasting heirloom tomatoes are coming on, but that which sparked the need for this was basically two-fold: my cousin Paula and husband Bob came to visit, and we traveled to King Estate Winery for lunch; the appetizer that was ordered had a side of tomato jam about which Paula and I oohed and aahed. Sweetener... clove? cumin?

Tomato Jam from Diana's kitchen

1 1/2 pounds of (Cherokee Purple) tomatoes, skins removed, cored and diced
1/4 cup raw unfiltered (local) honey
1/4 cup, plus 2 teaspoons Sucanat (Organic unrefined sugar cane) 
2 TB of freshly squeezed lime juice
1 TB of minced ginger 
1/4 tsp ground clove
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp cumin
3/4 tsp salt
1 jalapeno, finely diced (optional, but we like a bit of heat)

Combine all ingredients in a heavy saucepan and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer until mixture has a thick, jam-like consistency_ 60 to 75 minutes. Stir often. Freeze or can, but it will keep in the refrigerator for several weeks.

Served atop a sourdough rye crostini that we make, goat cheese, and folks with whom we have shared this appetizer have exclaimed, "We could make a meal out of this!" Accompanied by a dry champagne, hope you enjoy it as much as we.

Love that Cherokee Purple
Cherokee Purple

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Fruits From The Garden

Just a few days and we are into the face of August as most of this year seems to have escaped our grasp. The good news is it appears we have gotten a grip on approximately five months of health issues with which we have wrestled. And better news is we have had family visit, friends have joined us for dinners, and the garden seems to be responding rather nicely to our limited efforts.
yesterday's pick
Organic, heirloom and indeterminate is what you will find in our garden when it comes to tomatoes. They grow on larger vines that produce throughout the growing season, whereas the determinate varieties have a more compact height and produce their fruit at approximately the same time_within a one to two week period.

The tomatoes this year have been as pretty as I can recall. But then we do baby them_growing generally from our saved seeds, using kelp to foster their growth, and paying close attention to our soil by using only compost from our garden and organic fertilizers. No chemicals.

Heirloom lineup
Ashleigh (75-90) Large, somewhat heart-shaped meaty and beautiful red heirloom with great taste. This is a stand-by for us. Nearly a pound.
'Cherokee Purple'
Cherokee Purple (75-90 days) Each year at the top of our list is this Cherokee Indian heirloom, pre-1890 variety that is both delicious and beautiful. Uniquely colored purplish red hue and with dark shoulders, this tomato never disappoints. Up to 1 pound.

Mrs. Maxwell’s Big Italian (75-90) A new variety for us this year and we have yet to analyze. Dark pink beefsteak. 1-2 pounds 

Amish Paste (80-90) Bright red Amish heirloom that is great for sauces, fresh salsa, eating... 8-12 ounce fruits and the second year we have grown this one.

Brandywine (90) Baker Creek Rare Seeds says this is the most popular heirloom vegetable! A favorite of many gardeners, a pink tomato weighing 1 1/2 pound each, so we thought we would give it a go this year. Patiently waiting for the first one to ripen. (not pictured above)

Indigo Rose (about 91 days) deserves a spotlight all its own_ an extraordinary tomato due to its color and the anthocyanin property. Although introduced in 2012 and developed by Oregon State, this is our first year to try the first true purple tomato that was a cross of two heirlooms_ wild species from Chile and the Galapagos Islands. Open pollinated and NON-GMO!

Note: Indigo Rose must be allowed to ripen fully for complete development of sugars and acids. The purple will become a dull purple-brown and the green bottom to red.
'Indigo Rose'
smaller tomatoes
Stupice (55-70 days) A smaller tomato on compact plants and potato leaf foliage, it bears clusters of 2 inch fruits. We love it because it is the first to produce in the garden and great for salads. Additionally, since it hails from the former Czechoslovakia, it produces well in cooler climates. 

Black Cherry (65-75) What can I say? We plant this one every year: beautiful, delicious, great producer, wonderful in salads or simply stand and eat them off the vine. 1 inch in size.

Principe Borghese (70-75) A grape type Italian heirloom that is good for sun drying. The only determinate in our garden and one I would not have purchased but given to us by a neighbor when I babysat his seedlings for several weeks while he went on vacation in February. Grateful for the plant, but indeterminate is my favorite.
- - - - -
Beans: The last several years we have grown a wonderful stringless heirloom, Lazy Housewife, and never a string on this bountiful and large, great tasting bean. This year we decided to order the Organic stringless Blue Lake pole bean instead from Sustainable Seed Co and added Renee's Garden_ Spanish 'Musica'_ stringless.

Needless to say we were greatly disappointed in our first 2.5 pound harvest from the stringless Blue Lake Pole Beans as they were anything but! I wrote to them, and this was their response: "many beans no matter how "stringless" will develop strings if the plants are stressed by lack of moisture, excessive heat, or poor soil nutrition".

Sometimes my head wants to explode with pat answers and no admission of a possible problem. My reply indicated that we have plenty of moisture here in the Pacific northwest, and this was the first picking. Where would the stress be? (no response).

Just so you know that right next to this row of beans is the Spanish 'Musica' and without one string! The Lazy Housewife beans grown in years past never had strings. And how long have we had a vegetable garden here? Oh, only about 20 years. (Note: We will never order again from Sustainable Seed. Note 2: Renee stands by her seeds.)

lower left: Stringless 'Blue Lake' Pole; upper right: Spanish 'Musica'_grown side by side
From our "stringless" Blue Lake beans
Our cabbage this year was extraordinary_ lots of slaw, cabbage soup, sauerkraut, cabbage rolls... and plenty shared with family and friends. Now we wait until next year.
(Seeds ordered from Baker's Creek_
'Late Flat Dutch' cabbage
 The zucchini 'Black Beauty' has taken over nearly the entire raised bed. 

The Walla Walla onions are about as nice as we recall,
'Walla Walla' sweet onion
and on occasion the compost gives us a gift. This year it happens to be our favorite winter squash, Japanese 'Red Kuri'.
from the compost springs reward
'Red Kuri' winter squash
Who knows what hiccups next years garden will bring, 
but we are thankful it has been good to us this year.

I am linking to Pam's Garden for Garden Tuesday. 

Saturday, February 22, 2014

California Drought, Our Food, Delta Smelt, Organic Farmers...

We were talking to friends the other day and during the conversation they indicated they could not believe the price of vegetables in the grocery store. I don't like to bear bad news, but I'm afraid we ain't seen nothin' yet. (The highlighted areas below give further clarity as to the problems we face.)

And after you read this, you might ask yourself_ from where will our food come and at what cost?

July 2013, wrote: If we didn't have California, what would we eat? California supplies America with 99 % of artichokes, 99 % of walnuts, 97 % of kiwis, 97 % of plums, 95 % of celery, 95 % of garlic, 89 % of cauliflower, 71 % of spinach, and 69 % of carrots (and the list goes on and on).

Likely you are aware of the drought conditions facing California. This past Friday the Federal Government announced that the Central Valley Project -- California's largest water delivery system -- will provide NO WATER this year to Central Valley farmers and only 50 percent of the contracted amount to urban areas such as Santa Clara and Contra Costa counties... (my emphasis on the 'no water'). Did you know that California is 15% of the entire US economy?

Since at least 1991, we have read about a battle brewing over a tiny 2 to 2.8 inch (5-7 cm) Delta Smelt that resides exclusively in the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta, the Endangered Species Act and shipments of Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta water to urban and agricultural users. (From everything I have read, the value of the Delta smelt? Nothing.)  

In 2009, this article in the Wall Street Journal spoke to California's Man-Made Drought and the impact the smelt and federal regulations have had on farmers and America's premier agricultural regions.

In February 2013, the water supply for 25 million people and millions of acres of farmland in the Central Valley, Southern California and San Francisco Bay Area was curtailed again to protect the Delta Smelt.

Farms_hundred of thousands of acres_ have turned into dust bowls; livelihoods are at risk; fruits, vegetables, nuts and grains will not be planted; ranchers are giving up their livestock; prices will escalate on what is available...

People's lives, food, jobs.... or a smelt? You be the judge.

_ _ _ _ _ _ _

Organic Farmers and the rest of the county:

HUSTONTOWN, Pa — Jim Crawford was rushing to load crates of freshly picked organic tomatoes onto trucks heading for an urban farmers market when he noticed the federal agent.

A tense conversation followed as the visitor to his farm — an inspector from the Food and Drug Administration — warned him that some organic-growing techniques he had honed over four decades could soon be outlawed...

FDA's proposed rules would curtail many techniques that are common among organic growers, including spreading house-made fertilizers, tilling cropland with grazing animals, and irrigating from open creeks.

Note: At a recent congressional hearing, Rep. Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.) seized on one draft set of rules in which the FDA declared kale is "never consumed raw."  You can read this article here.
 _ _ _ _ _

Akron, OH -- Bessemer Farms, the only working farm within the city of Akron, has stopped growing vegetables for local tables... pending federal food safety regulations that likely will require farmers to very specifically track their produce and how it is handled from seed to sale, among other things..

“We’ve been farming for 117 years. I’m the third generation and we’re being put out of business by the government. We can’t comply with all of the safety laws. We haven’t poisoned anybody with an ear of corn for 117 years and we’ve shipped it all over,” Bessemer said. The story is here.

_ _ _ _ _

New FDA Rules Will Put Organic Farmers  Out of Business

Cornucopia Institute, a Wisconsin-based farm policy research group released a 16-page analysis accusing the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) of implementing the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) in a way that will crush “the country’s safest farmers” ...

Interestingly enough is that the FDA freely acknowledges that the farm cost of implementing their proposed Rule will drive some producers out of business.