Categories
Kitchen Garden

Weeds in the House

Wildflowers, July 11, 2020

I like my lawn. It is a great source of mulch for the garden, although it seems like there is never enough.

What is there transitions throughout the growing season. We are currently in clover and around the edges native plants come up like the ones in the photograph.

These are weeds, but they look nice on the counter.

When basil comes in I make pasta sauce of last year’s canned tomatoes, onions, garlic and basil. I’m trying to use up the old tomatoes to make room for new. Pasta sauce varies from preparation to preparation. Near as I remember, this is what I did yesterday.

Summer Pasta Sauce

Drain six pints of canned, diced tomatoes in a funnel. Once thoroughly drained, put them in a slow-cooker, reserving the liquid for another dish. Whizz them with a stick blender until somewhat smooth yet with a few chunks of tomato.

Ribbon all the basil you have (about a cup and a half of chiffonade). Put the basil in the slow cooker and incorporate with the tomatoes.

Dice two cups of onions and mince three or four large cloves of garlic.

Heat two tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil in a frying pan. Once shimmering add the onions and stir gently until they begin to turn translucent. Salt to taste. Next add the garlic and cook until the aroma of garlic rises from the pan. After a couple more minutes transfer the mixture into the slow cooker and incorporate.

Turn the cooker on high heat and let it go throughout the morning. Around lunch time stir and turn the heat down to medium. Once it’s dinner time, cook pasta noodles, put the drained noodles in a mixing bowl and ladle a couple of generous servings of pasta sauce on top and mix gently with tongs. It’s ready to serve topped with Parmesan cheese, pepper and maybe thinly sliced green onions.

We served the pasta with steamed green beans picked that morning and simple cucumber salad. We’re in the cucumber season so we eat them constantly. There’s no room for more pickles in the ice box or pantry.

New potatoes are in so I tried a new recipe for potato salad. I cut it back to make less for two people, so it could be doubled or tripled for a dish for potluck. In the time of the coronavirus, there won’t be any potlucks soon.

Summer Potato Salad

Boil a pound of peeled, cubed new potatoes. Don’t boil them to mush. Hard cook an egg and put both in the ice box overnight.

Dice the potatoes into a bowl. Grate the egg into the same bowl. Add salt and pepper to taste, a quarter cup prepared mayonnaise, a tablespoon Dijon mustard, and a generous tablespoon of chopped sweet pickles. Stir gently with a spatula until incorporated. Put the mixture in a refrigerator dish, level it out, and sprinkle paprika on top for decoration. Leave it refrigerated a couple of hours before serving if you can resist eating it at once.

Potato salad has many variations and this is most like what Mother made for us when we were graders.

Categories
Kitchen Garden

Garlic Harvest 2020

Heads of curing garlic, July 2020.

Planted last October, on July 2 it took about an hour to harvest the crop of 50 head of garlic. It was the biggest garlic harvest we’ve had in our home garden.

The variety comes from my friends Susan and Carmen who in succession, over 25 years, have been growing and selecting seed from the annual crop to produce it. Garlic doesn’t take much more effort than proper planting, weeding, harvesting and curing. The genetics and culture of producing it are everything though.

Garlic Patch in Late April 2020

If everything goes well, I plan to keep the best third of the garlic heads to use for seeding next year’s crop. By doing so I’ll continue the process started so long ago on that nearby farm.

Just so you know, our household doesn’t have any problems with vampires.

Categories
Kitchen Garden Writing

Garlic Time 2020

Head of garlic straight out of the ground.

The garlic is ready. Yesterday I dug a head from the plot and the cloves are mature. As this image shows, each clove is pulling away from the stem and when I cut into it, the hydrated precursor to the paper had formed around each clove.

I’ll dig up the 50 plants today or over the weekend, rack them in the garage, and cure them until it’s time to remove the stalk.

It’s a nine-month process from planting cloves in October until the July harvest. Done right, the time commitment is worth it.

Garlic is a basic part of our cooking: I can’t imagine being without it. I also can’t recall the last time I had to get some other than at the farms where I work. If the quality is good this year, I’ll save a third of the heads for planting this fall.

In addition to garlic, the zucchini, cucumbers, celery, and onions are ready. Tomatoes are forming but it will be a while before they are mature and ripen. By the calendar it’s time to dig new potatoes from one of the four containers. The garden is turning to peak production whether I’m ready or not.

As it does my attention turns to writing for Blog for Iowa the next four weeks. I will cross post here the following day, although it is more political writing than I usually do. There is a lot to say about that part of society these days and I’m glad for the platform.

The forecast is hot and humid the next ten days… Iowa summer. July will be a mad rush to get everything done as we remain is semi-isolation because of the coronavirus pandemic. There should be less distractions than in the before time. I’ll miss the company.

Categories
Kitchen Garden

Last Day of Winter and Garlic is Up

Garlic planted last fall.

Garlic plants emerged in the garden.

It was a mild winter so I expected they would. The actuality of it is what we crave.

The rows were mulched in autumn, although they could use more. Next time I head into town I’ll pick up a couple of bales of straw. I don’t know when that will be.

In the early morning of a normal work day I weighed whether to work my shift. The managers at the home, farm and auto supply store are the main reason I’m still there. They treat me fairly and have been flexible with my schedule. As coronavirus spreads in our county I don’t want to be exposed. In the morning huddle last week the store manager echoed the guidance of the Iowa Department of Public Health in saying if I’m sick, I shouldn’t go to work. Except for a couple of sneezes this morning, I’m not that sick. There’s more to it than that.

I’m more worried about exposure to coronavirus in a public place than in spreading my germs. My age puts me in an at-risk group to contract COVID-19. Likewise, I’m fighting diabetes with which I was diagnosed last year — another risk group. Most deaths from COVID-19 are in people over age 60. No one in my family is encouraging me to work my shift. At this point I was waiting for the early crew to arrive at the store so I can call off.

During this pandemic it’s hard to know what to do. The number of cases statewide is low at 29 as of yesterday. Of those, 18 are in our county. The number could quickly escalate, so the CDC guidance to stay home if we can makes sense for the 15 day recommended period.

The federal government is flailing. They throw hundreds of millions of dollar proposals around like we have it. The current national debt is over $23,475,000,000 with a budget deficit over a trillion dollars. We’ll have to borrow the money, most likely from China. All the jiggering of the economy seems likely to put money in the hands of people who need it least rather than address the pandemic.

As my garlic grows the tumult of national discourse seems remote. I don’t want to die from coronavirus and am doing my best to manage the risks. When I was at Fort Benning a radio station in Alabama would to play a Merle Haggard song in the wee hours of morning. It explains how I feel as well as anything:

I’m only human. I’m just a man.
Help me to believe in what I could be and all that I am.
Show me the stairway that I have to climb.
Lord for my sake, teach me to take, one day at a time.

One day at a time, sweet Jesus, that’s all I’m asking from you.
Give me the strength to do everyday what I have to do.
Yesterday’s gone, sweet Jesus, and tomorrow may never be mine,
So for my sake, teach me to take one day at a time.

Categories
Kitchen Garden

Garlic Harvest 2019

Pulling Garlic

In a year of weird weather, garlic suddenly became ready to pull at Sundog Farm.

Some cloves began to burst and if the farmers couldn’t figure out exactly why, they decided to harvest it all before any more went past its prime.

It was a good call as the garlic heads brought to the barn were large and the crop was bigger than expected. It was an exceptional crop. The harvest took place on two days this week. I helped with the second.

Eight of us worked the field and racked the garlic for curing. It was hot work, and I couldn’t stand the sun and heat for long. After two and a half hours pulling garlic from the field, I changed to the racking operation in the barn to get out of the sun. There was plenty of work for everyone. Here are some photos of the operation.

Eight rows of garlic remained to pull on day two of the garlic harvest. The ground was wet so we pulled, shook off dirt on the roots, and let it dry in the sun for a bit.

Staying hydrated is important and we refilled our water bottles multiple times over the morning.

After an hour or so, the stalks were cleaned of remaining dirt and hauled to the barn in a pickup truck.

The stalks were inspected, sorted by quality and lined up along a two by four rack, three deep. Next a second two by four was placed on top and they were bolted together with three sets of nuts and bolts.

The individual racks were lined up on sawhorses where they will rest and dry until fully cured.

The farm crew got to take some fresh garlic home. Here are six heads I brought back. These are “seconds” that were a bit deformed or had been hit by the fork during harvest. They eat as well as any of them.

After clearing the field of garlic the crew met at the farm house where we ate lunch of grilled brats and hot dogs, fresh grilled vegetables, and pickled asparagus put up last year. The grilled onions had been picked just moments before hitting the grill. Days like this one feels something got accomplished.

Categories
Kitchen Garden

Kale and Garlic Scape Pesto

Garlic Scapes

Here’s a second recipe for kale and garlic scape pesto. The first uses walnuts and Parmesan cheese and can be found here.

Get out the food processor and place it on the counter.

Measure the following and place in the bowl of the food processor in the same order:

Two thirds cup raw pine nuts
One third cup thinly sliced garlic scapes
One and one half cups roughly chopped kale, packed
One third cup whole basil leaves, packed
One teaspoon sea salt
One half teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
Two tablespoons lemon juice. If fresh lemon, peel first and add the yellow rind
Two thirds cup extra virgin olive oil (reserved)

Turn on the processor and grind the mixture until it starts to break down.
Drizzle the olive oil into the mixture as the machine runs.

Scrape the bowl into a quart canning jar with a spatula.

Spread some immediately on a slice of sourdough bread toast for the cook and any kitchen visitors. Screw on the lid and refrigerate until ready to use.

Fresh pesto keeps only briefly without oxidation in the ice box. If you want to use it way later, put the jar in the freezer.

Categories
Kitchen Garden

Garden Garlic

Garlic Patch

Garlic growing happened in our home garden.

After randomly planting it in a plot where it propagated year after year without care, last October I planted cloves the way I learned from my friend and mentor Susan Jutz.

I harvested 20 head of garlic this morning.

What made this year different was devoting time to find every available opportunity for good growth. It was worth it.

Following are some photos of the harvest.

Garlic Scapes

First Head of Garlic

The Garlic Harvest

Makeshift Garlic Rack

Now that the harvest is in the garage, I’m heading to the kitchen to make some kale-garlic scape pesto for lunch.

Categories
Home Life Kitchen Garden Work Life

Hacking Through

Peas
Peas

It’s been a tough couple of weeks complicated by a lingering and persistent impulse to void the rheum of excess mucus. I don’t feel ill for the most part, but the coughing has been terrible.

Missing work without sick pay means less income and a further exploration of the life of low wage workers. Well into the experiment in alternative lifestyle, I don’t see how people can make ends meet, even working three jobs as I have been doing this spring. That said, I won’t give up and expect to continue hacking through this rough patch—literally.

I picked lettuce, spinach and radishes from the garden the last two nights and made a frittata for dinner with greens from the CSA, spring garlic and onions. It was satisfying served with a salad, and there were leftovers. Already garden production is worth savoring. Between now and Memorial Day, the focus is on getting the spring planting done.

For the moment that’s all there is to say except change is coming. To make this life more sustainable, to improve our economic base. How change will look is an open question. I look forward to seeing how it comes together.

Categories
Writing

Roasted Pepper Garlic Spread

Cheese Spread with Pickles
Cheese Spread with Pickles

The warehouse club sells packs of six 8-ounce bars of cream cheese. I bought one.

A basic use-it-up strategy is to make a spread for crackers and bread for after work snacking or luncheon. It’s easy.

Soften a bar of cream cheese on the counter until it reaches room temperature. Unwrap it into the bowl of a food processor.

On the bits and pieces shelf in the pantry locate some roasted bell peppers. Add about one whole pepper’s worth to the bowl. Roast your own if you have them, but in winter, who does?

Add one peeled clove of garlic and process until the texture is smooth.

The basic spread could be seasoned as you like it, although I found garlic is enough. Spread on crackers, toast or bread, Top it with pickled bits from the ice box: cucumbers, olives, beets or radishes and no finer winter snack can be found. If we lived in Russia a shot of vodka would be a mandatory accompaniment.

Much though I enjoy thinking and writing about cooking and processing food, it’s not why I blog. That is, the food’s not the story, the process is.

My first blog in 2007 was an effort to provide a place for our daughter to keep up with the home front. Not sure how much she reads it now, but she has been and remains a primary audience regardless of where I have gone with this writing. Luckily, I have grown a larger, supplemental audience.

Learning and writing about food preparation exemplifies a main process for understanding complex topics. There are few recipes simpler than the one above, but its simplicity belies complexity that led me to it. It is easy to collect recipes, more difficult to decide which batch of 25 will go into a seasonal repertory, and harder still to align a cuisine to seasonal, local food. Writing this blog helps with all of that behind the scenes, when all the reader sees is the end of the process in the form of a recipe.

So it is with the other main topics: sustainability, politics, the environment, worklife, climate change and local food. A constant trying-out of ideas and phrasing. Most of what I see in daily life is complex and simply recording what may have happened through a viewpoint not that interesting.

This blog is a process that leads hopefully to better living. I am thankful for anyone who follows along.

Categories
Kitchen Garden

Kale and Garlic Scape Pesto

Garlic Scapes
Garlic Scapes

LAKE MACBRIDE— There were big coolers full of garlic scapes and kale available at our CSA pickup point this week. It’s time to make:

Kale and garlic scape pesto

2 cups garlic scapes cut into thin slices
8-10 leaves kale, stems removed and rough chopped to make processing easier
2/3 cup toasted walnuts
Extra virgin olive oil
 to achieve desired texture (1 to 1-1/2 cups)
1 cup grated Parmesan cheese
Salt and pepper to taste

Place scapes, kale, and nuts in the bowl of a food processor and grind until well combined and somewhat smooth but not completely pureed. Slowly drizzle in oil and process until desired texture is achieved (hint: not too much). Empty the contents into a mixing bowl and add cheese, salt and pepper to taste. Put it into small canning jars and keep one in the refrigerator and freeze the rest.