Homegrown Food Challenge: Day 1

October 11, 2011 § 1 Comment

Yesterday began our week-long Homegrown Food Challenge (HGFC). So, right from the beginning I have to amend the title, or rather—I should clarify and lay out the rules of this Homegrown Food Challenge we’ve undertaken:

  1. “Homegrown” … with such a small garden plot and the fact that it’s nearly done producing, we’re amending “homegrown food” to “local food.”
  2. “Local” for this challenge will mean somewhere in New England. I know, it could be more local than that. Maybe for the next challenge we’ll pull in the boundaries.
  3. Items that are in our allowable “pantry” include oils, vinegars and flours. And I reserve the right to add in quinoa as a “cheater” grain.
  4. Leftovers that were in our fridge need to be eaten, right? And trust me, we did not stock the fridge with “leftovers” so we could cheat with them.
  5. Our “veganish” diet – two out of three meals not containing animal products – will be put on hold for the week.

Hey, that’s not so bad, right? So far, so good.

To prep for the challenge, I hit the closest local farmers market I could find, which just happens to be at Boston Medical Center on Fridays. I came back with butternut squash, two eggplant, red peppers, dinosaur kale, two heads of leaf lettuce and romanesco – it’s like a fractal-influenced head of broccoli. All produce brought to us by the good folks at Farmer Dave’s in Dracut.

Farmers market fare from Farmer Dave's

Farmers market fare from Farmer Dave's

We also stopped by Whole Foods to find some local dairy products. And you know what? We did actually find some.

So, with that, let the challenge begin!

DAY 1

Breakfast: We need coffee. Coffee doesn’t grow in this climate. What to do … Well, there are local coffee roasters. That counts. And our favorite local coffee roaster is Flat Black Coffee Company with locations in Dorchester and downtown Boston. We’ve known the owner for years and can attest he and his crew produce a great and responsible bean. Into that cup we usually pour some almond or soymilk. Not happening this week, so how about some local milk? We picked up some Maine’s Own Organic Milk.

Yogurt, apple and honey

Yogurt, apple and honey - all local!

The coffee accompanied a bowl of Stonyfield plain yogurt – I’m positive all that dairy is from New England cows and if not, someone clue me in – mixed with a local chopped apple and topped with Topsfield-produced honey. Breakfast, done.

Lunch: Okay, so … It’s Columbus Day. Jennifer’s off work, and I’m working but not all that hard … A friend calls us. Hadn’t seen her in a while. “Wanna go out for lunch?” Say no? No. We said yes. And we opted to eat at a small, local Mexican restaurant two blocks away where I know they a) make a lot of their own stuff and b) could use our dining dollars. I feel completely in-line with the challenge by supporting our local small eateries.

Dinner: Gotta clean out the leftovers from the fridge, right? Pasta with shrimp, red pepper and pesto. And just the pasta and shrimp weren’t local in that dish. Plus, we had homemade bread. And, a bottle of Harpoon IPA brewed right down the street in Southie.

Day 2 should be interesting—it’s our first Cape Ann Fresh Catch share pick-up. Fish with heads!! Awesome!

Fall’s First Frost Predicted: How to Prepare

October 5, 2011 § Leave a comment

I listen to the local news as part of my morning ritual. But, most days I head online if I want to learn about the weather, even though sassy JC Monahan just gave me the five-day forecast five minutes ago.

My memory is a sieve when it comes to the weather. Except … when frost is predicted. It’s been a whole five hours since I heard this morning’s news, and I can still remember JC predicted frost will be in the air for Worcester County and western Massachusetts this evening. Thanks to being a “heat island” with all our brick and pavement, Boston proper will make it only down into the low 40s.

Whew.

I eased up on my fall-harvest plantings this year, but I still do have a few summer stragglers hanging on. Of what’s left, this is what will and won’t like temperatures in the low 40s:

early October zucchini

itty bitty zucchini

Zucchini/squash: Not a good year for them and they are not beefy enough to deal with temps too much colder than the low 50s. Hey, I had zucchini up until November last year. Maybe a quick one-night of 40s will be fine.

early October tomatoes

Oh, so sad.

Tomatoes: I have just two plants left and neither look great. It’s just cruel of me to keep them hangin’ on. Absolutely cruel, like pulling wings off flies. But I do it to see how far they can go.

early October carrots

Carrots - they'll be just fine.

Carrots: They’ll be just fine for a long time yet, thanks to that insulating layer of soil.

last of the season's basil

There it is - the rest of the season's basil.

Basil: Aaaaccckkk!!!!! I better go harvest that asap. It definitely won’t survive. It doesn’t even like my fridge set much below 45.

Snail-along

ick.

ps – this little guy is why it’s important to inspect your harvest before you bring it in your home – we had a few snails crawling on the walls in our fridge one morning …

early October leeks

Leeks: I have a good batch of leeks going this year. VERY excited about them. They’ll hang on for a good long time yet. I won’t have to worry about them until November or so. At that time I will try to mount them with as much soil as possible. I could be lucky enough to harvest leeks in January if I work it right.

early October jalepenos

We have jalepenos??

Jalepenos: We have jalepenos??

early October broccoli

Broccoli: It’s lovin’ this time of year.

early October chard

Chard: Back in mid August I pulled up all of my chard. Or so I thought. On a few of the smaller plants I pulled the biggest leaves off, leaving the small runts behind. A Well, wouldn’t you know but I have a batch of chard ready to go.

early October beets

The beets are so excited, they are pushing themselves outta the ground.

Beets: Happy as clams in this weather. And I have a lot of them. I’ll be harvesting them two by two for the rest of the month. I still have a whole jar of pickled beets in the fridge—maybe I need to make another.

If your ears have perked up with the sounding of the “frost predicted tonight” alarm, in all likelihood you’ll have a light frost, one that will damage only the most sensitive summer veggies in your garden. If you’re so inclined, try these techniques to help them survive a little bit longer:

-While the sun is still out, break out that old set of sheets you never use anymore and cover the most sensitive plants. The sheets will act light a light coat and keep the temps slightly elevated underneath as the soil gives off heat. Remove those covers the next day—it could really heat up under there. Plus, your neighbors will start talking about you.

Don’t have extra sheets or plant covers?

-As evening sets in, turn a hose on and water down the summer-loving veggies—the leaves, stems, fruit, etc.—and also the soil around the plants. The water around the foliage will freeze first or give up its heat first (it’s physics). Same with the moist soil.

Maybe with the temperatures climbing in the 80s starting tomorrow, I’ll be lucky enough to have some homegrown zucchini for next week’s Homegrown Food Challenge.

 

Can’t Do Vegan? Vegan-ish is Doable

October 4, 2011 § 2 Comments

Interesting article in the Boston Globe this morning about how, for some (many, actually) being vegan is easier said than done.

No kidding. I would never, ever suggestion doing it cold turkey (cold tofurky?). If you’re going to give up all animal products, I don’t suggest doing it after a night of burger binging.

Why all the interest in becoming vegan?

  • It’s trendy. Just like chocolate-covered bacon is trendy. The interest will pass.
  • Hollywood stars are doing it—and they are losing weight. Look at that skinny guy from Spider Man. (Yo, you are way too skinny for a dude.)
  • “Meat” is bad for the environment. To the people who give that as a reason I say this: Put down the Big Mac, stop eating at the places where the Sysco truck stops, and go get yourself some meat raised locally and sustainably. Same goes for the McFish sandwich.
  • It’s better for your health. I’m no doctor, but from what I hear, I tend to agree that a diet with fewer animal products is likely better for you. For me, I feel better. Really. If you think about the way humans evolved, we “gathered” food – seeds, nuts, plants and such – until someone in the clan could come back with a mastodon. Then it was eaten slowly over a period of time. I.e. they didn’t gorge themselves on mastodon and then go out and get a double mastodon with special sauce and a super-sized side of fries. HOWEVER, there’s certain vitamins and nutrients you need and gain easily from a diet that includes meat and dairy. No meat and dairy? You have to work a little harder at obtaining those nutrients. And, popping pills isn’t the best way to go about it.

I’ve written about being “veganish” before; i.e. two out of three meals without animal products (yes, fish are animals). I started this back in March or April, fell off the wagon a bit during the summer, and have started the veganish thing again about four weeks ago. And you know, it’s not all that difficult. I stick with a vegan breakfast and lunch and add some fish/dairy protein at dinner – a sensible addition of cheese to a dish, or some fish or shrimp. Last week I was about to eat my arm off before I could grab lunch – usually my indicator that I am in desperate need of protein – so I grabbed a boiled egg. I made up for it with a vegan dinner.

Longtime vegans will say I’m not a vegan. And they are absolutely right. I’m not.

On the other hand, some folks may say I’m not taking into account the environmental impact of raising animals or fishing the oceans, and the animal’s own welfare. And to that I say, I’m working on it. For example, we just signed up for a CSF share—that’s Community Supported Fisheries—through Cape Ann Fresh Catch. No more shrimp from Thailand. We’ll be supporting our local fishing industry. That means local communities and local people. And we are getting more and more localized when purchasing our dairy, too.

One last note: This whole veganish thing? Out the window once we get our farm and can raise the animals ourselves.

Your thoughts?

Spicy Tomato Soup

October 2, 2011 § Leave a comment

Normally, if you let produce sit around for awhile, bad things happen. Soft spots. Wilt. Mold. Eyes sprouting. Ooze. Fruit flies. Rot.

Okay, I’ll stop with the grossness.

But sometimes, if you let produce sit around, good things happen. Like what? Like ripeness, for one.

This time of year, you just never really know what’s gonna happen in the garden. And I speak specifically of the summer hangers on—the zucchini and yellow squash, the basil, the peppers, the tomatoes. Especially the tomatoes. Less sun, cooler weather means they take a way long time to ripen on the vine. And the frustrating part is a tomato could be green and happy one day, and then the next day it could be on the ground, fodder for the ants.

So, I pick them up and bring them home. Or I pick them when they’re just turning orangy. Or I pick one or two whenever I visit the garden, which is about twice a week this time of year.

What to do with green tomatoes? Orangy tomatoes? Let them sit on the counter—they’ll ripen. Kinda. Not a nice and juicy vine-ripening experience, but they’ll turn red. Ish.

Spicy tomato soup

The fixins.

colorful tomatoes

It's Tomato Christmas.

colorful tomatoes

Look at that tomato in the middle—it's like the Italian flag.

With a mix of tomatoes in all stages of ripeness, I turn to a recipe from Emeril Lagasse I pulled off the Food Network website. The original calls for pancetta and three different types of hot peppers – jalapeno peppers and Anaheim and pasilla chiles. And, it calls for just green tomatoes.

Is it spicy? Oh yeah, it’s spicy. Feel free to add a dollop of sour cream to cool it down. Me? I like to add a spoonful of pesto. Tomatoes and basil – a perfect match.

Spicy Tomato Soup(this is a double batch)

  • Spicy tomato soup

    Spicy Tomato Soup

    1 Tbs olive oil

  • 1 large sweet onion, sliced thinly
  • 5-6 cloves garlic, peeled
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 5-6 hot peppers, whatever type you want to cook with, diced (I used jalapeno and Hungarian wax)
  • 3.5 lbs tomatoes, cored and roughly chopped
  • 6 cups chicken or vegetable stock
  • Juice of 1 lemon
  • Salt and pepper

-Heat oil in a pan over medium heat. Saute onion until just translucent – 4-5 minutes. Season with salt and pepper.

-Add garlic, bay leaves, garlic, and peppers and cook for 4-5 minutes. Add tomatoes and stock, then adjust seasonings with salt and pepper to taste. Bring soup to a boil, then turn down heat and simmer for 15 minutes or so, until the tomatoes are soft.

-Time to puree!! But remove the bay leaves first!! You can puree in batches in a blender. Or, we have an immersion blender that does a terrific job. Sure, you’ll get a bunch of tomato skins getting kinda caught in the blendery parts. Just remove, or put back into the soup—whatever your preference. If you’ve pureed in batches in a blender, pour the soup into a separate bowl.

-Add the lemon juice. Give it a taste. Spicy? That’s what it’s supposed to be.

Try with a bit of sour cream. Or shaved parm. Or the runny part of your stash of pesto. Be sure you have some crusty bread. You’re gonna want to sop up that goodness.

You know, this would be a great soup to make for the Homegrown Food Challenge. Luke, give this a try—I know you love spicy stuff!

The Homegrown Food Challenge

September 30, 2011 § 4 Comments

Are you in for the Home Grown Food Challenge?

I’m always up for a challenge, unless it involves deep sea diving or eating 62 hot dogs.

A few weeks ago, the folks at the Homegrown Food Challenge emailed me out of the blue with a request: Can I submit a recipe or two or three that Luke and Karen—founders of the Food Challenge—can prepare during their October-long commitment to eating locally sourced food? Sure! Absolutely! And what’s this challenge you’re talking about?

Luke and Karen tell their own story over at their blog, Sweet Local Farm. In a nutshell, they’re living the “modern-day back-to-the-land” lifestyle on three acres of farmland in the Pioneer Valley. They plant, they tend, they harvest, they cook. And what they can’t eat all at once, they put up for the winter by canning and freezing and pickling and storing in a lot of other ways.

Can I come live with you, Luke and Karen? Cuz that’s exactly what I want to do.

Last year, realizing they had buckets and buckets of a wide variety of food at this time of year, they challenged themselves eat only what they grew during the month of October. And what they didn’t grow themselves, they’d source locally.

This year, they are doing it again and encouraging others to join in. Not everybody has a 3-acre farm that can support them for the month, they know that. And they realize 31 days is a long time to commit to any challenge, let alone one that involves food.

The Homegrown Food Challenge, therefore, is nothing if not flexible. Only growing tomatoes and basil in your garden? That’s fine—commit to eating only locally sourced foods and hit up your neighborhood farmers markets. Can’t commit to a month? Then sign up for a week or a day. or hey, even one day a week. Point is, making the commitment to the Homegrown Food Challenge will get you thinking about a) where your food comes from, b) what food you’re going to eat, and c) how you’re going to get that food. You do realize that calling up Domino’s or Yum Phat and having your meal appear before you in 30 minutes or less is a modern-day miracle? And one that only a small portion of this world’s population has the luxury to partake in?

Think about your food, people!

Ahem … sorry for the rant. It was quick, though.

Back to the Challenge. Head on over to the Homegrown Food Challenge’s Facebook page and sign up whichever source and time frame works for you. Or, just mentally commit to it. Whatever you do, there’s gonna be some recipes on the page that you can turn to for inspiration. And I’m sure Luke and Karen will be posting about it over on Sweet Local Farm.

As for Dainty’s role in this … I’ll give you a heads up when Luke and Karen use one of the recipes I’ve submitted. And I’ll also direct you over there when one of their other recipes looks Daintilicious. I’m very pysched about it.

Jennifer and I have officially committed to one week of locally sourced food. And it’s not going to be this week. This takes some planning and rule making (and rule breaking)—we’ll keep you posted as to when that week occurs. And she doesn’t know it yet, but in addition to that one week, I’m also adding in one day of locally sourced food each week, which I hope to continue beyond October.

How are we preparing for the Challenge? Well, we’re coming up with guidelines, e.g. oils, vinegars, flour, lemons and limes don’t count. And we’re planning some meals. And we’re mapping out farmers markets. And we’re going out for dinner tonight.

Need some inspiration? I will be posting the three recipes I submitted to Luke this weekend. AND, I’ll post an awesomely superb spicy tomato soup recipe later today so you can hit the farmers market tomorrow morning with a shopping list in hand.

Are you in? Who’s with me?

Tomato and Pesto Sandwich

September 27, 2011 § 2 Comments

Leaves falling from trees, temperatures dropping, plants succumbing to the elements, days shortening … The world as we’ve known it these last few months is coming to an end. We must eat as many fresh tomatoes and as much basil as possible.

tomato and pesto on toasted sourdough

Our world is collapsing. Eat tomatoes and basil while you can.

I’ve taken up that challenge, gladly. Who wouldn’t? Fresh tomatoes and bright bristly green basil is the ultimate garden combination, really perking up the mouth with the pairing of acid and mellowness. I don’t have to describe it—you know all too well how delectable the two are together.

Maybe one of the simplest pairings of tomato and basil is in a sandwich. I know, it’s not really a recipe. It’s more of a lunch suggestion. And if you’re like me and disregard the miniscule amount of Parmesan cheese in pesto, tomato and pesto on toasted sourdough becomes a vegan meal. The tomatoes—homegrown. The pesto—homemade, with the added “yeehaa!” of the basil being homegrown. The sourdough—made by my own two little hands.

Want to share lunch with me? There’s enough here for at least five more sandwiches.

tomato and basil sandwich

Kinda looks like a big smiley face, don't it?

Your favorite tomato—basil combination? Do tell. (please! feel free to share below!)

tomato and basil sandwich

Nothing but goodnes here.

What to Do With Kohlrabi?

September 9, 2011 § 3 Comments

Kohlrabi

Kohlrabi, my garden's "Let's try something new" veggie for 2011.

Kohlrabi. German for cabbage turnip. English for “What the hell is this thing?”

Duh, I know what kohlrabi is. It’s a member of the brassica clan, i.e. cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower, Brussell’s sprouts, etc. All the brassica veggies are basically the same plant. One’s leaves form a head, one green florets, one really floppy outer leaves, one’s stem produces tiny head at the axillary buds. And in the case of kohlrabi, the stem swells up to the size of an ostrich egg.

Careful now, Dainty. You’re showing your botanical geek side. Calm down. Calm down.

I’ve never grown it before. Dad and the farm didn’t grow it either. But this year I bought a 6-pack of kohlrabi transplants as my “Let’s try something new” experiment. Why not, right? You only live once. Might as well grow some kohlrabi.

As you can see, my six transplants turned into 3 harvestable (barely) knobby things. One didn’t make it through the transplanting. One actually grew into broccoli. Note to self: Don’t buy transplants from the store again – your transplants labeled zucchini were actually yellow squash and the purple eggplant turned out to be white. As for the last transplant – no idea what happened to that, I lost track of it. Oh, well.

Anyway, so I’m here with three kohlrabi. One looks pretty good. One turned into the funniest looking kohlrabi ever – I expect my award in the mail any day now – and one looks like it’s been sitting in the hydrator a little longer than it should (true, every word).

And I have no idea what to do with them. Oh, sure, I’ve Googled. Saute it like broccoli stems. Cube. Puree. Middle Eastern and Indian dish galore have found their way into my searches. But I’m stuck. Folks, I’m at a loss. Indecision is a horrible thing.

So, dear Daintyites, , I’m looking to you for suggestions. Any ideas? Anyone? If you have a recipe – any recipe at all – please leave a comment below. I may need to hit the farm stands and gather up more of this brazen brassica.

Pickled Beets

September 6, 2011 § 2 Comments

Last year I had a Ziploc bag of small red beets sitting in the hydrator for … months. Months. I had intended to pickle them. Didn’t happen. They sat for ages – actually, I was quite impressed with just how long they lasted – until one day they were just gone. I think Jennifer may have realized the pickling wasn’t going to happen. Or I chucked them and don’t remember.

Pickled Beets

Pickled beets, not quite how Grandma used to make.

The pickling didn’t happen because I couldn’t decide on exactly how to tackle it. What recipe to use? What about canning them? What if?

My god, I can’t live with the what ifs anymore. Just freakin’ pickle beets, Dainty.

That’s exactly what I did last week. And I’m happy to say I have a quart of beautiful pickled beets sitting in my fridge at this very moment.

Well, what recipe did I decide on, you ask? It’s a combo of a recipe found in the August Bon Appetit and a recipe for Vinegar Beets from my mother, which I just found out was her mother-in-law’s recipe; i.e., it’s old.

Mom’s recipe calls for boiling the beets until tender, slip off the skins, and combining  a cup cider vinegar, a half cup sugar, 1/4 tbs cinnamon stick, 1/4 tsp allspice berries, 1/4 tbs mustard seed, 1/4 tsp salt and 1/4 tsp whole cloves. She boils that for 3 minutes, then adds the beets to boil again. Then she adds the beets to a jar and strains the liquid. Boiling twice?? To infuse the beets with the spices, she said defensively.

On the other hand, Bon Appetit suggested 3/4 cup each of red wine vinegar and dry red wine, 1/2 cup sugar, 1.5 tsp salt and star anise.

Compromise, compromise.

Ingredients

  • About 2lbs. beets – I used a combo of red and golden, and don’t use any that are too very large
  • 1.5+ cups red wine vinegar
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 1/2 – 1 tsp mustard seed
  • 1/2 – 1 tsp whole cloves

-Boil the beets until a sharp knife slips through your largest beet. Could be 20 minutes, could be more – it all depends on the size. Drain and let cool until cool enough to handle.

beets cooling

Beets cooling until they can be stripped naked

-When cool, the skins just slip right off. Pretty darn amazing how easily they come off. FYI, you’re gonna stain your hands.

removing skins from boiled beets

Skins slip off incredibly easily once beets are boiled.

Beets with skins removed

How beautiful are these??

-While those cooled, I cleaned/sterilized a 1-qt. jar. I added the cinnamon stick (which I crushed a bit), the mustard seed and the cloves.

-When the beets were cool, I left the small beets whole and put them into the. jar. The larger beets I cut into quarters, and some of them I sliced.

-Meanwhile, I combined 1.5 cups vinegar, sugar and salt in a saucepan and boiled until the sugar and salt dissolved. Then I let it cool a bit. While it was still a tad warm, I added the liquid to the jar.

-Turns out 1.5 cups vinegar wasn’t quite enough to cover the beets in the jar. Hence the “1.5+ cups vinegar in the ingredient list. I warmed another 1/4-cup-ish of red wine vinegar added with a couple pinches sugar and a nip of salt. Dissolved that, then topped off the beets.

-And then I did something crazy: I added a half-shot of Southern Comfort. Bon Appetitit’s recipe called for dry red wine, so hey, why not a glug of SoCo? Barely perceptible, but there is a hint of a sweet smokiness. Pretty good, if I do say so myself.

Cover, let sit on the counter for a day to let the flavors develop, and then give ’em a try. They’re good! And they really do only get better with time.

What? No canning them? I decided not to, and opted for the “put them in the fridge for easy access” method. I still have beets in the garden – two sets of beets, actually – one that’s ready for harvest at any time and one that I just planted a few weeks ago for a late-November harvest. The latter will likely be headed for pickling, and this time for the canner, as well. And this time I mean it.

Pickling Green Cherry Tomatoes

September 1, 2011 § 3 Comments

What does a gardener do when a little thing like a hurricane is imminent? She cleans out the garden of all ripe, nearly ripe and totally unripe tomatoes, that’s what she does.

pickled green cherry tomatoes

pickled tomato scrumptiousness

Ripe tomatoes have been dispatched to salsa, gazpacho and pizza toppings.

Somewhat ripe tomatoes are on a tray and ripening, possibly for a sauce.

Ripe cherry tomatoes are … well, in a bowl and thinking of what they want to become. Possibly tomato cobbler. We’ll see.

The unripe tomatoes – interestingly all cherries – are destined to be pickled.

I know what you’re thinking: Pickling is soo sooo very trendy. Maybe it is. BUT … I’ve been pickling green cherry tomatoes since 1994. My housemate at the time – Lou – had been pickling since forever and shared the recipe. Pickle the cherries at the end of the season – right as you’re grabbing them off the vine before the first frost – and they are good and pickly and presentable as hostess gifts for fall dinner parties. Oh, that Lou.

A couple of notes:

1. Pickling green fruit is key here. Too much red ripe deliciousness and they cherry will swell and burst, making a jar full of mush. But, I do try to add a cherry or two to the jar that is turning just a bit orange. It’s pretty. So so pretty.

2. Would it be okay to cut green slicing tomatoes into chunks and pickle them? Well, yeah, maybe. I’d remove the pulp and use just the flesh. We want to avoid mush.

3. And with the pickling spices, garlic clove and sneaky pepper, they taste just fabulous. Ohhhh …. yum.

Pickled Green Cherry Tomatoes ala Lou

  • 21 8oz. jelly jars with new lids and rings
  • 8 cups white distilled vinegar
  • 4 cups water
  • 1 cup salt

-Don’t have enough tomatoes to fill 21 jars? Work the proportions for the number of jars you can fill. I quartered the recipe and it filled 6ish jars.

-Boil the above and let cool.

Pickling spices

Fill'r up with pickling spices.

To each jar, add:

  • 1/2 tsp coriander
  • 1/2 tsp black peppercorns
  • 1/2 tsp mustard seed
  • 1 chili pepper, aka “a sneaky pepper”
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 garlic clove

-Add tomatoes to each jar, filling to within about 1/4-1/2 in. of the rim of the jar. Don’t jam them in too tightly – they may burst if forced.

-When the liquid has cooled, fill each jar to cover the tomatoes. Place a lid on each jar and tighten the ring. Let sit out overnight and then place in the refrigerator.

What about preserving them with canning? It’s definitely doable! I’m not the one to tell you how to do it. Really. Even though I witnessed my mother can jars and jars of everything from apricots to zucchini, none of it stuck in my head. And if something goes wrong … like when that jar of canned tuna wasn’t sealed properly … it can go terribly wrong. And I’m not gonna be responsible for your botulism.

filling jars with green tomatoes

I couldn't help myself - I made one jar more red than the others.

Vermont Cranberry Bean Salad

August 31, 2011 § 3 Comments

When I was a kid, my father would get a little stir crazy in winter and he’d do the worst thing a man with a 1-acre garden could do: Sit for hours with the Johnny’s Select Seed catalog. Fathers don’t get giddy as a rule, but I swear my dad would get as giddy as any school girl when the … um, somewhat large and heavy … box arrived. Sure, some of the seeds were for the farm: Seeds for 100 combined acres of broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower and pumpkins are a bit heavy. But then there were the items destined for our garden. Corn. Watermelon. Tomatoes. Peppers. Cucumbers. Zucchini. Squash. Yum. Yum.

But then … then there were the despised seeds: Peas and lima beans. And I swear, every single seed of those two crops came up and produced a bounty. Bleck and ugh … I really don’t like peas and lima beans. Really. Don’t. Like.

The worst part, really, and I don’t know how many of you can relate … the worst part was having to help my mother shell the bushels and bushels of pods these horrid plants would produce. You know how big a bushel is, right? It’s a lot. And now picture lots of lots. And having to take one lima bean pod or one pea pod, slicing it down lengthwise with your thumb nail, and then cajoling each pea or bean out of its home with said finger and into a pan. Pans and pans and pans of peas and beans. And Mom would blanch these mounds and mounds of peas and beans, put them into little plastic baggies, put the baggies in boxes, put the boxes in the freezers (yes, we had multiple freezers to store multiple upon multiple boxes), and then those boxes would come out of the freezer in the deepest, darkest of winter and end up on our plates. And then after dinner Dad would get out his Johnny’s Select Seed catalog and order more for the coming spring …

I really hate peas and lima beans. Really.

What did I find myself doing yesterday pre-lunch during my vacation? Shelling beans. Not a bushel, thankfully; just a gallon ziplock’s worth. The beans in question we grew in our garden this summer. No, not peas and not limas.They are Vermont cranberry beans. Beautiful pink and red speckly things. Gorgeous, really. No, I didn’t snap a pic pre-cooking. Sorry. But yes, we grew them this year—my garden plot neighbor has been growing them for years and loves loves loves them. Easy to grow. I’d tell you more about how to grow them except … well, okay, I’ll tell you. Sow the seeds about 2 inches apart in a row. Water. They will emerge. They’ll keep growing if you keep watering. I can’t even recall if I had to fertilize. It’s seriously that easy, people.

And the process at the other end of the line is just as simple, and way way way delicious. So very not a lima bean.

Vermont cranberry bean salad

Vermont cranberry bean salad

Vermont Cranberry Bean Salad  from Epicurious.com)

Serves 4

  •    1 1/2 pounds fresh cranberry beans in pods
  •    2 tablespoons salt
  •    1/4 cup evoo
  •    1 to 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice, or to taste
  •    2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley or basil leaves
  •    ground black pepper

– Shell beans and place in a saucepan of boiling salted water. Salt the water! That way the beans really take in the flavor.Unfortunately, the boiling spoils the beans’ beautiful coloration.

– Boil the beans until they are tender. If all of your beans are picked at the same stage, they should all come along at the same time. Mine, not so lucky. To get the “more done” or more dry beans to a tender stage, the more fresh beans got a tad over-mushy. But, I kinda liked the variety within the dish.

– Drain beans and transfer to a bowl. While beans are still warm, toss with remaining ingredients and season with salt, if needed. Serve still warm for a fabulous flavor, or at room temperature.

I could eat this for days. And luckily, there’s a bunch more beans ripening when we get home.

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