02 June 2013

Sacred Grove Farm and Tarragon

Well, we are finally making our farming dream come true.  We are starting small but that doesn't mean we are not busy!  We have been to 3 weekly markets as of this week and it has been so much fun not to mention a great learning experience.  We have already met so many wonderful people!

The lettuce is still going strong and we are eagerly awaiting the beets and carrots to mature.  The summer squash is on its way and Isaac just planted over 30 sweet pepper plants!  There is a lot more going on than I can mention in one post! I plan on using this blog as a way to communicate our progress as well as share recipes and other farm related musings.

Here is a small photo tour of what is going on and I then I will share a quick "how-to" for Tarragon vinegar for you.

Summer Squash

Some of the peppers along with lettuce and summer squash

Garlic is growing large and will be ready in about a month!

Tarragon (Artemesia dracunculus) fast facts:
Flavor: licorice/mint
Uses: fresh leaves in eggs, chicken salad

Tarragon Vinegar

This is something very simple but it feels so fancy!  This is a good way to use an abundance of Tarragon as it looses its flavor with drying.

I did not measure either the tarragon nor the vinegar, this is more of a general "how-to" rather than a recipe. Have fun trying different amounts of each, you might want to try different vinegars and herbs as well!

Gather your vinegar and herbs

Strip leaves from the stalk add to a mason jar and muddle to bring out the essential oils
Alternatively, add herbs to simmering vinegar

Place muddled herbs in mason jar to steep for a week or two in a cool dry place. If you steeped the herbs in the warm vinegar, strain into mason jar and store.

Use the vinegar in salad dressings, marinades, to make pickled vegetables or anything else you can dream up!

We hope to see you Friday's from 3:00-7:00 P.M. at the Lettuce Eat Well on Cincinnati's West Side Farmer's Market!

24 March 2012

Spring Time= Stinging Nettles and Dandelions

Hello!  It has been quite a while since I have updated this blog and I am trying to rectify that now.  I feel like I have a good reason for not being active for such a long time....we are expecting our first little one any day now!  We found out in the middle of summer and I was just not feeling well enough to write or take photographs.  Then it turned to fall and winter and there was not much I wanted to write about, not to mention baking a baby is exhausting!  Now that it is spring again and the garden is starting to burst, I am becoming inspired once more.  Plus I am on maternity leave at this point and I have some extra time on my hands.

Iz's apprenticeship went very well.  It ended at the end of October and he misses the farm.  Luckily our yard has been keeping him busy!  I will have other posts dedicated to our plans for the season after I get some more photos taken.

The topic today is Stinging Nettles (Urtica dioica) and Dandelions.  Some people are lucky and have Nettles growing wild on their property, just like Dandelions do; but we are not so lucky, so we planted some last year.  Early Spring is the best time to harvest Nettles so we got to work today!  Once the Nettles bloom later in the summer, it is best to just keep cutting them back and throwing them in the compost or just let them go for next year and cut them back at the end of the season.

When harvesting Nettles, make sure you wear gloves.  They really do sting!  Iz used regular gardening gloves for harvest and moved to food safe gloves in the kitchen when removing the leaves from the stems. He had to double up on the gloves as he was getting stung through one layer.

We are making two things with our Nettle harvest. A potato and nettle soup and a nettle hair rinse.  Both recipes are in one of our favorite herb reference books: The Complete Herb Book by Jekka McVicar.

Scarlett and the Nettles

The hair rinse is as easy as making tea.  Add a large handful of nettles in a pot on the stove, bring to a boil and simmer for 15 minutes covered.  Strain into containers and let cool.  To use, pour through your hair after shampooing. We just made this so I will have to report back about how it works. This is good for general conditioning of your hair but also good for preventing hair loss, itchy scalp, and dandruff. (McVicar)  I was "Googleing" around looking for other nettle inspiration and came across another blog post about making the nettle hair rinse.

The soup includes nettles, potato, onion, milk, lovage, lemon thyme, oregano all blended after cooking together.

We had a bunch of leftover nettles so we are using a borrowed dehydrator to dry the leaves to use as tea as needed.  According to McVicar, nettles are used as a diuretic, for anemia, and as a tonic to get useful vitamins and minerals we might lack during the winter, including vitamin C and Iron.

It is important to note that to eat nettles, you must cook them!  Eating the plant raw can cause kidney damage and poisoning. (McVicar)

Here are a few external sources talking a little more about Stinging Nettles as a plant and uses.

We have plenty of Dandelions growing all over our yard.  If you are going to harvest in your yard, make sure that there haven't been any herbicides or other chemicals sprayed on or near your crop.  You don't want to eat that! Also, try to harvest away from the road as there can be all kinds of yucky stuff coming off of cars and the road. Try to harvest the leaves when they are a young as possible as they will be more tender.

All we are doing with the Dandelions is cleaning off the roots to roast and keeping the leaves to eat in salads or I'm thinking about adding them to an herb pesto with thyme and leftover nettles.

Roasted Dandelion root is used commonly as a coffee substitute.  I have not tried this yet, so I will be report back.

When dealing with herbs on your own, I strongly recommend doing a little research first to make sure there are not any contraindications for your own health status.  Some herbs can interact with drugs, and specific medical conditions.  Read more than one source to make sure you get a well rounded profile of the herb and the opinions of several experts.  Some of the resources we use are as follows:

Mountain Rose Herbs

Books by Richo Cech, owner of Horizon Herbs

Susun Weed

and as I mentioned before Jekka McVicar

18 July 2011

CSA share, pickles and garlic

Another week has gone by! I'm afraid that the Summer is going by too quickly.  I am trying to savor it as much as possible.  This week's CSA share is below:

Summer squash, zucchini, carrots, potatoes, beets, fennel, cabbage, one beautiful heirloom tomato (first one!), four green and one purple pepper, two yellow onions, two head of garlic

Some people were worried about the last post when I said I was starting to get a little overwhelmed with the volume of veggies.  No worries!  Almost all of the veggies we get are eaten, "put up" or shared with others.  If there is any waste, it goes into the compost. (I like to think of it as recycling).  

Speaking of "putting up" or preserving vegetables,  I tried my hand at two different pickles this past weekend.  Our cucumbers are going crazy and we still have some garlic scapes leftover from a little while ago.  I decided to make refrigerator pickles with the cucumber and lacto fermented garlic scapes.  I don't have a photo of the pickles yet, they are sitting in the fridge waiting for lids, so I will get around to that this week.  Here are the scapes:

I made three jars full and I can't wait to taste them in about a week!  I think I mentioned the blog where I got this recipe in my last post.  Here it is!  I pretty much followed the recipe, except I didn't have any whey so I used more salt.  I changed the spices to what I had on hand: fennel seeds, yellow mustard seeds and black peppercorns.  Smaller Footprint was cutting back their dill.  Isaac mentioned that I wanted to make pickles so they gave him the dill flower heads to take home.  They are the best! So I added probably two tablespoons of dill as well.
Here is the recipe for the refrigerator pickles.  It was not hard at all.  Notice that I haven't delved into any actual canning...I'm taking baby steps.  I'm looking forward to eating lots of homemade pickles this summer!

I ordered this so I can get my sauerkraut on, hopefully soon.  Of course, I will report back.

While I was at work on Saturday, Isaac harvested all of our garlic. If I remember correctly we have about 40 heads total.  Some of this we are going to save and plant in the Fall for next year's crop. But honestly, this should (along with the garlic we get from our 2 CSAs) last us all year, until next season.  You know when it is ready when the greens start to brown or if you know the growing time, that would be your indicator as well.  All you do is pull them out of the ground. Shake the dirt off the bulbs, you will want to make sure most of the dirt is off.  Then you want to let the garlic cure outside in a shady well ventilated area for a few days.  This will allow them to dry out and will keep longer.  When you bring your garlic inside, store it in a cool dry place.  Here are some photos from the harvest.
bundled and hanging outside

garlic looks nice in black and white

On a final note, the greens are starting to dwindle as the summer crops start thriving.  As a last hurrah until they start coming in again in the fall, I experimented and made a greens (chard and kale) pie with feta, walnuts and lemon slices.  I use this recipe for the dough. I doubled it so I could make the (poorly formed) lattice on top and I used all butter.  I really liked the slices of lemon.  They really mellowed as they roasted in the oven. I'm being lazy and not posting the recipe here. If you would like one, please let me know. It's one of those things where I made it up as a went along, but I think I could point you in the right direction.

That is all for now! We are going to Michigan in a couple of weeks to visit Isaac's family.  The plan is to obtain as many blueberries that will fit in the car.  (We look forward to this all year!)
Stay tuned!

10 July 2011

CSA Week 7

This is getting ridiculous.  We are getting quite overwhelmed with vegetables.  I am on a mission to get a lot cooked or preserved this week to give our poor overstuffed refrigerator a break.  We are up to three heads of cabbage and way too many zucchini to count, especially now that ours in the garden are coming in.  I made a chocolate zucchini cake, but that barely put a dent in the supply.  I think I am going to make a few loaves of "regular" zucchini cake and send some to the farm with Isaac. 
Here is what we got from Hazelfield Farm this week:

Swiss Chard, green beans, cabbage, green peppers, yellow onions, zucchini and zephyr squash, new potatoes, carrots, beets, fennel, and garlic.

I'm planning on making vegetarian stuffed peppers, something kind of like this, but probably with rice instead of couscous.  I'm also going to roast all of the carrots we have and cook down all the greens (kale, chard and beet greens).

We made mini goat burgers last night with tzatziki sauce to go with them.  Isaac got some ground goat meat from a neighboring farm in Yellow Springs.  We invited some friends over and had a little barbecue. Delicious!

As I was looking up quick pickling recipes for the remaining scapes, I came across the blog cook.eat.think.  She has a recipe for lacto-fermented scapes which I think I will try.  She also shares her CSA share for the week and is also linking to other blogs sharing their CSA baskets.  If you are curious about what other people get in different regions of the US, click here and here!

On a farming note.  Check out the article "Illegal Food is better for you" from the blog Instead of the Dishes.  The article discusses Polyface Farms and the farmer/owner Joel Salatin.  He discusses many of the food regulations in the country that are contradictory to what is actually healthy for humans. One quote I will take from the blog in which they took from his discussion: “Opt out and do it.  We vote three times a day on the legacy that we will leave our grandchildren, one bite at a time.”  I can't stress this enough, we need to take a direct interest in our food, how it is grown/produced and supporting the small farms that make it possible.  This matter needs to be dealt with on a local level, not in big government.  Take a look!

06 July 2011

CSA and Garden Update

I hope everyone had a nice Independence Day! The holiday has thrown me a little off schedule, but here I am-better late than never.

I first want to send a little shout-out to a new reader, Nazneen.  She was nice enough to mention one of my blog posts in her blog Coffee and Crumpets.  Her blog post is about visiting her local farmer's market and shared the lovely vegetables that she purchased and her intentions for them.  Take a look!

Speaking of Farmer's Markets, I am back with photos of the CSA shares from Hazelfield Farm and Smaller Footprint.

Above: left to right
Garlic, summer squash (zephyr and zucchini), sweet peppers, new potatoes, green beans, onions, basil, beets, cabbage, kale, carrots, lettuce-phew!
Smaller Footprint: leaf lettuce, green beans, broccoli, zucchini, kohlrabi, kale, swiss chard-not shown: wild blackberries, a couple tomatoes and eggs

Of course the lettuce is devoted to salads.  I also added some chopped carrots, onions and kohlrabi to the salads.  Kohlrabi is in the cabbage family.  It has a mild taste but is crunchy and fresh tasting in a salad.

During our cooking extravaganza we have the day before Isaac goes back to the farm, I kind of made something up that turned out pretty good.  I found a recipe online, but I couldn't find it when it was time to cook, so I tried to go from memory.  

Mashed Potato and Zucchini Cakes

You will need to make a batch of mashed potatoes.  Make them however you usually like to.  We just boil potatoes, skin on, until tender, then drain.  I throw in a lot of butter, sour cream and half and half and mash it all up with the potatoes.  Salt and pepper to taste. I made about 2-3 cups worth.

As the potatoes are cooling, grate two medium sized zucchini on the large holes of a box grater.  Either wrap them in a clean towel, or place in a fine mesh strainer and squeeze out as much water as you can.  Once you do this, add to the potatoes and mix.  Add one or two eggs, depending on the size you have, I used one duck egg.  Mash to all together so the egg is combined. This will hold the cake together better as they cook. Add salt and pepper and any herbs you like.  We used lemon thyme.

On a large plate, place breadcrumbs and grated Parmesan cheese.  Form the potato mixture into approximately 2" wide patties and dredge in the breadcrumbs on both sides.

In a large skillet heat about 1" of oil in the pan.  When the oil is hot, fry the patties until golden brown on both sides.  Remove from pan, drain on paper towels and sprinkle with salt.

I am thinking about making sauerkraut with the cabbages that are accumulating in the refrigerator.  I need to find a large crock to do so.  If I do, I certainly will report back!

The garden is doing relatively well.  We mulched and weeded quite a bit last week, but there is always more to do.
 Above: Looking at the yard from the back.
Right: The large garden is doing well.  The giant green in the back are Jerusalem Artichokes.  They will bloom a pretty yellow sunflower-like bloom very soon.  We need to dig up a lot of them as they spread quickly.

A portion of the front part of the largest raised bed.  Clary Sage blooms flank chamomile (German and Roman), California Poppies (see other photo), white poppies and amaranth (not yet blooming)

One of our Elderberries is blooming, we didn't expect any blooms this year as they are new transplants, so this is exciting!

Some peas have escaped the jaws of the rabbits that hope about in the garden frequently.

Zucchini is coming in! If I knew what I was doing, I would stuff those blooms.  Maybe someday...

I added some more photos to our Flickr page. Take a look!

28 June 2011

CSA and National Day of Action

Well, Isaac put away the veggies too quickly on Sunday for me to get a photograph and then I was too lazy to pull them all out of the fridge again.  So, here is this week's list: One head of lettuce, one cabbage, one head of broccoli, zucchini, beets, new potatoes, carrots, a bulb of fennel, and green onions. I am doing this from memory, so I may have missed something, but I think that is it. 

Isaac and I had a cooking marathon on Sunday, we made him a lot of food to take to Yellow Springs such as egg salad, cole slaw and Five Spice Beet Soup.  The soup was very easy, we cut up the beets as the recipe describes and roasted them with olive oil in a covered casserole dish in the oven at 375 for about an hour.  We decided to add some mushrooms for more flavor so we reconstituted some dried chanterelles in red wine for about an hour.  We got two beautiful red onions from Smaller Footprint so I sauted them in some olive oil. I added the beets, the mushrooms and the ginger and the vegetable broth to the pan and let it all simmer.  We didn't have pre-blended Chinese five-spice, so I "Googled" the ingredients and found that we pretty much had all the whole spices. So I ground those up in a mortar and pestle and threw them into the pan.  We didn't have any celery but we do have lovage, so I tossed in a small handful of the leaves at the end. Lovage is similar is taste to celery but a bit stronger. We use the stalks like celery sometimes as well in tuna and egg salad.  After all the ingredients simmered for about 10 minutes, I used an immersion blender to smooth everything together. I love this thing; it is much easier than moving hot liquid into a blender or food processor, but if you don't have one, you can use the others.  I ended eating the soup cold with a dollop of sour cream, it was very good. I was pretty aggressive with the spice, but I think I would still add more if I made it again. If you don't like beets, you may still like this soup, the "earthiness" of the beets and the rich texture is muted by the other ingredients. Plus it is a beautiful reddish color.

For dinner we grilled some fresh sausage and some thick slices of zuchinni that were marinated in olive oil. So simple and delicious!

I have to get on my soapbox for a moment once again, so please bear with me.  As many people know the federal budget is in deliberation in the Senate right now.  The Senate is proposing to cut "$1 billion for fiscal year 2012 to the Conservation Stewardship Program, the Environmental Quality Incentive Program and the Wetlands Reserve Program.  These cuts will require USDA to break contracts with farmers who have committed to conservation practices and they are disproportionate to other spending cuts"

Please call your Senators today! Here are some talking points.

Now, I know we can expect the government to fix all of our agriculture problems.  I am a big supporter of grass roots support, where the people make choices about their food and support their local farms. However, a lot of local farms rely on some sort of government program and we can't let the government undervalue the importance of sustainable, small and local farms. I understand that this country is in a financial crisis, but there are other ways to make sure that the budget is balanced without taking steps backward when it come to sustainable agriculture.

Stepping off soap box.
Thanks for letting me add that! I will be back with more photos soon. I'm  planning on taking some pictures of the garden for an update. We will also be taking a trip to look at more land this weekend, so I hope to have an update on that as well.

20 June 2011

CSA Week 4 and Butter!

Our CSA bag is getting heavier each week.  The fare is changing from Spring to Summer vegetables.  This week's share includes: one head of red leaf lettuce, a bunch of kale, a quart of new potatoes, snap peas, broccoli, two heads of green garlic, beets, a head of cabbage, carrots, green onions and one zucchini.  I roasted the new potatoes with olive oil, salt and pepper. They are yummy just like that but you could add sour cream for dipping to make it even more fabulous.  I'm planning on making cole slaw with the cabbage and the carrots that seem to be multiplying in the fridge. I like to make a similar dressing to the creamy one I mentioned in a previous post. I want it to be a little creamier than the dressing, so I may add a little sour cream to the mayo and yogurt.  I love cole slaw the best when it is fresh and crunchy.

We bought duck eggs last week and I am going to try them in pancakes tomorrow morning.  Apparently, duck eggs are good for baking, making cakes extra fluffy and moist, pancakes included. I may try making some cupcakes later this week so I can share them with Isaac this weekend.  Also, they will probably make it into my now becoming, weekly frittata.  Here is more information about duck eggs for you to consider until my next post.
Tonight I was feeling a tiny bit ambitious.  I have had two pints of heavy cream kicking around in the refrigerator for quite a while now-past their "expiration" dates even.  We have a friend who makes his own butter so I count him as inspiration.  For additional information, I use the book Self Sufficiency for the 21st Century by Dick and James Strawbridge.  It is a very interesting book with many different instructions to help you become more self-sufficeint-from making butter to farming to collecting and filtering rain water to making your own composting toilet. (yay!)  The section on making butter was very easy to follow with lots of photos explaining the details of making butter from cream.  One thing I didn't realize is that I did myself a favor by letting the cream sour a little as you want that characteristic for making butter. In the book, they don't really explain why so I found out more information.  I must admit that the cream I used was not grass fed or organic, it was ultra pasteurized heavy cream that I bought while it was on sale in the late winter. I plan on using more local and grass fed cream in the future, but you don't have to, the cream I used worked just fine.

I used a stand mixer, but you can use hand beaters, or even just shake it in the container in which it comes. I added the cream to the mixing bowl and turned it on medium high.  I let it beat until the cream broke down into little butter clumps and the buttermilk began to separate from the butter.  I drained the buttermilk, added a little cool water and beat until the butter began to come together.  I strained more butter milk and turned the butter out onto a wooden cutting board.  I then added more water and began to mix and knead it with the spatula.  This is called "washing" the butter.  You are removing the remaining buttermilk. When the water runs clear (about three series of kneading the butter and draining the buttermilk) add salt to the butter (the book recommends 2% of its weight, but I just threw some in there). 

Kneading the butter
I then added chopped fresh herbs to the butter and incorporated it all together.
A combo of parsley, thyme and sage

I then rolled it up in waxed paper and put it in the freezer to firm it up a bit.  I made another batch with lemon balm, lemon verbena and lemon zest.  I plan on using the buttermilk in the pancakes and the lemony herb butter on top when they are ready to eat.  I don't have a fancy butter mold, but maybe I'll come across one someday!