Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Still Life with Pears

Too beautiful to eat.Too tasty not to.Everything about pears seems decadent.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Winter What?

We're often asked what the difference is between wintergreens and Winter Sun Farms. First, the similarities:
  • We are both Hudson Valley C.S.A.s, focused on getting people fantastic local food, and supporting our local farms.
  • We are both winter C.S.A.s, working to extend the season of local eating.

And, the differences:
  • wintergreens is tiny, and focused on Beacon. Winter Sun Farms has 1500 members this year, and distributes from Albany to Brooklyn. They now also have a C.S.A. in North Carolina.
  • Winter Sun Farms costs $118 for four distributions over the season, wintergreens costs $240 for 12.
  • Winter Sun Farms primarily uses freezing as their preservation method, though they may introduce a root cellar this year. wintergreens combines many preservation methods (fermentation, root cellaring, four-season farming, dehydration, and yes, freezing). wintergeens makes use of ancient food preservation methods from around the world, and distribution includes items like sauerkraut, sundried tomatoes, popcorn, and dried beans, all from locally grown vegetables.
wintergreens is interested in making food available for all. We accept food stamps, and hope to be able to subsidize shares for those who can't afford them. We want to plant fruit trees in town to create free food, and we've harvested unused fruit and nuts from those that already grow here, to avoid waste. We want to bring the eating of mulberries and black walnuts and dandelions back into vogue. We dream of seeing unused patches of land turned into food producing gardens. We want every individual to know how to grow food and store it themselves. The best scenario is that we come together and share all our knowledge on the forgotten methods and skills that fed people through winter before refrigeration and long-distance shipping, eventually making wintergreens obsolete. Until then, we hope you'll join us!

Based on similar principles, our friends Winter Sun Farms are doing good work. Please support them if their model works better for you for financial or logistical reasons.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Of Rodents and Roots

Just as some leaves are beginning to turn, and wildflowers are getting leggy and shedding their petals, sunchoke flowers are just opening. They are bright and shiny, face south to get sun on their faces, and cheer me up as the days get short.

They seem extra special this year because of the takeover.

I've never minded groundhogs and deer sharing in my crops. They seem to prefer mostly weeds to eat, with some green bean and squash vines thrown in, and there always been enough for them to get their fill, and me to get mine. This year, a small groundhog took up residence under the garage, and chewed on my elderberries and sunchoke plants with particular focus and rigor. I'd see her in the compost bin sometimes, enjoying scraps of melon and rotten tomatoes, but more often, I'd see her on her hind legs, bending tall plants down to where she could reach them, and ridding them of leaves up to their ten foot high tops. The leafless plants would have been no more concern than usual, except that these are perennials, and I plan to have producing plants for years to come. A wipeout of this crop would mean a wipeout for years.

A lot of farmers and homeowners go to battle with groundhogs, deer, rabbits and other animals. I refuse. They were here first after all, they don't have anyplace better to go, and everybody's got to eat. Instead, I pile tree trimmings in stacks for burrowing and chewing, respect the holes that lead to their burrows, and leave them alone when they're eating out of my garden.

I get flack for this from neighbors and friends, who think I'm a bit nutty. This year, for the first time, I had a moment of wondering if they're right.

But the sunchoke leaves always grew back, and now there's a mess of flowers to prove that sharing is a fine and sane way to garden. The groundhog, now grown up and rotund, will be going into hibernation soon. I realized that even if there had been a complete wipeout, I still wouldn't displace the groundhog—I'd just replant in another spot.

What these sunchokes blooms mean to me is that when it comes to "our" garden (the groundhog and I), it can get eaten, and we can have it, too. There will be chokes for us both again next year.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Seed Saving

Friend of wintergreens (that's "f.o.w." to you), Ken Greene of the Hudson Valley Seed Library, has a post on Civil Eats, about this "ripe" time of year. I'm so absorbed in the frenzy of planning for winter, that I haven't at all considered something as far away as next year. Thank goodness for seed savers!Hudson Valley Seed Library is also have a farm tour and seed saving celebration on October 11. Forget where your food comes from—where do the seeds come from that become your food?


All beautiful images greedily grabbed from the Seed Library site.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Math

If you plan to go the apple-a-day way through winter, you're going to have to do just that: plan. Sure, wintergreens will be storing apples for you in the root cellar, but a minute of math tells me there's no way we can keep enough apples to keep all members in apples every day. If you'd like to eat local apples through spring, it's time to look around your house for a place you can keep a bin of your own. Ideal apple storage is just below 40 degrees farenheit, with high humidity. Put a thermometer in your unheated porch, attic, basement, stairwell, or closet, and see if any of them will do the trick.

Wrap apples individually in sheets of newspaper, to keep one rotting piece of fruit from ruining others. Put a pan of water nearby to keep the air humid. And keep eating apples.

That's all. It's that easy. Cool, moist, with air circulation and some padding: root cellars demystified.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Nuts, It's Fall

Black walnut trees are one of the first to lose their leaves. I can attest to this because it's only September, and my porch needs serious sweeping. But you really know it's fall when, with regularity, you hear the thud of walnuts falling off the trees.

Few humans seem to be using these flavorful nuts, but it's still a race to collect them, since squirrels know their value: there are already nuts "hidden" in every flower pot and nook.

It's dangerous to collect black walnuts. When they're plentiful on the ground, they're also still falling. These babies dent cars, and don't feel great when they bonk you on the head.

The truly fun part is still to come, when hands and clothes are forever stained black while peeling the fruit away from the nuts so they can dry.

Once dry, the nuts store well in their shell. And then you try to crack them. Put away your nutcracker shaped like a squirrel! You need a vice grip or a specially designed nutcracker to get into these super hard kernels.

A lot of work, to be sure. The exquisite black walnut flavor promises to be worth every minute!

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Change

Three days ago I was gloating about the warmth and sunshine, and today I built autumn's first fire in the woodstove and am getting serious about prepping the root cellar.
"Our children...should enter adulthood with a basic knowledge of how to store food over winter without the cooperation of a nuclear power plant a hundred miles away. Every animal in the forest is taught this skill; we owe our children no less."
—Jerry Minnich, "Energy-Free Food Storage," Countryside (found in the book Root Cellaring)
In our case, the nuclear power plant is only twenty miles away, but you get the point.

Farm on Film

The award winning film The Garden, about Los Angeles' South Central Farmers, is showing in Beacon Friday night—BEAHIVE at 7:30.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Watermelon Thump

Okay, yeah, so Labor Day has passed and nights are cooler and kids are back in school and all that. But the combination of fantastic melons and the beautiful sunny day are making today feel like a perfect summer one (cricket sounds and all). I'll eat my watermelon slow and pretend the sun isn't going down.And make watermelon & tomato salad with Mark Bittman. And simple watermelon basil salad. And pickled watermelon salad with avocado.

And then when it seems like I'm done, pickled watermelon rind. YO!

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Sigue Sigue Sputnik

In order for the wintergreens blog to be a well-rounded place, we need to discuss bruises, rot, mistakes, failure, crashes and burns. One such crash involved the gorgeous and alien-looking kohlrabi, a vegetable as wild looking as the glam band, and in this case, as short lived.I got a most beautiful batch of white and purple kohlrabi bulbs. Excited to preserve these crisp lovelies, I moved them into a barrel of salt brine, covered them, and waited. After a few days, they smelled fantastic, and the one I sampled was crunchy and flavorful. Left to ferment longer, I was left with a big barrel of stinky rot, a struggle to get out to the compost without gagging. Slimy purple and white and black, with the stench of a dead cow.

It was my first experience with vegetables rotting that I was attempting to ferment. Up until this moment everything I'd captured under brine had preserved well, and often taken on interesting and new flavor qualities. I wondered, does kohlrabi have some special reason it can't be fermented? Nope—others have done it successfully. Was there a rotten bulb in there that caused the rest to turn? Did I not pack it tightly enough, and leave air bubbles? Was there not enough salt in the brine? Was the barrel left in too warm of a place? I'll never know, but you can bet the itch to do it again, successfully, has got to be scratched. I want kohlrabi more than ever.Spectacular failure is okay sometimes. After the eighties, we just go on.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Theory Number Two

There are loads of theories as to why "an apple a day keeps the doctor away." Flavonoids, water content, folic acid, vitamin C, beneficial bacteria, potassium, etc., etc.Apple season has recently begun, and I've been doing my "research" by eating one or two huge Jonagolds each day.

Pardon my overshare, here, but I think theory "Number 2" wins. Apples make digestion, and the expelling of waste and toxins easy. All those other benefits are nice, but none of them compare to the awesome pectin and fiber combination that apples offer.If you'd like to do some research of your own, you can pick your own apples right now at Fishkill Farms, or even lease an apple tree for your family or as a gift at Liberty View Farm. Best idea of them all: plant an apple tree near where you live, where you can walk outside and eat an apple right off the tree. Now that's local.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Italian Ladies

With all the trouble tomatoes have had this year, it seems more important than ever to save those that have eked through.

I came from the desert, and never had a homegrown tomato in season until adulthood. I wasted no time becoming a tomato snob, unwilling to eat them out of season, grouchy about poor texture and lack of juice. Why bother eating the cardboard versions? (Plus, I had to support the Florida tomato boycott!) But the short tomato season isn't quite enough to satisfy, either.

Historically, I've taken the same lazy approach to preserving tomatoes I take with compost. When it comes to compost, that means throwing everything in a heap. No turning, no layering. I give it a couple years, and it takes care of itself.

My winter tomatoes, so necessary for my winter happiness, have generally come roughly chopped and stewed, skins, seeds, and all, with other chunky sauce veggies. My eggplant, squash, onion, and pepper chunkfest may be the lazy approach, but it thrills me to find it in my freezer in February.

Due to teenage pregnancies, adoptions, wars and the like, I don't really know the ethnicities of my ancestors, if I might be Italian-ish. My mom has theories about our love of garlic and olive skin. This year I'm trying to be a proper Italian in the kitchen: stewing tomatoes, removing the skin and seeds in a mill, and cooking the sauce down until it thickens.

I know the sauce will be worth it, but the hours of cooking my glorious tomatoes to one-twentieth of themselves is setting off a new round of respect for the old Italian ladies who lived in my house, who grew a yard full of tomatoes and cooked them down into sauces in their summer kitchen, my basement. The next time I hear Mamma's ghost whistling while she works downstairs, I'll thaw some super-smooth, way delicious, sauce, so I can whistle her summer tune.

Blues

Feels like summer is over. Like a Girl Scout, be prepared!

How to Feed a Vegan

Because everything at the wintergreens market booth is non-animal, shoppers frequently come by and ask what on earth they should do with their friend/sibling/houseguest who is vegetarian and/or vegan and is coming over for the weekend/dinner/a barbeque. It's funny to be treated as the vegan authority.

For starters, when people ask, at a farmer's market, "What do vegans eat?" it is a little boggling. We're at the farmer's market, with piles of beautiful fruit and vegetables all around us. Um, they eat fruit and vegetables. and beans and grains.

Of course, I do have opinions about how to host your vegans well.
  1. Ask your friend/sibling/houseguest what foods they like. Vegan tastes range as widely as carnivore tastes. Some crave processed fake meats, some hate tofu, some live off french fries, some are gourmet raw chefs, some eat quinoa for breakfast.
  2. Don't serve your friend an iceberg lettuce salad. Don't serve them flavorless food at all. Vegans have taste buds!
  3. Another no-no: Don't make something vegan for your guest to eat, and a pork chop for yourself. This isn't the same as, but is about as sensitive as cracking open a beer with your A.A. friend, and making gay jokes to your queer pals, expecting them to laugh. (In this scenario, you're a straight person who is not a recovering alcoholic.*) You can eat a vegan meal, and enjoy it. You probably do it all the time, and don't even notice: pb&j, miso soup, falafel platter. Don't question their choices: Are you sure you don't want just a tiny bit of goat cheese? .
  4. Prepare something you like. Nobody's happy if there's a great big spread and the host is only picking at the food and drink. You can stick with simple preparations (spaghetti & salad) or fancy (watermelon coolers, poblano tamales with mole sauce, and coconut flan).
    • If you like pasta, prepare vegetable marinara instead of meat sauce, and skip parmesan in the pesto (yes, it tastes amazing without).
    • If you're a grilling enthusiast, throw on mushrooms and fresh corn. Veggie burgers are a crowd pleaser, and there a zilliion recipes for them online.
    • Mexican food (or Indian, or Thai, or Chinese) are easy to make vegan. Begin with warm tortillas and salsa and guacamole and a margarita! (Que normal, no?) Unless, of course, your vegan friend is in AA, in which case you should stick with horchata.
    • Make PIZZA with all the great produce at the market. You don't need cheese, you don't even need sauce! Just pile your crust with tomatoes and peppers and onions and basil and garlic and corn and eggplant and drizzle on olive oil and salt and pepper and it's perfect and fresh and delicious.
    • Dessert can be as simple as fresh fruit or sorbet. If you bake, there are fruit tarts and pies.
    • For breakfast, make scrambled tofu the same way you'd make scrambled eggs: dress up mashed tofu with mushrooms, scallions, herbs, or your favorite hot sauce. Or pretend you're British, and have beans on toast with tea.

  5. Don't be offended if your guest doesn't taste the tree nut cheese you got especially for them. Any vegan has likely tasted scores of disgusting soy and rice cheeses, and may not be enthusiastic to try anything called "cheese" ever again.
  6. Instead of pestering your guest, use the internet to answer your every vegan question. Need to know what brands of margarine are vegan? Google search. Need something to replace eggs in baked goods? Look to the pros.
This barely scrapes the surface of what you can feed the vegan or vegans you're hosting, so please put books or the web to good use. Remember to enjoy yourself while you try something new and host people you love.

*Did anyone else notice the guy at the market this past week wearing the "Straight" t-shirt with the grey "rainbow"? What's with that?