Thursday, December 31, 2009

Eat the New Year

Whether you're eating black eyed peas in Hoppin' John, eating grapes or sauerkraut for a cleanse, or trying to swallow a long noodle without breaking it, celebrating New Year's Day with foods that are superstitious or traditional, depending on how you look at it, can't hurt!Here's a recipe for veggie Hoppin' John:
  • 1 cup dried black-eyed peas
  • 6 garlic cloves, divided
  • 1 dried hot pepper
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 c uncooked brown rice
  • 2 c vegetable oil
  • 1 Tbsp olive oil
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 1 jalapeño pepper, chopped
  • 3 celery ribs, chopped
  • 1 big bunch collard greens, large ribs discarded and leaves sliced into thin ribbons
  • Juice of 1 lemon
  • Sea salt and fresh ground pepper to taste
Soak peas in cold water for 4 hours or overnight. Drain. In a large pot, bring 3 cups of water to boil over high heat. Add peas, 2 whole garlic cloves, hot pepper and bay leaf. Skim off any floating peas. Reduce heat and simmer, uncovered, until peas are tender but not mush, about 1 1/2 hours.

Add brown rice and broth to pot. Cover and simmer 20 minutes. Turn off the heat, but leave the pot on the burner.

Meanwhile, heat olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add onion, jalapeño, celery and the remaining 4 garlic cloves, chopped. Sauté for about 5 minutes, stirring, until the vegetables soften. Reduce heat to medium. Add greens by the handful, and cook until wilted, stirring occasionally, about 10 minutes. Fluff rice and beans. Remove whole garlic, dried pepper and bay leaf. Stir in collard mixture, lemon juice and salt and pepper. Makes 6 servings.

Have a happy new year!

*Please note, no feet or rubber boots were used in the making of your sauerkraut. However, happy older people may have enjoyed themselves while pounding.

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Distribution - December 27, 2009

We've made it through the holidays, and are ready for new beginnings. Yes?

Remember that the farm market is closed this weekend, and distribution will take place at the Beacon Bagel from noon to three. Skip breakfast and join us for a schmear (yep, they've got tofu cream cheese). We'll toast with wintergreens' own bubbly: homemade ginger kombucha. Here's what your distribution holds to help you with your local eating and healthy self promises:
  • 2010 calendar tea towel by Claudia Pearson to remind you what's in season when.
  • A scattering of radishes, rutabagas, beets, and turnips, because a bit of spiciness and earth brought up from the cellar are excellent defenses against the cold. Huguenot Street Farm.
  • Fermented garlic dill pickles and sauerkraut to get your body back in balance. Cukes from Madura Farm and cabbages from Huguenot Street Farm.
  • Frozen mulberries to help you get your days started right, with smoothies or sunshine muffins. Mulberries grown wild on the streets of Beacon.
  • Butternut and delicata squash. Vitamin C! Antioxidants! (Here's a tasty recipe that's not soup.) Huguenot Street Farm.
  • A smidgen of ginger. Local ginger! If you're sick, put in tea with your pear honey. If you're me, put it in everything. Huguenot Street Farm.
  • A few more tasty apples, to keep you, um, on schedule. Fishkill Farms.
I guess this new year (new decade!) is about belly and digestive health!
Lucky for you, there's not much to rattle on about today, except that the weather fluctuations are crrrraaaazzzzy and the weather in the root cellar is SO consistent. Amazing. If I weren't so addicted to light, I'd live underground with the veggies.

Oh yeah, and the fact of local ginger. I have tried and tried and failed and failed to grow my own ginger because the stuff they sell even in the health food store comes all the way from China. China! But Huguenot Street Farm grew some this year. It was only enough for inspiration but I'll be sure to be pestering them to do more next year. Have you tried growing ginger?

Stay tuned for new year's recipes for prosperity and happiness. Get your black eyed peas ready....

*Pickle print also by Claudia Pearson.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Figs and Other Fruits I Don't Have

2009 is the year my fig tree died. It was given to me as a gift many years earlier, because I love the fruit and also love those big floppy elephant ear leaves. I think fondly of the short and stout fig tree that grew in my backyard "on base" (Davis Monthan Air Force Base, that is) when I was kid. It was a grand climbing tree, for me, since I'm scared of heights and was terrible at climbing trees. It thrived there, with no t.l.c.

I still don't know what I did wrong with my coddled fig: it survived last winter (pouting) indoors, by a cold, drafty window with a lot of southern light. She'd shed all her leaves in a tantrum in about March, and then come back strong. Soon after she made the transition to the porch in May, she up and died.

I work in an Italian neighborhood in Brooklyn, and I've spotted several figs there that fruit year after year. I made friends with some of the neighbors, and helped them pick the fruit this year and planned to use some figs for the C.S.A. We decided that their cool cellar was a good place for storing them. I'd checked in a couple times, and they were holding up just fine. When I stopped by this week, I was told they all had recently spoiled. I'd waited one distribution too long, thinking because of the association of figgy pudding with Christmas, that these delicate fruits would last until the end of the month/year/decade. This lack of judgment goes in the annals of failures and mistakes.

Because of losing my fig tree, losing the figs harvested in Brooklyn, and having missed Southern Arizona's fig season, I'm taking this opportunity to pout about fruits I don't have.
Oh yeah, 'tis the season for want-want-want, so let's start with hardy kiwis. I'm reading the kiwi (a.k.a. Actinidia) chapter in Uncommon Fruits for Every Garden. Reading about them and their edible skins and their pop-in-your-mouth deliciousness is making my mouth water. Oh, I have plans to plant them, on a side of my house that needs its ugliness covered by pretty plants, where there's enough room for them to grow like crazy, as it seems they do, and in a place with lots of sunshine. But I have to build mega support for the vines, and house projects tend to back up around here. People get distracted by starting up C.S.A.s, by pickling for farm markets, by train commuting to paying jobs. Thus, walls that are halfway torn down stay only halfway torn down. So, though I feel very determined to get these kiwis going (soon, soon), I wish planting them were going to be as easy as walking down a shady road where the mowers never come and shoving pawpaw seeds one inch under the soil, all along that road.
So, even though I was just complaining about the California Rare Fruit Growers teasing me, part of me suspects I should turn my mid-winter fruit blues toward fruits I can't grow. Just look at them, pet the pages, drool, dream, and move on. (This month's mag features kumquats, which I will be eating in four days. But last month's cover showed Ecuadorian mystery fruits.) What fruits will 2010 bring?

Monday, December 21, 2009

Homeward Bound

One week from today I'll be sniffing desert air. Yep, I'm going to be a tourist in my own hometown, because I've been away too long. I'll be checking out the sites (bat caves!), eating Mexican food that tastes like Mexican food, taking long walks in the desert (secretly looking for jackrabbits and javelinas), and seeking out all of Tucson's local food. I've been reading Tucson bloggers and bloggers headed for Tucson in preparation. Tucson farmer's markets, here I come!

What's in season foodwise in the Sonoran Desert right now? Olives. Citrus. (Oranges and grapefruits and lemons and tangelos and kumquats, oh my!) Pecan, oh, pecans.

I've missed some things, too, like chiles, nopales, prickly pear tuna, and pomegranates, but maybe just maybe I'll find preserves. I've also missed the season of organized mesquite millings, but know I can still get my hands on some mesquite flour to give it a try. It's a little silly to think I have to taste my way through my visit, but fresh orange juice and green chile tamales won't make terrible guides.

Last time in Tucson I attended an animal rights demo, and ended up at Earth First! HQ having dinner and stuffing envelopes with my eighties activist hero, Rod Coronado. Who knows what this visit will hold? Except, of course, plenty of gorgeous food, gorgeous scenery, and gorgeous weather. And that smell...

Beets, the New Eco Graffiti Tool

I'm a fan of some of the illegal arts. I get, grudgingly, that gorgeous, bright colors of spray paint and mop markers are toxic. That's what makes moss graffiti, botanigrams, clean tagging (literally erasing grime), and other, newer forms of graffiti interesting.
As if beets aren't delightful enough, their gorgeous color calls out for brine reuse. And there are uses. If you're not drinking it as a tonic, or dyeing paper, clothes, or food with it, consider beet tagging.
Note that it does take some practice to get both your method and message right. Consider this grossness:
While you're practicing, why not be digesting this lovely Mediterranean Beet and Yogurt Salad? Here's how to make soy yogurt so that you can get the tang without the dairy.

Friday, December 18, 2009

New York Raisins & Prunes

"Sun Mad" is by Esther Hernandez, 1982.

New York grows grapes, New York grows plums. Where are the raisins and prunes? If you know of a NY (or close) farm that sells raisins or prunes, would you let me know?

When searching for my little wrinkled friends, I did come across the very interesting raisin tree. Ooh, those pesky Rare Fruit Growers!

Stick with Your Roots

Evolutionary Organics (and their turnips) were featured in the NY Times. That's because: 1) Kira's certified naturally grown veggies are fantastic, 2) the Hudson Valley supplies the city greenmarkets with the bulk of the their produce, and 3) everyone should eat turnips and other roots. (Um, and the greens that grew attached to those roots.)

I had a conversation this week with a local organic grower who is also interested in preserving food. We were talking about how we (and most people in the U.S.) are clueless about the value of various foods. Take, for instance, tomato sauce. So many tomatoes go into a jar, and so much time, that it should sell for about twenty bucks. Those little cans of tomato paste you buy for $.99 should cost about fifty dollars. How can you compete with the out-of-control food industry on these things? I, personally, am just tempted to let tomatoes be something that I eat raw, in season, only, preserving only late season green ones, or only if there's a bumper crop in my own little garden. But is everyone willing to give up tomatoes for half the year?

There are some things we do just as well as big commercial farms, or better, really. (I've just lumped myself with HV growers, which I am not! But, as someone who champions and funds HV growers, I'm gonna leave it alone.) Roots, for example, grow fantastically in our area, store well, and taste much better when just pulled from the ground, or stored in a moist root cellar rather than refrigerated in traveling trucks. Because foods like turnips aren't as popular with consumers as something like tomatoes, they don't command as high a price at Key Food or Shop Rite, and those sold at the farmer's market are more likely to be able to compete on price.

This, then, is another reason we should investigate local foods and their seasons. Just as the first ripe tomatoes of summer taste amazing because you haven't had any for months, so do roots. Most of us just need to get more acquainted with them.

Put that jar of cheap "pasta sauce" back on the shelf, and check out some turnip recipes.

Note: If you need vegetarian "fish" sauce, you can get it at many Asian markets. You can also replace it in recipes with a little kimchi brine or concentrated mushroom broth. If you're determined to replicate fish sauce's flavor, here are two recipes to try.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Long Johns

It's eleven degrees this morning. Bundle up for the farmer's market!

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Distribution - December 13, 2009

This distribution is full of sweets for the holidaze!
  • apples: super crisp Ida Reds and sweet Mutsus from Fishkill Farms
  • pickled beets, grown at Huguenot Street Farm
  • carrots, carrots, and more carrots, from Huguenot Street Farm
  • pear honey, pears grown at Glorie Farms
  • frozen sweet red peppers, from Madura Farm
  • potatoes from Huguenot Street Farm
  • spinach from Madura Farm
Fishkill Farms' apples are not organic. They are not no spray, rather LOW spray, using integrated pest management. What that means is that they exhaust all other options before spraying. They spray less than commercial orchards, and with caution. And they're working toward becoming organic. In the meantime, wash these apples! (We did get some organic ones this year, too, ugly-beautiful things that were also hit by hail. We'll be making those into sauce...)

Beets are known as a great source of iron, but they're also filled with folic acid (for you pregnant ladies) and have tumor fighting properties. Because these are fermented, they're also great for your belly. You can drink the juice alone as a probiotic tonic. Don't be scared of that florescent color, it tastes great. This recipe is mostly just beets, water, and sea salt, but there's a touch of cider vinegar, agave syrup, mustard powder, and white pepper. The beets have not been canned, so please refrigerate.

I don't know if any of that stuff about carrots being great for your eyesight is real, but I do know that carrots are one the all-time best snacks in the world. Back when I didn't eat anything real at all (high school!), I still remember being impressed by my friend who always had carrots in his back pocket, ready for a snack. I still get angry about bags of "baby carrots" in the store, which are really just large carrots cut down and rounded, because apparently we're too lazy to bite and chew. This is what a real baby carrot looks like:

Pear honey isn't really honey, but is very pear-y. Read all about it here.

Use frozen red peppers any way you use fresh. Of course, I eat red peppers raw and whole like apples, and I wouldn't do that with frozen ones. But they can be used in anything you're cooking: soups, crock pot meals (veggie chili!), stir fries, on pizza, or, if you're fancy, roasted and made into a pretty and flavorful puree to grace the top of other dishes. These peppers give your food a shot of color and sweetness, but also some winter vitamin C.

Potatoes and spinach aren't sweet, but are good for you. Eat well and with color, and we'll see you after the holidays!

Lock Zip

wintergreens freezes fruit and veggies using the nested bag method. That is, put food in a small freezer bag, then put a bunch of those in a bigger freezer bag, so that there are multiple layers of protection from freezer burn.

We don't use a vacuum sealer. I was tempted, because of the thicker plastic, and because the food looks more "official" that way. The downside was that the plastic then had to be thrown away after it was cut away from the food. I've got a clothesline of washed baggies to reuse, so that part rubbed the frugal me all wrong. Plus, I don't like having to have special single-use equipment. Nesting doesn't get every last bit of air out, but it does protect the food well from burn.

Then my Dept. of Agriculture safety inspector told me that vacuum sealing done wrong can cause botulism, just like canning gone wrong. It creates an anaerobic situation, where bad bacteria can thrive.

Now I'm sure there are measures you can take to avoid botulism, and, indeed, many people use vacuum sealers every day. But after my safety inspector recommended we not vacuum seal our stored food, that sealed the deal! wintergreens uses plain old heavy duty freezer baggies, inside other freezer baggies.

We expect to see your baggies hanging out to dry!

Friday, December 11, 2009

Reusing Jars

Reducing waste is a huge focus for wintergreens. It informs the order that various foods are prepped (prepare veggies for pickling then use trimmings to make vegetable broth, for example), what tools and packing are used (or not used), it even decides what produce we'll be using. (The hail-damaged apples can't be sold to anyone else? Okay, we'll make applesauce!)

When we pack food in glass, we sometimes use heavy duty canning jars. When we can, we use old jars. They may not look as glamorous, but they're already in our presence, and, when sterilized, can be safely used again and again. Some have the perk of fabulous designs on the lids.

In my own cupboards, I enjoy pulling out my nutritional yeast jar when cooking, for example, because I remember where I got that jar (nearly twenty years ago!).

I hope you'll feel proud to be reusing jars with wintergreens, rather then putting them into recycling after one use. The process of recycling creates pollution, too, and those jars have a lot of functions just as they are. Once you've eaten the food within, please consider bringing your (clean) jars back for reuse.

**Please note: When thawing frozen food in glass jars, loosen the lid, and keep the jar in the refrigerator to thaw. Even the most cheapo commercial jars hold up when food is thawed in this method. Do not run under hot water or put frozen jars in a microwave. If a jar breaks, throw it and the food away. No matter how tasty, it's not worth ingesting broken glass!

Living Underground

When I go down to the wintergreens root cellar to check the temperature and humidity, it sometimes feels like a trip to a haunted house. It's underground, very dark, smells moist and earthy, and the heaps of vegetables have pale little antennae growing out of them. It feels very alive, like you're not in the cellar alone.

In fact, all those veggies are alive, and that's a good thing. Roots are filled with energy, and they're sending out shoots looking for light. They continue to require moisture in the form of very damp air, accomplished by hanging wet towels, keeping pots of wet soil and trays of water, and by keeping the floor wet. They're still breathing, and to stay in good shape they require fresh (cool) air coming in, and stale (warm) air to leave.

It's tempting to think that veggies stop growing and are frozen in time once they're plucked from the ground and put in a cool place like a cellar or fridge, but actually they're just hibernating. Like bears, their systems slow down, but they're very much alive. It's only if air or moisture are denied that they shrivel and die.

Hardcore over-wintering types collect these pale sprouts and add them to salads. Like other sprouts, they're packed with energy.

I have to stop thinking of these sprouts as whiskers, shooting out to monitor what's happening in the root cellar. Monitor me, really. Then, maybe, I'll be able to eat them.

Monday, December 7, 2009

Rich and Fat

Not everybody loves soup, but when you're one of us, the soup worshippers, your love goes deep and wide. I eat miso nearly every day, enjoy broth soups made from leftovers, and feel totally luxurious when eating thick stews or creamy soups. A beautiful lunch was served to me the other day that consisted of green salad, fresh bread, a cup of tea, and coconut squash soup. Squash soups are always easy and delicious, but coconut made it fit in with the "rich and fat" themes I've been embracing (and writing off as holiday decadence).

Here's a recipe for creamy coconut squash soup:
  • 1 medium sized butternut (or other) squash, peeled and cut into about ½ inch pieces (about 3 cups)
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 3 medium cloves garlic, chopped
  • 1 Tbsp chopped fresh ginger
  • 1 tsp turmeric
  • 1 tsp curry powder
  • 2 3/4 cups + 1 Tbsp vegetable broth
  • 6 oz canned coconut milk
  • 2 Tbsp chopped fresh cilantro
  • salt & white pepper to taste
Peel squash and cut into pieces.

Heat 1 Tbsp broth in medium soup pot. Healthy Saute onion in broth over medium heat for about 5 minutes, stirring frequently, until translucent. Add garlic, ginger, and continue to sauté for another minute. Add turmeric, curry powder, and mix well. Add squash and broth, and mix. Bring to a boil on high heat. Once it comes to a boil reduce heat to medium low and simmer uncovered until squash is tender, about 10 minutes.

Place in blender and blend with coconut milk. Make sure you blend in batches filling blender only half full. (Start on low speed, so you don't have a hot blender accident!) Blend until smooth, about 1 minute. Thin with a little broth if needed. Season to taste with sea salt and white pepper. Rewarm, and add cilantro.

Party hearty.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009


I need greens today, and tomorrow, and the next day. Greens and plenty of water. That's because I had a carnival of holiday excess eating, the focus of my glee being nuts. I ate waaaay too many almonds, pecans, and coconuts (which are technically seeds).

The peak of my nuttiness focused on almonds. Knowing I'd have a bit of time over the holiday, I'd stocked up on sliced almonds, almond paste, almond meal, and almond extract (just in case!). I hadn't consulted a recipe, just my own (admittedly strong) want.

And then I found this recipe for pignolis. Though I sometimes veer into the philosopical on the subject of pignolis (Why are almond cookies topped with pine nuts? Why not just use almond meal instead of wheat flour?), I shut up and baked, and they made for an amazing, decadent binge: the bottoms of the cookies were nearly caramelized, and the tops purely sported almonds. Let's call them "almondinis." They may be the most insane cookies I've ever had. Subtle they are not.

Thus, I now detox. Maybe Almondinis and I will meet again in a year (or two).