Archives for June 2008

Of root vegetables and root cellars –oh, and a grill recipe.

Usually by this time of year we are DONE planting. But the other day I bought half a dozen more seed packets and this morning the big boys and I were moving compost while my husband set up new sprinkler lines in preparation for just a bit more garden space.

The seeds I bought? Parsnips. Turnips. Kohlrabi. Salsify. I’ll be honest: we’ve never even tried some of these foods. But this summer I happened upon a book called Root Cellaring and got inspired. For years John has talked about digging a root cellar to store some of our garden produce a little longer. I wasn’t sold on the idea til I bought the book. Now he and I are both looking at various areas of our property with a critical eye, trying to figure out where the best place would be for a nice cool hole in the ground.

We may not love every veggie we try. But I figure I can use most of it in a nice winter soup, and with a little experimentation we can find other ways to do different veggies too. We are really hoping to discover some good new veggies that will be happy in a root cellar for a couple months, thus decreasing our dependence on grocery store food.

In the book ‘Farmer Boy’ there’s some great description of their family’s root cellar. It was quite inspirational to read how the family with careful management was able to save all sorts of food through the winter using only the natural cooling powers of underground storage.

We could definitely use more ‘fridge’ space. In good years we harvest 12-15 bushels of apples. We routinely get bushels of onions for free. The cabbage tends to come on all at once, leaving us trying to use it all up fast, to regain fridge space. We always have lots of pumpkins. And there are lots of other winter-keeper type veggies that we haven’t even tried.

The other day I grabbed a couple of unusual things from the grocery store to try: a long white daikon radish and 3 ‘bulbs’ (??) of kohlrabi. When I grabbed the radish, a lady next to me asked me what I was going to do with it. “I dunno,” I said. “I’m experimenting. I’ll probably put it in a stirfry.”

“Me too,” she said, holding up her bag of kohlrabi with a smile. “I’m growing this for the first time in my garden and I wanted to taste it.”

At home with my vegetable bounty, I contemplated what to do. Google a recipe? Nah, too easy. Besides, I was starting to envision some kind of veggie/skewer/beef recipe on the grill. I peeled and cubed the radish. Then I chopped the long leafy ‘legs’ (tops?) off the kohlrabi. (My hubby looked suspicious and said it looked like Martian vegetables.) While trimming the kohlrabi, I discovered that the outside of it seemed woody. I trimmed all the skin off which revealed a greenish white interior that seemed much more tender. I cubed it like the radish, and then got out some brussel sprouts and cubed some carrots and potatoes so my brave food explorers poor children would have something familiar at dinner. I already had some cubed stew beef that I cut into fairly small pieces just in case it was tough.

My skewered-food-on-the-grill idea went out the window when I discovered I only had one skewer and it had last been used to unclog a bathroom sink drain. Hmm… Since it was hot outside and I wasn’t anxious to heat my house, I still wanted to try the grill. But i wasn’t sure if I could get the veggies to cook evenly. I put a pot of water on to boil and added the veggies in gradually. First the hardest veggies: radish and carrots, then kohlrabi and brussel sprouts, and finally the potatoes. Ten minutes for the firmer stuff and only 5 for the potatoes. I just wanted them to be partly cooked. The grill would finish the rest.

I tossed the meat with a little steak sauce and garlic salt, then spread it on an oiled cookie sheet which covered half my grill. Then I tossed the remaining veggies with a bit more steak sauce and salt and put it on a second oiled cookie sheet on the other side of the grill. The oil on this sheet was fairly generous– about 1/4 a cup, since I didn’t want the veggies to stick.

The veggie pan was very full– I’d put too many veggies on to cook well, and I had to stir gingerly so as not to lose anything into the fire (medium heat, btw). But the 2-1/2 lbs of beef was spread in single layer on the pan, and was soon cooking merrily. I stirred it a couple times. It browned nicely, smelled great, and was cooked through in 10 minutes. At that point I took it off with a slotted spoon into a bowl, leaving some good meat juice and a little oil on the pan. Then I was able to put half my cooking veggies onto the cookie sheet from which I’d just removed the meat.

The veggies cooked my more efficiently spread out like that, and soon all the veggies had some nicely browned surfaces. Once everything was cooked, I mixed the meat and vegetables together and served it all over rice.

The radish turned out to be rather sharp-tasting; none of us liked it that much and I don’t think we’ll be growing radishes any time soon. The familiar veggies: potatoes, carrots, and brussel sprouts were happily eaten, though next time I’ll add the brussel sprouts to the boiling water sooner. They would have benefitted from a bit more cooking. The surprise hit was the kohlrabi. It had a mild sweet flavor that reminded me somewhat of a squash, but with a firmer texture than squash. It was very nice and we are definitely adding it to our garden line-up.

The whole meal was gobbled quite happily with people coming back for more. My hubby said, “I would never have guessed that kohlrabi is that good.”

Hmmm….what to try next? Anyone know what to do with salsify?

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Our garden in June

I thought you might like a look at our garden this year. It is about 50 feet wide and 120 feet long. Things are growing pretty well. Here you can see the whole garden with a couple of the kids hard at work. We have a 30-minute weeding ‘party’ every morning Monday through Friday to keep things in line. It really helps to get out there on a regular basis– and to have a lot of people to help with the work.

You can see cabbage on the left. The two rows of tiny plants are peppers, both sweet and hot. Then there are our obligatory 100 tomato plants, and a good sized corn patch. The corn is almost too tall to step over, which is good because that also means it is getting close to the stage where it is obviously winning over the weeds, and we can content ourselves with weeding only the edges of the patch where we can get to them.

Here is a picture of one of our grape vines. It is a Concord grape that is growing at one end of the garden and stretches further down the fence every year. That one plant is probably covering 30 feet of fence this year. Good thing– we ran out of jelly this winter, and I am hoping to make a LOT more this year.

The apples (above) and the plums (below) are looking wonderful this year. I sprayed the apples a couple weeks ago and need to do it again soon. I try to spray about every 3 weeks during the summer. Most of our garden is organic, but there’s no such thing as a good organic apple. Plums, on the other hand, are fine without spray.

Below is one of the two volunteer zucchinis. It has a couple of zucchinis on already, tiny 3 inch long babies that will probably be perfect by the end of the week.

The cabbage is looking wonderful. Probably within a week I’ll be picking the first one.

I didn’t get pictures of our strawberries or our chard, both of which we’ve already been eating. Later this week I’ll be sharing a recipe using that chard. But for now I am headed off to bed!

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Sunday


Matthew 4:19

We’re still feeding people!

I woke up this morning to $750 more of donations, which brings our total up to $1768.57! Wow!

Our window of opportunity for my folks to deliver the money to Ethiopia is just about closed, however. If you are desperate to get the money to me, at this point you’ll have to overnight me a money order. Email me privately for details: owlhaven @ aol . com

The other option is to donate directly to the Soddo Hospital , which is where my sister and my parents will be working until August. Follow the directions on the webpage and donate to one of the funds listed. This is the hospital where Dr. Mary sends her patients when they need hospital care. In my understanding, they are a well-run organization– Dr. Mary’s husband is actually on the board of directors– and they do lots of great work there in Ethiopia.

If you are interested in reading more about the current food shortage in Ethiopia, here is an eye-opening Christian Science Monitor story. And thank you again for sharing your resources with the poverty-stricken in Ethiopia.

Final Tally

$1018.57.

Truly awesome.

On behalf of the families whose only wish is that their children survive until adulthood, I thank you.

Over and over as the donations have come in yesterday and today, people have written, “It is not much. I wish I could do more.”

Together we have done more.

9 PM

$979.16.

Can you believe it???

Wow!

8 PM

Wow!!! We are up to $698.67!! That includes $50 designated for a thermometer which I went ahead and bought on faith this afternoon from quickmedical.com. It will be here Tuesday, just in time for my folks to take it with them to Ethiopia. I am so thrilled — Dr. Mary is going to be able to help so many people!

6:30 PM

$555.67!! Woohoo!

Also today I got this email from Dr. Mary.

Thanks so much for the money that you sent with Sophie, to help with the famine relief. She gave it to me on Wednesday afternoon. The next morning I bought 200 kg of dried corn and arranged to transport it up the mountain to feed the poor there. The trip will be next Sunday, after my employee interviews the poor, distributes cards to them, and arranges for a meeting point on the premises of a church. I’m hoping to also bring high-protein supplements to feed some of the malnourished children on site. It doesn’t pay to send special food home because the kids who need it are the weak ones and the strong ones take it away from them. Even if it’s only occasionally, it’s best to feed them under my watchful eye and not allow them to leave until they are done.

That particular area is extremely impoverished because of very strong residual witchcraft practices. This affects even the Christians in the area.

Sophie went with me to clinic at a remote area on Wednesday. It was a delight to have her. She was helpful to me and also I enjoyed clinical teaching. She got some good pictures.

Thanks for being part of this with your gift.

1:45 PM Update

$435.50!   How exciting!!!

Thank you all so much!!!!!!!

Feeding Party: noon Friday

We’re up to $324.44.

Thanks so much!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!