Tuesday, November 22, 2011


Just picked up 3.5 pounds of freshly-picked chanterelle mushrooms. Yay, Thanksgiving feasting!

Friday, November 18, 2011

A Symbiotic Relationship

I've mentioned before that my dad grew up on a farm.  I loved going to visit my grandparents and wander up and down the rows of fruit trees or marvel at the beautiful colors of the farm stand.  One of the sites I remember, just downhill of the peaches I think, was a collection of white wooden boxes.  These were the beehives that lived on the farm.
Wildflowers a.k.a. bee food

A recent study by Food Safety News found that most honey you can buy in the grocery store doesn't actually contain any pollen.  What are these bees eating?  Apparently, a lot of the mass honey producers ultra-filter their honey prior to bottling so that customers can have nice, clear honey.  (That's the straightforward reason- for the conspiratorial reason you can check the article (whether or not the conspiracy exists is a moot point to me, I am actively uninterested in conspiracy theories)). 

The unfortunate thing about ultra-filtered honey is that pollen is a required ingredient of honey, as defined by the FDA.  Also, pollen adds enzymes and antioxidants which can be incorporated into your diet.  But most importantly (as far as I'm concerned), different pollens create different flavors of honey!  Why would we want a uniform honey taste when we could have clover or orange blossom or wildflower honey?

I always buy honey at the farmer's market from my local beekeepers - orange blossom is my favorite.  I like to support my local community, encourage bees around our farms, and eat locally.  These are the reasons I purchase local honey, but now I can add a desire for pollen-full honey to that list.  And that brings me back to the farm.

My grandfather wasn't a beekeeper and he didn't produce the honey that came out of the small colony of beehives.  A local beekeeper did.  Grampa provided the land and the pollen, the beekeeper provided the bees.  Crop fertilization on our farm was improved and a local beekeeper produced honey.  I think that is one of the better examples of a symbiotic relationship between humans I have ever found in real life.  Let's support that type of relationship and eat local honey.

Friday, November 11, 2011

November Cucumbers!

It happened.  It finally happened.  Cucumbers!!!!

A baby Painted Serpent cucumber, my all-time favorite variety

After more than 5 months in the ground, my plants finally decided to produce some cucumbers.  How crazy is that?  I should be telling you about quick-pickled cucumbers and tzatziki sauce and white gazpacho made with homegrown cucumbers, but none of those feel like mid-November dishes.  Because, cuke season is supposed to be done by mid-November, not just starting.

I'm not sure what went wrong in the cucumber department this year.  In the past I've had a decent harvest, if not a bumper crop.  The main thing I did differently in 2011 was set them up on drip irrigation.  I had only one drip going to each cuke and perhaps that wasn't enough.  The squash plants each had two drips and the melons had a drip line rather than a point source.  If I had to do it again, I think I'd put a ring of drip line around the base of the cucumbers.

Regardless of what went wrong, I am just ecstatic to get some cucumbers from the MKG before I turn it over to the new owner.  Now I just need to decide how to honor the harvest in the kitchen...

My first Diva cucumber, a little small, but ready for harvest
p.s. Happy Palindrome Date!

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

October 2011 MKG Harvest

October harvest:
Mortgage Lifter, Snow White, Pineapple tomatoes
Tequila peppers
Carbon and San Marzano tomatoes

October was punctuated by tomatoes.  Lots and lots of tomatoes.  Even after a decade in California, it still feels wrong that tomatoes are coming in fresh off the vines when it should be fall already.  In fact, here we are in November and I still have tomatoes ready for harvest.  I have to remind myself that the reason the harvest continues is that it didn't start until the standard season was practically over.  There was opportunity for more harvesting during October, but I got too busy to do the MKG justice.  I hope to remedy that in November while the garden still seems to think it's July.

October 2011 MKG Harvest

2 Tequila peppers @ 4.4 oz
9 Mortgage Lifter tomatoes @ 8 lb 8.9 oz
8 Pineapple tomatoes @ 7 lb 0.1 oz
18 Carbon tomatoes @ 5 lb 14.8 oz
21 San Marzano Roma tomatoes @ 5 lb 5.4 oz
16 Snow White tomatoes @ 1 lb 6.7 oz

...which results in a Grand Total of 28 lbs 3.4 oz of tomatoes.  In October.  This is totally bananas.

Friday, November 4, 2011

On Cooking a Heritage Turkey

"Did someone say turkey?"

Thanksgiving, perhaps my all-time favorite holiday (the whole point is to celebrate family and food - what could possibly be better?!?), is a mere three weeks away!  If you are hosting this year and want to serve a heritage breed turkey, now is the time to order one.  More and more specialty stores are starting to carry heritage turkeys, but not so many that you can walk in and pick one up.  Order ahead!

When ordering a heritage bird, you need to be a little flexible.  The options I got were for a 7-14 pound bird, a 14-20 pound bird, or a 20+ pound bird.  That's a wide range of poundage.  But if you talk to the butcher, he or she can probably narrow it down to the size you want once the birds start coming in.  It looks like we'll have 12-14 people this year so I went with the 14-20 pound bird (bring on the leftovers), but I expect to get a bird between 14 and 16 pounds.

Last year was my first year cooking a heritage breed turkey, a Bourbon Red.  A Bourbon Red turkey is not the same thing as your standard supermarket turkey.  For one thing, the flesh really is pink.  This caused a bit of a fuss last year.  We took the turkey out of the oven based on the temperature reading of the thermometer and started to carve.  The turkey was pink.  It was decided (by the cadre of folks milling in the kitchen) that this turkey clearly wasn't done and back into the oven it went.  Alas, it was more done than we thought and in the end, the turkey was dried out and overcooked.  So here's your word of warning- A Bourbon Red Turkey is Red!  Shocking, I know.  Don't expect the white meat to be white, because it's going to be pink.  Trust that good old thermometer.  Also, look for the juices to run clear (not pink).

Another difference is in the flavor of the meat.  The bird has a higher dark-meat-to-white-meat ratio than your standard turkey and therefore it is much more flavorful.  Also, be careful as the breast is smaller and may have a tendency to dry out.  I brined our bird for two days but still ended up with a dry bird, though as I explained above, this was mostly due to operator error.  I read several recipes last year that called for separating the legs and the breasts so that the heritage turkey would cook more evenly.  I think this would have helped, though I just can't imagine Thanksgiving without a nice, big, bird to carve into.

The game plan for this year is to try to avoid the mistakes of last year.  Firstly, I will not be drunk by the time the turkey comes out of the oven: "Sure, throw it back in for another half hour! Sounds good to me!  Where's the Pinot?"  Secondly, I will again brine the turkey and hope this helps.  Lastly, I will watch the temperature like a hawk and trust the thermometer to know when the meat is cooked, rather than rely on the color of the flesh.  This site has a nice selection of recipes for your heritage turkey.  Here's hoping for a more successful and delicious Bourbon Red in 2011!

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Of Bow Ties and Bulldogs

I'm feeling like this:

Like a tired bulldog who just wants to take a nap with her bow ties.  Is that so much to ask for?

Apparently I have greatly underestimated the time and energy required to move an entire pair of lives (plus mongrels) overseas.  Every day I look at the calendar and think "Ooo! It's one day closer to moving to Scotland!" immediately followed by "My dear sweet Jesus, how on earth is this actually going to happen?"  Yup.  That's my world.  Wake up, rinse, and repeat.

So how, precisely, did I think I could carve out time to plant lettuce, carrots and radishes for Thanksgiving???  I believe I must be delusional.  Two weeks have passed and no seeds or seedlings have entered the garden.  It is clearly time to give up on the root crops, but I am holding out hope that I can still manage to get the lettuces into the garden in time (see above regarding delusional).  We'll see if that actually happens.  Thankfully, I live (for now) in the world of the year-round farmer's market so I know that I can always pick up anything I need in time for the holidays.

Meanwhile, my nieces (owners of the photogenic bulldog) built a snowman back east.  What?  Before Halloween?  I remember the year it snowed at Thanksgiving (in coastal Connecticut) and we were ecstatic to go run around the yard with the cousins before it all melted.  Yet out here I still have a bunch of tomatoes hanging off the vines, peppers of every variety, eggplants, and squash ready to harvest.  I better enjoy all this summer-veg-in-fall now because this will not be happening in my future Glaswegian Garden. 

Wish me luck with that Thanksgiving planting...
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