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Category Archives: Food

Test Drives

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Fall. Winter. Spring. The seasons where there aren’t as many options to get local, regional, seasonal, fresh foods. The farmer’s markets, one by one, shut down in early November.

There are options out there, though. Here in Howard County, there are year round choices. Like Friends and Farms, who uses Individual Quick Frozen (IQF) foods from a New York farm to supplement those winter root veggies, and who contracts for citrus from the Southeast.

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Foods like these. Or their tomato puree. I started with Friends and Farms in January last year. Bought a four week subscription, a small basket. Now I am buying a 13 week subscription and using an individual basket to supplement my garden and my CSA.

My CSA, Lancaster Farm Fresh Cooperative, has a seven week fall extension. The individual share is only $20 a week, for fresh organic vegetables.

Like these from last week.

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Fennel, radishes, leeks, cauliflower (white and green, the green was in the swap box), romaine, green beans, sweet peppers and red beets. Seriously. Nine organic vegetables averaging $2.20 each. You can’t come close to this pricing in any natural food store.

Other options around here. Some we tried and liked. Some we haven’t. Love Dove Farms offers an eight week fall CSA. Breezy Willow, a spring option from March until May. Zahradka Farm, delivers a winter option to your doorstep from January through April.

If you ever considered one of these for the winter, check out the links on my Local Resources page.

Or, keep your local food sources alive by hitting the weekend farm stands, or the weekend markets that are year round. The Howard County farmer’s markets may be closing soon for the season, but you still can find small farms and businesses to supply you with the best vegetables, fruits, meat and dairy.

Tromboncino

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Quite a prolific producer and one that I will be putting in our garden next year.

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These little wonders, which can grow really long, are very hardy, and can produce far into the fall. I have had the pleasure of getting them from a friend’s garden, while they are away, and yes, even when they are here. They are such a high yield plant, they can’t keep up with the production from just a few seedlings.

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And, they love to hide in the center of the vines, where you can’t find them until they get quite large. I missed this one last week while we were food bank harvesting, and another one even bigger, at the top of one of the trellises. Thankfully, they came home and could get the latest monsters out of the vines.

This Italian heirloom is not the same as a zucchini, but is closer to the butternut squash. It is a cucurbita moschata.

What is interesting to me was finding a picture from a trip to Italy years ago.

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I never noticed the tromboncino hanging to the left of the door in the above picture. They obviously can grow to great lengths.

I have been making fritters with them. Freezing the fritters. Also freezing the shredded vegetable in two cup bags. Perfect to pull out to make bread all winter. They are a little more like yellow squash in taste, and definitely not as water logged as zucchini.

Thanks to a fellow gardener, I have a new vegetable to try. I am currently drying out some of the seeds from the last one I harvested. Next spring, I will be planting my own.

Arctic Char

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Before, during and after.

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We got arctic char today in our Friends and Farms basket. It is one of my favorite fish. A cross in taste between salmon and trout.

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It even reminds me of trout with its spotted skin.

I did a simple marinade, and a simple preparation today. To celebrate the freshness of this fish.

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Citrusy in base. With that hint of licorice from the fennel fronds. I used a tablespoon of lemon olive oil. A teaspoon of Ponzu. A tablespoon of Triple Sec. Lemon jest and juice. Salt and pepper.

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Before putting it in to bake, at 400 degrees, I added a drizzle of Asiago peppercorn dressing.

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Served with steamed green beans and goat cheese stuffed sweet peppers.

And a dynamite Chardonnay. Easily a $100 a couple at a restaurant. A fraction of that in my dining room. Easy. Quick. Absolutely satisfying in flavor.

The rest of the CSA tomorrow. But, this is a great start.

The Food Bank Garden

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For most of this summer and fall, I head out every Tuesday morning to volunteer at the Food Bank garden plot, in our community gardens at the Howard County Conservancy. Besides putting together the bags full of ripe vegetables, it has been a real learning experience for me as a gardener. I am of the opinion that we are never too old to learn new things, so whenever I can benefit from someone else’s knowledge, I jump at the chance.

This summer I learned about many new vegetables. New gardening techniques. New recipes for some of the new vegetables. I also learned while there, that a small unselfish group of people come out almost every week to give their time, and/or to add personal garden items to our donations.

This year, we have already surpassed our previous grand total. I think we are at about 3/4 ton of food donated. We have some vegetables that keep on giving, week after week for months on end.

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Like these collard greens. We are getting large bags full of these leaves every single week. And, they still keep putting out new growth. The other amazing producer is chard.

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The rainbow chard shown here has been going strong all summer. The member who gardens this plot has told us to thin it each week until a hard frost dies it off. I got pounds of this colorful vegetable yesterday.

A third big producer is kale. All sorts of kale are grown in our gardens. Tuscan. Curly. And, Russian.

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The Red Russian kale is more delicate, and buttery in flavor. Easier to cook. Kale, by the way, is even better after a first frost so we hope to have fresh food to donate for a number of weeks to come.

In early August, we replanted the area with carrots and beets.

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They aren’t quite ready to harvest yet, but we have been thinning them to let the rows have enough room for the plants to get larger. That means we harvest baby beets, or beet greens, or carrot tops. Beet greens and carrot tops. For those in the know, beet greens are one outstandingly good sautéed green. Particularly those little greens pulled out before the beets develop.

I also learned of a new variety of cabbage. Pointed cabbage. Also called sweetheart cabbage.

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We harvested six of these yesterday, and four a week ago. Another thing learned this summer. Cabbage will regenerate smaller heads if you carefully cut out the ripe large one on a plant.

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There will be small heads of cabbage forming around the center area where we removed the first one last week.

As for techniques, this one picture from our August work party, just before a dozen volunteers descended upon the gardens shows two of them I learned.

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I learned a better way to trellis tomato plants, using rebar and string. My plants this summer, heavy with fruit were causing my cages to lean. I had to resort to rebar to keep them from crashing over. I also learned how to use hoops and row cover to my advantage. To prolong a harvest, keep out harmful insects and keep frost from settling on my delicate plants.

All in all, I was given quite a bit of knowledge this summer in exchange for a few hours of work. Not a bad deal at all.

Shopping at Jenny’s Market

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Only 17 more days until Jenny’s closes for the season. I will miss popping in there to get a few things.

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They have a facebook page, which will let you know what they are featuring. If you want some pumpkins, mums, cider, fall vegetables, or are like me, and pop in for weird things like lemons, oranges and bananas. I like that quick stop for the citrus I need in cooking without having to drive 15 miles or more round trip to a grocery store.

Today I wanted some apple cider, and bananas for breakfast, and scallions because, again, I ran out of them.

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Jenny’s sells Baughers cider from right up Rte 32 in Westminster. Half gallons and gallons.

I came home with what I needed, including a couple of oranges, to use my baby fennel from last week’s CSA basket. And, I got seduced by the huge sweet green grapes.

I will have to remember to stop in and pick up a few last things before they shut down for the season. And wish them a happy and healthy winter until they reopen in May.

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Jenny’s is right off Rte. 32 at the Burnt Woods interchange. Take the exit and head to the northeast corner on Ivory Rd. Look for the brightly colored pumpkins, gourds and mums telling us fall is truly here.

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Under the Weather

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Literally and figuratively. It is dreary and rainy, and since Tuesday I have been battling one heck of a head cold. Thankfully, even though nothing tastes very good, having that stocked freezer has made it bearable. And, kept my husband fed.

I didn’t blog about my CSA and Friends&Farms pickup very much. I really did minimal work to put it all away, and went back to my soups and my tea with honey. Local honey, even. See, you can be a locavore while sick.

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Today I feel somewhat back to normal, but the weather outside is so crummy, I just still want to hibernate and make something warm and comforting.

Best advice to those who want to minimize work while feeling awful. Freeze some soups. Those turkey drumsticks from the local farm, Maple Lawn, made the basis for one dinner and two lunches this week.

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I was originally going to pull out the cauliflower leek soup I made a while back, but, for the first time in four years, I had a Mason jar crack in the freezer. Luckily, it kept intact and was easy to dispose. I am really careful about not overfilling but this one just “popped”.

While in my clean up mode to check the baskets that hold my soups, I inadvertently left one out. A chunky tomato sauce. Found it a few hours later. It was happily defrosting, so it became chili last night.

It was that pint of sauce, a couple of peppers and onions, the last of a hanger steak made early in the week before I got this cold. I had planned to do fajitas again, but this was easy. Chopped the steak into cubes. Added it to the pot, with a can of Harris Teeters organic chili beans. Spices. I make ahead a chili fixing mix of dried spices. It simmered in a pot while I watched the news and we had another freezer-provided simple meal.

But back to the food we got Thursday that I now have to use. Having little appetite doesn’t help in the food department. Here’s how I am coping with it.

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Friends and Farms individual basket is definitely manageable. The onion went into the chili. The apples were baked (super simple, halve, core, season with butter, maple syrup and nutmeg, bake). The Asian pears are ripe enough for my husband to snack on. The rosemary, will become seasoning for some lamb tomorrow night. The green beans were steamed and eaten with dinner, the night we had some smoked kielbasa, steamed cabbage, beans, and the apples were dessert. The greens, of course, the lunch salads around here which make greens disappear quickly.

I didn’t photograph the chicken breasts or the pork chop or the half pound of smoked bacon and eggs. All put away too fast.

I now need to deal with the CSA surplus, because here is where I got more than we can use. Feeling rotten and eating just a cup of soup doesn’t put a dent in that haul.

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It may have been many baby veggies, but it was still quite a large quantity.

I am thinking of making hummus with some of those baby veggies as flavor. Eggplant and peppers. Besides that, cut, blanch and freeze the mixed sweet peppers. Roast those beets for salads. Shave fennel into salads.

I may have to cry “uncle” and give away a few items. I rarely get to that point, as we can make use of most of what we get. Being retired and having lunches and dinners home the majority of the week, that’s how we do it.

I do know that when the fall CSA ends just before Christmas, I will be very glad to have that stash in the freezer, to tide us over until the next season begins.

Baby Veggies

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It seems to be the week of the baby vegetable around here.

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They are cute, aren’t they? And often they cost a premium price. Interesting, though, now that I have a large garden, I figured it out. Baby veggies sometimes are those “rejects” which come about when you are thinning the plants. Like my arugula. The chard. The kale. All produced “baby” veggies when I was harvesting every other one, in order to give the others room to grow.

Now, baby eggplants? I’m wondering about those. Also, those lovely colorful peppers. When my garden didn’t get the sun it needed, I had lots of veggies that looked like them.

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How about baby fennel and baby red bok choy? Two other items this week in my CSA basket. Let’s move on to fruit.

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Kiwi berries. Look just like baby kiwis.

This week’s basket was fun to discover. I just need to think about what to do with all those peppers and eggplants. More tomorrow, after I ponder a strategy.

I do love that basket full of color and sunshine. Too bad they can’t be preserved to look that great forever. They would make a really nice centerpiece.

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