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Category Archives: Howard County

Small Packages

As in good things come in small packages. If you were an individual, or a working couple who traveled or ate out more than twice a week, a CSA wasn’t always a good fit.

For us, having the option to pick a half share, or an individual basket at two local food sources here in Howard County, has been really enlightening. It gives us more freedom, while giving us affordable fresh fruits, vegetables, meats, dairy, bread and herbs.

We, being retired, do like having both options. An individual basket from Friends and Farms, and a half share CSA from the Lancaster Farm Fresh Cooperative.

Here’s what we got and what we are doing with this week’s Friends and Farms share.

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This is the vegetable and bread portion. Two lovely large red peppers. Five peaches. Two ears of corn. Green beans. Garlic. An onion. Two heirloom tomatoes. A loaf of honey whole wheat bread.

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The green beans and corn were steamed for dinner tonight.

As for the protein.

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Yellowfin tuna. I did order an extra piece as the individual share only gives you one portion. A small tri tip steak. Scamorza cheese, a take on mozzarella.

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The tuna was slow cooked tonight with one of the tomatoes, and one of my heirloom pineapple tomatoes. Covered with lemon zest, olive oil, white wine vinegar and herbs.

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Definitely a good start to using the basket. Tomorrow night. Grilled tri tip, with leftover mushrooms from last week. Caprese salad using the other tomato and some of the scamorza.

The peppers, along with some eggplant from my other source, will become a dip this weekend.

I like the way my two sources complement one another. Easy, seasonal fresh food.

T’storms

As in one of the more prolific storms that have hit us this summer. Almost half an inch of rain in ten minutes last night.

To me, thunderstorms and massively heavy rainfall impact my garden. To me, that garden is a luxury and not my life. I feel for all our local farmers dealing with these deluges.

At least I got most of my tomatoes off the vine yesterday morning, before the skies opened.

I did learn one very important lesson from my winery friend. When the weather is periods of heavy rain for much of the summer, leave your weeds around your vegetables. Some vegetables, like my tomatoes, don’t like more than an inch of rain a week. The weeds compete for all that moisture, and the tomatoes do better. In periods of drought, you need to weed aggressively.

This year, the weeds may look bad, but they are keeping my tomato plants from rotting.

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I have learned also to go out there and pick the tomatoes before they really split open, and are prone to rotting.

Every year poses new challenges. This year, cool rainy weather. Did you know we never hit 90 degrees here in August until the last day of the month?

Whole Foods

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Opened in Howard County ten days ago. Now, I suppose we are complete as a upscale grocery store containing county. We have the Whole Foods, Trader Joe’s, Wegmans trilogy.

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Everyone knows that I support small local businesses, mostly family owned, but still, there is something about stepping into one of these specialty grocers that brings the “foodie” side to the forefront. We headed off Monday morning to have an early lunch and see if Whole Foods had a few items I can’t find at other stores.

First of all, you can’t beat the view from the “dining” area.

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Second, where else in a food store do you find flowers on the tables?

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I think they did an excellent job of transforming the former Rouse Building into something exciting, open and interesting. I also have to give them credit for using local purveyors and acknowledging it.

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We tried a link of each of the two homemade lamb sausages, one Greek and one Moroccan. The verdict, liked the Merguez, and tossed the Lukanika. It had way too funky of a smell to it. Not a good fit.

I also got caught up in trying the handmade gnocchi. The spinach one.

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Made it for dinner, with meatballs. Used some of my freshly made sage butter for the pasta.

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All in all, it will be a place we use to find bulk items, like spices, rice, grains, nuts. They have a very large selection. The seafood also looks good. Right now, I head to Wegmans for seafood, but Whole Foods is closer.

And, Friday morning at 9:30, it was easy to pop in and grab a few hard rolls for an egg salad lunch, and some pita for my eggplant dip. I do like their bakery items.

First impressions. Favorable.

Refrigerator Pickles

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I had many jars of pickles ready to take to Saturday’s program. I have discovered the fun of pickling vegetables so you don’t have to spend large amounts of money at the local stores to buy those items so loved on antipasto trays.

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I’ve been all over the map in terms of the ratios I use to make refrigerator pickles. I’ve also used crocks in the past to make pickles. These I did put in the hot water bath in order to have them stay fresh longer, but I keep them in the refrigerator no matter how I make them. Thankfully we have a small beverage refrigerator under a counter in the laundry room. Lots of stuff gets stored there.

I like my pickles garlicky and sour. I use very little sugar, if at all. Sometimes I do buy pickling spices, but mostly I just throw in whatever is still in the spice rack. I use garlic (or once I used scapes). I use garlic powder. I use salt, pepper, mustard seeds, dill (fresh or dried, whatever is here). Sometimes allspice, whole.

I use a heavy vinegar mix. Two parts vinegar to one part water. Some people like one to one ratio. Figure on four to five ounces of mix for every pint jar. I boil it all together, and sterilize the jars in the dishwasher. A small pot sterilized my lids and seals. For refrigerator pickles, meant to be eaten in a few months, and never left out of the fridge, I don’t use the hot water bath for processing.

The jars above hold some of my shallots. Some sweet peppers. Dill pickles. I have also processed swiss chard stems. Zucchini. Beets in a mix that does include candied ginger and a cinnamon stick.

Be creative. Next I am doing another mix of yellow and red peppers.

Today though, we checked out the Whole Foods Market pickling “bar”.

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My husband picked out some of them to try. Caper berries? Green beans. How about carrots? All sorts of ideas.

My Out of Control Garden

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To go along with the out of control kitchen. I should have known. Doubling the size of my garden, and doubling the amount of sunlight daily would result in a quadrupling of the amount of tomatoes we harvest.

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The ten pounds of tomatoes harvested yesterday. To join that ten pounds from Friday. All told, more than 76 pounds of tomatoes so far this year.

The zucchinis are still producing. So are the cucumbers.

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And I really should have entered that big one in the fair. At 1 3/4 pounds I think it would have gotten second place. The winner, I believe, was 1.9 pounds.

We have tomatoes for at least two meals a day. The oven roasting, oven drying, tomato sauce, salad making, gifts, etc. are hardly making a dent in it. I had more plants last year with less than half this harvest.

Note to self. Do NOT plant this many tomatoes next year.

I have been busy. Pickling. Canning. Cooking. I even slow cooked a dozen onions to make caramelized onions to freeze.

Since I am doing the event at the Howard County Conservancy next week, I am creating a page to use as my “handout”, for participants to use for referral after coming to the event.

The page, which you can see above the posts, will include recipes and technique posts. The focus of my blog posts for the next ten days will be the advice I am providing relative to the “Putting Food Away” event.

After all, when your garden goes nuts, you need to find something to do with all this food.

Blue Ribbon Herbs

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My second blue ribbon ever.

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Again for my herbs.

I have lots more from the fair, but this year again my herbs were the star of my entries. Again, my heirlooms fell short, but I did get three more fourth place ribbons and a fifth place ribbon.

My favorite:

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Fifth place for my ornamental vegetable display. This is the first time I did an ornamental display. I am learning from the other participants how to arrange what I submit. I was pleased to get the ribbon though.

As for the fourth places, they included:

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My yellow plum tomatoes.

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My yellow onions.

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And for most unusual vegetable. My cardoons.

I’m happy. I did twelve entries and won five ribbons. Not a bad return on investment, so to speak.

I love participating in the county fair. It’s small enough to not be intimidating, but large enough to have some serious competition. The people are really nice and help us newer entrants.

If I could only get my heirloom tomatoes to ripen in time, I would be ecstatic.

We will be at the fair at least four days, maybe five. We love to watch the 4-H’ers show their animals.

We visited our friends in the barn, and checked out some of their daughter’s animals. Like her lambs.

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All decked out to keep nice and clean before they are shown.

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And, some of their goats.

Tomorrow we will go and visit, seeing how their pigs are doing. They weren’t there yet, yesterday. I am so impressed with the dedication of the 4-H’ers to their animals.

To us. the fair isn’t about the midway and the rides, it’s about the community.

A Very Productive Day

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At least in the gardening world that is the center of my days.

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Bright and early today I was out for my last week as food bank coordinator. Getting all the wheelbarrows ready for collecting the harvest. Additionally we were clearing out beds to ready for fall planting. Add to that the collection of vegetables for the lucky winner of the Wine in the Garden auction. They got a basket full of fresh vegetables again.

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We had a large group there today. Probably ten of us. Maybe even a dozen. We harvested all the beets, carrots, cabbage and leeks. Then pulled the plants from the beds and readied them for planting. Weeded quite a bit too.

Our donation today was 110 pounds. I think this entire month we had at least 100 pounds of vegetables each week to take to the Howard County Food Bank. Today’s volunteer driver met some of the people waiting for the food bank to open, who expressed their thanks for what we donate.

We heard that our vegetables are greatly appreciated, as they are fresh and pesticide free.

Hats off to our volunteers today. We put in two to three hours of work each today. The gardens are flourishing in this lovely weather.

After my time in the food bank plots, I headed off to bring home my last leeks and a boatload of tomatoes.

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This is part of it. My “audition” tray for my county fair decisions. Which cherry tomatoes do I choose? Will I get enough medium tomatoes to enter? What are my best plum tomatoes?

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And, hooray, I got my first ripe heirlooms today. Two each of two different varieties. With a half dozen more close to ripening on the vines. Friday I have to decide which ones to enter.

Now, off to process those other tomatoes. The ones not pretty enough to enter.

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Yes, there are that many tomatoes sitting in my kitchen today. That’s not all, though.

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A basket of goodies for my neighbor, who lets us borrow assorted items, like his ten foot ladder.

Just another Tuesday in west county.

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