Thursday, July 29, 2010

Happy Vegetables - or are they fruits?

So last night I could no longer put off harvesting two of my tomatoes as they were a beautiful, bright red which meant they were calling to me "PICK ME NOW! TURN ME INTO GUACAMOLE WITH A NICE AVOCADO!"

They are loud tomatoes. It's the red.

So I picked two of them and a large cucumber. I was hoping to extend my cucumber picking a little longer but this one was good sized and it looked like my cucumber plant was struggling to grow others while providing for this monster.

That is TOTALLY not an upside down happy face that I can't figure out how to fix.

Okay maybe it is. I put the quarter there in the middle for the "nose" to give you an idea of size. I think I did pretty good overall.

Something about sun ripened, on the vine tomatoes smells so earthy and wonderful.

And now I need an avocado.

Friday, July 16, 2010

Locally Grown

I was driving to work this morning listening to my local NPR station which has a Friday segment called backyard farmers. It's one of my favorite programs and one of the main reasons I tune in Friday mornings.

On the way in they talked today about In Season Market which goes beyond, in my opinion. what other local grown vendors do and source their food from no more than 250 miles away. So sometimes they dont have a lot of stuff around although it seems like they are getting more and more stuff week.

They work with local vendors and most of their vendors are found word of mouth. On the NPR program they talked about a lot of their vendors just meeting them at their exits off I-25 to pick up the food for the market.

I'm excited about this store because it shows a lot of what can be provided locally which to me is more important than "organic" because often organic is a buzz word and organic produce from Mexico (or where ever else) still had to burn a lot of oil and energy as well as cause/be a product of question work practices just to get to my table.

Also, food delivery, which is convienent if you can't go to them.

I'm excited about raspberries and beef (not together though). I wanted to plant raspberry bushes this year and it just didn't happen. I also want to buy a whole grass fed cow and store it in my freezer but that is going to take a lot of time and saving to make that happen. In the meantime I can get both at this local store.

I'm putting together a shopping list now for this weekend. At the very least I'd like to get some beef and chicken for dinner next week and maybe some raspberries for canning.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Checking in...

I was on vacation for a few days in Alaska with my husband, showing him the sites etc. For me it was a homecoming since I was born and raised in AK. For my first few years we lived out on a cabin in Wrangle-St. Elias National Forest and then later moved to Anchorage (the big city) when I was about 5.

We had a fantastic time and I'll probably post pictures in the next few days.

Something that really stuck out to me though was the temperature difference. Alaska is having a wet summer which happens since it's in the Pacific Northwest and so it's wet and cold this summer. No big deal really except for the first time I really paid attention to how things were growing.

My uncles lettuces were doing great and were colorful and full. But his tomatoes had essentially curled into a ball and while they weren't officially playing dead I would be surprised if they did anything productive in terms of fruit this year.

We stayed at a B&B whose focus was on sustainability (Berry Patch B&B in Seward, AK). She mentioned that her strawberries weren't really coming up and that her crab apple and cherry trees hadn't really flowered this year. She was predicting a less than fruitful season.

That makes me think on climate change and how a true ice age would really affect human food sources. Right now it's almost 100 in Colorado. It's in the high 50's to 60's in AK. My tomatoes are really starting to come in but I have to water almost twice a day to keep my plant from wilting. My uncle will be lucky to get A tomato.

On the other hand I was really surprised at how much actual knowledge about edibles in AK I had. Being raised the way I was for a number of years I was able to talk about wild rhubarb, crow berries, lignonberries, wild raspberries, where we used to pick wild blueberries and even about how Alaskan Roses can be used in a variety of ways from a shot of vitamin C to turning the blossoms into jam etc. I wish I had that knowledge for the place I live now.

It did make me want to purchase a wild edibles book for Colorado. While I am all about stocking up water and some food for a long term storage plan that is not an end all/be all for when the SHTF. While that may last a few days or weeks or even months if I get silly with it, ultimately, knowing what to eat and how to eat it is going to be far more valuable.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Strawberry Jam

When I was going to school and bringing my lunch I often brought a peanut butter and crabapple jelly sandwich. Our landlord, every year, gave us several jars of the stuff and I liked it. My mom went through a phase where she took a personal sabbatical and stayed home while I was in junior high so even something so small as free jelly was one less expense she had to worry about.

While my mother canned many, many, things one of the things I have no memory of her making was jam or jelly. She did pickles. She did green beans. She did spaghetti sauce. But no sweets, no jam or jelly.

With our PYO strawberries (and an assist by organic strawberries from the farmers market because I didn't QUITE have enough) I was able to make strawberry jam.

I had intended to make it with pectin as the Ball recipe gave but found out at 11pm at night that I didn't have lemon juice which was apparently vital to the process. So my choice was to dump the entire vat or find a recipe that didn't deal with pectin. I went with the alternate recipe and so my strawberry jam is VERY sweet, took a LONG time to boil down and tastes just like homemade. Literally.

I was able to can 9 8oz jars of it and have put it away in the "cold cellar" of my basement storage area under the stairs. It's thick, clumpy and delicious.

I'm debating now if I should make more from a different berry, say raspberry when the PYO has those, if I should get some cherries from the farmers market or possibly be REALLY brave and hold out for peaches later this summer. Or scrap it and say "I have 9" and be done with it.

Luckily it's not a decision I need to make at this moment but I have to tell you, that feeling of accomplishment is something I don't think I can beat any time soon.