THE BEST PART OF SUMMER

By Engrid Winslow

Photo of fresh corn on hte cob.

Image by Couleur from Pixabay

“The first ear of corn, eaten like a typewriter, means summer to me—intense, but fleeting.” ― Michael Anthony

There are two flavors of summer that I will unapologetically eat until bursting with absolutely no apologies because they haunt my food memories in the dead of winter. One is tomatoes fresh from the garden and the other is corn.

Sweet corn is a vegetable that originated in the Americas and has spread worldwide. Originally referred to as maize the cultivation of corn was introduced in South America from Mexico in two waves: the first, more than 6000 years ago, spread through the Andes. Evidence of cultivation in Peru has been found dating to about 6700 years ago. The second wave, about 2000 years ago, spread corn through the lowlands of South America. Around 4,500 B.C., maize began to spread to the north; it was first cultivated in what is now the United States at several sites in New Mexico and Arizona, about 4,100 B.C.

During the first millennium AD, maize cultivation spread more widely in the areas north. In particular, the large-scale adoption of maize agriculture and consumption in eastern North America took place about A.D. 900. Native Americans cleared large forest and grassland areas for the new crop.

Corn is used in many foods including grits (in the South), polenta (in Italy), cornstarch, chowder, cornbread, cornflake cereal, hominy, popcorn, corn dogs, tamales and tortillas. But fresh corn on the cob has to be the most popular and is a sure sign of summer.

Be sure to visit a farm stand that picks their corn daily and cook and eat it on the same day it was picked. The intensity of flavor will be at its peak and you won’t want to go back to the supermarket for corn ever again. Resist the urge to open the ears as that can cause the ears to dry out. Just feel for firm kernels and fill up your bag to overflowing with fresh, delicious sweet corn.

Last year a friend shared her secret to cooking corn easily and I now use this method exclusively. Instead of boiling a pot of water, shucking the corn and trying to remove all of the silk, use your microwave. Just pop un-shucked corn into the microwave for 4 minutes per ear, up to four ears at a time (16 minutes). Let cool slightly and then see how easily the shucks and silk come off the cooked ears. From there you can do all sorts of things with it. It’s easy to scrape off the kernels with a sharp knife and stash them in the freezer to bring back a taste of summer when you need it the most.

Here is one of my favorite ways to combine my two summer favorites – corn and tomatoes. It is delicious and you will want to make it as often as possible while these two summer vegetables are at their peak.

CORN AND TOMATO SALAD

Serves 2-4

Slice one pint of cherry tomatoes and salt generously (at least 1 teaspoon)

4 ears of corn, prepared as above and scraped from the cob

6-7 leaves of fresh basil, chiffonade

The key to this mixture is to set the salted tomatoes to the side for at least 30 minutes so that the tomatoes give up some of their juice and become slightly jammy.  Add cooled corn and basil and enjoy. It keeps well and is one of the best things you will ever eat.

There are many add-ons you can do for this salad. It’s great with a few squeezes of lime juice, a drizzle of olive oil, or you can add chopped sweet onions, drained and rinsed black beans and cotija cheese for a great vegetarian taco or salsa fresca for fish tacos, a dip or topping on grilled fish or chicken. You can also substitute the cilantro, chopped parsley or thyme for the basil.

“A light wind swept over the corn, and all nature laughed in the sunshine. “ Anne Bronte

Picture of a packet of Golden Bantam Corn seeds.

 

FOR THE LOVE OF LEEKS

By Engrid Winslow

Photo of sliced leeks.

Image by Susann Wagner from Pixabay

“If you can mock a leek, you can eat a leek!” ― William Shakespeare, Henry V

Since you planted leeks in the spring, now is the time to pat yourself on the back and enjoy the harvest. One of the simplest ways to enjoy leeks is to sauté them in butter and olive oil with mild peppers. It is also a good idea to slice them thinly and freeze them for adding to soups and stews during the winter.

Leeks are related to onions as they are both in the Allium family) but have a much more mild flavor. The Hebrew Bible talks of leeks, and reports it as abundant in Egypt. Dried specimens have been discovered at archaeological sites in ancient Egypt along with wall carvings and drawings, which indicate that the leek was a part of the Egyptian diet from at least the second millennium BCE. Texts also show that it was grown in Mesopotamia from the beginning of the second millennium BCE. The leek was a favorite vegetable of the Roman Emperor Nero, who consumed it in soup or in oil, believing it beneficial to the quality of his voice.

Some of the most common uses of Leek are as an ingredient of cock-a-leekie soup, leek and potato soup, and vichyssoise, as well as plain leek soup. But here are a couple of other ways for you to enjoy your harvest of leeks:

 

LEEKS AND CHICKEN

Serves 4

4 TBL extra-virgin olive oil                                             4 medium leeks, white and tender green parts, thinly sliced

1 lb cremini mushrooms, sliced thinly                      2 lbs boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut in 2-inch pieces

¼ cup flour, plus 1 TBL more, if needed                  3 cups chicken stock

1 tsp fresh thyme, leaves only                                   2 TBL nonfat plain Greek yogurt

4 tsp Dijon mustard                                                         1/3 cup water

Salt and pepper

Heat 2 Tablespoons of oil in a skillet and add leeks, sauté for a few minutes until they begin to wilt, then add 1/3 cup of water and cover. Let the leeks steam for up to7 minutes until very soft and melted, stirring every minute. Add the mushrooms and season with salt and pepper. Cover and cook until the mushrooms are tender, about 5 minutes. Empty leeks and mushrooms into a separate bowl or plate.

Season chicken with salt and pepper and toss in ¼ cup of flour. Heat remaining oil in skillet and brown chicken until golden brown, add stock and thyme and simmer until chicken is just cooked through (about 1 more minute). Transfer chicken to bowl with vegetables.

Simmer the stock over moderate heat until reduced by half, 4-5 minutes. If the sauce is not thick enough, mix  1 tablespoon flour into vegetables and chicken. If too thick, add additional stock. Return vegetables and chicken to skillet and simmer until warmed through, about one minute. Blend yogurt and mustard together and stir into the stew. Season with salt and pepper, if needed and serve over rice.Leek, Organic American Flag

PLEASE PASS THE PEAS

By Engrid WinslowOrganic Oregon Sugar Pod Pea Pea, Green Arrow

 

“How luscious lies the pea within the pod” – Emily Dickson wrote and most of us would agree that fresh peas are a hallmark of early summer produce. The origin of peas is shrouded in mystery as it is a food plant so ancient that the earliest preserved specimens date from 9750 BCE in Thailand. Peas are legumes and of the family Fabaceae and is the third largest of the flowering plant families.

The ancient Greeks and Romans grew peas and hot pea soup was peddled in the streets of Athens while fried peas were sold to spectators instead of popcorn at the Coliseum in Rome. They were popular in England in the middle ages and there were to primary varieties – one was a field pea to be fed to animals and the other was called the “greene pea” and appeared often at the dinner table. The pea arrived in the Americas with Christopher Columbus and was part of the early colonist’s kitchen gardens.

Peas are easy to grow and can be succession planted to extend the harvest, they are delicious additions to salads, soups and eaten alone. The varieties are many, including shelling peas and sweet sugar snaps as well as the snow pea used in Asian cooking. “All the essentials of life,” according to Winston Churchill, are only four: hot baths, cold champagne, old brandy and new peas.

Here are a couple of classic recipes to help you enjoy the bounty of fresh peas:

 

CORNUCOPIA SALAD

Serves 4 as a Vegetarian Main Course

 

1 bunch torn arugula

1 bunch torn butterhead lettuce

½ lb sugar snap peas, string removed

1 cup cooked black beans

1 cup diced buffalo mozzarella

16-20 halved cherry tomatoes

Kernels from 2 ears of cooked corn

½ cup diced red bell pepper

 

For Vinaigrette:

2 TBL red wine vinegar                                   1 TBL Dijon mustard

2 TBL balsamic vinegar                                   ½ tsp salt

2 TBL lime juice                                                 ½ tsp freshly ground black pepper

1 TBL lime zest                                                   2 TBL chopped roasted red bell pepper

¼ cup minced red onion                                                6 TBL olive oil

2 TBL chopped fresh basil                             6 TBL canola oil

1 TBL minced fresh parsley                          2 TBL water

 

ENGLISH PEAS WITH PROSCIUTTO AND POTATOES

Serves 3 or 4

 

½ lb new potatoes, scrubbed and cut into ½ inch dice

3 oz. chopped prosciutto, pancetta or bacon

2 lbs shelled fresh English peas

½ small onion, finely chopped

1 small handful of fresh mint leaves

Extra virgin olive oil

Salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste

 

Put potatoes in a medium pot with water to cover by one inch and one tablespoon of salt. Bring to a boil and simmer gently for 10-12 minutes until potatoes are tender. Drain.

Heat a small glug of olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat and add onion and prosciutto and a pinch of salt. Saute until onion is soft and fragrant and prosciutto has rendered some fat and is turning crisp around the edges, about 5 minutes.

Add the peas and potatoes and season generously with salt and pepper. Add 2 tablespoons of water to help steam cook the peas for another 4-5 minutes until they are tender and the flavors have come together.

Toss in the fresh mint and drizzle with a bit more olive oil and additional salt and pepper to taste.

 

 

 

OKRA IS NOT AS YUCKY AS SOME MIGHT THINK

By Engrid WinslowA pile of green Okra pods.

If you grew up in the South, as I did, you loved okra as an essential ingredient in gumbo. If you didn’t then you might think it is “slimy” but okay if coated in batter and deep fried. Well, you have been treating this amazing vegetable all wrong. First of all, the plants are really pretty and the flowers are fabulous, looking a lot like a hibiscus bloom, and can be grown as a 3-4 foot tall annual flower.

Okra probably originated somewhere around Ethiopia and was cultivated by the ancient Egyptians around the 12th century B.C. Its cultivation spread throughout North Africa, Arabia and the Middle East. The seed pods were eaten cooked, and the seeds were toasted and ground and used as a coffee substitute.

The plant spread around the shores of the Mediterranean Sea and eastward and was introduced to the Americas by ships plying the Atlantic slave trade in the mid-1600s when its presence was recorded in Brazil. It was further documented in Suriname in 1686. Okra may have been introduced to southeastern North America from Africa in the early 18th century. By 1748, it was being grown as far north as Philadelphia. Thomas Jefferson noted it was well established in Virginia by 1781.

It’s best to grow okra yourself if you can (or purchase them directly from a farmer) to ensure that the pods are fresh, tender and not overly large. Okra pods are best when harvested at 1-2 inches. Any larger than that and they are fibrous and not so tasty. The plants are easy to grow in most climates as long as they are planted after the danger of frost is past. They are prolific, grow quickly, and several plants can produce a handful or two of the pods nearly every day. Store them in the vegetable bin of your refrigerator for up to 4 days until you have enough to prepare one of these great recipes. Okra is especially adept at soaking up surrounding flavors, making great for Indian and Asian dishes. Give okra a second chance and you might just be surprised.

One of the best ways to cook okra is to toss the pods with a little olive oil, salt and pepper and spread on a rimmed baking sheet. Roast at 400 degrees for 12- 15 minutes, shaking pan half-way through until the pods are lightly browned on the edges.

Pan Fried Okra with Indian Spices

(Serves 4 as a side dish)

25-30 medium sized okra pods, sliced                     5 TBL butter

¼ tsp ground ginger                                                        ¼ tsp cumin

¼ tsp ground coriander                                                 salt and pepper to taste

Melt the butter in a skillet, Add okra and spices and sauté until okra is soft, 15-20 minutes. Season with salt and pepper before serving.Okra, Organic Clemson Spineless

Picadilly Okra

                                                                                                                                                (Serves 4-6 as a side dish)

 

2 Qt. fresh okra, chopped                                            1 medium onion, chopped

1 red bell pepper, chopped                                         1 1 lb. can of crushed or chopped tomatoes

¼ tsp sugar                                                                         ¼ tsp olive oil

Salt and black pepper to taste

Sauté the onion and bell pepper in the olive oil for 4-5 minutes on medium heat, stirring frequently until softened. Add the tomatoes, okra, sugar, salt and pepper and cook, covered, over low heat for 45 minutes. Stir occasionally. Check and correct seasoning before serving. May be frozen.

CELEBRATE ST. PATRICKS DAY WITH IRISH SODA BREAD

Photo of a round loaf of Irish soda bread

Image by HomeMaker from Pixabay

By Engrid Winslow

Picture of two shamrock leaves

Image by Rebekka D from Pixabay

The tradition of Irish soda bread is a much newer invention than the celebration of St. Patrick’s Day which began in 400 B.C.  A bread made without yeast to leaven it was first reported in the Americas when settlers and indigenous people used potash before the invention of baking soda in the mid-1800s. Due to Ireland’s financial strife and lack of access to ingredients, the inspiration for Irish Soda Bread was one of necessity. It made use of the most basic and inexpensive ingredients available: “soft” wheat flour, baking soda, salt, and soured milk. For soda bread, “soft” wheat flour, a low-gluten variety of flour used in most quick bread recipes, is ideal, rather than the hard wheat flour most likely to be found in a yeasted bread. And, since Ireland’s unique climate is only suitable to growing wheat of the soft variety, soda bread became a perfect match for Irish cooks.

Soda bread was also an ideal Irish recipe as even families who lived in the most isolated of areas with little access to cooking equipment were able to create this simple and filling dish. Since many of the lower-class and farmhouse kitchens had no ovens, the bread was cooked in iron pots or on griddles over open hearths. This unique cooking method resulted in the signature dense texture, hard crust, and slight sourness that soda bread is known for.

The traditional mark of a cross on the top was adopted for superstitious reasons. It was believed that if a cross was cut on the top of the bread it would ward off evil and protect the household. The shape of the loaves varies by region. Southern Irish regions bake their loaves in the traditional fashion—round with a crossed top— and Northern regions divide their dough into four pieces and cook triangle-shaped flat breads (also known as Farl) on a griddle.

Modern recipes for Irish soda bread usually use buttermilk instead of sour milk and have other ingredients added such as butter, egg, currants, raisins, or nuts. Here is a traditional recipe followed by one that is richer due to some of those other mix-ins. Both recipes are a delicious accompaniment to green beer!

 

Traditional Irish Soda Bread                                        (one round loaf)

 4 cups unbleached white flour                                                   1 TBL salt

1 tsp baking soda                                                                             ¾ tsp baking powder

1 ½ – 2 cups buttermilk

Combine dry ingredients and mix thoroughly then add enough buttermilk to make a soft dough. Knead on a lightly floured board for 2-3 minutes until velvety and smooth. Place in a well-buttered 8 inch cake pan. Cut a cross on the top with a serrated knife and bake at 375 for 40 to 50 minutes. The loaf should have a hollow sound when rapped on the bottom.

Irish Soda Bread                                                               (one round loaf)

  • 4 cups unbleached flour plus an extra tablespoon for currants
  • 4 tablespoons sugar
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) cold unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch dice
  • 1 3/4 cups cold buttermilk
  • 1 extra-large egg , lightly beaten
  • 1 teaspoon grated orange zest
  • 1 cup dried currants
  1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Line a sheet pan with parchment paper.
  2. Combine the flour, sugar, baking soda, and salt in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment.
  3. Add the butter and mix on low speed until the butter is mixed into the flour.
  4. With a fork, lightly beat the buttermilk, egg, and orange zest together in a measuring cup. With the mixer on low speed, slowly add the buttermilk mixture to the flour mixture.
  5. Combine currants with flour and then add to the dough which will be quite wet.
  6. Dump the dough onto a well-floured board and knead it a few times into a round loaf.
  7. Place the loaf on the prepared sheet pan and lightly cut an X into the top of the bread with a serrated knife. Bake for 45 to 55 minutes, or until a cake tester comes out clean. When you tap the loaf, it will have a hollow sound.
  8. Cool on a baking rack. Serve warm or at room temperature.

 

BRING THE THREE COLORS OF MARDI GRAS TO YOUR TABLE

by Engrid WinslowFront of the Mardi Gras Bean Blend seed packet.

Have you ever wondered about the history of the official Mardi Gras colors? Well, we have answers for you. According to mardigrasneworleans.com, the Krewe of Rex selected the official Mardi Gras colors in 1872. In 1892 the Krewe of Rex Parade theme “Symbolism of Colors” gave meaning to the colors. Purple Represents Justice. Green Represents Faith. And Gold Represents Power. According to the website, Mardi Gras colors influenced the choice of school colors for arch-rivals Louisiana State University (located in Baton Rouge) and Tulane University New Orleans is the home for this school). They say when LSU was deciding on its colors, the shops in New Orleans had stocked up on purple, green, and gold material for the Mardi Gras season. LSU decided upon purple and gold, and bought much of it. Tulane bought much of the only remaining color — green!

You can grow our Mardi Gras Bean Blend easily in your garden. They grow best when planted in the early spring (just like peas, many gardeners chose St. Patrick’s Day as the date of planting). For better germination, purchase new bean and pea inoculant every year from your local garden center and sprinkle it in with your bean seeds. They are vigorous climbers so plan on providing some support as they grow. They are also referred to as snap beans and should be harvested when young before the beans inside develop. No matter what alchemy you try, the purple beans will turn green when cooked. They usually only need the stems snipped off before cooking. Beans are best eaten as soon as they are harvested but will keep in brown paper bags in the vegetable drawer of your refrigerator for up as long as two weeks.

GREEN BEANS WITH GARLIC              Serves 4-6

Place one lb. of Mardi Gras beans in steamer basket over one inch of boiling water, cover, and steam until crisp-tender (5-7 minutes).

In a small saucepan heat 1 cup of water, 2 cloves of unpeeled garlic to a boil. After simmering the garlic for 5 minutes, remove from the water, peel and mince.

Shock beans in cold water and then drain and set aside. Don’t chill them, but cover to keep them warm.

In a large bowl combine the garlic with one TBL. Red wine vinegar, one TBL olive or (better yet) walnut oil, salt and pepper to taste and toss in the green beans. You can serve at room temperature or warm them briefly in a microwave.

 

You can also use Mardi Gras Blend beans in this classic pot-luck and picnic salad:

MARDI GRAS BEAN SALAD        Serves 8-10

Over low heat in a medium saucepan combine ¾ cup sugar, 1/3 cup olive oil, 2/3 cup red wine or apple cider vinegar (white balsamic is also delicious in this), ½ tsp fresh ground pepper and 1 tsp. salt to a very low simmer.

Prepare 2-3 lbs of green beans as directed in the recipe, above. Also, rinse and drain one can of red beans and one can of garbanzo beans. Mix the beans together and pour heated dressing over them. Let marinate for at least 24 hours before serving. This bean salad keeps in the refrigerator for several days.

FIVE REASONS TO RELISH THE RADISH

By Engrid Winslow

  1. There are two primary types of radish – one hails from Asia (the most common ones are daikon which is large and white) but there is also the large sweet and remarkably pink Watermelon Radish.Photo of Watermelon Radish packet.

Watermelon radishes are delicious raw and can be substituted for a cracker in crudités and they also make a crunchy addition to stir-fries. They are often used in Chinese cuisines with fish dishes because it adds sweetness and counteracts fishy tastes.

2. Radishes are very easy to grow and can be sown in the garden as soon as the ground can be worked. Cover the seeds with about 2 inches of soil and thin them out once they sprout. They germinate quickly and all at once so, to keep them from getting overly large and fibrous, they should be sown multiple times throughout the season.  They grow well in cooler temperatures which makes them a good spring and fall crop. One that is delicious cooked or raw is Cherry Bell.

Front of the Cherry Belle Radish seed packet.

 

 

 

3. Do you want a taste of France in your radish? French Breakfast Radish is an heirloom variety dating back to the 1800s. It gets its name from a popular and delicious breakfast enjoyed throughout France. Want to give it a try? Just thinly slice the radishes lengthwise, grab a hunk of baguette and smear it with some sweet butter, top with radish slices and a sprinkle of salt. Close your eyes, take a bite and then say “Ooh, La, La!”

 

 

 

4. The White Icicle radish is similar to but smaller than, Japanese daikon. It is another heirloom variety that is easy to grow but is very versatile because it can tolerate warmer temperatures and grow well into summer weather.

Front of the White Icicle Radish packet.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Try it in this

APPLE RADISH SALADFront of the Carnival Radish Blend seed packet.

2 Granny Smith Apples

1 bunch sliced or julienned White Icicle radishes

Dressing:

Juice from one orange (lemon is also good here)

2 tsp honey

1 tsp Dijon mustard

1 tsp fresh thyme leaves

¼ cup olive oil

Salt and ground black pepper to taste

 

5. Want to really add some color to your fish or other tacos? Shred this colorful blend from the Carnival Blend radishes and pile it on with a squeeze of lime and some chipotle mayo. All radishes are good in slaw but this one gets bonus points for the interesting colors.

 

Or try this version of a vegetarian radish taco where the radish is the star of the dish. This version is modified from superstar chef Anita Lo’s book Solo.

ROASTED AND PICKLED RADISH TACOS                

Serves 4

3-4 bunches of radishes washed (reserve the tops and 10 of the smallest radishes for later)

1/3 cup olive oil

4 smallish tomatillos, husk removed, cut in half

3-4 small jalapenos, cut lengthwise with stems and seeds removed

1 tsp cumin

One small onion, sliced thinly

3 garlic cloves, smashed (reserve 1 for later use)

6 Tbs cider vinegar

2/3 cup water, divided in half

¼ tsp cinnamon

Juice of one lime

1 Tbs chopped cilantro

8-12 corn or flour tortillas

¾ cup queso fresco, crumbled

Extra lime wedges for serving with tacos

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Place all but the reserved radishes, their tops, the olive oil, the tomatillo and half the jalapeno in a bowl and toss with salt and pepper. Remove the tomatillo and jalapeno and place on one side of a roasting pan. Add the cumin and cinnamon to the bowl of radishes and toss again. Place radish mixture (except for the tops) on the other side of the roasting pan. Bake until softened, about 12-15 minutes.

Make radish pickles: Cut the reserved radishes in thin rounds and place in a bowl with the rest of the jalapenos and the onion. In a small sauté pan bring the vinegar, 1/3 cup water and two of the smashed garlic cloves to a boil and pour over radish rounds. Set aside to cool to room temperature and drain.

When the roasting vegetables are soft, remove the tomatillo and jalapeno and blend with immersion blender. Add tops of radishes to roasting pan and roast until wilted. Place the remaining third garlic clove in with the tomatillo, cilantro, lime juice, 1/3 cup water and blend to make a salsa.

Serve roasted radishes in warm tortillas garnished with salsa, pickled radishes and queso fresco. Serve with lime wedg1es.

BONUS REASON TO RELISH RADISHES – All of our radish seed packets are on sale! Whoop! Whoop!

https://www.bbbseed.com/product-category/store/heirloom-vegetable-seeds/

 

 

 

Just what in the World is Drinking Vinegar (AKA “SHRUB”)?

By Engrid Winslow

Michael Dietsch Book on Shrubs

Michael Dietsch Author

 

Drinking vinegar originated in ancient Roman times as a pre-refrigeration manner of preserving seasonal produce (including vegetables, herbs and fruit). It had a resurgence as a popular drink in 17th and 18th century England where it was typically made with rum (or brandy), mixed with sugar and the juice or rinds of citrus fruit. Meanwhile, in the American colonies, a shrub was a drink made by mixing a vinegar syrup with spirits, water, or carbonated water. The vinegar was again used as an alternative to citrus juices in the preservation of berries and other fruits for the off-season and was also referred to as a shrub. By the 19th century, typical American recipes for shrubs used vinegar poured over fruit—traditionally berries—which was left to infuse anywhere from overnight up to several days. Afterward, the fruit would be strained out and the remaining liquid would be mixed with a sweetener such as sugar or honey and then reduced to make a syrup. The sweet-and-sour syrup could be mixed with either water or soda water and served as a soft drink, or it could be used as a mixer in cocktails. This drink was immensely popular and refreshing in a time when there was no such thing as a cold drink in the summer. Vinegary and other sour drinks are better at quenching thirst than anything else in hot weather as they stimulate salivation. During prohibition, it was a popular drink again as a liquor-free alternative to lemonade. Shrubs eventually fell out of popularity with the advent of home refrigeration and the burgeoning soda business.

The serving of vinegar-based shrub drinks became popular again in 2011 in American restaurants and bars. The acidity of the shrub makes it well suited as an apéritif or used as an alternative to bitters in cocktails.

The term “shrub”, in these modern times, is a sweetened vinegar-based syrup from which the cocktail is made; the syrup is also known as drinking vinegar. The fruity flavor and acidic bite of shrubs really plays well to produce non-alcoholic cocktails and mixed drinks. You can combine flavors as well, such as pairing apricot with rosemary or grapefruit and mint. Vegetables such as tomatoes or celery make surprisingly delicious shrubs. Experimenting with different types of vinegars can lead to an endless number of combinations.

Here is a recipe for a fruit shrub from Michael Dietsch, the author of Shrubs – An Old Fashioned Drink for Modern Times.

Apricot Shrub

1 lb. apricots, pitted and sliced with skins left on

¾ cup sugar

¾ cup apple cider vinegar

Mix apricots with sugar and mash together. Cover with plastic wrap and let sit in the refrigerator for 1 day. Strain through a fine mesh strainer to remove solids and combine the syrup with vinegar. Whisk until sugar is dissolved and then put in a mason jar and refrigerate for one week before using.

How to use your apricot shrub? Mix it with ginger ale and add a splash of grenadine for a modern twist on a Shirley Temple or mix it with sherbet, soda water and a shot of rum for a grown-up float.

 

Let’s Celebrate Pumpkins! 2019 Year of the Pumpkin

by Heather Stone

Fall orange pumpkins sitting on straw.

photo courtesy of Pexels – 160662

When you hear the word pumpkin what comes to mind first? Is it autumn, Halloween, jack-o-lanterns, pumpkin pie or pumpkin spice latte perhaps. There are so many things to love about pumpkins. They are fun to grow and fun to eat. This year the National Garden Bureau named 2019 The Year of the Pumpkin, so let’s celebrate the pumpkin. https://ngb.org/year-of-the-Pumpkin/

Pumpkins are part of the Cucurbitaceae family along with squash, cucumbers and melons. There are a wide selection of pumpkin varieties ranging in size from as little as 4 oz to some weighing over several thousand pounds. Just this past fall a New Hampshire man grew the largest pumpkin on record weighing in at 2,528 lbs. Now, that would make a lot of pumpkin pie.

Pumpkins are easy to grow. They can be started indoors or directly sown into warm (70 degrees), rich, fertile soil when all danger of frost has passed. Sow the seed into “hills” of 4-6 seeds and thin to the 2 strongest plants per hill. Make sure to give your pumpkins plenty of room to grow to get the best fruit. Depending on the variety you are growing, pumpkins need anywhere from 12 sq.ft. to 48 sq.ft. of growing space. Water your pumpkin seedlings regularly and fertilize throughout the growing season. When it comes time to harvest make sure to cut the pumpkins from the vine when the skin is hard and leave a 3” piece of the stem attached to decrease the chances of decay.

Photo of a jar of pumpkin soup on a green placemat with wooden spoon.

Photo courtesy of Pixabay -congerdesign

 

Pumpkins aren’t just fun to grow. They are fun to eat too! We use pumpkins to make soups, breads and pies. We put pumpkin in smoothies, yogurt and even pancakes. Check out some of these great pumpkin recipes. But the flesh of the pumpkin isn’t the only tasty part. Roasted pumpkin seeds make a great snack too. Pumpkin flesh is rich in vitamin A, potassium and beta carotene. The seeds are a good source of protein and are rich in minerals such as manganese, phosphorous, magnesium and zinc. Not all pumpkins are created equal. There are pumpkins for carving and decorating and there are pumpkins for eating.  Look for pie pumpkins and cooking pumpkins for the best taste. Two of my favorites are Cinderella and Long Island Cheese, but there are countless choices.

So what kind of pumpkin will you grow this year?

 

PRAISE FOR THE LOWLY CABBAGE

by Engrid Winslow

Photo of a growing head of purple cabbage.

photo courtesy of pixabay – angelsover

Pity the lowly cabbage, which doesn’t get the love of its sexier brassica brothers and sisters such as Brussels sprouts, broccoli, cauliflower or kale. But this overlooked vegetable is plentiful and inexpensive at this type of year. Cabbage is also a breeze to grow and does great in cool spring and fall temperatures. They actually taste sweeter when exposed to light frosts as do other cool-season brassicas.

It comes in two types: European and Asian. The European types are white or green cabbage, red cabbage and savoy. The most popular Asian types are bok choy and Napa. Napa is an excellent choice for summer slaw when combined with grated carrots, red bell peppers and simple soy and rice-wine vinegar dressing with a touch of honey. Toss in some peanuts for crunch and/or cooked chicken to make it a complete meal. But today we are focusing on a couple of winter cabbage recipes.

If the taste of cabbage doesn’t convince you then maybe this will: cabbage is full of vitamin K and anthocyanins that help with mental function and concentration. These nutrients also prevent nerve damage, improving your defense against Alzheimer’s disease and dementia. Red cabbage has the highest amount of these power nutrients. Cabbage is an excellent source of vitamins C, B1, B2 and B6. It is also a very good source of manganese, dietary fiber, potassium, folate and copper. Additionally, cabbage is a good source of choline, phosphorus, magnesium, calcium, selenium, iron, pantothenic acid, protein and niacin.

This soup is adapted slightly from the wonderful cookbook: Six Seasons – A New Way with vegetables by Joshua McFadden which you might want to add to your cookbook library. https://www.amazon.com/Six-Seasons-New-Way-Vegetables

The red coleslaw is a family Easter favorite that is great as a side with ham and scalloped potatoes.

Two other favorite cookbooks for you to also consider are Brassicas by Laura B. Russell https://www.amazon.com/Brassicas-Healthiest-Vegetables-Cauliflower-Broccoli and The Book of Greens by Jenn Louis https://www.amazon.com/s?k=the+book+of+greens+by+jenn+louis&crid

 

COZY CABBAGE and FARRO SOUPFront of the Flat Dutch Cabbage seed packet.

Serves 4

Notes: If you use savoy cabbage it will not take as long as green cabbage once it is added to the pot to steam.

  • 1 pound cabbage, savoy or green
  • Olive oil
  • 1 medium onion, thinly sliced
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 3 garlic cloves, peeled and chopped finely
  • 1 sprig of rosemary or thyme
  • 1 tablespoon red wine or white wine vinegar
  • 2/3 cup uncooked farro
  • About 4 cups chicken or vegetable stock
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
  • Shaved parmesan, to finish
  • Cut out the cabbage core and finely chop it. Cut the leaves into fine shreds or about 1/8-inch ribbons. Heat 1/4 cup olive oil in a large pot or Dutch oven over medium heat. Add the onion and cabbage core, some salt and pepper, and cook, stirring frequently, until the onion starts to soften but is not yet browned, about 5 to 7 minutes. Add the garlic and cook another 3 to 5 minutes, until the garlic softens too. Add the shredded cabbage leaves and herb sprig. Reduce the heat to medium-low and cover the pot and let it steam a bit to soften the leaves, then toss the cabbage to combine with other ingredients. Cook, covered, until the cabbage is very sweet and tender, which may take 30 minutes or as little as 15 to 20 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Meanwhile, in a small skillet, heat 2 Tablespoons of olive oil over medium and add the uncooked farro. Toast it, stirring, for a few minutes, until half a shade darker.

When the cabbage is ready, stir in the vinegar. Taste and season with more salt and pepper. Add toasted farro and stock. Bring mixture to a low simmer and cook for 25 to 35 minutes, until farro is tender and all the flavors are married. The soup will be very thick, but if you’d prefer more liquid, add another 1/2 cup stock. Taste and adjust seasoning again. Stir in lemon juice.

Ladle into bowls and finish each with a drizzle of olive oil and a shower of parmesan, with more parmesan passed at the table.

Soup keeps well in the fridge for 3 days and for much longer in the freezer.

 

RED CABBAGE COLESLAWPhoto of the Red Drumhead Cabbage seed packet.

Serves 4

Vinaigrette:

  • ¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 teaspoons chopped, fresh tarragon
  • ½ cup tarragon or apple cider vinegar
  • 1 tsp dry white wine
  • 1 tsp Dijon mustard
  • 1 TBL honey
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Put all in a blender and blend for 1 minute.

Toss with:

  • 1 head shredded purple cabbage
  • 1 cup golden raisins
  • 1 tsp caraway seeds

The vinaigrette will keep for 5 days and after prepared, the salad will keep for two days in an airtight container.

 

Here is a recipe from our blog “The Dirt” for Spicy Tofu Tacos with Cabbage Slaw from the kitchen of Michael Scott

and more on planting Cabbage and other uses, here.