Apple Windfall

by Sandy Swegel

While I continue to have a good supply of huge zucchini from the four zucchini plants my neighbor is growing, the bounty and surplus this year is from apples.  Talk about a windfall.  Day after day there are dozens of apples that fall on the ground and they are starting to taste pretty good.  The first small immature apples aren’t really good for much besides the compost pile.  And the apples on the tree shouldn’t be picked until they’ve been sweetened by Fall frosts.  But the ones that nature is lobbing (wind, gravity, squirrels) on the ground every day are a true gift from above…if you process them every day.

The problem with a windfall is that the apples aren’t perfect, so you can’t just put them on the counter or in the refrigerator to use later.  These apples have split open when they hit the hard ground.  Or greedy squirrels ate one or two little mouthfuls before throwing them to the ground. Wasps are feeding on the juicy parts. Or, ickiest, codling worms ate through part of the apple leaving their brown crusty frass. Occasionally, there’s even still a codling worm in the apple.

One bad apple does spoil the batch.  One rotting place on an apple will soon spread to even perfect apples…so you have to keep processing the apples.

Here’s what I do:  I hold a formal apple triage whenever I have time.  Perfect apples without splits or bad spots get spread on a counter in the cool basement or in the refrigerator.  With a little humidity (a root cellar and a box of wet sand are traditional) the apples will last through late winter.

Not perfect but pretty good apples can be:

1. Eaten on the spot. Yum.
2. Have the bad spots cut out and made into sauce, cobbler or juice.
3. Pressed into cider.  Some people in town here had a big apple pressing last year where everyone brought apples and they pressed them all together.  That’s when I learned part of the rich flavor of apple cider comes from all the bad parts and cyanide seeds and occasional worms being pressed together with all the good apples.  The final cider is strained so there’s no chance of getting anything visible in your cider…

When I’m in a hurry and just want the apples not to go bad, I make the world’s simplest cider in small batches in my mighty Vitamixer.

I wash the apples.  I quarter them and remove the disgusting and rotten parts.  I start with one cup of water in the Vitamix and fill the rest of the Vitamix to the top with apple parts.  I pulverize the whole container…having to use the plunger to keep the process started.  Then, the secret to this quickie cider is to pour the entire blender-full through a sprouting bag into a bowl.  Actually, I’m too cheap to use the sprouting bag and I buy the five-gallon paint straining bag from the hardware store.  Then with clean hands, you squeeze the bag, not too unlike milking a cow, until all the juice flows out. Repeat.  The pulp goes to the chickens or earthworms. The juice is good to drink or freeze or even let ferment if you want some old-fashioned hard cider.

Now if only I could develop a taste for zucchini juice, I’d have both abundances of food taken care of.

Vitamix recipes

 

 

Grilled Mahi Mahi Burger with Homemade Smokey Chipotle Aioli

from the kitchen and garden of Mike Scott

Grilled Fish Burger, Mahi Mahi, heirloom tomato, cheddar cheese, arugula, with my smokey chipotle aioli. Served with shoe-string fries tossed with olive oil, crushed garlic, and chopped fresh basil.

To Grill Mahi Mahi –

Brush Mahi Mahi with a light coat of olive oil. Season with salt and pepper and other herbs you might think go well with Mahi Mahi. I used fresh lemon thyme from our garden. Place fish on a hot grill away from coals. Cook the first side of the fish down until the flesh changes to a white color. Turn over carefully and cook the other side. Total cooking time should not take more than ten minutes. Try not to flip the fillets more than once or the fillets make break apart. Squeeze fresh lemon over the top and place on bun.

Smokey Chipotle Aioli
½ cup of mayonnaise
1 clove garlic minced or garlic pressed
1 tsp. fresh lemon juice
1 Tbsp. of chipotle chopped fine
salt & pepper to taste

Mix in a bowl and serve on top of the burger. You might want to save some for the fries. :-)

**Fresh Ingredients straight from Mike Scott’s summer garden – heirloom tomato, arugula, basil, and lemon thyme

Meet Mike Scott…

A gardener since childhood, professional garden designer and proprietor of Eagle Rock Backyard Farms. Mike, his wife and 11-year-old daughter enjoy farm living at their house smack in the middle of Los Angeles’ urban sprawl. The Scott’s have a large coop with 7 hens, a free-roaming rabbit, beehives, and vegetable gardens tucked into just about every corner of available sunny space. Mike Scott designs and installs edible gardens, drip irrigation systems and chicken coops and, in his spare time, likes to tool around his own yard and kitchen discovering new ways to use whatever’s fresh in his yard that day. It’s all about growing it yourself.

Mike says, “I am an edible garden designer, not a chef. The most important part of cooking for me is cooking with really fresh ingredients. I’m trying to make people aware that there is such a difference in the way food tastes when you use something just picked. Grow your own!”
Tune in on Recipe Thursdays for more fresh recipes from Mike Scott!

 

Walk on the Wild Side

by Sandy Swegel

Sometime every year mid-summer, when the weather is hot and the weeds so darn big, I start to think gardening is just dumb. Nature creates beautiful gardens all on her own without requiring WORK from me.  Why do I garden? Why does anyone garden?  Can’t we just go back to hunting and gathering?

The quickest remedy for mid-summer malaise is a nice walk on the wild side.  I head out into nature where, in the nearby foothills, I don’t have to pull thistles or cut dead branches.  It’s all part of the beauty of the natural world.  With 150,000 people in our county, there’s really not enough there for all of us to hunt and gather.  We’d mostly be eating a diet of raccoons and thistles…not an appealing lifestyle.

But we can FORAGE!  I now have three favorite foragers I follow online.  Wendy was the first modern-day forager I met at a local foraging dinner. In my urban mind, foragers were the wild men who lived in the swamps of southern Louisiana and hunted opossum and squirrel. Wendy is a city girl who spends every spare moment hiking and exploring nature all in pursuit of exquisite flavors…a delicate mushroom from secret forests, the explosive flavor of a high-bush cranberry at peak ripeness, or tender nettle and dock greens she slips into a goat cheese spread.  Everything about Wendy is a reminder of how voluptuously she regards wild food.  Her website name is Hunger and Thirst and her handle is butterpoweredbike.  This is just the kind of inspiration I need on a tedious summer day. Check out her “Wild Thing of the Month” purslane.  I know you have lots of purslane growing in your garden?  Do you know it’s high in healthy omega oils? http://hungerandthirstforlife.blogspot.com/

I’m a big fan of one of butterpoweredbike’s foraging buddies, WildFoodGirl.  Her website http://wildfoodgirl.com and facebook page has great recipes and her website has awesome links to other foragers. Plus if you sign up on her webpage she’ll send you a Wild Things Edible Notebook every month (or so) highlighting plants that can be foraged and recipes for them.  You too can make Wild Mustard Potato Chips.

Another great forager, on an epic scale, is Hank Shaw who travels the country hunting and gathering and hosting dinners in local restaurants with locally foraged food. Hank’s handle is Hunter Angler Gatherer Cook. His recipes are beyond compare.  Where else can you find recipes for “wild ginger ice cream” or  “barbequed wild turkey.”  Hank published a great book last year, Hunt, Gather, Cook.  Even his website address http://honest-food.net/ tells you about what it is we all crave:  honest food, wild tastes, vibrant living.

So if the tedium of gardening in mid-summer heat is wearing on you, head out to wild roads near you…or surf some great foraging websites.