Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Just Like Riding a Bike?

Technically, we still have a few days before June 21st and the summer solstice. But tell that to the squash and cucumber plants that are churning out flying saucer patty pans, warty yellow crooknecks, delicate green lebanese, and about 15 varieties of cucumber in a glut of plant fertility. Besides the heat (we've broken 90 each day this week) and the ubiquitous cucurbits (aka squash, cucs, and zuchs), summer's ostentatious entrance is signaled to us by the rapidly increasing weight of our harvest. We're tallying harvests in the hundreds of pounds--500 lbs of cabbage and more than 100 lbs of broccoli Monday, 400+ lbs of additional onions Tuesday. Then today: 2700 heads of garlic! Our garlic harvest was significant for a number of reasons, not the least of which because it signified one year since the arrival of Stephanie, our favorite volunteer. She began working with us last year on garlic harvest day, so after today she can be considered a bona fide veteran. Like many storage crops, garlic takes its time to reach maturity. The fat, white bulbs that are presently curing in the rafters of our garage were planted last fall in the form of single cloves. They sent up thin green shoots, braved the rigors of a Georgia winter, and will soon be ready to grace our tables.

As Paige demonstrated the technique (loosen the soil with a pitchfork, pull the bulbs and stack them in piles of ten, then tightly cinch their stems together with twine for easy rafter-hanging) she laughed and noted that this was the first year that she had felt no need to brush up on garlic trivia prior to harvest day. After all, as garlic harvest comes but once per year, this was only her 5th time ever doing it. This extreme task seasonality is one of the oddest and most intriguing aspects of farming, in my opinion. While I get to practice some skills almost daily--WEEDING!--others occupy a minuscule niche in our calendar and seem almost holiday-like in their rarity. It could take years to build up the confidence of habit for some of the things we do. I asked Paige if bunching garlic could be compared to riding a bike; will I remember this instinctively the next time I'm in a garlic field in June? She wished me luck.

With so much food practically spilling out of our cooler, I've got recipes galore to try. I'm lucky that my roommates are all adventurous eaters! Here are some yummy uses for squash, spring onions, herbs, and cabbage, all things that we have in abundance at present.

Squash and Basil Salad (serves 4-6)

Be sure that all of the squash get a good soak in the marinade!

3-4 medium summer squash, julienned
2-3 Tablespoons fresh basil, chopped
3-4 Tablespoons Parmesan cheese, grated
1-2 Tablespoons garlic scapes, chopped
¼ cup red wine vinegar
¼ cup olive oil
½ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon pepper
¼ teaspoon sugar

Toss the squash, basil, cheese, and garlic together.

Whisk all other ingredients together and pour over the salad. Mix, chill for 1 hour, and serve. Best eaten the same day.

Also delicious with lettuce and chopped green onions.

Quinoa Taboule (Serves 6)

While I used lemon balm, you can also substitute the more common mint, or cilantro would probably be delicious as well. We still don't have parsley, but that would make an excellent addition if your harvest is more parsley-fied than ours.

2 cups cooked and cooled Quinoa (a wonderful protein-rich grain from South America)
1/2 cup chopped Scallions or Green Onions
1 small cucumber, chopped
2 Tablespoons chopped fresh Lemon Balm (or 1 tsp.dried)
1 Garlic Clove, minced or pressed
1 Tablespoon minced fresh Basil (or 1/2 tsp. dried)
1/2 cup fresh Lemon Juice
1/4 cup Extra Virgin Olive Oil
1/4 tsp Salt
1/8 tsp White Pepper

Toss together all ingredients. Chill for 1 hour or more to allow flavors to blend.

Mustardy Slaw (serves 4-6)

Soooo good with some barbecue, or on a really good bratwurst. This is ballpark food at its simplest and finest.

4 cups cabbage, grated or chopped (one mini head was the perfect amount of cabbage)
2 carrots, grated
¼ cup onion, minced
1/2-3/4 cup mayonnaise
3 Tablespoons yellow mustard
salt and pepper to taste

Combine the cabbage, carrots, and onion in a large bowl.

Combine the mayo and mustard in a small bowl, then pour over the cabbage mix. Stir until combined. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Refrigerate for at least one hour to allow flavors to blend.

1 comment:

Andrew said...

I just found out about Serenbe farms, and I got really excited by what I saw. I'm thinking about volunteering there later this summer. I emailed Paige, who should be very helpful, but I'd love to hear from you as well about your experience, because we seem to have similar backgrounds. I read some of your blog, and here are some echoes of your life I find in mine:

I just graduated from a small, liberal arts school (Pomona).

Having grown up in a city (New York), I have limited experience with agriculture, but I find myself passionately drawn to it, for reasons too many to explain here. For now, I'll say only that I too want my food chains to be "shorter, slower, and more interesting."

I just started reading Wendell Berry, and I love his writing. I started with "The Citizenship Papers," and now I'm onto some short stories. Do you have any recommendations? (I assume from your mention of him that you like him too).

I'm sure I've scratched only the surface. It's a little weird how much we share, but then again, there are a lot of us these days, which I take as encouraging sign. More than a few of my friends from college grew up in the city but long for the life of a farmer.

Given our similarities, I'm guessing that your experience at Serenbe could be a pretty accurate prediction of my potential experience, so I'd love to talk with you about the farm at some point. Email and phone both work. Here's my information:
917 538 2762

I hope to hear from you soon.