One Potato, Two Potato

One of the foods I was most surprised by when we starting growing more of our own and shopping at local farms was the potato. I figured a potato was a potato. Ends up there’s a whole world of varieties, and, like many foods, a whole world of difference between what you buy in most grocery stores and what you’ll find at a farm. We’ve only grown potatoes one year ourselves, but I expect we’ll do it again. In the meantime, I’m happy to buy potatoes from the farmstand.

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Potatoes are a great food to buy in bulk if you’ve got the space for them. I picked up a 50 pound bag of creamy winter white potatoes today for less than half of what the same would cost at the grocery store. Kept cool and very dark, they should keep us in french fries for quite a while.

Waste Not, Want Not

When fallen leaves are blown by the wind, they often come to rest in and around the branches of soon-to-be-dormant plants.

In the frenzy of fall cleanup, many people gather these clumps of leaves, filling bags to be dealt with by their towns. Yard waste, I believe they call it. It is, in fact, a waste to bag up perfectly good leaves. Allowing them to accumulate in wind-swept mounds provides warmth for the plants in the winter and nutrients for the soil as the leaves decompose. It may not look as orderly to our eyes, but nature has its own order, in which nothing goes to waste.

Seed of an Idea

So you’ve got yourself a pumpkin and you’re going to make a pie. You scoop out all the goop, and then what? Throw it on the compost pile? Not a bad idea, but you can do better.

Why not rinse the seeds and lay them out to dry so you can plant your own pumpkins next year?

Maybe you’re more an instant gratification kind of person? Try this.

Roasted Pumpkin Seeds

Preheat oven to 400.

Rinse seeds.

For every 1/2 cup of seeds, mix 2 cups water with 1 Tablespoon salt.

Boil the seeds in the salt water.

Remove from water, spread on cookie sheets, and bake for 10-20 minutes, til crunchy.

Sprinkle with salt, cayenne, cinnamon and sugar, whatever you like.

Mommy and Me

Right before I bought the last of the tomatoes, my mom gave me a recipe for tomato pie.  I think she would say I was pretty good about following directions when I was a kid. Not so much now.

Tomato Pie

Biscuit dough *

2 very large tomatoes, sliced **

1 large onion, sliced

1 bell pepper, chopped

1 1/2 cups grated mozarella

2/3 cup mayonnaise

Oregano & Basil ***

Saute onion and pepper in butter. Set aside.

Stretch biscuit dough to cover bottom of a greased pie pan.

Cover dough with two or three layers of sliced tomatoes.

Cover tomatoes with onion and pepper.

Sprinkle with oregano and basil.

Mix mozarella and mayo together and spread on top.

Bake for 40-45 minutes.

Let stand at least 15 minutes before cutting.

*Mom’s recipe calls for a can of biscuits. I pulled out her old recipe for baking soda biscuits instead. Recipe below.

**Mom peels hers. I couldn’t come up with any good reason to do so, so I didn’t.

***Mom used dill as well. I didn’t have any. She uses 1/8 of a teaspoon of each. I say apply liberally.

Baking Soda  Biscuits

2 cups flour

4 teaspoons baking powder

1 teaspoon salt

3 Tablespoons butter

1 1/4 cups milk

Mix dry ingredients.

Work butter in with a knife.

Add milk and stir to combine.

I didn’t need the whole recipe for the pie, so I dropped the extra dough in four bits onto a baking sheet and cooked at 450 for 12 minutes.

Staple Food

I lean towards recipes that don’t require any special trips to the grocery store, but rather call for ingredients we regularly have on hand. When such a recipe is adaptable to the seasons, allowing me to choose the final ingredient based on what’s growing outside, it’s sure to earn a spot in the recipe box.

Savory Scones

3 cups flour (I use 2 cups all-purpose, 1 cup wheat)

1 Tablespoon baking powder

2 teaspoons salt

1/4 teaspoon cayenne (optional)

2 cups cheddar cheese + a bit for sprinkling

1 1/2-2 cups milk

Flavor boost – onion, scallions, jalapenos, chives, garlic scapes, whatever you like – diced

Preheat oven to 425.

Combine flour, baking powder, salt, cayenne, and cheese.

Add whatever flavor boost you’ve chosen. How much? Enough so that you’ll get a bit in every bite. Let’s say a palm full.

Add 1 1/2 cups of milk.

Stir.

Is all the flour moistened? If not, add a bit more milk. You’re aiming for just-moistened, not soup.

Take half the dough out of the bowl and knead it a couple of times on a floured surface. (If you are someone who hears ‘knead’ and thinks – aggghh, making bread?! I can’t make bread! – breathe. By knead I mean mush. Mush it a couple of times.)

Pat it into a fairly thick circle, approximately 6″ around.

Cut into 8 triangles. (Cut in half, cut the halves in half, cut those in half.)

Repeat with the second half of the dough.

Lay your triangles on a parchment or Silpat lined baking sheet, leaving a bit of room around each one.

Sprinkle with cheddar cheese, then pour a tiny bit of milk over each triangle.

Top with extra flavor boost, if you’d like.

Bake for 20 minutes.

Serve hot.

Fall in Place

I took a walk around the yard this afternoon, mostly just to enjoy the sunshine. It’s one of those days that’s so bright you could almost believe it was summer until you hear and smell and feel the leaves crunching beneath your feet.

I made sure nobody had dug up my freshly planted garlic, admired the asparagus ferns, and noted signs of frost on kiwi vines and strawberry plants.  I was excited to see bees flying, landing heavily at the entrance to their hive laden with bright yellow pollen. They’re moving too fast to capture with my point-and-shoot, so you’ll just have to take my word for it.

My oregano plants were more accommodating, sitting quite still to have their pictures taken.

I planted both Greek oregano and hot and spicy oregano this past spring. Their relation to mint has been evident in their growth. Both have dried nicely in the kitchen and provide a really great burst of flavor and aroma, which I’m particularly enjoying in lasagna. Our first frost last week seems to have had no affect on them whatsoever and I’m curious to see if they make it through the winter. Curious, but not anxious, as I am for the bees. They came through last winter strong, and they seem to be strong as we head into this one. They have plenty of honey. But I’ll have my fingers crossed nonetheless.

The Root of the Matter

The rain finally let off long enough for me to plant garlic today. Two hundred and thirty two cloves of garlic.

This year I did not buy any garlic to plant, using only what I had grown myself. This makes me happy, possibly inordinately so. I planted 38 of the 212 heads I harvested in July, leaving 174 to get us through to next year. That’s a lot of garlic, but it may or may not be enough. Dagny still lives here, after all.

Point of View

We removed two rhododendrons from our yard on Saturday. I’m generally not a fan of taking out existing plants, but we’ve lived with these for twelve years and were all agreed they had to go. Too close to the house, too huge, too ugly. Taking them out was no easy project. It was simple for Jon to chainsaw them to the ground, but getting the roots out was another thing all together, and took Jon and Andrew most of an afternoon. In the process they unearthed some treasures.

I moved debris while they dug, then Sunday we finished the cleaning up and Dagny and I began moving plants from other parts of the yard to fill the new garden space. For now, everything looks a bit sad – lots of transplant shock, an ugly bit of foundation to cover, and some uneven ground that needs filling and leveling – but we’ll fix it up next Spring. There were some expected consequences – the light in the craft room has changed dramatically, and we can see the rock wall which was previously mostly hidden – but there was also one that hadn’t occurred to me.  When we walk out the kitchen door, we now have a view of our neighbors’ backyard, aka acres of farmland.

Much better.