Saturday, September 26, 2009

We got the beet

I'm not sure how to feel about our week of plus thirty temperatures... it is nice in some ways, but seems to portend of future water shortages and wacky growing seasons. Learning to simply accept what happens is something I need to work on. Chris Vester is a great example of that. The fundraiser was fantastic, kudos to Sunnyside Market for putting it together. It was heartwarming to see so many people willing to lend a farmer a hand. And he is the epitome of grace, really... not angry or discouraged but simply accepting that his living is at the mercy of the earth and willing to accept that risk in order to live the way he does. Pretty admirable.

I had forgotten how much I like Matt Masters. He sang odes to the Bow River and a great riff on Johnny Cash's I've Been Everywhere called I Can't Go Nowhere, all about traveling post 9/11. I'm loving the roots country music these days, thanks in part to listening to a fair bit of CKUA. Corb Lund is another great Alberta artist. There's something special about listening to songs about the place you know.

This week we pulled up the beets. Which, we learned the next day, when we had record breaking temperatures, was a bit early. Ah well. The harvest this year was twenty five pounds.. not to shabby..

So far we have enjoyed roasted beets as sweet as candy and beet fritters when it's too hot to turn on the oven. (too simple to require a recipe. grated beets, breadcrumbs or a bit of flour, egg, ginger, salt, pepper. fry up in spoonfulls.)

We are experimenting with cold cellar techniques this year. The basic approach is to cut the tops off, leaving an inch of stem intact, brush off excess dirt, and leave them out to cure for a few days. We then buried them in a large bin of sand, which is bloody heavy but what can you do. The other options are sawdust, which sounds messy to me, or vermiculite, which costs a lot more. Perhaps we will move to vermiculite when we get tired of sand in the kitchen sink.

Here are some recipes I am interested in trying:

Cypriot Beet Preserves

Chocolate and Roasted Beet Pudding Cakes

I'll have to make another batch of kvass as well. That stuff is weird and addictive and I don't know why. And of course, borscht. The Moosewood Cookbook recipe is my favourite. I think the secret is caraway seeds and apple cider vinegar.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Eating my way through the season

I really shouldn't be blooging when I have a hundred other things to do. But I miss having a moment to write down my thoughts..

Some recent highlights.. we continue to revel in the season of not buying any veggies from the store; right now there are piles of tomatoes to be eaten. We have been eating mountains of Caprese salad, and last night I tried roasting cherry tomatoes, which was a hit. I didn't have proper goat cheese, but I did have some goat yogurt, which I had bought under the false impression that I could convince myself to enjoy it because it is better for me (less lactose). Bleah. I cannot get used to it. On savory things, no problem. With granola, ew. So I made it into yogurt cheese and it was terrific in the tomato dish.

The one concession I made to actually spending money on produce was to get my yearly three pounds of basil from the farmer's market. I also picked up a few pounds of Alberta garlic from the Hutterites. It is three times stronger than the stuff from China and makes me very, very happy. The basil became pesto, puree with olive oil, basil and garlic oil, and herb vinegar. I froze the first two. The second two recipes are from The Complete Book of Small Batch Preserving.

This Friday, I will be attending a fundraiser for Blue Mountain Farms, who lost most of this year's crop to a nasty hailstorm. I am so happy that this event is happening, I think it shows that the ties between some local farmers and the 'co-producers' in the city are getting stronger. More information is available at Sunnyside Market.

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Fall just as it is

This seems like the first time I have fully embraced the fall season. This probably isn't entirely true, but it certainly feels that way. This year I have really noticed the calm feeling of the season.. everything is dampening down and getting ready for hibernation. There is also the other side of fall -- working to conserve the garden harvest, getting back into the flurry of school and work. The animals are taking a last run at life.. lots of angry, lumbering wasps around, and in the mountains some hiking trails are closed as bears scrounge for the last bit of fruit before the big freeze. The trees along the Bow River are particularly beautiful right now.. the aspens are turning bright yellow.

Cheryl at Backseat Gourmet wrote about the fact that when you are connected to a CSA farm, you start to get annoyed at all the talk of sunny 'good weather' and rainy 'bad weather', when your dinner is dependent on a fair balance of the two. I think the same is true of the seasons, especially for gardeners -- in Calgary fall means the end of fresh food and days in the sun, shorter days and colder nights. So summer is 'good' and winter is 'bad'.

I've been reading Rudolf Steiner's reflections on the seasons. Of fall, he writes:

If we are to participate in this waning of nature, just as we do in nature's growing time, we must learn to experience the dying away of nature in our most inner being. For is a person becomes more sensitive to the secret workings of nature, and thus participates actively in nature's germinating and fruiting, it follows that he [sic] will also livingly experience the effects of autumn on the outer world. ... When the events of autumn and winter draw on, he certainly must enter sensitively into the processes of fading and dying. But he must not, as he does in summer, give himself over to nature-consciousness. On the contrary, he must then devote himself to self-consciousness. In the time when external nature is dying, he must oppose nature-consciousness with the force of self-consciousness.

So autumn has its own purpose; it can be a time to turn inward and to see what's hiding in the inner garden.