Eating Seasonally: Summer’s Bounty and a CSA Update

Hi!
Summertime is winding down here in the Pacific Northwest; the days are starting to get shorter and the mornings and evenings have a bit of crisp chilliness to them. 
Its raining today, which is welcomed! It seems like we’ve had a pretty dry summer and its nice to see rain. I know the plants appreciate it too.
Interestingly enough, my 4 year old daughter Ellie is out playing in the kiddie pool even though its raining. She sure loves the water!

We didn’t do a garden this year,but decided instead to participate in a CSA with a local organic farm. With baby Olivia joining our family in March I knew I wasn’t going to be able to get any seeds in the ground or take good care of them. I’m so glad we made it a priority to still have fresh vegetables every week!
Its been so much fun trying new veggies and learning to eat things that I NEVER would have tried otherwise.

Here are a few new veggies that we’ve eaten:

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Hakurei salad turnips. I had never even had turnips before, let alone put them in a salad! I absolutely love these turnips! They are crisp and fresh and sweet and seriously I can just bite into them and eat them like an apple. They’re that good. If we plant veggies next year, these will be one of the must-haves.

Beets. I’ve had pickled beets before and they weren’t my fave, so I was kind of scared to try fresh beets and had no idea how to cook them. It turns out, they are good peeled and sliced in salad, they add a really nice flavor to stir-fry (although they turn everything pink!) and are also yummy roasted with other root veggies.

Asian Greens.  This includes bok choy, pak choy (they’re two completely different things- pak choy is smaller), and this other really good one that I can’t remember the name of. They add such a nice flavor to stir-fries and soups! And of course they are good in salad too. 

Rainbow Chard. I was nervous about being able to find ways to eat this one as well, because I’d tried steamed chard before and hated it. But its super yummy in stir fry (see a theme? we have stir fry at least once a week now and love it!) and also good in salad. The lovely bright colored leaves and stalks are so pretty! 

Of course we have gotten all of the “normal” veggies that are usually front and center at the grocery store- carrots, tomatoes, zucchini, cucumbers, radishes, green beans, peas, spinach, kale, lettuce, basil, parsley, dill and many more. 
I’ve even been able to put up a few baggies of extra green beans and peas that we couldn’t eat, as well as some chard and kale for fall and winter soups. If you’re thinking of participating in Consumer Supported Agriculture, I definitely recommend it! Our CSA ends at the end of September and I’m already kind of sad that its almost over. If we can afford it I’d love to do it again next year, I really enjoy getting a nice big bag of delicious surprises every week. 

Honestly, there hasn’t been a vegetable that we’ve gotten and not liked. There are definitely favorites that we each have, but overall every single vegetable has been super fresh, flavorful and delicious.  

My grandpa has been giving us zucchini and cucumbers and potatoes and squash and corn from his garden as well, so my mom and I have been putting those up, blanching and freezing and making pickles and zucchini bread. 

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Lemon Cucumber Refrigerator Pickles

Now the apples and prunes are getting ripe and the blackberries are just finishing up- which means jam and pie and applesauce and maybe cider. Eating with the seasons has such a lovely rhythm to it. I love it!

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What do you think about eating seasonally? Have you tried it? Did you like it, or would you rather just go to the grocery store and get what you want year round? I’d love to hear your thoughts!

 

 

 

Learning To Eat In Season

This spring, we decided to purchase a CSA for our summer/early fall vegetables from a local organic farm school.

I’m so excited! My hubby and I have wanted to do a CSA for a couple years but haven’t been able to financially make it work til this year.  We’ll get to experiment with veggies we’ve never eaten and try new recipes to accommodate them, which will be fun and interesting to see how it works out. I’m going to be planning our weekly dinner menu around the veggies we get instead of making a menu and grocery list and then going and getting the food we’d need to make the recipes. The thought of this kind of makes my head spin- it’s completely opposite of what we’ve been doing.

What is a CSA?  It is community supported agriculture- you pay a local farmer and they give you a variety of fresh veggies every week for a set time- like 20 weeks, from June to September.  You may be able to find farms that offer CSA’s in your area by visiting localharvest.org or by doing a Google search. It’s a good way to support your local farmers and get delicious, pesticide and chemical free produce!

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I’m kinda stuck.

I thought I’d try to get some practice in and start this month, buying veggies and fruits that are on sale at the grocery store and trying not to buy stuff that is out of season. It’s harder than I thought it would be. I normally love making lists and planning what we’ll eat but I’m finding myself somewhat stumped this time around, trying to evaluate if what I’m thinking of making requires ingredients that are out of season or not. Maybe I’m thinking about it too deeply.

Looking at the grocery store sales paper; I had mixed feelings of what was on sale. Some things are great- like the organic oranges and lemons, but they still come from far away places like Mexico and Florida, which isn’t local by any means. Bananas are on sale, and we’ll buy them because they are cheap ($0.49 a lb!) and delicious, even though they are not from anywhere close by. And if we don’t eat them all, I can freeze them or make banana bread. yum!

Other things, like apples; are getting more expensive at the grocery store as the supply is beginning to dwindle. And honestly, apples at this time of year are not always that good- they can be mealy or over ripe and taste weird. But I love my peanut butter and apple slices and am sad that I have to wait until next fall to eat them again. Since I live in Washington, apples are always around…they just shoot WAY up in price, especially for organic ones. And paying $4 a pound is not my favorite thing to do, so we’ll probably cut back on the apples and peanut butter snacks and substitute something that is less expensive.

Broccoli is on sale, and we’ll get some of it for salads and as a side, and I like to have carrots and potatoes on hand for impromptu days of rain, which calls for chicken soup. But other than that, I’m having trouble.

So…could you help me out?

There are tons of greens that are in season right now- kale, spinach, lettuce, chard, Asian greens like bok choy. I’ll have to learn how to cook the chard/bok choy. I have no idea how to prepare them! So….if you know how to eat them and make them delicious, could you help me out and post a link or a recipe ? I’d SUPER appreciate it!

Also, I’d love to know your favorite spring vegetable and how you eat it, to give me some ideas. 🙂 Thanks!

Shellin’ The Beans

This spring we planted Black Beans from Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds and a couple weeks ago they were finally ready to harvest. I decided to plant the “Cherokee Trail of Tears” variety, mostly because of the cool story behind it.

When the Cherokee people were forced to leave their homes and march on the Trail of Tears to the reservations in 1889, they brought the seeds for this variety of bean with them from Tennessee to Oklahoma. Since we lived in Tennessee until last year, I though it would be fun to plant these beans. They did really well- the purple pods are so pretty! When they were beginning to dry out we picked them and hung them to dry over our kitchen window for about a week. I was afraid it would start to get rainy and they would mold if we left them on the plants in the garden. Turns out, I had nothing to worry about, since we’ve had lots of sunny weather up until a few days ago. But in Washington, you never know.

Once the beans were dried out, it was time for shelling. The kids and I took the bean vines out on the porch and got to work!

We had fun chasing the beans as some of them exploded and beans went all over the place.

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We ended up shelling around a pound of beans- definitely not enough to keep us from starving if we were living completely off the land, but for a first crop of about 8-10 plants, not too bad. I am going to save all of the beans for planting again next year and hopefully we’ll get enough to eat and save for seeds the year after that.

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The beans are super shiny and pretty- way more good looking than the dull black beans you get in the store. I’m excited about the prospect of eating them next year. It will be worth the wait, I think.

Have you ever planted heirloom beans? How did they do for you?

The Garden, She is Planted. Mostly.

So, I bet from the title of my post you can guess what I’m going to write about.

Yup.

Our garden is finally in the works- most of the seeds are in the ground and a few are poking their brave little heads above the soil to open their leaves to the world.

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This is a Cherokee Trail Of Tears Black Bean.

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I think this is a Calima Bush Bean. I think.

I am so pumped!

I really hope everything doesn’t die.

Sorry, that was bad English.

I really hope that most of the seeds survive- we’ve already lost all but two broccoli plants ( out of 6) and a couple of my tomato plants are about to bite the dust.
Thankfully, I have more seeds I can plant and replace the ones that died.
I also have a few crops that I’m going to wait until late summer to plant, like another round of broccoli, some parsnips, and turnips and then in the fall I’ll do another round of lettuce and spinach and cabbage.
Here is my garden plan: it’s super high-tech. See?

Who needs a fancy computer plan if you have paper and a pen?

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That’s the only way I know what is planted where; I didn’t take the time to label everything in the garden. Maybe I will after the plants all sprout, we’ll see. There are some pretty cute ideas on Pinterest.

For those of you who can’t read my crazy drawing, here is what we planted:

Alaska Peas, Sugar Snap Peas, Zucchini, Sweet Postatoes, Soup Beans, Marigolds, Arkansas Traveller Tomatoes, Cucumbers, Calima Bush Beans, Zinnias, Red Potatoes, some other potatoes that were given to us, Black Beans, Amish Paste Tomatoes, Ox Blood Beets, Cherry Tomatoes, Oak Leaf Lettuce, Rocky Top Lettuce Mix, Spinach, Chives, Broccoli, Cilantro, Leeks, Chiogga Beets, Atomic Red Carrots, Half Long Guernsey Carrots, Radishes, Cabbage and Garlic.

Whew! I also have a bunch of herbs that are growing in containers, like Basil, Chamomile, Thyme, Oregano and some others that I still need to plant like Horehound, Borage and Yarrow.

I’m not sure where I’m going to plant those yet.

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For now, I’m just out there in the garden every day, pulling up grass roots and pesky weeds, anxiously scanning the dirt to see if any new seeds have popped up, and squealing when I find them. It’s the simple things in life. 🙂

Rhubarb! (And a recipe)

Rhubarb is one of those things I don’t really think about eating until I see it and think, “Hey, I should cook something out of that.”

On my parent’s property there are several small patches of rhubarb that spring up every year.  I think the plants have been there quite a long time since this land was my great-grandparent’s way back in the day and they are near where the old barn used to be. Perennial vegetables are so cool!

I’ve been waiting for a while for the rhubarb to get big enough to pick, this week it was finally time to snap off the first few crimson stalks and cut them up to make a strawberry rhubarb crisp.

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The kids helped pick and prepare the rhubarb- they love cutting up veggies for me.

I love that they love to help!

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To the bowl of cut rhubarb we added some sugar, lemon juice and sliced strawberries along with some chia seeds for extra protein and mixed it up and poured it into a greased baking pan. Next we mixed a cup each of flour, rolled oats, some butter and a bit of brown sugar til it was crumbly and sprinkled it on top of the fruit. We baked it for about 25 minutes and it was so good! The rhubarb was super juicy and still tart and had a tiny bit of firmness to it (so if you like it softer, cook the crisp a bit longer) and the topping was delicious.

I used this recipe from Ina Garten as a guide and followed it loosely- mostly I just used the measurements and added and subtracted a few ingredients.
The crisp turned out so yummy I forgot to snap a picture before it was gobbled up, but you’ll have to take my word for it that it was actually as pretty to look at as it was good to eat. 🙂

Once strawberries are in season and cheaper than they are now, we’ll be making strawberry rhubarb jam. I can’t wait!

What dishes do you use rhubarb in? I’d love some new ideas!

Transplanting Tomatoes

I planted some tomato seeds a ways back- about a month and a half ago,

and stuck them on the window seat, where they would get lots of light.

It turns out that they didn’t get quite enough light, and got kinda leggy so I added a florescent light and that helped.

I think next year I might invest in a grow light and heat pad.

Anyway, the time had come to transplant those little babies-

their roots were growing out of the newspaper cylinders and egg cartons I had planted them in.

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Hubby is such a sweet heart and surprised me with a bunch of larger containers and I had some leftover seed starting soil, so I went ahead and transplanted the tomatoes, 4 to a container.

Did you know that when you plant tomato plants (even the ones you get from the store) that if you bury the stalk all the way up to the top three leaves, it will root out of the stalk and give the plant a more secure base, making it stronger? I just think that’s so cool!

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When I was transplanting, I realized I had started a lot more little tomato plants than I thought!  I ran out of containers and had to get creative- luckily my dad consumes loads upon loads of powdered coffee creamer (put in loads and loads of  coffee, of course) so he had a bunch of these laying around and was kind enough to share them with me.

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The little tomato plants look much happier and these will let them grow big enough to plant into the ground in a month or so. (At least I hope they will!)

I’m SO excited- this weekend we’re tilling the garden! Our neighbors down the street are super generous and nice and they are letting us borrow their tiller. You can probably guess what  one of my next posts will be about. 😉

I also have more chicken news, if you’re not sick of hearing about them. Some is sad and some is good- I’ll tell you what’s goin’ on  tomorrow.

Starting Seeds

It’s that time of year- when gardeners pour over the seed catalogs and order their seeds and wait impatiently until they can put those little gems of goodness into the dark, moist soil and wait and watch until little sprouts of promise begin to spring from the ground.

Ironically enough, I didn’t get my seed catalog until after I ordered my seeds…

but that’s just because waiting isn’t one of my strong suits.

Our seeds arrived last week from Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds and it was so exciting! I love Baker Creek because all of their seeds are non-GMO and they have  a huge selection of heirloom seeds from all over the world and many of them are rare. And of course, they have gorgeous pictures in their catalog.

We got 36 different veggies/flowers/herbs, plus a few more that I had left over from last year.

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I ordered all the staples of your basic kitchen garden:

tomatoes (red cherry yellow cherry, paste, black and red)

zucchini(yellow and green)

beans (green and black and soup)

peas (sugar snap and regular)

cabbage, broccoli, lettuce, celery,

parsnips, carrots (red and orange)

turnips, beets, basil, chamomile

borage, horehound, thyme

cilantro,oregano, spinach,

yarrow, chives, zinnias,

nasturtiums, marigolds

and a few other things.

I wanted to order sunflower seeds because I love sunflowers, but I forgot.

But, guess what I received as a free gift for ordering?? Sunflower seeds!!
I cried, I was so happy!

God loves us so much and knows the desires of our hearts. 🙂

It was awesome.

So yesterday the kids and I started a few seeds inside.

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We saved some toilet paper rolls and cut them in half, and rolled up some newspaper (not the shiny kind) and put organic seed starting mix in there and started the herbs and cabbage, broccoli,  some of the tomatoes and celery.

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We had so much fun, and I’m so excited to watch for those first little sprouts peeking out.

Have you started seeds yet? I was worried we may have started too late, but then I checked the frost dates for here and we should have just enough time. Whew!  Thank goodness.

I’ll keep you updated on our seeds! Check back tomorrow for a yummy lentil soup recipe.

Spring Is Coming!!

This morning the sky is gray and cloudy, and it’s still somewhat chilly

but…..

stepping outside onto the front porch, I hear birds singing.
Spring is coming.

There are daffodil shoots coming up in the backyard,

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The heather is blooming like crazy.

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Something else springing up from the ground, pushing its way through the black soil.

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Gorgeous white flowers are blooming along the front of the house-

they look nondescript from the top, but get down on their level and….

Oh my goodness. God is so awesome.

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The pussy willow tree is budding, as are several other little bushes around the yard.

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I’m so excited for everything to burst into green and color and for baby cows to appear in the field next door!

We had sunshine this past week, and it was 60 degrees!

The kids and my mother and I spent a lot of the day outside, pruning overgrown bushes and cleaning up; getting ready for new growth. The sun had warmth. It was wonderful!!  More days just like that are coming. And I’m welcoming them with open arms. 🙂

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My three-year old, Eliana took this picture. Amazing!

Foraging: Lavender

I love lavender.
I love the way it looks, the glorious scent of the beautiful purple flowers, the dusty looking green leaves.
I love how many different ways you can use lavender.
I really enjoy anything that is lavender scented- lotions, soaps, chapstick, tea, anything lavender is just divinely lovely to me.

It just so happens my mom has a huge lavender bed right out in our front yard.
I’m not sure if this actually counts as foraging, since it’s in our yard, but I’m going to say it does since it’s from a natural source and not a store.

I cut several stalks of lavender a few weeks ago, put them into bunches and hung them upside down to dry in the kitchen.
When they were nice and crispy dry, I ran my fingers down the stalks and got as many flowers off as I could.
This was a messy job! I got the little lavender flowers everywhere, and then vacuumed up the ones I dropped on the carpet and the whole kitchen smelled wonderful!

I stuck the lavender in a jar and put them in the cupboard to experiment with different ways of using it.

First up: Tea!

Yesterday I was really stressed out and decided that using a little lavender for aromatherapy and tea would be a good idea to help calm me down.
I also spent some time with the Lord, and that calmed me down more than any tea ever could, but I have to admit, this tea helped too. God gave us lavender for a reason- to help calm our busy little lives!
If you’d like to make some into tea, it’s simple. Here is what you need:


Lavender Tea 


1 Tbsp dried lavender
Hot water to fill a nice mug
1 tsp. Raw Honey (optional)
Tea Strainer or Tea Egg
Take your strainer, set it over your mug and put some lavender flowers in it.
I used way more flowers than this when I made my tea!
 I didn’t think to take the picture til after I’d already dumped out the used flowers and didn’t want to waste any more than this, so put a teaspoon or tablespoon of flowers in, depending on how strong you want your tea.
Then pour boiling water over the flowers, until they are slightly floating in the water.
Let steep for 5 minutes at least.
If you want your tea to be sweetened, put a teaspoon of raw honey in your mug, stir, and inhale deeply as you cup your hands around the mug and relax.
Try not to gulp it down. 
I imagine if you had some chamomile flowers and added it to the tea you’d really be relaxed! I’ll have to try it sometime. 🙂
I’m on my way outside to go pick more lavender to dry for future tea-making. I have a feeling I”ll be drinking this a lot, it’s so yummy!
Have any of you ever made lavender lotion? I’d love to but am not sure where to begin. If you know, please leave a comment for me!