By the reckoning of some, spring is now upon us. This might not be much of an occassion in central Maine in years past, but the last few days up here have been decidely spring-like, at times verging on summerful. Just a few short weeks ago we were taking snowy walks through biting wind. Now the sun is shining, the temperature is up around 18°C (mid 60s for you Americans), and the snow is fading fast.
The warm sunny days give us a great opportunity to get our seedlings out where they can thrive. We're up to almost thirty trays of seedlings now, and there's not nearly enough light for them inside, even co-opting my mom's seed bench. The hoop house is still a day or two away, so for now we have a make-shift low tunnel in our front yard.
The hoop house is coming along, though. We cut all the saplings and started getting them used to their new shape. At the same time, we also cut some smaller wood to use for low tunnels later on the season.
Nights are still a little bit chilly up here (down to freezing last night, for example), and it'll probably snow at least once more, so it's not clear when we'll actually be able to leave anything outside overnight. And the field has some drying out to do before we'll be transplanting anything into it.
Some exciting stuff is coming up. I'm glad to be back from California and not have any more major travel planned. And speaking of excitment, Jericho had some while I was away. I won't tell the story, but I have to post one of the pictures she took.
Happy spring, everyone.
Our recent rash of snow storms has thrown us back into what feels like the depths of winter and for some reason this inspired me to write about food. Perhaps because one of my favorite things to do on a stormy day is to stay in and cook. Also, this is an interesting time of year for those trying to "eat local" because stored produce is starting to run out, and the first spring greens have yet to arrive.
Last summer I did quite a bit of canning and freezing to preserve the delicious produce from Waltham Fields Community Farm for later use. We tried to eat a lot of it before moving (so that there was less to move), but I was pleased to find some greens, applesauce, and a few other goodies in the freezer when we got here in February. We also still had a few jars of sauerkraut (everyone should try to make this! A great recipe can be found here) that I had canned, which is delicious although sadly not alive anymore (because the heat required for canning kills all of the good lactobacillus in the live kraut).
However, the fruits of last summer's labor are not enough to live on so when we first arrived in Dover-Foxcroft, I did a little searching and was thrilled to find out that Ripley Farm has delicious root vegetables and other storage crops that can be ordered and picked up every other week until the end of March! We are also lucky to have Widdershins Farm and Maple Lane Farm close by so that we can get local meat and eggs.
What are we making with these fabulous ingredients, you ask? One of my favorites is a chili recipe that I made up that has no tomatoes in it (since anything in the nightshade family is on my dietary "no list" unfortunately). Pureed carrots take the place of the tomatoes as a base, with a little bit of tamarind paste and/or apple cider vinegar to give it that tomato-y kick. Granted, tamarind paste is not local, nor are the many spices that really turn this into chili, but carrots and ground beef make up the bulk of this tasty dish so it is a great winter local meal. Here's the recipe in case you want to give it a try:
4 lbs Carrots
2 T Olive Oil
1 1/2 lbs Ground Beef
2 cloves Garlic
2 tsp Cumin
2 tsp Celery Seed
1/4 tsp Cloves
1/4 tsp Cinnamon
1 1/2 tsp Oregano
1 Bay Leaf
2 C Water or Stock
1/4 C Apple Cider Vinegar
1/4 tsp Tamarind Paste (optional, but tasty)
Cook carrots and mash or puree. I cook mine in the pressure cooker, but you could steam, boil, or roast them depending on what works for you.
In large saucepan, saute onions in olive oil over medium heat until translucent. Add meat and garlic and cook until meat is browned.
Add spices, water or stock, carrot puree, apple cider vinegar, and tamarind paste. If using a pressure cooker, bring to pressure and cook for 15 minutes. If not, bring to a boil and simmer for 1-2 hours.
I also decided to embark on a new fermenting adventure and try making sauerruben, which is like sauerkraut, but made with turnips or rutabaga instead. You can see what this looks like in the picture of my sauerkraut earlier. The fermenting rutabaga is the one that is very orange. The only complaint I have about sauerruben so far is that it requires grating a large quantity of rutabaga: I made this two days ago and my hands, neck, and arms are still sore.
In other news, we ended up moving our seedlings over to Lori's house because they were not getting enough light in the cabin and were getting very leggy. She let us put up her seed bench and take it over for a few weeks (until we get the hoophouse built). Our little plants are now cozy and spoiled by warm and bright grow lights, however, they do have one little problem.
His name is Helo and though it is easy to be fooled by his mild mannered (and ridiculously cute) exterior, inside lies a ruthless plant-killer waiting to strike. Well, actually it is more like he just curls up and sleeps on top of the statice, but the effect is the same.
Ok and just one more tangent that I have to include is the fact that I built a picnic table/work table all by myself! Ah, the things I get excited about.
Happy Spring everyone!