Thursday, August 2, 2012

week 11

deep in tomato-land
Sweet Corn                Green Beans                        Cucumbers
Cantaloupe                Summer Squash            Tomatoes        
Potatoes               Swiss Chard         Onions & Garlic             
Basil                Cilantro          Sorrel              Thyme

“…the failure of one thing repaired by the success of another; and instead of one harvest, a continued one throughout the year.”   ~ Thomas Jefferson on the garden

We’re giving a shout out this week to the pollinators in our garden.  It’s great to see them out there early in the morning, hard at work.  We had never associated bees with sweet corn until this year.  The summer squashes are planted amidst the corn, three-sisters-style, so we see the dance more clearly now.  Large and small bees, bumbling, zooming, buzzing high and low notes, drop down into the deep squash blossoms, then float up and crawl along the dangling corn tassels, strewing streams of corn pollen as they fumble along, their legs coated with bright golden-yellow pollen.  What a pleasure it is to see them, and to know that they are fed too (and not poisoned) by the work they do here.           

The corn is a long story this year.  Last winter we bought our favorite organic corn seed from our favorite seed house.  It was warm and dry and we planted it not too early, but early enough to feel good about the stand.  Then there was no stand!  We went looking, and found rotted kernels, and about 6 sprouted corn plants out of 6 rows.  At that point, we were right on time to plant, so we pulled out some seed left over from last year, still viable.  It sprouted lovely little green shoots which were immediately eaten by crows and turkeys.  Now we were really frustrated, out of corn seed, and getting late for planting.  We resorted to buying a-lot of corn seed from the local co-op – the bright pink fungicide-treated stuff (we rinsed it until the water ran almost clear before planting) and proceeded to plant and plant until we had a stand tall enough to not be plucked by marauders.  Some raccoons got into this first patch one night before the kernels were even budding, so we’ve had the electric fence on it ever since.  After it tasseled and silked, a storm knocked the plants down into the squash, making a big tangle, but the tops reached back up to the sun, and finally, we have some corn.  If we’re lucky and the fence holds, the wind stays mellow, and the hot days don’t roast the ears in the husk, we’ll get two or three weeks of picking from our patches.  That’s life in a garden!

If you are a corn enthusiast, we hope you’ve been enjoying some earlier corn, and that you enjoy this corn ASAP.  The sugars in fresh corn change to starch FAST.  Even if you don’t want to eat the corn tonight, you might do well to just cook it (4 minutes should suffice) and store it in the fridge or freezer until you want it.

Our apologies if you encountered a bitter cucumber.  We found some in our last cucumber salad, and we hope that you didn’t.  But if you did, sorry!

The melon patch is a mess.  We’re not sure what we were thinking when we planned the space that the melons would take.  We did not plan according to their ability to make vines this year.  The vines are crawling, sprawling everywhere, and thankfully, there are melons coming along.  These cantaloupes are mostly Halona – one of our favorites.  

The soil is dry again.  It’s to be expected in August, I suppose.  Nevertheless, it is unnerving.  We’ve started the drip tape up again and hope to see a good steady soaker this weekend.  As far as we can tell, the drier conditions are responsible for some of the fruiting veggies slower pace this week.  Tomato, pepper and eggplant ripened considerably slower.  The only crop that made more than we expected was green beans – and they seemed bothered by the heat, not as crisp as we’d like, even as we were picking them.

Recipes this week are from American Grown, by Michelle Obama (and the White House chefs).
Green Beans with almonds
1 ½ lbs fresh green beans, trimmed              1 cup slivered or chopped almonds
1 tsp melted butter                                         1 tsp sweet paprika
1 tsp olive oil                                                  1 Tbsp butter
¼ cup minced shallots or onions                   1 Tbsp chopped fresh parsley
Salt and freshly ground black pepper

1.  Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil.  Cook the green beans for about 5 minutes.  Drain and place the beans in a large bowl of ice water to cool quickly.  Drain again and set aside.
2. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  On a rimmed baking sheet lined with foil, toss the almonds with the melted butter and paprika.  Spread in a single layer and bake for 7 minutes, or just until fragrant.  Do not let the almonds burn.  Remove from the oven and set aside.
3. In a medium pan over medium heat, warm the olive oil and butter.  Add the shallots and sauté for 2 to 3 minutes.  Add the green beans and sate until warmed through.  Remove from heat and add the parsley.  Season with salt and pepper.
4. Place the beans in a serving dish and garnish with toasted almonds.  Serve immediately.

Corn Soup with summer vegetables
4 to 6 ears of fresh corn, shucked and silk removed                        2 sprigs fresh thyme
Juice of ½ lemon (about 1 Tbsp.)                                           Salt and Olive Oil     
Grilled vegetables of your choice (summer squash, eggplant, pepper, tomato, mushrooms, etc.)

1. Cut the corn off the cobs and set aside.
2. Place the cobs in a large pot and just barely cover with water.  Bring to a boil; then lower the heat and simmer for 45 minutes to 1 hour, until the stock has a rich corn flavor.  Strain the stock and set aside.
3. Reserve ¾ cup of corn kernels and place the remaining corn in a blender.  Blend, starting on low speed and increasing the speed as the corn purees.  You can add a little of the corn stock to get the corn started.  Blend on high for 45 seconds to a minute.
4. Pour the pureed corn into a medium saucepan through a fine mesh strainer to remove the bits of skin.  Add the thyme and cook over medium heat, stirring frequently.  You do not want the soup to boil.  As the soup heats, the natural starch will begin to thicken the soup.  Once the soup has thickened, add the lemon juice and the reserved corn stock little by little until the soup reaches the desired thickness.  You should have 4 to 6 cups of soup.  Add salt to taste.     
5. Heat a small frying pan over medium heat; add enough olive oil to coat the bottom of the pan. When the oil begins to smoke, add the reserved corn kernels and do not stir until the corn has a nice brown color.  Stir the corn and then remove it from the heat.  Add the seared corn and any other grilled vegetables of your choice, cut into bite sized pieces, on top of the soup and serve.

 Thanks for your support – Have a great week…              

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