Late last summer, I realized that I had put all of my thoughts and energy into setting up the kitchen garden but I neglected to thoroughly consider what to do with the food that it produced. I didn’t imagine growing enough food beyond the amount needed to supplement our meals, share with our friends and to enrich the compost.
When the produce began to mature in August, I quickly understood that the two of us would never be able to consume it at the same rate that it was peaking. I started to address my dilemma by encouraging the curious people who stopped by to take a few tomatoes. Soon, no one left the garden without a bag of produce in hand. I had a couple of instances where people were bold enough to ask for some produce. They seemed a little embarrassed but I urged them to feel free to come back for more.
Even with the lack of a controlled environment, I was able to preserve enough pumpkins to make several pies and loaves of bread in the late fall. The tougher skinned white pumpkins are still looking good in January. I added a better storage solution to my 2013 projects list in which I could set them on a rack and at least monitor, if not control, the temperature and humidity.
I never would have guessed that I would find everything that I needed to get started at the local hardware store but that is how easy it was. My first project involved making use of the, what seemed to be in the number of hundreds, yellow pear tomatoes. My foodie friend and acting editor for this blog, found the most interesting recipe for tomato jam. The trick is to find recipes which call for what you have in your garden. My garden had the tomatoes, basil and the chili peppers required. The jam is delicious on a cracker spread with brie, chevre or cream cheese. It also served as a fun gift during the holiday season.
I'm getting the impression that the kitchen garden is becoming more popular at the elementary schools. Both the local elementary school and my granddaughter’s school in California have raised beds to grow vegetables. I commend the teachers who I suspect take on additional hours to make the experience possible.
Has Michelle Obama’s kitchen garden project had any national effect? I had hoped that President Obama’s administration would have ushered in more improvements toward our food system before now. I wonder sometimes what his wife thinks about the situation. Given the fact that the current First Lady is a terrific speaker, educated, intelligent, a mother, attractive and has the media’s attention, I think that she would be a perfect spokesperson for progressive changes. She proved herself to be a powerful motivational force when she stepped out on the campaign trail. If I had a minute of Michelle Obama’s time I would say, “Come on Michelle, your girls are getting older. You’re a mother who understands the basic need to provide nourishing food for your family. Shame the industry for using suspect chemicals and questionable technology on our food and in its packaging. The young, the old and everyone in between are suffering from the direction our food system has headed. You want to support your husband in his effort to keeping the costs of health care down, right? A shift in the values within our current food system could address climate change, farm worker safety, and health care costs. Push the idea that the farming subsidies need to move away from the Wall Street investor mega-farms and be redirected to support the local organic farmers who have an invested interest in their community. There is also an opportunity to address the plight of the invisible migrant workers who endure near slavery conditions. Frankly, we all resent being used like guinea pigs. We need a 21st century version of Eleanor Roosevelt.”
Happy New Year.
crossposted at thedirtioccupy.blogspot.com
Additional Information & Recipes:
Fried Eggplant – My grandfather’s recipe and family tradition.
Peel and slice one large eggplant to make rounds roughly ¼ inch thick. You will develop your own preference for thickness in time.
Dip each slice of eggplant in a shallow bowl with 2 beaten eggs then in another shallow bowl with about a cup of fine ground cornmeal loosely mixed with a handful of flour and flip over to cover both sides of the slice. I keep the cornmeal and flour handy in case I need more as I proceed.
Fry the slices until golden brown in very hot but not smoking light vegetable oil (note that the cornmeal will start to cause smoke after the first batch so use your overhead fan or crack a window). My current favorite vegetable oil is sunflower and I use an iron skillet for frying. I put enough oil to brown the sides of the slices. You will know when it is time to turn them over when the sizzling action mellows and the edges turn golden. Once you turn them over and the vigorous sizzling has subsided it is about time to remove them from the oil. I lift the slice with a fork high enough to allow the excess oil to pour back into the pan and place it on a paper towel with the hottest side facing up. Salt to taste. Layer with another 2 sheets of paper towels and fry another pan full. Repeat. Eat the fried eggplant the moment the temperature becomes safe to do so.
The Yellow Pear is known to have been cultivated in Europe as far back as the 17th century. Renowned biologist and taxonomist Christiaan Hendrik Persoon first recorded it in his Synopsis plantarum in 1805.YELLOW PEAR TOMATO JAM
The variety spread to North American fairly quickly.
1825: The Hudson Bay Company at Fort Vancouver, though the headquarters of the Northwest fur trade, also operated a farm with vegetables, fruits, herbs, and flowers and sold Yellow Pear Tomatoes.
From The Big Book of Preserving the Harvest by Carol W. Costenbader.
4 c sugar
3/4 c water
6 c yellow pear tomatoes
3 jalapeno chilies, seeded and finely chopped
3 T chopped fresh basil
3 T fresh lemon juice
2 T distilled white vinegar
- In a 6-quart saucepan combine the sugar and water. Bring to a boil over medium heat and simmer until the syrup reaches 234 F on a cooking thermometer.
- Remove from the heat and add the tomatoes, mixing well. The syrup may change consistency, but continue stirring and eventually the tomatoes will mix evenly.
- Return to the heat and add the chilies, basil, lemon juice, and vinegar. Simmer, uncovered, on very low heat until the mixture thickens, about 1 1/2 - 2 hours. Stir often, being careful not to burn. The jam will darken.
- Ladle into clean jars, leaving 1/4 inch of headspace. Cap and seal.
- Process for 15 minutes in a boiling water-bath canner.