...Growing, Building, Cooking, Preserving, Crafting...

2006 began our urban homestead when I broke ground on a garden, which now includes perennial fruits, flowers, & many vegetable varieties. We dream of solar panels, keeping bees and hens. Until then we'll continue growing and preserving our own fruits and vegetables, building what we can for our home, cooking from scratch, and crafting most days.


Loving the "Love Apple"

Indigo Rose tomatoes, still ripening
Like some of you (I'll assume) I wait all year to eat tomatoes.  I prefer the taste and quality of local, homegrown tomatoes especially heirloom varieties.  There is nothing like the perfectly tender, bright red (or purple, yellow, orange, striped green), sweet and acidic, delicate orbs that begin popping up at farmers' market 'round late July.  There's nothing there that's bred to withstand the impact of a bumper and gassed for ripening during transport thousands of miles away.  These late summer fruits are grown to be savored and enjoyed as close to picking (both in time and proximity) as possible. We haven't had more than a couple handfuls of cherry tomatoes from our own bright sunny patch yet, but some of our plants are dripping with the promise of slicers and salad tomatoes for at least another month.  Fortunately we have connections.  Last week after a day spent working in the Chicagoland area my husband stopped for dinner at the homestead of one of his best friends--an organic farmer who, with his wife's guidance, was pivotal in bringing Ben and I together.  Apparently in their pocket of northern Illinois it's been the best tomato season ever in the history of their establishment!  And that says a lot since I have fond, fond memories of all the luscious heirloom fruits pouring out of their field when they called East Troy, WI home.  Our friends are always graciously sharing their abundance; last Wednesday was no different.  A gorgeous box of multi-colored heirloom tomatoes (gently) hit my kitchen counter and I took off putting them into as many dishes as possible--mostly in their raw and--in my mind--most enjoyable state.  I've made classic Caprese salad, blended Gazpacho, Tomato Basil Corn Salad, and BLTs (my favorite...which will forever be tied to a memory of sitting at our aforementioned friends' kitchen table at their WI farm eating this seasonal delight on the most nutritious white bread we could find, while I was basically being interrogated on how things were developing with my then-new relationship with this fine gentleman freshly returned from Chile...a story I fleshed out in the-speech-that-never-happened at our rehearsal dinner.)  Ah, I love how food can hold so many memories.
What a beautiful way to say "Honey, I'm Home!"

Tomato Basil Corn Salad with Shallot Vinaigrette
Caprese salad: Heirloom Toms, Fresh Mozz, Fresh
Basil leaves, and Basil Oil

Can't get enough of this flavor combination
Mmmm, Basil Oil 
On the topic of food memories, yesterday after hitting the playground pretty hard, Vera and I shared a snack of peanut butter, bananas, honey, and sunflower seed sandwiches served open-face.  My mom used to prepare this for us all the time as kids.  The components may or may not have changed much since the 70s and early 80s when my mom was a health-food nut herself--natural pb, bananas (now "fair trade"), raw honey, raw sunflower seeds, whole-grain bread (now gluten-free for me), but whatever original pieces remain, the first bite of this sandwich always take me right back to the kitchen table on 4 Mile Rd.

One of my favorite taste memories
Connecting the generations with a snack
There haven't been as many sewing projects underway at the homestead this week, but more culinary experiments.  My days and weeks go in waves like that.  On Sunday I was determined to seal up some local veggies so I made Pickled Carrots and Daikon from a recipe in Marisa McClellan's new book Food in Jars, which I'm borrowing from the library.  I'm happy to say that my batch looks much like the photos she displays.

Spices for Daikon Carrot Pickle
Coriander seed, Black Mustard seed, Red
Pepper Flakes, Star Anise
Very Small Batch of Pickled Daikon Carrot
I also processed another batch of my classic Dilly Beans and finished sprouting some grains for Chad Turner's GRAWnola recipe.  I didn't have the buckwheat he calls for, but I have loads and 5-gallon buckets full of quinoa so I decided to try the substitution.  It took me a few days to sprout the quinoa in a Mason jar with my new sprouting lid--found at my local natural foods co-op.  And then once I finally got all the ingredients together I realized it was more than the two measly solid racks on my dehydrator could handle.  So I made the executive decision to dry the granola in the oven on the "WARM" setting in "Convection" mode.  I can't be sure that it was under 118 degrees F (likely 150F at least), which is required for it to be considered "raw," but I've at least been through the recipe once and now I know what to do differently next time.  I'm just glad to have some homemade breakfast cereal around again.  Everyone here loves granola in the AM, but we ran out weeks ago and I was majorly delayed in making more.
Sort of "GRAWnola"

As the summer--in terms of the school year--winds down, I'm beginning to have thoughts of fall and all the romantic things that come with it like big warm sweaters, hearty stews and soups, hats, layers, trips to the apple orchard, cider (!)  I know I should be more present, but I've been highly influenced by the stacksful of library books we picked this week and last (feeling simultaneously grateful and spoiled that we have books from three different area libraries in our possession right now--we have such a great system here!)  We chose books about the seasons, one about closing the garden for the winter, and another about skiing and animals that live underground where it's cold.  So how could I not start thinking about knitting again, making a pot of chili, and mentally considering our Thanksgiving plans?  Soon enough.  For now I should breathe in the last month of this glorious 70-degree weather (b/c it's going to last and be just perfectly warm/sunny for the next few weeks, right?)

We are taking advantage of these last moments of summer but getting to the bottom of our Summer Bucket List.  We'd been talking for two years about a rendezvous to the beach for an evening picnic.  We made it happen on Friday and found it to be a great buffer between the work week and jumping into all the things that require our attention at home.

B and V noshing before sunset
Sailboats on the horizon
The remains of my stellar "pedicure" from
Only the essentials: Dolly Lolly, nature pouch,
light jacket, and the ultra-useful Mr. Peanut backpack
Beach Shoes?
Enjoying my sweet girl's curiosity
We'll be finding sand in our things for days
Also feeling grateful today that V's been spreading her wings a bit and playing independently at the neighbor's house for the second time in a few days.  It gives me a chance to relax, catch up, and collect myself and gives her the opportunity to practice her manners, sharing skills, and self-control.  My girl's growing up.  And so far I'm fine.  

1 comment:

  1. Are the Indigo Rose ripening now? We have gotten at least a half dozen so far. The plants are really loaded and when the crop comes in we intend to use it primarily for ketchup because of the deep red of the fruits.