Wednesday, November 30, 2011

DIY almanac: Homeground cornmeal and corn husk angels

Last night I tried using my coffee grinder to turn my dried corn kernels from the previous post into cornmeal. Success! I just cleaned out my coffee grinder with a dry cloth and then ground one small batch of kernels at a time until I'd achieved my desired consistency. The coffee grinder worked very well. If I wanted to make full on soft and velvety corn flour, I could have made it with the grinder, but I decided to create a coarser meal. The meal I ground is the color of eggshells, speckled with bits of blue, red and gold. Very pretty. I tried baking my first loaf of cornbread with it- another success. Very good flavor and the the colors of the speckled cornmeal became richer.

I also had a bunch of dried corn husks leftover in colors of gold, green and ruby red, so I decided to make a corn husk angel to top our Christmas tree this year. I made her a red and green dress, a husk halo complimented with red corn kernels and even braided her hair. I'm going to try and see if I can make some corn husk ornaments in different shapes to gift to loved ones. Anyway, here's the recipe I used for the 'painted mountain' cornbread:

Painted Mountain Cornbread
1 cup homeground cornmeal
1 cup flour
1/8th cup brown sugar
1/8th cup white sugar
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup of milk
1 egg

Preheat your oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit and lightly grease a small loaf pan. Combine dry ingredients, combine wet ingredients, then gradually mix the two together. Bake about 20-25 minutes.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

our homestead: preparing my painted mountain corn for meal and seed

I spent a good portion of the morning shucking and stripping the colorful kernels from a bunch of dried ears of 'painted mountain' corn I grew this summer. To strip the ears, I used a few different methods. I picked kernel by kernel off with my hands, ran a butter knife down the center of each kernel row to loosen them, and twisted my palm around a few ears to dislodge the kernels. Eventually, I ended up with a big bowl of loose kernels in hues of indigo, periwinkle, gold, pearly white, garnet and crimson reds, blush pink, warm black, mandarin orange and more. I set aside the black kernels and the pastel-colored kernels to plant for next year. I also hand selected a few fun color blends to gift to gardening friends this Christmas, such as a "Sunrise Blend" (reds, oranges and pinks), a "Norge Blend" (red, white and blue) and a "Blueberry Blend" (blacks and blues). I then packaged these blends in brown paper envelopes with their planting instructions.

Painted Mountain corn is very special because it is an older, hardier native corn with its own gene pool (meaning it's not a mass produced hybrid or GMO corn). This corn comes in a multitude of colors, hence its name, and I've read that these rich colors have high antioxidant values. This variety of corn is good for fresh eating (although it has a different texture than sweet corn), for making hominy or for grinding into flour or meal. I plan to grind the leftover kernels (the ones I'm not gifting or using for seed) into cornmeal later today. I don't have grain grinder yet, so I'll be experimenting with my food processor and coffee grinder to see what I can produce.

Oh, and I thought I'd post a recent photo of Banjo. He was napping under the table on his blankey the whole time I was seeding my corn. He's about 3 times as big as when we brought him home.

Monday, November 14, 2011

trail setters: brussel sprout trees have arrived at the co-op

Finally after about a month of searching, I've had locally grown brussel sprouts (on the stalk no less) brought into the co-op. I found them by asking around- "who has brussel spouts? who has brussel sprouts?", whenever I'd be ordering from a farmer or talking to my PR gal (who knows some farmers as well). I could have just taken the easy way out and ordered California-grown brussel sprouts, but I wanted to bring in something really special and local for the upcoming holidays. These brussel sprout trees come from Snowgoose Produce of Fir Island, Washington, up near Mt. Vernon and down the road from Frog's Song Farm. I had heard that they had them, so when I was working in the back one day and Erica came in to deliver their gorgeous rainbow colored eggs (white, blue, brown and green eggs), I immediately asked her about the brussel sprouts. Yup, they had them! And yesterday they came with 28 stalks for the co-op along with their egg delivery. I wish I had a better photo of them...lately I've been having to take all of my photos on my cellphone. Anyway, it was quite the procession when we were bringing the stalks to the back. We carried box after box of these science fiction-looking tentacles loaded in sprouts. I kept jokingly saying, "be still my beating heart", as I was setting them out...I was so excited! To make the evening even better, Frog's Song Farm came in shortly after with a full delivery of arugula and ruby streaks mizuna bunches, fat green cabbage heads, bright lights swiss chard, fennel bulbs and beet bunches....this was as I was setting out more bok choi bunches from Five Acre Farm. Aww! Bringing in local!

Monday, November 7, 2011

trail setters: 10 reasons to support your local farmers

1. You support more open space in your area. If a farmer can afford to keep their lands, there's less of a chance that their land will get developed into ranch housing or "paved paradises".

2. You support nutritious food in your community. Locally grown food has higher vitamin content, as it can be picked in the peak of ripeness and brought to you quicker than if it had to be harvested under-ripe and shipped hundreds of miles. Also, food grown here is acclimated to our area- I sometimes wonder if certain food allergies are caused by eating food grown far away and if people could digest local foods easier.

3. You support bee survival in your area via the selection of blossoms and nectar sources farmers can supply to pollinators with their crops and orchards.

4. You support your local economy, especially during this hard economic time our country is facing. One of my favorite things to have happen while selling produce at a farmers market is to be checking out two customers and the first customer hands me what instantly becomes the "change" for the second person. For example, the first customer's total is $12 and the second customer's total is $8. The first customer hands me $12 exactly and the second customer hands me a $20. I immediately hand the first customer's $12 over to the second customer as their change. I know it's a little silly, but that is a true visual of the money that is cycling around the community from people shopping at my farmer's produce stand.

5. You support crop biodiversity. I recently read an article in National Geographic that discussed the extinction of several different types of vegetables (such as heirloom radishes and potatoes), caused by mass production of more generic crops. Supporting smaller farmers can help keep heirloom varieties alive.

6. You support the knowledge of where your food is coming from and have less risks for the salmonella and e.coli outbreaks that seem to occur with mass produced food.

7. You support the farmers for the labor they provide! Farmers work very hard, very long, grueling physical days and a lot of them end up with arthritis from all the minute work they do with their hands. We should show them the appreciation they deserve. It's patriotic.

8. You support better soil. Smaller, local farmers' livelihoods depend on the health and fertility of their soils, so more effort is put in to creating living soils rich in organic matter and nutrients through better growing methods and rotation.

9. You support the maintenance of a unique set of skills. The average farmer's age today is 55 and that average is continuing to climb. What does that mean? That less folks are getting into farming. When today's farmers age, who will grow our food? It's important to keep it so that people can actually make a living and support their families through farming.

10. You support your taste buds. Fresh food tastes better. Enough said!

Thursday, November 3, 2011

our homestead: Brussel sprouts and Banjo

I was so busy with the last of the growing season and other adventures and projects that I haven't had the time to post a blog in a quite while. Finally things are starting to settle out a little more for me as we head further into the chilly part of autumn (we had our first frost a few days ago...brrr). Some quick updates: I finished the 2011 farmers market season on October 2nd with a subaru full of produce to deliver to the co-op ( should have seen me driving down the road), my husband and I hopped on a plane on October 4th and spent two weeks on the Garden Isle of Kauai in celebration of our 1 year wedding anniversary (mmm lots of fresh tropical produce at the farmers market there!), I returned the 18th and had a festive rest of the month including running around the Bob's Corn corn maze, pressing my own hot cider from the wild orchard across the road, baking pumpkin whoopie pies using my own homegrown pumpkins and hosting a Sleepy Hollow themed Halloween party. My husband and I even planted our second crop of garlic using our own garlic seed (e.g. the wedding garlic).

As far as other announcements, we just added a new member to our family. His name is Banjo and we've been calling him an "Arlington Shepherd" as he came from Arlington, WA. We believe he is has an assortment of dog breeds in him including rottweiler, corgi and labrador. It took us three days to name him. My husband wanted to name him Hendo, I wanted to name him Huckleberry...and we settled on Banjo. It fits him. He's a mischievous little fellow who likes to howl and take super-man jumps from the couch. Currently he's afraid of walking downstairs but can scamper up them in a jiffy. Our other dog, Oswald, has been having a blast since we brought home a new brother for him.

Anyway, as far as the state of my garden is concerned, I'm still enjoying kohlrabi, spinach, sunchokes and kale from out well as tomatoes in the greenhouse! I'm sure the tomatoes won't last long with these frosty mornings we've started having. I harvested all of my pumpkins and have been baking all sorts of cookies and breads and I made a batch of pumpkin chili the other night for supper. Today, I went to investigate my brussel sprouts and it appears they are in full swing. I'll have to plant more next year to sell perhaps! I harvested enough for dinner tonight. I'll be making baked macaroni with brussel sprouts and broccoli from Five Acre Farm. Good comfort food for a chilly autumn evening.