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Archive for the ‘Growing’ Category

HOMEGROWN Life: How About Cream of Roasted Fennel Soup?

Wednesday, February 11th, 2015

 

HOMEGROWN-LIFE-LT-GREENThis is my first year growing Florence fennel, the bulbing kind. Fennel grows wild around here, so I figured it would do well in our yard. Boy, has it! This is definitely something we’ll continue to grow—and eat. The recipe below, for cream of roasted fennel soup, is one of my family’s favorite ways to prepare it.

fennel1WHAT YOU’LL NEED:

  • 2 fennel bulbs, bottoms and stalks trimmed off; reserve the leafy tops
  • 1 onion, coarsely chopped
  • olive oil
  • salt
  • 1/4 lb bacon slices
  • 1 tsp cumin
  • 1/2 tsp caraway seeds
  • 4 cups chicken broth
  • 2 large Yukon gold potatoes
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 1/2 cup half and half

WHAT TO DO:

1. Preheat the oven to 375 F.

2. Cut the fennel bulbs into 1/2-inch slices. Place the fennel and the chopped onion on a cookie sheet. Drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with salt. Roast for 25 minutes or until tender and slightly browned.

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3. Divide the bacon in half. Leave one half in slices and cut the other half into 1/4-inch chunks. Cook the slices in a Dutch oven until crispy. Remove from heat and lay on paper towels to cool. Cook the bacon bits in a fry pan until crispy. Transfer to paper towels to cool.

4. Add the cumin and caraway seeds to the Dutch oven. Cook them in the remaining bacon grease until fragrant, about a minute.

5. Add the chicken broth, potatoes, fennel, and onions. Bring to a boil then reduce to a simmer. Cook on medium high until the potatoes are tender. Add the bacon chunks, milk, and half and half, and use an immersion blender or food processor to purée the soup until smooth.

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6. Serve with a garnish of bacon slices and fennel leaves. Enjoy!

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MORE HOMEGROWN MEALS FOR HUNGRY BELLIES:

  • Don’t miss Emily’s awesome Soup Jazz Sunday, featuring a new recipe and playlist in every installment.
  • Find more winter-repelling recipes and farm-share-friendly meal plans in the CSA Cookoff.

HOMEGROWN Life blog: Rachel, of Dog Island FarmRachel’s friends in college used to call her a Renaissance woman. She was always doing something crafty, creative, or utilitarian. She still is. Instead of crafts, her focus these days has been farming as much of her urban quarter-acre as humanly possible. Along with her husband, she runs Dog Island Farm, in the San Francisco Bay Area. They raise chickens, goats, rabbits, dogs, cats, and a kid. They’re always keeping busy. If Rachel isn’t out in the yard, she’s in the kitchen making something from scratch. Homemade always tastes better!

PHOTOS: RACHEL

HOMEGROWN Life: Planning a Baby Food Garden

Friday, January 30th, 2015

 

HOMEGROWN-LIFE-MAGENTAMuch like the Loch Ness Monster and Bigfoot, “extra” time and space don’t seem to exist. Even so, I apparently decided to fill both of those “extras” with a new baby! That’s right, we’ll be saying hello to a new little girl come spring—and saying goodbye to our so-called spare room and spare time.

That means, in the middle of winter, I’m trapped inside and in full nesting mode. As I may have mentioned before, winter is NOT my favorite season. In fact, it’s not even in my top three. Therefore, I’ve spent much of my time insisting the house isn’t clean enough, making the kids schlep furniture from one room to the next, pouring candles, cooking, and planning my new garden. Generally, I’ve been making everyone around me insane.

We moved into this house a little late last season to get planting, so I’ve been putting a lot of attention toward it this year—you know, the obsessive type of attention pregnant women tend to excel at.

HOMEGROWN-life-seed

 

As soon as I found out I was pregnant, I knew I wanted to feed this baby as organically and naturally as possible, including breastfeeding (my first time) and making baby food. That includes growing many of the veggies I’ll use in her meal prep—in other words, a baby food garden. This took a bit of advanced planning, as she won’t start eating food until next winter.

For starters, our garden this year will be an ambitious 1,500 square feet, larger than I’ve had previously. I’m committed to growing what I can preserve and what I know the family will eat. After combing through my seed catalogs and the very few baby cookbooks I could find, I’ve decided to plant a wide variety of flowers and produce, focusing on veggies I can freeze in bulk. This means lot of peas and carrots, beans, berries, and squash of all types. Here’s my full order for 2015:

  • Blauhilde beans (purple)
  • Dragon Tongue beans (yellow)
  • Sunset and Streamline runner beans (green)
  • Envy edamame
  • Oxheart and Lunar white carrots
  • Chicago pickling cucumbers
  • Garden huckleberries
  • Cherry Vanilla quinoa
  • Cimarron and Butter King lettuce
  • Southport and Wethersfield onions
  • Little Marvel peas
  • Lilac Bell and Etuida peppers
  • Giant Nobel spinach
  • Fordhook zucchini
  • Jersey Giant (red) and Cream Sausage (white) tomatoes
  • Strawberry watermelon
  • Country Gentleman sweet corn
  • Early Prolific straight squash
  • Genovese basil
  • Rosemary
  • Stinging nettle
  • Valerian
  • Yarrow
  • Chamomile
  • Cumin
  • Echinacea
  • Lavender
  • Fennel
  • Dill
  • Parsley
  • Oregano
  • Thyme
  • Sage

Over the next year, I’ll post tips that I think other new natural moms might find helpful. Here’s my first one: When planning your garden, don’t forget herbs for Baby! Although infants’ initial diets may seem simplistic and made up exclusively of those things listed above, and although we tend to think of baby food as bland, especially because canned baby food is so boring, it doesn’t have to be.

You can start with the mildest herbs, introducing those one at a time so you can gauge your baby’s reaction. Then you can move on to bigger and bolder flavors; for example, mixing mint into lamb and peas. Do proceed with caution if allergies are prevalent in your family, as some herbs and spices—such as cinnamon, fennel, and paprika—can bring on allergic reactions. Even the most simplistic of purées will welcome some herbs and spices, and your baby will develop a taste for more adventuresome foods as he or she grows.

Did you know that around five months in utero babies begin to foster a taste for certain familiar foods? That means if you want your child to develop a natural predilection for healthy choices, you might start (or continue) eating that way during your pregnancy. This has not been an easy task for a picky eater who may or may not be writing this post, but I’d really like my little one to enjoy a wide variety of veggies, so I’m going to grin and bear the green beans. It will serve as a good guilt-trip story in the future when she refuses to eat something I’ve made.

HOMEGROWN-life-everly

 

In addition to her diet, I’m also committed to selecting the most responsible and environmentally conscious baby products I can find for my household. I’m glad I started early because, frankly, it’s all a bit more overwhelming than I remember. My son is 10, and my daughter is 16, so there’s a wide age gap. I never thought I would be picking out baby stuff again, so after my second pregnancy, I promptly purged my brain of any relevant info. What’s that I hear? Never say never?

Luckily, the Internet is here to save the day, with a wide selection of sites comparing all kinds of products, including diapers. I was shocked to learn Americans throw away an average of 49 MILLION disposable diapers a day, one of the largest contributions to landfills. These diapers can be full of harmful chemicals, including polyethylene and petroleum, and even more staggering is that they take an estimated 200 to 500 years to decompose.

With so many terms to learn (bleach-free, cruelty-free, wood pulp-, dye-, and latex-free, all with varying degrees of biodegradability), it’s a lot to ponder. I also wanted to be practical and take into account ease of purchasing, just in case of an emergency run, as well as price and my family’s priorities. I spent a good deal of time considering cloth diapers, as well, and compared available services. In the end, I ended up selecting a disposal brand I could purchase locally that uses sustainable materials and is largely biodegradable, cruelty-free, and free of dyes and toxins.

As with anything in this HOMEGROWN life, we all make decisions that are best for our family and try to make decisions that are also best for the Earth. If I can raise a few more responsible, earth-loving humans, I’ll know I’ve done something right. Someday my 72 hours of diaper research will pay off!

MORE BABY-FRIENDLY FOOD IDEAS

  • Don’t miss the Homemade Baby Food 101, full of the HOMEGROWN flock’s collective wisdom!
  • If you haven’t perused HOMEGROWN’s Earth Mamas and Papas parenting group, give it a gander!
  • If you’re thinking about planting your own baby food garden, check out the Garden Planning 101. Good luck and keep us posted!

Michelle WireHOMEGROWN-life-michelle comes from pioneer stock: Her great-grandmother literally wrote the book. It’s this legacy, in part, that led Michelle to trade in her high-stress life for a Pennsylvania homestead where she holds down a full-time gig in between raising kids and chickens.

PHOTOS: MICHELLE WIRE

 

HOMEGROWN Life: Deciding Which Vegetable Varieties to Grow

Wednesday, January 14th, 2015

 

HOMEGROWN-LIFE-LT-GREENAnother year has come to an end. The seed catalogs are rolling in, and as I sit here drooling over them, I keep coming across new, exciting vegetable varieties that I just have to try.

There’s a part of my brain that’s screaming at the rest of it: “Don’t fix what isn’t broken!” Year after year, I post about what I’ve learned, and one of the recurring themes is to stick with the things I know work for our area—not to risk losing productivity because I’m feeling adventurous. But really, what fun is that?

Vegetable VarietiesThere are some things I’m set on keeping the same. The Orangeglo watermelon and Bidwell Casaba have been very kind to me, unlike most other watermelon and melon varieties, so those are here to stay for the long haul. Catskill Brussels Sprouts will also probably stick around. There seem to be so few varieties of heirloom sprouts, and these do the best.

I always say not to mess around with our corn selection. We grow Bloody Butcher corn, which has served us well. It gets HUGE and gives us multiple relatively long ears on each stalk. The corn can be used fresh, or you can let it mature into a dent corn. After a failed attempt at saving seed from it and coming to the realization that we just don’t have enough space to save corn seed and avoid inbreeding depression, I’ve decided to expand my corn-growing horizons to include a flour corn, a sweet corn, and a popcorn.

Unfortunately, there’s no fast way to determine which varieties you should grow for all vegetables. Your best bet is to find varieties that were developed in areas that have a similar climate to where you live. For instance, Italian varieties will probably do best in coastal California, where we have the same basic climate. Russian varieties might serve you well if you live in colder areas. If you have a short season, choose varieties that mature quickly. This, of course, can take some research to figure out. For cool season crops, you’ll want to make sure they have enough time to develop before warm weather hits. For warm season crops, you want to give them time before the frosts come. Seed packets and catalogs include a number, usually next to the name or after the description, denoting that variety’s average number of days to maturity.

When it comes to latitude, rather than season length, onions are much more specific than most other vegetables about where they can grow. Varieties will either be long day, short day, or intermediate. If you live north of 35 degrees latitude (draw a line from San Francisco to Washington, D.C. to approximate), you’ll want to grow long-day onions. South of that, grow short-day onions. If you’re just on either side of that latitude, you can grow intermediate onions. I’ve also had good luck with long-day onions here on the 35th parallel.

Besides climate, you’ll also want to look at the size, yield, and disease resistance. If late blight is a problem in your area, choose vegetable varieties that have some resistance. If you have a small garden, choose compact or high-yielding varieties to make the most of your space.

Or you can do what I like to do and just pick a bunch of varieties to try and see which ones do best. Good luck!

MORE HOMEGROWN SEED ASSISTANCE

Rachel on Vegetable VarietiesRachel’s friends in college used to call her a Renaissance woman. She was always doing something crafty, creative, or utilitarian. She still is. Instead of crafts, her focus these days has been farming as much of her urban quarter-acre as humanly possible. Along with her husband, she runs Dog Island Farm, in the San Francisco Bay Area. They raise chickens, goats, rabbits, dogs, cats, and a kid. They’re always keeping busy. If Rachel isn’t out in the yard, she’s in the kitchen making something from scratch. Homemade always tastes better!

PHOTOS: RACHEL