Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Homemade Watermelon Sorbet

This post was written in late June, and somehow never was published. It would still be a fun treat for Labor Day picnics!!

Now that my new ice cream churn has been initiated by vanilla ice cream, it's time to make some frosty sorbets for these hot summer days!

My last attempt at a sorbet was many years ago, when my mother and I tried to make a grapefruit sorbet from canned grapefruit juice. Several months earlier, I had taken her out to a fancy dinner for her birthday and they served a grapefruit sorbet frozen in grapefruit shells and sliced like cantaloupe as a palate cleanser before the main course. It was wonderful!

So, Mother and I got ice and rock salt, set up the churn and brought out her canned grapefruit juice. Within about 15-20 cranks of the churn handle, the dang thing stopped cold and I thought I had broken it. Not so... the sorbet was already frozen solid! But as it turned out, it was so salty we couldn't eat it... who knew they added so much salt to canned grapefruit juice? So my mother and step-father had frozen Salty Dogs for their evening cocktails all summer long!

I'm ready to try again, this time with fresh watermelon. (In the interim years I have made granitas in trays, but they are a different texture than a real churned sorbet.)

I bought 2 watermelons... and threw one away as it was totally tasteless. The one I cubed and seeded was fairly sweet, so I only added sugar to taste as I made the mixture, using this recipe below only as a guideline. I also added lime juice to taste since I had much more purée than the recipe called for.

Watermelon Sorbet Recipe
* ½ cup plus 4 cups seeded and pureed watermelon
* ½ cup sugar
* 2 tablespoons lime juice
* 1 teaspoon lime zest

In a small saucepan, bring ½ cup watermelon puree and the sugar to a simmer and remove it from the heat. Add the lime juice and zest and allow the mixture to cool for 20 minutes. Add the 4 cups fresh watermelon puree to the melon-lime mixture, and then freeze in an ice cream maker according to the manufacturer’s instructions.

Makes 8 servings. 

A big bowl of hand-churned sorbet... (it only looks orange because of the room lighting).

Made several small containers for the freezer. YUM!!

Monday, August 29, 2011

Cover Crop and Fixing Nitrogen

After reading some of the books and papers on Biodynamic Agriculture, this year I am planting a leguminous cover crop of Australian Winter Peas, Psium arvense, in the current vegetable garden areas.

Usually I have the fall/winter garden area fully planted in mid-October for next year's garlic and shallots, and then I mulch in late fall after they have sent out a few leaves. This year I plan a much smaller amount of garlic and shallots, so the remaining area will get the peas to fix nitrogen. (I have a fence line where I grew spring peas 2 years ago, and I noticed an increase in healthy production there last year, which I attribute to the nitrogen-fixing abilities of the earlier peas.)

I have also been researching temperate climate perennial shrubs and trees that fix nitrogen. Most of the trees that fix nitrogen are tropical, but there actually are a few temperate zone trees I've come across that fix nitrogen. Fortunately the shrub list is longer! It will be a lengthy process of time and money to get some of each planted over the next several years, but it's do-able.

After seeing the success with inter-planting vegetables in the flower beds this year, I'm definitely moving away from "rows" or "plots" of annual vegetables and into mixed bed areas that combine perennials like herbs, bulbs, flowers and fruit/nut trees/bushes with my annual vegetables.

I did notice that as productive as the veggies in the flower beds were, the Brix (nutrient density) in the tomatoes was below par. I don't think I have amended the flower beds since I first built them 4 years ago although the flowers have been lush, but clearly the soil is deficient in some minerals or at least mineral balance. Planting some nitrogen fixers (maybe peas next year?) in those beds will help the soil fertility in general, and I'll add some minerals before this winter sets in, and some organic fertilizer (5-4-3).

The bigger challenge is to move my mindset away from "only vegetables" in a specific area, and get my mindset onto areas that are mixed with a variety of perennial and annual plants that support each other in many ways. With some careful planning over the winter, I hope to get started next spring with mixing up my vegetable and flower garden areas. It will take several years to fruition I'm sure, although no garden area is ever static.

I just got the book Gaia's Garden yesterday via inter-library loan, and it will help point me in the right direction(s), esp. when mixed with my own research. The library book is the original edition but I do have the newer 2nd edition on my Wish List. From just the few pages I read last night, it is well worth the money!

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Spaghetti Squash

Photo by McCall N

As much as I love squash of all kinds but especially winter squash, I can't believe I've never had spaghetti squash*! (Actually I may have eaten it once many, many years ago at an aunt's house... but I don't really remember.)

So, I bought one at the market to try. Now I'm hooked for sure, and plan to grow them next year. Besides being quite versatile, used in a variety of dishes, I've discovered they keep several months in a root cellar. That's a BIG plus for me since just one spaghetti squash makes enough for several meals for one person.

They are easy to prepare... just cut in half, remove the seeds and bake at 350ºF for about 45 minutes (mine took an hour) until they are fork-tender. They can also be microwaved, and I've read they can be cooked either way uncut, but pierced with a fork to allow steam to escape. Since I wanted to save the seeds, I opted to cut mine before roasting.

I let my baked squash cool enough to easily handle, and a fork raked lightly down the fleshy inside released the strands that really DO resemble spaghetti noodles.

I ate the first serving just coated with a bit of butter so I could taste the squash. Yummy, but not mushy like over-cooked pasta! A serving with a pasta tomato sauce for the next day, and then one with pesto. Having eaten spaghetti squash 3 times in a row, I froze the remainder for later meals.

Other recipe suggestions:

Lightly sautéed fresh tomatoes with onions and garlic in olive oil, toss in some feta and black olives and heap on the spaghetti squash

*Spaghetti squash is very low in Cholesterol. It is also a good source of Niacin, Vitamin B6, Pantothenic Acid, Potassium and Manganese, and a very good source of Dietary Fiber and Vitamin C. Source

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Update on Tomatoes amongst Flowers

This year I had some volunteer tomatoes grow in my flower beds, plus I added a few more tomato seedlings to those beds, scattered in with herbs, grasses and flowers.

You can just barely see one of my tomatoes in this cheese photo

My tomato crop is much improved this year, although maturing in dribbles since they seem to be mostly indeterminates (thus no photos so far). In the last 2 years, I have not successfully grown many edible tomatoes... I lost the whole crop 2 years ago to blight, and last year I lost most of it to the devastating brown marmorated stink bugs.

I have seen some evidence of that brown marmorated stink bug damage this year, but not as much. In comparison to last year, I'd say I have 90% more good/edible tomatoes this year. The volunteer tomatoes have had only a few penetration spots, and the new seedlings have had a few more than the volunteers. The worst 'damage' so far was several big Brandywines where I only lost a secton of each. The rest of the damage has been just the occasional spot and easy to cut out. Of course, I will have tomatoes ripening for another month or more, so the tally may change.

I know the brown marmorated stink bugs are around, as I have actually seen a couple in the garden. So in my opinion, the success rate is not due to the bugs moving on. I do not use any chemicals, so it's not that either. The other possible reasons for more success are that (1, best) the new tomato plants are generally well interspersed with all sorts of perennials and herbs, which must deter stink bugs. (2) The volunteers are slightly more exposed, that is, away from most of the flowers and herbs but with less damage... perhaps the seeds built up a tad of immunity from last year's infestation? Can that actually even happen? (Doesn't seem very logical to me.)

I was not quite so fortunate with the volunteer winter squash. I harvested a total of 2 bushels between the acorns and Thelma Sander's S.P. squash, and half a dozen acorns had surface bug damage. Knowing those would not keep in the root cellar, I decided to cut out the bad areas and roast the rest to freeze. Out of 6 very large squash, 5 were completely riddled with rot inside in spite of having a hard shell with only minor areas of apparent pest damage.

A few English cucumbers, before bugs ate the vines. Long one is 15"

I did lose my cucumber and melon vines to spotted squash bugs, which I now think may have been what damaged the winter squash fruits. I thought the winter squash vines died prematurely (in my opinion) but I didn't think initially that it was from pests. This is the first year I've seen the spotted yellow squash bugs; usually I just get squash borers in the summer squash.

I am greatly encouraged with this different way of growing vegetables although it was mostly accidental. Next year it will be more by intention. I don't yet know how that will be, but I have the winter to mull it over and plan!

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

I have goat milk!

Photo Courtesy of Just chaos

I finally bought a goat share now that I know I really like making cheese. Plus, I contracted to buy a doe and companion wether (Nubians) when as I get fencing up, which will be at least spring with the way our economy is going.

So for now I'm learning to make goat cheese. Learning goat care, feeding and milking will come later.

I expect many cheese failures along the way, pretty much as I've had with cow's milk, although I AM getting better at making cheese in general. Along the way I've learned how fat percentages in the milk affect the cheese, how important controlled heating temps are, and what rennet works best. I've learned there is a whole lot more to know about all the various cultures and adjuncts and how to use them. I've also learned that many recipes are vague and inconsistent with their instructions for the 'make'.
No, the cheese was not made with Bragg's ACV!

My first firm goat cheese attempts are some Caerphilly wheels, because it's a recipe I've made several times successfully once I got the rennet right. 

Milky Whey

First off the bat, a couple of things are different. One is the milky whey after draining the curds (rather than clear), which may be something I'm doing wrong... but I don't know a goat cheese-maker to ask right now. The ones I know only make soft cheese spreads and feta. The weight of the wheels are comparable to cow milk so I don't think I'm failing to convert enough milk solids to curd.

Another difference is how quickly the milk becomes curds after adding rennet. I'll need to work on slowing it down a bit, to improve texture and taste. 

Here's the first goat Caerphilly above on the left (9 quarts/2.25 lbs.) and the 2nd one two days later (1 gallon/1 lb.) on the right. The second make didn't get pressed very well overnight; apparently the weights slipped sideways after I went to bed. I'm trying several combos of ways to salt (add salt, brine, or some of both) as well as different mesophilic culture combinations so there will be several small batches.

One cheese I really want to make (with both with cow and goat milk but not mixed together!) is a gorgonzola dolce. It's a softer, sweeter blue than a Stilton but I need to order the right penicillin roqueforti strain to culture it.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Storing Potatoes without a root cellar

I hear from folks all the time who want to store potatoes for the winter, but do not have an acceptable spot in a basement, in a crawl space or the luxury of an old root cellar. Do not despair, here's one way that's cheap and easy to do, and time to plan in most of the country! (I also have some posts on root cellaring tips coming up after Labor Day.)

There might be a name for this, but my step-father just called them a potato storage "hill" (not to be confused with the hills people make around potatoes for growing). It is actually very simple, inexpensive, and effective. All you need is straw, potatoes and some dirt.

After you have dug the potatoes, allow them to dry in the open air a couple of hours to toughen the skins. Do NOT wash them! On a spot where the potatoes grew (or some convenient spot), put down a circular layer of straw about 8" deep. Make sure the soil underneath is tamped down firmly if you dug potatoes from there. The size of the circle depends on how many potatoes to store. If there are lots, you might want to make two or more circles of straw, and have manageable amounts per hill.

Place a layer of your dry potatoes (carefully) in a circle, but be sure there is about 8-10" of straw outside the circle of potatoes. Now start to build up a cone of potatoes on the circle layer, until you are as tall as the cone will go without the potatoes tumbling down. Place a section of plastic pipe, like 1" PVC plumbing pipe down into the stack of potatoes a few inches, and extending above the stack height about 2 feet. This will bring some fresh air into the potatoes over the winter to keep them healthy.

Starting at the bottom, cover the cone of potatoes with straw at least 8-10" thick, until the entire stack is fully covered with 8" or more of straw, even the top.  Next, dig some dirt from around the cone (dig far enough away from the cone so you don't disturb the cone and straw covering, but close enough to act as a drainage ditch for winter rains or melting snow). Cover the cone of straw with dirt as thick as will hold up, the thicker the better. Pack the dirt tightly around the plastic pipe and tamp all the dirt firmly with the back of your shovel. If your soil has a lot of clay, it will form a better protective barrier against washing away in rain.

One advantage of making several smaller hills is that you can dig out several pounds of potatoes from a small hill without disturbing (and having to re-build) the other hills.

This method above is not the best in some parts of the US, where it is just too cold in the winter. If your winters are really severe, or you don't want to build a hill, you could accomplish the same thing with several bales of straw stacked to form a well in the center. Fill it with potatoes and other winter vegetables like squash, pumpkins and turnips, then cover with more bales to form a thick insulated storage area, and cover the whole thing with a tarp. Access is easy by merely removing a few bales, retrieving what foods you want, and re-stacking and re-covering the bales.

Friday, August 19, 2011

Apple Guild Update 1

Photo taken 6/4/11

Photo taken 7/23/11

In June I posted about starting an apple guild here. Now that it's already August, there are already noticeable improvements to the area, but there are still years needed to grow to maturity and sustainability.

Some of my friends were kind enough to give me a few herb plants for the apple guild project while I was attending a garden swap in June: lemon mint, peppermint (I already had spearmint), bee balm, chives and garlic chives, marjoram, oregano and 2 annual basil plants (a spicy globe basil, and a purple basil). I bought thyme and dill starts for the guild, and also transplanted some anise hyssop, yarrow and lemon balm from another garden bed.

All the herbs will attract pollinators, and some are also nutrient accumulators (yarrow, chives, lemon balm).


So far I have dug up the weeds in a small area about 6' x 10' on 1 side of the apple tree (it's hard work even without record heat), and planted 2 teepees with haricot verts (French skinny green beans) to fix some nitrogen in there. Since the apple is still small, I put a couple of tomato plants and the basil at the edge of the current drip line where they will not rob nutrients from the apple roots. 

I wish I knew how large the apple will eventually grow, but I've lost contact with the man who gave it to me. I may have to enlarge the outer ring of bulb protectors (hopefully to be planted this fall) as the tree matures since they should be planted at the (currently unknown) mature drip line.

About 6 feet into the weeds to the right of the apple are 3 rhubarb plants, which will stay. Behind the bean teepees are 4 currant bushes (2 black and 2 red); they will also stay.  They look pretty pitiful (struggling) after 4 years here.

I started some annual nasturtiums to help attract pollinators (both dwarf bush type and vining) plus some flowering sweet peas to put in there somewhere, too. The sweet peas grew about 4" and then died; I think it was too warm, and too late in the season for them. The nasturtiums are struggling, but I think it's just the heat.

A long bed against the front of my house had some strawberries lost in the jungle and struggling for light. I dug them out, cut them back, and put them in a tray of potting soil mixed with sand to sprout. They will go around the apple tree as a shallow-rooted edible ground cover.

Photo July 23

Here are the strawberries (at least the few that survived) around the base of the tree, photo taken July 23. They have rooted nicely, and will spread. Herbs to the right and left of the tree trunk have grown considerably from the transplant stage and I have harvested some already. The purple (left) is an annual basil with a small spicy globe basil in front of it, the plant on the right is the perennial anise hyssop.

Growing More Lush, photo taken 8/17/11

There is much work to be done building this guild over the next couple of years, but I am quite pleased with the progress so far. Hopefully by this fall I will get a few comfrey plants transplanted around the guild. I have put lots of cut comfrey leaves on the ground as a mulch in there... they disappear into the clay quickly!

I was tardy in getting a second planting of green beans mixed in among the first round, but they still have time to fruit before frost. Even if they don't produce many beans, they will add some nitrogen to the soil.

This entire planting area was just lawn grass that I covered with weed cloth and mulch about 4 years ago. Each year I added more mulch and it has broken down, so that when I finally (and laboriously) removed the underlying weed cloth this year I had some 'almost soil' to leave on top.

Unfortunately the area under the cloth is still hard packed clay, but if I allow the deep rooted dandelions to grow in there next year (and maybe plant daikon?) which bring up deep minerals from the subsoil... and add mulch, eventually it will attract worms that churn and break up some of the clay. I'll also add some greensand this fall as it helps break up the clay plus it will add micronutrients to help remineralization.

I have a huge pile of aged willow chips (almost inaccessible) down in the gulch near the spring house, left from last year's tree work... and if I can ever get some help, I'll mulch the guild area heavily this fall. The other woodchip pile the tree guys left near the street is more easily accessible, but it contains a lot of black walnut which would kill most things in the guild.

This is one of my more interesting projects in this garden, and one that will take the longest time. Others have been straw bale gardening, and this year's random vegetable planting.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Something is wrong here...

Something is wrong, very wrong here. Something is very wrong with the fact that Cargill can stay in business after having to recall 36 million pounds of salmonella-tainted turkey, but many small artisan food-makers may not be able to stay in business even after keeping a clean record.

Something is very wrong with the Federal Government knowing about the tainted turkey last year and doing nothing about it.

Something is wrong with the fact that health departments are pushing businesses to produce processed food rather than fresh, locally-sourced food which is healthier, fresher and doesn't have huge transportation costs.

Something is very wrong with how our "food safety" is mishandled by politics (thanks to lobbying efforts?). Foods that are government inspected and therefore sold as safe, are found to include foods that are not safe, but sicken and even kill... and the government lets the manufacturers get away with it with just a slap on the wrist (maybe they get a slap, but often not)!

Meanwhile small local farmers, artisan food-makers and small business owners who haven't killed anyone with foods are being forced out of business, often with no legal justification at all except harassment, and forced to defend themselves (guilty until proven innocent?) with enormous fines and costly legal fees. Some are even swooped upon with guns as though they were terrorists, and jailed.

The Wall Street Journal reported last week that the U.S. Federal Government knew in 2010 about the dangerous form of salmonella in Cargill ground turkey, but didn't move for a recall until an outbreak killed one person and sickened 77 others this year.

Cargill and the U.S. Department of Agriculture announced the recall of 36 Million pounds of ground turkey on Aug. 3, 2011. The USDA said it's the third-largest meat recall in history.

At a time when the federal government is conducting SWAT-style armed raids on raw milk farmers, accusing them of selling “pathogenic” milk, another regulatory department of this same government brazenly stands by and allows deadly pathogen-contaminated meat to be openly sold without offering any warning whatsoever to the public.

It's not just the Feds after raw milk either. Many state officials are acting in a similar manner against other edibles, perhaps pressured to do so by the Feds? And, who is pressuring the Feds??? The State of Illinois is shutting down local, artisan ice cream makers for such terrible offenses as using non-irradiated fresh fruit instead of fruit syrup, and fresh cream instead of pre-packaged soft serve mix. 

2 months ago, at the prompting of the FDA, US Marshals raided Wyldewood Cellars (Kansas), producer of natural elderberry juice, and confiscated the entire stock of product, claiming it is an “unapproved drug”. 

Last Fall, Federal agents arrived unannounced at Camino de Paz Montessori School and Farm (New Mexico) on supposed suspicion of marijuana. After scouring the premises and terrorizing teachers and students, they found nothing but fruits, vegetables, and other produce.  

Last summer, officials from various health and law enforcement agencies raided the personal home of Rae Lynn Sandvig (Minnesota), a raw milk and local food consumer, for allegedly “assisting in the sale of raw milk” from her home by sharing food with neighbors!  

There is a very interesting time-line posted here, showing the stepped-up (increasing) number of raids conducted by the Feds from 1985 to the present, complete with links and the outcomes. (The outcomes almost all show the individual and small business as eventually legally prevailing although at a very high cost that includes loss of their homes, business including inventory, and reputation.)

These are among the reasons I generally buy only local produce and local free-range meats. I choose to support the small local farmers and businesses with my pocketbook and now I choose to use my Voice of Outrage at what officials are trying to do... and continue to use my Voice of Encouragement to keep locavores and family farmers fighting for our food rights. Supporting with my vote hasn't worked because BigAg/BigPharma can and does outspend us to sway legislation. (If you are uncertain of that fact, just look at the mess in Congress.)

Monday, August 15, 2011

Friends Pay it Forward!

Thanks to the generosity of a dear friend, I now have a new 22 cu. ft. refrigerator! (New to me anyway; it's 6-7 years old.) What it means is that now I can keep on hand a larger quantity of milk for making cheese, rather than making a separate 60 mile round-trip for milk every time I want to make cheese. 

I have been sharing the house refrigerator with my sister and her 23 year old daughter, allowing me space for only 2 gallon jugs of milk in addition to my normal refrigerated stuff. Now I can easily store 6-8 gallons.

I had to drive to North Carolina to fetch it, a 2 hour drive across the mountain from here, but well worth my time and gas. I had thought to use it either as a second cheese cave, or more likely a curing chamber for sausages and other charcuterie (which cannot go in the cheese cave due to potential cross-contamination of cultures)... but it is one inch too wide to fit in the root cellar. 

It's really too large for my cramped living quarters too (I had to put it in the small room that I use as the "office"), but it will do... and the price was right: she paid it forward!

Saturday, August 13, 2011

My First Nut "Crop"!

Four summers ago I planted a variety of fruiting bushes... and one nut bush, which was ordered as an Allegheny Chinquapin. It was a foot-long bare-root stick when it arrived, and this year it seems to be producing about a dozen nuts... which greatly pleases me, but they are NOT chinquapins!

In working towards sustainability, I wanted some small nut bushes to provide a source of minerals (including calcium), protein, carbohydrates, vitamins B1, B2, B3, amino acids, and some excellent unmodified fuel (fats). Almonds perhaps might have been my first choice, but they will not grow here.

Most people think of chinquapins either as the towering oak Quercus muhlenbergii whose leaves resemble those of the chinquapin, or the small Georgiana chinquapin (Castanea alnifolia), which is more of a creeping 4-foot tall shrub that grows in zones 8 to 10, but we seldom think of a medium-size nut bush like my "woulda-been" Allegheny chinquapin (Castanea pumila), which is basically a shrub or dwarf tree growing 12 to 15 feet tall in zones 3 to 9, and is a diminutive cousin of the American chestnut (Castanea dentata).

About MY nut bush
After carefully examining the shape of the nuts at this stage, my bush is a definitely a filbert. Of course, I have no idea which filbert it might be, since it's merely what Forest Farm sent me as the chinquapin I ordered 4 years ago. The shipping list and the invoice both indicate a chinquapin... but clearly it is not, although the leaves are somewhat similar.

I'm not totally disappointed as I also like filberts. However, it's the not knowing what I really have, how tall it will get, yada, yada...

Hard to see the nuts, but they ARE there

My next big project will be to build a Nut Guild around this bush and hope I can guess close to the mature size. Meanwhile I need to research what needs to be planted in a nut guild. I may even try to plant some of the mature nuts (assuming they mature!) this year to see if I can grow another nut tree.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

"Organic Ready" Corn Thwarts GMO Contamination

Using a name chosen as a play on Monsanto's Roundup Ready GM crops, Frank Kutka and a group of corn breeders are developing organic and non-GMO corn varieties with a naturally occurring trait that can block incoming pollen and prevent GMO contamination.

"Frank Kutka is on a mission: to help save organic corn from GMO contamination. As acres of genetically modified corn increase—88% of this year’s US corn plantings are GM—it is becoming more difficult for organic and non-GMO farmers to prevent cross pollination—and contamination—from GM corn. Kutka, a plant breeder and coordinator of the Sustainable Ag Research and Education (SARE) program at North Dakota State University, recently received an $11,500 grant from the Organic Farming Research Foundation to develop what he calls “organic ready” corn."  Read the whole article here

I love it (the name)! 

I also love seeing some good news regarding GMO's... and that plant breeders and farmers are starting to become more aggressive in thwarting Monsanto's march to complete dominance (with the apparent help of the FDA) over the landscape ecology and our healthy food supply.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Summer Overheating

With intense hot temperatures covering much of the country and causing deaths from dehydration, it's time for a reminder about homemade electrolytes. I posted this recipe last summer, and now want to post it again as a reminder, and for new readers.

Water is basically a solvent and when you perspire, the sweat droplets carry off the things dissolved in it, like electrolytes. Lose too many electrolytes and the body is in trouble... and drinking just water does not replace the electrolytes you have lost, and actually dilutes those you have left.

Electrolytes are important because they are what your cells (especially nerve, heart, muscle) use to maintain voltages across their cell membranes and to carry electrical impulses (nerve impulses, muscle contractions) across themselves and to other cells.

The major electrolytes in the human body are:
    • sodium (Na+)
    • potassium (K+)
    • chloride (Cl-)
    • calcium (Ca2+)
    • magnesium (Mg2+)
    • bicarbonate (HCO3-)
    • phosphate (PO42-)
    • sulfate (SO42-)

This time of the year finds many of us outside in the heat, sweating and upsetting our electrolyte balance, particularly sodium and potassium. Gatorade and/or Pedialyte are good to have on hand, but a simple solution may be easily and cheaply made at home.

Electrolyte Solution
1 quart water
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 tsp. Lite Salt (which is a salt - potassium chloride blend, or use regular salt if that's all you have on hand)
6-10 teaspoons granulated sugar
(For flavor and color you might add half a package of unsweetened Kool-Aid*)

Mix well. Store in refrigerator for up to one week. Freeze some in ice trays or as popsicles to use later.

This solution helps replace lost electrolytes due to dehydration (diarrhea, vomiting, excessive sweating). Do not give to small children, instead seek medical advice.

This is not intended as medical advice for anyone!

*The "unsweetened" form of Kool Aid contains fruit flavoring, citric acid, calcium phosphate, salt and Vitamin C. The "sugar sweetened" mix adds sugar, sodium citrate, and the preservative BHA. The "sugar free" mixes add aspartame (Nutrasweet) and acesulfame potassium.

Monday, August 8, 2011

Food, Inc. on PBS 8/9/2011

PBS is doing an encore showing of Food, Inc. on August 9, 2011. Since it is an encore, not all stations may carry it, so check your local listings. (PBS advises to check the 2 weeks prior to Aug. 16 in case a local station chooses another date.)

Food, Inc. will be accompanied by Notes on Milk, a short variation of the 2007 feature documentary Milk in the Land: Ballad of an American Drink. Ariana Gerstein and Monteith McCollum, whose Hybrid aired on POV in 2002, take a quirky and poetic look at some lesser-known aspects of America’s favorite drink: the industry’s spiritual underpinnings, politics and the struggle of independent farmers.

Watch the Trailer for Food, Inc. here.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Volunteers Do Pay!

I've posted several times this year about having volunteer winter squash (and tomatoes) in my flower beds. The tomatoes don't have their first blush of color quite yet (as this was written on July 30), but I have harvested some of the winter squash, shown above.

There are a few more squash still growing on the vines, but not as many as there were a few days ago when I accidentally severely damaged one vine with several small squash on it!

Right now the squash are 'curing' on the front porch for 3 weeks before going in the root cellar, and those volunteers will be a lovely addition to my winter fare this year.

Pretty good return from just letting Nature take over, huh?

ps, the plastic container on the left is a few blackberries I had just picked.

Friday, August 5, 2011

Freezing Zest

It happens every winter... I want/need some zest to add zing to a dish (usually it's lemon zest) and I have no lemons on hand. It's not worth the gas to drive to town for just lemons especially if the weather is bad, so I do without. Bleck.

This year, with my success at freezing herbs, I am also freezing thin peels of lemon, lime and orange for zest. The orange zest will likely be used in desserts, not sure what I'll do with the lime zest... hot tea maybe. I thought about using my microplane to zest the fruit, but it's such fine zest that I'm not sure how it would hold up to freezing. With small peel sections, I can cut them into thin strips if I need to; besides, a lot sticks inside the microplane and I can never get it all out even with a pastry brush.

I sharpened and tried several of my knives; what worked best was a knife with a thin flexible blade that I use for filleting, shown above. I also found it easier to peel away from me except on the bumpy ends of the fruit. The knife doesn't really conform to the fruit, but the flexibility let me make slices thin enough to avoid cutting into the bitter pith.

After the zest was frozen, I vacuum-sealed it. Once I open one to use a bit of it, I will just bag the rest and put the bag in a small container with a lid back into the freezer.

It was easy to do, and worked so well (I tried some of the frozen orange zest in tea last month) that I may even buy one of those bags of hard, juiceless lemons just to freeze some more zest!

ps... I froze the now naked lemons, limes and oranges whole. I can cut off a wedge for juice anytime later on...

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Just for Giggles

Photo after 24 hours of drying time. The drying greatly reduced the space between slices.

I've been doing a lot of dehydrating this summer, and cursing the energy I'm using when sunshine is free. On my post about dehydrating zucchini, I mentioned someone's method of drying zucchini on wooden dowels in a hot garage. Well, I don't have a hot garage... but my pick-up gets plenty hot when I keep the windows closed anticipating our almost daily afternoon thunderstorms.

So, you know I just had to try it! I put the threaded zukes in the truck about 2 PM, and by the next late afternoon they were perfectly dried! I only had one dowel rod long enough to span the space between the dashboard and the seat-back or I would have done more. The back window of a sedan would work great, too.

Now I need to rig some kind of support arrangement that will allow me to use the screened trays from my Excalibur in the truck, because I will be drying tomatoes soon.

Monday, August 1, 2011

Monsanto Zucchini

I was aware of GMO corn, soybeans, alfalfa... yada, yada. (Well, I did know there are GMO seeds, but I just assumed they were for the afore-mentioned crops.) What I did not know is that Monsanto also produces and sells GMO seeds for yellow summer squash, zucchini, and at least one Acorn winter squash!

Recently I came across a very interesting post about Monsanto seeds here. The blogger describes a telephone conversation with Monsanto, and a list of the names of several varieties of GMO squash seeds produced by Monsanto. The key comment for me was:
Any summer squash with a Roman numeral behind the name is a GMO seed. (List is on her blog.)

One of the comments to that post said: "There are 2 GM sweet corns out there too, Triple PRO, and Atribute."

"Monsanto bought Seminis in 2005. It was estimated then that Seminis controlled 40% of the U.S. vegetable seed market and 20% of the world market—supplying the genetics for 55% of the lettuce on U.S. supermarket shelves, 75% of the tomatoes, and 85% of the peppers, with strong holdings in beans, cucumbers, squash, melons, broccoli, cabbage, spinach and peas. The company’s biggest revenue source comes from tomato and peppers seeds, followed by cucumbers and beans. Seminis' control of the seed market is much higher now. They boast: 'If You've Eaten a Salad, You've Had a Seminis Product'

The buyout was not the first time Seminis and Monsanto had done business. In 1997, Monsanto began to insert its Roundup resistant gene into one of Seminis’ lettuces, with an agreement to split the premium fifty-fifty. A 1999 Wall Street Journal article also noted that Seminis had received U.S. regulatory approval for selling disease-resistant genetically engineered squash and tomatoes with longer shelf lives and that the firm was working on using biotechnology to create sweeter peas and worm-proof cucumbers."

You have to ask yourself why they (Monsanto) would decide to buy this seed company,” was the thought first shared by Rob Johnston of Johnny’s Selected Seeds, “Their Roundup herbicide patent is expiring, so their future profits are in the biotech traits…I think they’re going to push and see if consumers will accept it.Source

Here's the Seminis summer squash brochure. ( It's a PDF, but a Quick View is here.)

When I buy seeds, I always buy OP or Heirloom seeds, but I never think to buy summer squash seeds because a 4-pack from a big box store is easy, and cheap enough to grow all the summer squash I need. 

Now that I know there are GMO summer squash, I will buy OP seeds in the future... but I DO wonder what kind of seeds are used by the mega-seedling companies. In my area Bonnie's dominates the market and their labels are always just generic: zucchini, yellow squash, cabbage, cucumber, etc. (Bonnie states their F1 hybrids are GMO free, but not all their seeds are F1. Could a patented seed not be F1? I have no clue.)

And... now I wonder just WHO is financing Bonnie for this giveaway to every 3rd grader in the whole country (if the teacher registers the class)??

Bottom Line: Have I unknowingly been growing (and eating) GMO zucchini??