Welcome to austinagrodolce … My family and I garden with more intention and enthusiasm than allocated budget or overall design plan. It shows. Wildlife populations don't seem to notice our lack of cohesive design, they just like the native plants here. It seems by growing local we've thrown out a welcome mat. Occasionally, we're surprised at who (and what) shows up.

Monday, May 19, 2008

Basketabulous - Week 8

What's in the basket for week 8? All sorts of yum, that's what.

Salad mix, always welcome, full sized carrots now (sigh - they grow up SO fast), a double bunch of sorrel (which I KNEW would happen seeing as I haven't found a way to prepare this yet to please my significant other), "new" potatoes (more on them in a second), sweet basil, leeks, red spring onions, golden beets, and zucchini "Romanesco". The golden beets have a particularly chard like leaf, and I am stretching my comfort zone a bit by using the stalks and leaves in a giant pot of stock I am making rather than tossing them into the compost. (More on that in another post to come.)

I am so pleased to be seeing more ingredients I recognize on sight now as opposed to ID'ing things by process of elimination as sometimes happened at the front end of this venture into the unknown. Potatoes! I love potatoes. I know all sorts of delicious things to do with potatoes. It is a relief to have a basket bringing known quantities to our table.

I knew going in these seasonal baskets would present challenges to my cooking and our eating habits, and I believe we have risen more or less nobly to the occasion. I will simply admit here and now that having a little less exploration to do in terms of recipes and technique combined with more predictable results is something I am happy about.And for those of you who did not have a father in law who while in his gardening prime grew the best truly "New" potatoes in the universe and had happily shared some of his vast knowledge with you seeing as the rest of his family had long ago grown tired of "talking dirt"...? Truly designated "new" potatoes cannot be bought in any grocery store. A legitimately labeled new potato has been freshly dug by hand out on a farm or from a garden. The skins are not hardened off and won't withstand mechanical harvesting, and they do not store long. New potatoes are meant to be enjoyed quickly, and you just won't ever find these in a standardized grocery store, no matter HOW fresh their produce claims to be.

And while I am mentioning my father in law, I will admit that although I listened with mostly rapt fascination to his explanations of why things are called what they are, why this one variety would grow well for him and another would not, I did not pay nearly enough attention. Here I had a gardening authority extraordinaire right at hand, with all the information I so often futilely search for, all at the ready, and I simply did not take the time to ask him to share, or record, much of what he knew about growing a vast array of delicious fruits and vegetables. Same goes with my mother in law, who was a truly inspired Southern style cook and old school canner and preserver. She made the best pickles I've ever tasted, and most of what she knew about cooking and canning has gone back into the dirt with her.

A word to all you youngsters out there. While you may find some of your parent's gardening and cooking arcana eye rollingly boring? Eventually you will turn INTO them (it happens, kids - resistance is totally futile) and if you don't bother to get that information recorded in some way you will have to work much harder later to try and ferret it out. Do yourselves a favor. Sit down and talk with your folks or your in laws. Right now. Listen to them, and learn.

The final treat I will highlight from basket number eight (cesta numeri otto) is the Zucchini Romanesco. Katie and David Pirie report they imported the seeds for these beauties from an Italian Mom and Pop seed company. I love that for all sorts of reasons - I am half Italian, so had at least an Italian "Pop", and I believe the saving and sharing/selling of these less common and often heirloom varieties of fruits and vegetables may be one of the few steps that will save our sorry butts from having lazily allowed "agriculture" to devolve into "agribusiness". The Pitres pointed out in our newsletter that our humid spring-summer is not a great match for these veggies who are used to a more typically "Mediterranean" climate (we should all be so lucky), but they will have these firmer nuttier tasting zukes for at least a shortened season and that is always a worthy effort.

This zucchini is known as the "San Pasquale" version, perhaps named after the patron saint of the kitchen and of cooks, San Pasquale Bailon?Nevertheless, ongoing kudos to all serious gardeners and small farmers who are still working the land, braving wild hail storms and uncertain rainfall amounts, wildly swinging temperature ranges and a fiercely competitive marketplace. You are serving as latter day food prophets, doing what little can yet be done, speaking and working against our horde consumption culture of mindless busyness served by convenience eating. 

Yeah yeah, I could be standing wild-eyed on a street corner wearing a sandwich board reading "Know your Food!" on one side and "Know your Farmers!" on the other.  But I'm not.  I've got new potatoes to cook and a pot of stock bubbling away on the stove.  You'll just have to save yourself....

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