“Still, I cook. We need to cook, after all, to nourish ourselves and those around us. We need to cook to feel better, to make others feel better, to get along. I may begin the process in weariness, but as often as not I end it in surprise and triumph, happy at least to have made something delicious, to have shared it with those with whom I shelter.”
-Sam Sifton, The New York Times
No longer trendy but still delicious.
One of the cruel ironies of being a farmer is that when the vegetables really start rolling in, it’s way too hot to cook. Plus, after twelve hours working in the blazing sun all we want is chilled watermelon and ice-cold beer – not exactly a balanced diet. Enter the quiche! Long a mainstay of stuffy, boring women’s luncheons, quiche is hopelessly out of fashion but so well-suited for hot summer months, especially when fresh eggs, vegetables and herbs are in abundance. I always bake first thing in the morning (the house doesn’t need any help heating up later in the day), and quiche is perfect warm, cold or at room temperature. It has a reputation for being terribly unhealthy, but loaded with broccoli, spinach, peppers and herbs, with just a little egg and sharp, savory cheese to bind it all together, it’s an ideal summer staple. Let’s bring quiche back!
The infuriating inconsistencies of organic farming.
Except for my true love kale, I’ve never had great luck with the brassicas like broccoli and cabbage. They take forever to grow, the few bugs we have love them, and they never taste amazing like homegrown tomatoes do. Still, I’ve devoted some space to broccoli this year, but without great success. Why is the broccoli plant on the left half the size of the plant on the right, when they’ve been treated exactly the same for their entire lifespan? Same seeds, same soil, same bed, same irrigation…and on and on. We always want to learn from our mistakes, but it’s tough to learn anything when you can’t identify the problem in the first place.
This is why we can’t have nice things.
We joke that all we do is build smaller and smaller fences, but it’s not that much of a joke. We built our nine-foot game fence to keep out the deer, then we enclosed our raised beds to keep out the squirrels and the whistle pigs, then we fenced the fruit trees to keep out the chickens, then we installed hardware cloth to keep out the mice. I put a few extra tomato plants into pots and whiskey barrels to see what varieties would do best in containers, and this crafty rabbit is determined to get in. Make no mistake: if you’re growing food, you’ll attract pests. Finding the balance in the ecosystem is key to a peaceful existence.
Common mallow (Malva neglecta) with its strong, tentacled taproot.
In addition to being rich in cotton thistle, we’re also rich in mallow. Mallow is considered an invasive weed, but a weed by definition is merely a plant growing where you don’t want it. Every part of the mallow plant is edible, including its roots, leaves, fruit and seeds; it is exceptionally high in vitamins A and C, as well as rich in beneficial fat and fiber. In native medicine traditions, it’s used as a poultice for skin wounds as well as to treat throat ailments; cooked, it has a viscous texture that can be used to thicken soups and sauces. (Fun fact: the sweet confection we know as marshmallows used to be made from the whipped sap of mallow plants that grew in marshes. Even though today sugar and gelatin are used, the name has stuck.) While cultivated plants are certainly important as food sources, we’re working on expanding our horizons and learning what else in our landscape might be edible or medicinal beyond what we’ve intentionally planted.
The joys of summer.
One of our recent highlights was a text from a friend: “Too many raspberries. Come help harvest?” We hustled over and spent a pleasant two hours in a wildly overgrown fruit forest, filled with gooseberries, currants, honeyberries, brambles and other obscure edible plants. Fresh, sweet-tart raspberries have since been a breakfast staple, layered with creamy homemade yogurt and crunchy, caramelized granola. We now have over seventy of our own raspberry bushes planted, and are hopeful that someday soon we’ll be sending our own texts asking for harvest help.
With that, we’re off to work on art projects for an upcoming community event. Wishing you good health and a peaceful week ahead, and please wear your mask.