Thursday, October 9, 2014

Wait. What ?? October already ?

This bounty came out of the garden yesterday. I have to tell you, even though things are slowing down out there, those plants all look like early July plants ! This weather has been so got really hot sporadically and then would cool way down, giving everything a new lease on life, I suppose. Then it got nice for a while with a hot day thrown in here and there, but now it's back in the high 60's and low (mostly) 70's. And it won't get hot enough to ripen any more stuff. I don't think. So, I cleared out all the green tomatoes I could stand (a 5 gallon bucket full) and all the bigger peppers and jalapenos and some cayenne peppers too. I'll use all this to make some salsa verde...something I've not done before because I always make chowchow, which is now coming out my ears, because face it--you can only eat so much relish. And because I can sweet relish too...well, there you go. So green tomato salsa it is this year. It should be a snap to make with my Vitamix this year, since it's a basically smooth salsa and I don't have to hand cut everything like I do my regular salsa so that it's all chunky and beautiful.

Salsa Verde is a good enchilada sauce. Among other things.

I have the dehydrator full of tarragon, parsley and basil...all dried now and waiting for me to bag it up. That came out of the garden yesterday too. The parsley was especially lush this year. The cilantro is in 2 pint jars waiting to be used today in the salsa verde. I usually always dry my herbs slowly in the back pantry in brown paper bags, but thought I'd try the dehydrator this time. I used my little Nesco American harvest, so I had the option of temperature settings. I turned it way low, but think I still like the bag method better. Live and learn.

The husbandman is getting antsy to get the garden put to bed. I keep telling him it's not time yet. There are still carrots out there. I harvested most of the last of the butternut squash yesterday, but there are still a few more out there. They're small, but beautiful and healthy looking. Into the garage they went, to cure for a bit. The ones in the garage that were harvested a couple of weeks ago are ready to come inside and go under the guest room bed. I have sheets of cardboard under there for them to spend the winter on, as we pick them off one or two at a time. Years that I don't have pumpkin, I use some of them for pies at Thanksgiving. (No one knows the difference). However, as you know, I have had pumpkin for a while now. *grin But we like butternut squash just about anyway you can come up with to use it...chunked, stuffed, soup, roasted, on pizza, in quinoa salads...yum. I'm guessing that [all told] we're harvesting in the neighborhood of 50 or more butternuts this year. I will trade some of them to my friend Cathy for some sweet potatoes, since our sweet potato crop was a dismal failure this year --for the first time. And she plants acres of them and hauls them up north to sell. Oh well...such is the gamble of the garden. You just never know... we rotate our crops religiously. And the place the sweet taters got rotated to was the wrong spot this time. Between 2 pine trees and I suspect the soil was too acidic. That (of course) is just my uneducated guess. lol That note will go in the garden journal, believe me !

Well...I can sit here and write all day, or I can get busy and start on that salsa. I will be making a trip to the cities (lol) later today to gift my old kitchen light (that I hated and my son replaced for me) and a couple of jars of goodies to an old pal...after stopping by the market for a couple of things. Don't need much. But I am out of bottled lime juice. Also got a note this morning that another friend has some sage and some thyme for me from her garden. She grows it, but uses very little. There are many blessings to be found in my world these days !

Okay--off to the races. Gonna run out between raindrops and check on the chickens and then get to it. Happy Thursday everyone !!

Bon Apetit !


Friday, October 3, 2014

A Plethora of Mushrooms

When I was a child, my dad would take us all out mushroom hunting in the early spring.  I live in southern Illinois, and these babies were the big prize. Called Morels, or Sponge Mushrooms, they are a culinary delight. Rich and meaty and beautiful.  And seriously plentiful. They have a small window of availability, which makes them all the more desired...the thrill of the hunt. And people can get pretty whacked out by the arrival of these--word spreads like wildfire when the first ones are found.  There are towns which have big mushroom festivals and people will flock there for a monster hunting celebration.  Most serious 'shroomers though have their own private hunts, tell NO ONE where they go or find their bounty.

  For years, anytime anyone said "wild mushrooms" this is the only thing that came to mind. Morels. The darlings of the mushroom world. Easy to identify and no worries about poisoning yourself make for happy hunting and eating.

 And day my son came in with a huge 7 pound piece of hen of the woods mushrooms.  That boy is a natural born forager of all things wild.  I said "What is that?"  and he commenced to school me on the culinary delights of the hen of the woods.  He sauteed some and fed it to me, and I was an immediate devotee. Mild and meaty and rich. And did I mention HUGE ??  I ate a lot, and dehydrated a lot. Used the dehydrated in soups and stews all winter.  I cut it up and put it in scrambled eggs and quiches and casseroles. I cut big slabs of it and made sandwiches. It was delicious.  I only recently learned that this is also called Maitake Mushroom, which I had heard of (and probably eaten) but didn't make the connection.

 It's that time of year again for hen of the woods. They grow (usually) around the bottoms of oak trees, although he found some this year on a black locust. He brought me about 15 pounds a week ago and I dehydrated most of it and ate some too.  

 Aren't they beautiful ?  This morning he brought these in--this is all one mushroom that he had to break into 3 parts to get it in the bag.

It weighed in at about 8.5 pounds.  Guess we know what I'll be doing today, lol.

There are all kinds of wild guys (edibles) that live around here, and he will often come back from a fishing trip or a hike with stuff. He's a good son--usually brings some in for his old ma.  lol  One day it was this:
 Beautiful chantrelles...I had no idea they grew around here. Only knew they were really expensive to buy. I've never had enough of them to have to worry about preserving--we just eat those babies.  lol  I made a potluck dish for our end of the discussion vegetarian potluck that was cheesy polenta topped with braised kale and chantrelles--it was a hit. 
 This beauty is called Chicken of the Woods--my all time favorite. Doesn't it look like a fighting Red Dragon ? lol   Or a fancy Dancing Chicken ?  These should be showing up soon, late October/early November, I think. I can't wait to have more of these.

 And these beauties are called Old Man of the Woods. Not yet one of my favorites because they turn all black when you cook them and that turns me off. The boy thinks I'm nuts, as they are one of his favorites.

Mushrooms are a low-calorie food eaten cooked, raw or as a garnish to a meal. In a 100 g (3.5 ounce) serving, mushrooms are an excellent source (higher than 20% of the Daily Value, DV) of B vitamins, such as riboflavin, niacin and pantothenic acid, an excellent source of the essential minerals, selenium (37% DV) and copper (25% DV), and a good source (10-19% DV) of phosphorus and potassium. Fat, carbohydrate and calorie content are low, with absence of vitamin C and sodium. There are 27 calories in a typical serving of fresh mushrooms (table). (Courtesy of Wikipedia)

  So...good for you. Tasty. Fun to find. 
 What more could a girl ask for ??   lol

 Okay--I have a huge mushroom to work on in there. I'd better get started.

Bon Apetit !