October 23, 2008

Embracing the descent, and ways to cook squash

Today was gorgeous. I went to visit my friend at the organic farm where she works, and was finally able to settle into and embrace the descending energy of Fall. I walked the fields and harvested spaghetti squash, buttercup squash, pumpkins, kale and plantain. Organic farms are a far cry from the "conventional" monoculture farms that use NPK fertilizers and pesticides. Here there was bounty everywhere. Nature irrepressible! The kale volunteered from a previous year's crop, and everwhere there was amaranth and lamb's quarters. Motherwort. Plantain. Grasshoppers!

Now I'll be racking my brain to come up with varied and clever ways to put the bounty to good use. I would love to hear your ideas!
  • I have visions of a squash and coconut soup with green chilis and purple potatoes.
  • A squash coconut curry sounds nice, too. With chicken!
  • Roasted squash with olive oil, rosemary, hot pepper flakes and brown sugar like they make at Whole Foods.
  • Canned squash for later.
  • Baked squash with brown sugar, cinnamon and coconut oil.
  • Some wicked garlic squash shredded like hashbrowns.
  • I'd like to turn at least one of the pumpkins into a casserole with sausage, mushrooms, onions and nuts. I'm going to bake that one in the shell :) Maybe for Turkey Day?
  • Another pumpkin will be soup that tastes like pumpkin pie, with cinnamon, coconut milk, nutmeg, clove, ginger and just a bit of extra sweetness.
  • Spaghetti squash like spaghetti! Mmm, with buffalo sausage, oregano, mushrooms and onions.
There is something deeply comforting about aligning one's rhythms with those of the Earth. I've been out of sync lately, and I have missed the primal ebb and flow of nature. I sing when I harvest, to honor the plants and their generous gifts, and also to remind myself of the Sacred Nature of food and medicine. I think it is easy to forget that food is Sacred and Healing, when we get busy, and nourishment becomes something to check off our to do lists, instead of a deeply connected and thankful act of love. Love for ourselves, love for those we feed, and appreciation for the sacrifice made by that which feeds us.

Pumpkins and Squash are sweet foods, and Traditional Chinese Medicine has a lot to teach us about the flavors and energetics of foods. Loosely quoted ~ "Sweet flavors are associated with Earth in TCM, and they have influence over Stomach and Spleen Networks. Sweet has Yang qualities. Sweet flavored foods are warming, strengthening, harmonizing, relaxing and moistening. These foods strengthen Spleen Chi, and help with acute weakness. They also nourish body fluids, relieve inner tension and stabilize one's inner center." To help warm the Stomach when eating energetically sweet foods, use a warming cooking method like roasting, baking, adding warming spices, frying or grilling.

*Source ~ Chinese Nutrition Therapy by Joerg Kastner, M.D. L.Ac.

I could have rested in that field all day, but work and dogs were calling. The sadness of Fall was profound, but so was the gratitude that I feel for the harvest and knowing that I will have good food to see me through the winter.

Green Blessings!

October 7, 2008

Preparing for the cold...

It's getting cold! I'm not really ready for fall, but I don't think it will wait for me to be ready, so I am embracing the descending energy, and preparing for the cold.

I'm so reluctant to let go of the bounty of the harvest. I am spoiled. I love walking outside and picking most of my breakfast every day. Today I harvested Amaranth leaves, basil flowers, a purple bell pepper and a tomato, and cooked them up with half of an onion from the farmers market, a clove of garlic, a can of kippers, and some olive oil and balsamic vinegar. I will miss fresh greens when they run out.

I have been cleaning up my neglected tomato plants, collecting finished compost and starting a new batch in the tumbler. That compost is black black black! It's beautiful, and the next round of crops are sure to love it.

Speaking of the next round, I am going to cover my tomatoes with a very low tech hoop house to extend the season a bit, and am considering what to plant underneath them. Broccoli? Kale? Chard? Leeks? Spinach? The tomatoes won't last too far into winter, even with the hoop, but I'd like to make the most of the subclimate the hoop will create.

I was at the Resource Sales Yard yesterday, hunting for PVC pipe for my hoop, and happened upon a great old door instead. It has 5 panes of glass, and will make a fantastic top for a cold frame. That old door is going to save me a fair amount of measuring, cutting and assembly. Now I just need to figure out the ideal angle and build myself a box! I also lucked out with a roll of chicken wire to contain the leaves that won't be fitting into my compost bins.

The first light frost is coming up quickly, and afterwards will be the ideal time to plant the heirloom garlic I ordered from Seed Savers. I've never grown my own garlic, and I'm really excited about it! I ordered 3 different varieties, and need to prepare their bed. More about garlic later!

So, what are you doing to extend your growing season? Who out there has built a cold frame or a hoop house? What tips and tricks do you have to share?

Green Blessings!

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