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Warning to all of you — I am going to rant.

Okay, you were warned and yet, here you still are.

As I was cutting up vegetables for a salad, I peeled the cucumber that I just bought from the store and started to cut it to find it all rotted inside. Yuck, gross and even more annoying — I just bought it! This wasn’t something lurking in my produce crisper for weeks. Although by the looks of it, it was definitely sitting somewhere for a while.

I love winter. Okay, let me re-phrase that or qualify it just a bit. I love winter when it snows. Otherwise, I really don’t see the need for the three D’s of winter– dead, dank and dreary. One of the biggest downsides to winter (in addition to our severe lack of snow) is that fresh vegetables just aren’t the same. I am the first to admit that I have gotten spoiled by the ability to grab my own vegetables right from the dirt in my own garden or the ability to go to the farmer’s market or CSA and grab equally fresh vegetables from some other local dirt. “Fresh” as in from the ground within hours (not weeks) of being picked. It is insulting and demoralizing to pay good money for something green and good for you to find that it is really rotten and bad for you (or for anyone as a matter of fact).

I appreciate the fact that I should be eating seasonally and filling up on those winter veggies (which really aren’t quite veggies at all for the most part in my book) but sometimes we long for something leafy… and green or crunchy and crisp — like that cucumber in the salad. While I am the first to admit that there is no comparison between store bought anything and homemade or homegrown, I do expect that when I do buy something produce-wise from the local supermarket that it is at least not rotting while it is in my shopping cart. The shelf life of the store bought “fresh produce” leaves a lot to be desired, but I’m sure that they could pump them full of something artificial and deadly and it might make it all that much better.

While I can’t exactly make summer vegetables grow here in Vermont in the middle of winter and our farmer’s market does an admirable job of trying to keep us in the greens as much as humanly possible, I still think that I should entitled to expect something more than I got in the cucumber I just cut.

I will be counting the days until the seeds of summer will be planted and grumbling all the while about the crappy selection of produce that I have to put up with in the interim, which is clearly the downside of winter.

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I look at the tomatoes sitting on my countertop. They are all very different from each other. Different varieties (grape, cherry, slicing, heirloom). Different colors (some green,yellow, pink and bright red). Some are from my own garden picked yesterday afternoon, some are from our local CSA picked just prior to the flood waters of Irene destroying their farm. What do they all have in common?

They were all grown with love.

 

 

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It was a weekend full of jam. We picked raspberries, picked blueberries and grabbed strawberries at the farmer’s market. I made raspberry jam and mixed berry jam and blueberry jam.

Raspberries were picked at the bottom of the hill at Cole’s….that’s pretty much as close as we can get beside our own yard (and yes, we’re working on that).

This was how it looked crushed in the pot with low sugar pectin added….. I then added 4 cups of sugar (yes, that is the low sugar recipe) and brought it up to a boil. Jars were sterilized, filled, water bathed and then……

here is the finished product —yum. It’s amazing how your perspective changes when you start to can for yourself. Store bought just doesn’t cut it — no matter how expensive or fancy it purports to be. There is nothing that beats local and handmade.

The mixed berry jam was a first since it is not often that you can find local fresh strawberries, raspberries and blueberries all at the same time. It was definitely a hit…..delicious. I’ll be scouring around looking for more local strawberries in order to take advantage of the berry season.

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One of the things about it just being Tom and I (besides quiet) is that we get to have dinner …or not… without a whole lot of complaining or confusion. For instance, last night, this was dinner:

We had a couple types of block cheese, some homemade herbed goat cheese (thanks Kara and Ryan!), fresh snap peas, baby carrots, fresh strawberries and homemade bread. The bulk of this came from the farmer’s market yesterday morning. I love summer for the ease of all different and yummy things to pick and eat.

It was yummy and light and good — all the best parts of dinner. The company….wasn’t bad either. 🙂

Today was our first CSA pickup! This afternoon, we ran over to Evening Song Farm to chat with Kara and Ryan and Echo (who was behaving himself very nicely with all those potential playmates coming and going) and gathered our first CSA of the season.

After spending a nice chunk of time speaking with Evening Song Farm owners, Kara and Ryan for my article that I did on their farm a month or so ago, I feel a connection to them. They are a genuinely nice couple that make you immediately feel at home. I was so very happy today to see so many people coming and going from the barn that is the CSA pickup location. They are a great addition to the community and I was so looking forward to the first pickup today.

Since I grow my own garden, and quite a large one at that, many people questioned my sanity at joining a CSA. Why would I do that? Simple answer, my family and I use more produce that I can produce and those that know us know that we have a lot of company. Since I usually go to the Rutland Farmer’s Market and purchase at least as many items as I am getting in my weekly CSA pickup, why wouldn’t I want to get a discount (yes it’s cheaper than purchasing the same items at the farmer’s market) and have the convenience of being able to pick it all up within five minutes of my own door? To me, these are good reasons, along with the fact that I’m helping a new local business get a leg-up in a less than desirable economy.

Since Evening Song Farm provides its members with a free choice CSA, I can tailor my weekly pickup to my needs which is another great idea in my opinion. This week’s pick looked like this:

Another good reason for joining was that my veggies are merely little seedlings right now and I’m certainly not growing a lot of what they have to choose from at the farm. We chose broccoli rabe, lettuce, baby lettuce, pea shoots, baby bok choy and these beautiful long and amazingly delicious garlic scallions that are at least two feet long.

Thanks so much to Kara, Ryan and Echo for some beautiful, fresh and delicious local veggies.

Needless to say, tonight’s dinner was angel hair pasta with sauteed broccoli rabe, garlic scallions, olive oil and crushed red pepper. It was delicious!

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Cross-section of a Pascal celery rib.
Image via Wikipedia

Homegrown celery - Happenings on the Hill

As I was making soup today for dinner tonight I was chopping up the vegetables. As I was chopping the celery it occurred to me that while I love the winter, I do miss the ease, satisfaction and good taste of those homegrown vegetables that are prolific during the summer months. As I stared at the store-bought celery on my counter, the word that popped into my mind was “anemic”- pale, lacking color. I remember wistfully the dark green leafy celery that grew so darn well through the entire summer. When I needed celery for soup or salad or whatever, it was there for the taking. A whole bunch or a couple stalks.

Now, until well into the summer of next year, I have instead the pale vegetables to look forward to seeing. The celery that is about 10 shades lighter than mine and the tomatoes that look too orangey-pink to call themselves red are abundant in the supermarket. Sadly, the farmer’s market around here just doesn’t have these kinds of things during this time of the year, although they will appear far quicker at the market than they will in my yard.

I would be curious to find out the difference, if there is one, between the nutritional value of my celery (or any fresh farm grown celery) compared to the ones available in the supermarket, which seems that it must contain less nutrients just by virtue of its pale color.

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