Category Archives: vegetables

Garlic Planting Time

Garlic’s been on my mind lately. For one thing, there’s this cool benefit event going on with First Person magazine:

Please join us for the benefit dinner and release party of First Person #5: Radical Foods!

Thursday, November 10th
7:00 pm
Church of Saint John the Evangelist
1661 15th Street, San Francisco

Legendary filmmaker Les Blank will be screening his 1980 film Garlic Is As Good As Ten Mothers.

I’m totally going. I’ve never seen that movie, which I hear is great, and the menu sounds really awesome, involving artichokes, sardines, Tartine bread, chicory salad, mashed up potato/sunchokes, and other vegetal delights. If you want to go to the event, buy tickets here; a bargain at $40.

The only problem is garlic has so disgusted me during my pregnancy that I banned the allium from our kitchen and “forgot” to order bulbs when I made my fall seed order. Maybe the baby is a vampire. Now, here it is, garlic planting season, and I found myself with no bulbs to plant (9 months from now, odds are I will be back on the garlic train).

Lucky for me, my dear friend Leilani had a stash in her bedroom. I went over to her house last night to eat dinner and see the Halloween Trick or Treaters in her neighborhood. Instead of candy, she gave me garlic. This garlic is pretty special, too: her dad is an agronomist in Oregon, and he has made some special crosses to make entire new breeds. One of them, which Leilani calls the Fire Twin, comes as a bulb with only two cloves. But the cloves are large, the size of a shallot. And they are incredibly spicy hot. Saving garlic from the Fire Twin will be a little frustrating–one for me, one for next year’s crop–but if it tastes good, it might be worth it. The other ones I selected are pink, purple, and big bulbed white. I’ll do a taste test next summer, with details about the crosses.

Hope to see you at the movie!

Buy tickets here.

Calling Urban Farmers

As much as I hate driving, sometimes it gives me a good idea. The other day, on the hour drive up to Dixon to buy hay and a manger, I realized that I should invite other urban farmers to my pop-up farmstand so they can sell their produce. It’ll be like an urban farmers market!

This is happening Oct 27th (next Wednesday) from 4pm-7pm; and again on November 17th 4pm-7pm; at 665 28th street at MLK.

If you live in the East Bay and are an urban grower/farmer, consider this a call to contact me (novellacarpenter at gmail), to sign up to sell. In your email, tell me what you’d like to sell, where you live, and we’ll figure it out. Obviously you have to have grown it yourself! Added value is neat, but let’s start with veg, fruits, eggs first and go from there. I’ve noticed that things like eggs, honey, and potatoes are huge sellers! I’ll have some tables but if you have a table, by all means, bring it. I’ll be selling dino kale, figs, salad mix, and a few plant starts. You’ll be selling what?

Also, note that tomorrow (Wednesday, Oct 20) I’ll be selling stuff at the Pop Up General Store at Martin Luther King Jr Way and 49th Street, 5-7pm. See you there!

Popping up is fun to do

Abeni and I had so much fun popping up at Samin’s Pop-Up General Store! We were there with a woman who makes amazing English muffins, an empanada maven, Samin’s dry goods counter (vanilla beans, high-quality cocoa powder), a kimchee goddess, and many many more food purveyors.

Since this was our first time, we brought a million things from the garden: favas, salad mix, braising mix, bouquet garni, artichokes, honey, candied fruit, leeks, and chantrelles wrapped in what we called a Hobbit shire cabbage leaf. Though we were proud of our bounty, next time at the General Store (we are invited back, right Samin? Right?) we might focus on just Ghosttown salad mix and candied citrus peels from the LaBrie farm. What would you like to buy at the next General Store?

Thank you Janet Hankinson for taking the photos!

Animal (hide tanning), Vegetable (fermenting), and (fruit) Miracle

If the New Year is getting you excited to learn some new skills, I have a couple fun classes and things to suggest.

1. Scion Exchange

Berkeley, San Jose, Sebastopol, and many more! 

If you have fruit trees, you can graft different varieties onto your tree! Last year, I went to the scion exchange in San Francisco and got some crazy kinds of fruit trees to graft. Sadly, not one of the grafts took, even though I spent hours going to the scion exchange, whittling scion wood and cleft grafting onto my pear and apple trees. The year before I had four take. Clearly I’m getting all Flowers for Algeron on the grafting tip. I need to brush up!  That’s why I’m so psyched that again the scion exchange is coming! This year, it’ll be in several places, I’m going to the one in San Jose on January 9th, because it’s at an urban farm that sounds mighty wicked.  

For more info about dates and times for the scion exchanges, see the California Rare Fruit website.

2. Rabbit Hide Tanning Class with Tamara Wilder

Ghosttown Farm, Oakland, CA

Feb 6-7, 9am-5pm (Saturday & Sunday)

Braintanning is a natural, beautiful & soft method for tanning furs.

In this two day class, participants will partake in the whole process—from prepping and fleshing the pelt to smoking the softened fur.  Tools and materials will be provided and some softening tools will also be available for sale.

Domestic rabbit furs will be supplied.

$120 per person   

Bio: Tamara Wilder has been demonstrating and practicing ancient living skills for the past 20 years.  She is the coauthor of the book Buckskin: The Ancient Art of Braintanning and regularly teaches seminars on stringmaking, braintanning, firemaking and other ancient technologies across Northern California.  More info at www.paleotechnics.com  

If you’d like to sign up or get more information, email me at novellacarpenter at gmail dot com. 

*Never mind if you don’t keep rabbits, the concepts in this class apply for all kinds of hairy critters, including squirrels and roadkill. Tamara is a total bad-ass. 

3. Sauerkraut Making on Valentine’s Day

Biofuel Oasis, 1441 Ashby Ave, Berkeley

February 14, 11-12:30

$25

Come on down the Biofuel Oasis and learn how to make sauerkraut and ginger beer from my friend Leslie, who is mighty knowledgeable about all things fermented. We’ll supply all the raw materials to make a jar of kraut and a bottle of ginger beer to take home to your loved ones–with tastings in between. 

Register here; and while you’re there, check out all the other cool classes like Keeping Chickens and Ducks, Greywater, Backyard Beekeeping, Mushroom Cultivation, and Rabbits!

Canning tomatoes…again

Roommate call: We have a room in our downstairs apartment that is opening up November 1. Perfect for a nice couple who likes music, ghettos, and goats. $725/month Contact me if you might be interested: novellacarpenter at gmail dot com

Original post:

God, I love a rainstorm paired with a day of roasting and canning tomatoes. Especially after a few days of traveling.  

roastingtomatoes

The day before I left for a reading in Madison, Wisconsin (for a report on that, see Farm City News), Bill and I went to Ned and Ryan’s farm, Blue House Farm in Pescadero, to glean our annual crop of dry-farmed Early Girls. For the past three years now we make the hour drive south, pick unsold fruit, then can it up for next year. It’s a gift to our future selves, future selves which will be cold and snotty in the winter, tomato-less in the spring, and food snobbish when it comes to store-bought, tinned tomatoes.  

Of course, it took us all day to pick the tomatoes. Blue House had suffered from late-blight, just as so many other farms around the country. Late blight is a fungus that can kill the entire plant, capable of hitting when the fruit is big and full of promise. The fields were filled with ravaged, dead tomato plants, two acres-worth. Some of the fruit looked okay–red, shiny–until you turned it upside down and saw the strange wrinkled pattern that marks blight. Some were green and black, covered with warts. In year’s past, these dry-farmed beauties were the best tomatoes I’ve ever had. So seeing the carnage of such deliciousness was supremely heart-breaking. All that work to plant, then stake and tie so many tomatoes. My poor farmer friends! Poor blighted farmers everywhere!

Lucky for gleaners, though. About one tomato in 20 were totally fine. It was too much work (and probably too depressing) for Ned and Ryan to salvage these, so Bill and I walked down all the aisles of tomatoes, pausing to check each one, picking the good, abandoning the bad. As we walked down the rows and rows, we could hear fruit thudding to the earth on their own accord. 

Still: happy day for these salvaged tomatoes! We took five buckets filled with yummy red tomatoes. You might never guess at the blight that had affected their siblings. Because the picking took so long, Bill and I didn’t start canning until 8pm. I had a flight to catch at 8am the next day, so I just stayed up all night, canning 50 jars of lusciousness to last all winter. Luckily, there were some unripe, greenish/orange tomatoes left over. When I came back from Madison five days later, they were ready.

lastoftomatoes

Since I had more time, I remembered what I learned last year: roasting them makes them even more incredibly delicious! So on this crazy windy, stormy day where everything is wet and tousled, I’m roasting tomatoes (added bonus that this then heats my house), canning them in the pressure canner, and I’ll be thanking farmers Ned and Ryan for their crop all winter and spring long. And next visit, I’ll be sure to bring them a jar of the good, roasted stuff. 

jarredtomatoes

Recipe: 

Wash and cut tomatoes in half, place cut side down on baking sheet (noticed glass pans work better), drizzle with olive oil. put in oven at 300 degrees. bake until collapsed and slightly brown on top. meantime, sterilize glass wide-mouth quart jars, either in the oven or microwave with some water in them. let the tomatoes cool slightly then add hot tomatoes to hot jar (if the tomatoes are too hot, the jar will crack). meanwhile also sterilize lids in boiling water. place a lid on each quart jar then screw the lid on with the collar (aka the other part of the lid–doesn’t have to be sterilized). if you have a pressure canner, process the tomatoes at 11 pounds of pressure/250 degrees for 20 minutes. If you have a water bath canner, you might need to add 1 tb lemon juice to be on the safe side and get the acid balance right. Process under 2 inches of boiling water for about an hour. Once the jars are done processing, take them out of the water and line them up where they can remain undisturbed for 12 hours (this is so they seal correctly). Store in a dark place. Caveats: i never peel or seed my tomatoes because i’m lazy and i think they taste better intact (i’m probably wrong). Freezing tomatoes is a great way to go, so don’t feel bad if you don’t want to can!

Triamble: A Love Story

I once worked for a certain professor who used to get tons of food-related books in the mail. One of the books was the Compleat Squash by Amy Goldman. “Do you want this?” he said one day when we were cleaning out his office bookshelves. I opened up the book. A few pages into it, I knew what it was: pumpkin porn. “Hell, yeah,” I said and took it home.
triamble1

That night I looked through each of the glossy pages, skimmed the text, with growing awe of the author, whose obsession with pumpkins and gourds and squash has led to a pumpkin curing barn, for example. I found myself staring at a blue-colored cucurbita maxima called Triamble. It’s one of Goldman’s favorites (and she is harsh on some of my favorites). “I adore Triamble for every reason in the book,” she writes, “… with the dense abundant flesh (there’s no hole or seed cavity, in these pumpkins) are about the most highly evolved pumpkins on the planet.”

It’s called Triamble because they have three triangular lobes. I had grown some of the squash in the book: Galeuse d’ Eysines (warty and wonderful but also watery). Blue Hubbard (yum). Rogue vif d’Estampes (the Cinderella pumpkin). Kabocha. Turk’s Turban. Butternut. Acorn. And then, I decided, I would grow Triamble.

First I had to find the seeds. I looked all over and finally saw them in the Seed Savers catalog. Since I knew I wanted to save the seeds, I planted only one c. maxima variety–the Triamble. It didn’t stop me from planting other cucurbits–I grew a Thelma Sanders, which is a c. pepo and thus wouldn’t cross pollinate with the maxima.

The Triamble plant sprouted and ran wild around the garden. Sprawling, sprawling. It is an ambitious squash. I got a fair number of small triangular fruits. They looked like pieces of art in the garden, blue against the green foliage, that wadded up shape that my friend David said looked like a piece of chewing gum. I managed to pull about 15 fruit off the plant–one was very large and had, somehow, four lobes–and let them sit in my kitchen on top of the fridge to cure.
triamblecut
I ended up giving many of them away to friends as art objects, door stops, gourd-y decor. And then, I started to cook them. Inside, they are strikingly orange. I was pleasantly surprised at how easy they were to cut in half. The skin was brittle but not like armor like some squash I’ve met before.
triamblecooked
So far I’ve made soup, curry, pumpkin bread, donuts (yes!), and pumpkin pie from the lovely Triamble. The flesh is outstandingly dry, dense, and like Goldman promised, abundant.

I’d like to share the abundance–I saved some seeds from the biggest Triamble. If you’d like me to send you some, send me your mailing address (novellacarpenter at yahoo dot com), or come by to pick them up on the farm tour this Saturday, 10am-12.
triambleseeds

Update: i’ve gotten your requests and i’ll send seeds to you all this weekend! also, someone said the email didn’t work–try novellacarpenter (at) gmail dot com