Monday, May 31, 2010

Vegetables are Back!

My backyard garden now has 200 times more sun since we don't have our block's most hated maple tree anymore. It is doing amazing things for my vegetables--the sunchokes are already three times as tall as they were last September, lettuces are twice as big as they got last year, and the Red Russian kale plants that my friend Kelly gave me are so big that I need to harvest a bunch every few days or they start shading out other plants! Here's my mom with the kale I gave her last week.

Our 14 tomato plants are still small, but they're starting to grow. Brandywine, Currant, Sugar Sweetie, Black Plum, some unknown varieties that we think are going to be golden, German Pink...and I still want to plant a Sungold. Hybrid or no, it has the best tasting and most prolific tomatoes ever and keeps producing right up until it freezes.

We got a very heavy Priority Mail Flat Rate box from my girlfriend's dad in Arizona two weeks ago. We had an idea what might be inside--beautiful fresh grapefruits and lemons from his backyard! Lots and lots of them! We immediately made a delicious juice cocktail with grapefruit, lemon, and lime juice, agave syrup, mint, ice, and bubbly water. Then we ate dripping, juicy grapefruits breakfast, lunch, and dinner for a week. On a cold morning, broiled grapefruit halves with a sprinkle of brown sugar on top are a nice way to start the day! We've still got the last few lemons left, after hot honey lemonade (I like it instead of tea), lemony salad dressings, pretty lemon slices in our drinks, and more. Any recipe suggestions?

Another fun food adventure recently was a trip to Olympia for a housewarming party and to help my friend Rob get his garden in shape. He is a backyard farming inspiration to me and has been ever since we met in Japan nine years ago. We dug and planted and built a stage in his backyard...but mostly I cooked. Yeasted waffles (yum) and a recipe I will share with you--pickled carrots and radishes. My CSA, Sunroot Gardens, gave us all-we-could-eat radishes a couple of weeks ago and we've been eating these pickles ever since. They are similar to the pickles you get on a Banh Mi sandwich. The best thing about them is that if you let them sit overnight, the radishes turn all-over pink and the orange of the carrots is intensified to almost neon by the bleeding color from the red radish skins.

You'll need a wide mouth quart canning jar for this recipe.

About 2 medium carrots, peeled and sliced into thin rounds (2 cups)
2 cups of sliced radishes, it's nice if some are red, but mixed colors are fine
3/4 cup rice vinegar
1/2 cup water
1/4 cup sugar
1 tablespoon sea salt
1/2 teaspoon each coriander seeds and black peppercorns

In a bowl, mix together vinegar, water, sugar, and salt until everything is dissolved. In the quart jar, put the coriander and peppercorns at the bottom, then layer the carrots and radishes on top, making several layers of each vegetable. Pour the vinegar mixture into the jar to covers the vegetables. Press the vegetable down in the jar so they are submerged in the liquid, then put the lid on and let the pickles sit for at least an hour, preferably overnight, and up to 2 or 3 weeks. Eat them on a sandwich, in a salad, alongside tacos, or just as a tasty snack. Just to warn you--when you open the jar, you will smell a putrid odor. This is normal. It comes from the radishes. You won't taste this taste at all when you eat the pickles! But I will concede that they taste best of all served outside at a picnic, with plenty of fresh air to blow the radish smell away.