Sweet Potato Harvest!

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Japanese purple skinned yellow fleshed variety of sweet potato grown from an organic supermarket potato by Eve Fox, The Garden of Eating, copyright 2014

Last weekend, we harvested our sweet potato patch. Hot damn, it was exciting! Like a very hands-on, dirty, Easter egg hunt. My husband and I were just as thrilled as the kids though, thankfully, our interest lasted significantly longer than theirs :)

Sweet potato leaves and vines by Eve Fox, The Garden of Eating, copyright 2014

We started at one corner of the patch and began to pull back the thick carpet of beautiful green leaves and tangled vines that's been in residence for the last several months, growing vigorously enough to spill out through the fence and begin exploring the lawn.

Rahm and Will harvesting sweet potatoes by Eve Fox, The Garden of Eating, copyright 2014

At each place where we'd planted a sweet potato slip back in June, there was a veritable trove of buried treasure. Scrape away the dirt and you'd find anywhere from three to ten perfect sweet taters!

A bunch of sweet potatoes, unearthed by Eve Fox, The Garden of Eating, copyright 2014

And they just kept on coming and coming and coming. Luckily, the kids thought it was fun to ferry them over to the plastic milk crates we were using to collect them in, prompting my husband to remark that this was the most truly helpful they'd ever been.

Putting sweet potatoes into the crate by Eve Fox, The Garden of Eating, copyright 2014

Some of them were tiny and will be perfect for roasting or in stews or soups, others were normal and a few were simply MONSTROUS! Like this one who we nicknamed "King Coil". I'd never seen anything quite like its shape - probably because stuff like this specimen does not make it into grocery stores - it probably gets tossed or left in the field to rot - such a shame and a waste.

Will holding a just-harvested sweet potato from the garden by Eve Fox, The Garden of Eating, copyright 2014

Speaking of which, have you seen this brilliant campaign by Intermarche, one of France's biggest supermarket chains? They're significantly cutting food waste by creating a special "ugly foods" aisle in their stores for produce like "King Coil" that looks odd but tastes just fine. And they're charging 30% less for the "cosmetically challenged" fruits and veggies. The French appear to be eating it up! Very, very cool. We need to do the same thing here in the states.

A bunch of sweet potatoes, unearthed by Eve Fox, The Garden of Eating, copyright 2014

It took a couple of hours, but we got all (or almost all, it's hard to tell for sure) of the sweet potatoes out of the ground. But here's the thing about sweet potatoes, unlike potatoes, you can't eat them right out of the ground. Or rather, you could eat them but you wouldn't want to because they are NOT sweet right away. They need time to cure and to develop their natural sweetness - it takes several weeks. But I'll write more about that next time - the adventure continues...

In the meantime, I'll just sum up by saying that it is, in fact, not hard to grow your own sweet potatoes from whatever your favorite organic variety is at the grocery store, farmer's market, farm stand, etc. It is more work than just ordering slips from a seed catalog but it's also way more fulfilling and magical, in my opinion.

And as for the other part of the Great Sweet Potato Experiment, I am pleased to report that I saw very very few bits of Japanese Silvergrass or other weeds. The spring will be a better test of how well the sweet potatoes may have outcompeted them but I was pretty impressed by the initial results - seems like the weeding followed by cardboard followed by sweet potatoes worked pretty well to smother them.

Will holding a just-harvested sweet potato from the garden by Eve Fox, The Garden of Eating, copyright 2014

You might also like:
For more delicious recipes, gardening ideas, foraging tips, and food-related inspiration "like" the Garden of Eating on Facebook, or follow me on Twitter and Pinterest.

Swiss Chard, White Bean & Sausage Soup

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Chard, sausage and white bean soup by Eve Fox, The Garden of Eating, copyright 2014

This soup's got everything - hearty greens, chunks of spiced sausage, creamy cannellini beans, sweet carrots, flecks of bright basil and oregano and a deeply flavorful tomato-based broth that's good enough to be a soup in its own right. I start by sauteing a small mountain of onions and garlic, then brown the sausage and throw in the chard ribs and carrots for a couple minutes. Then I add a Mason jar of pureed tomatoes and some vegetable stock.

Ingredients for chard, sausage, white bean soup by Eve Fox, The Garden of Eating, copyright 2014

But the secret ingredient is something most people throw away... I add the rind that's left when you've gone as far with a block of Parmesan as you think is wise. I save my Parmesan and Romano rinds in a ziplock bag in the fridge and toss them right into the broth to simmer. It adds depth and a wonderful savory flavor.

Parmesan rinds add great flavor by Eve Fox, the Garden of Eating, copyright 2014

Although this is best with fresh chard (which is one of those vegetables you can usually find fresh for much of the year), you can also use frozen with great results. I've been freezing the excess chard - I planted way too many plants - from my garden.

Chard plants growing by Eve Fox, the Garden of Eating, copyright 2014

I remove the ribs and chop them up to freeze them separately, then blanch the leaves for about two seconds, ice them, dry them and freeze them in ziplock bags for making soups and stews in the winter. The summertime me thinks it's kind of a pain but the wintertime me will think the summertime me is a genius. If you can't find fresh chard, you can also probably buy it frozen. Around here, the good folks at Hudson Valley Harvest sell great frozen kale, chard and other veggies, all from local farms.

Removing the ribs from the chard leaves by Eve Fox, the Garden of Eating, copyright 2014

I like to use cannellini because of their firm skin, creamy texture and mild, slightly nutty flavor but you could use navy beans or great northern beans, too. If you have time to cook dried beans from scratch, they'll be tastier, cheaper and probably a little more nutritious. But that's not always realistic so if you're using canned beans, I usually choose Eden Foods because all of their cans are BPA-free (more about buying BPA-free) However, I do NOT endorse the company's stance on birth control.

A can of Eden Organics cannellini beans by Eve Fox, The Garden of Eating, copyright 2014

I used a jar of our canned tomatoes (thanks again to the summertime me!) but if you don't go in for that whole canning production, I would recommend using either a container of Pomi tomatoes or a glass jar of Eden's crushed tomatoes for the same reason, they're BPA-free. At this point, I don't believe anyone has yet figured out how to create a metal can that can withstand the acid in tomatoes without using BPA so glass or a Tetrapak package are the only options. Of the two, glass is clearly the safer option.

A jar of our canned tomatoes by Eve Fox, the Garden of Eating, copyright 2014

Once the slicing and dicing is done, the rest is a breeze. Just keep on adding things to the pot, bring to a boil, turn down the heat and simmer for half an hour.

Adding the chiffonaded chard leaves by Eve Fox, the Garden of Eating, copyright 2014

Soon, delicious smells will begin to fill the air and people may start to flock to the kitchen in anticipation... Ladle your steaming, Parmesan-spiked soup into bowls, top with some chopped parsley, a blizzard of fresh Parmesan cheese and serve with a green salad and crusty bread with butter and salt.

Chard, sausage and white bean soup by Eve Fox, The Garden of Eating, copyright 2014

Swiss Chard, White Bean & Sausage Soup
Serves 6-8

Ingredients

* 1 large bunch Swiss or rainbow chard, washed, dried with the ribs removed, chopped and set aside
* 1 large or 2 medium onions, diced
* 3-4 large cloves of garlic, minced or pressed
* 3-4 carrots, sliced
* 2 cans of cannellini beans, rinsed and drained
* Half a bunch of fresh basil, rinsed, dried and chopped
* Handful of fresh oregano, rinsed, dried and chopped
* 1 lb organic pork sausage, uncased (try to buy from a farmer near you)
* 1 quart of pureed or chopped tomatoes
* 1 quart of vegetable stock  (I often make my own from kitchen scraps but when I don't have any in the freezer, I use Better Than Bouillon's organic veggie base)
* However many Parmesan or Romano rinds you can rustle up
* A few tsps chopped fresh parsley for garnish (optional)
* Freshly grated Parmesan cheese for garnish (optional)
* 2 Tbsps olive oil
* Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

Directions

1. Heat the olive oil over medium heat in a large soup pot. Add the onions and saute for 3-4 minutes until they begin to become transparent then add the garlic and cook another 2-3 minutes until the garlic becomes fragrant.

2. Add the chard ribs and carrots and saute for another 3-4 minutes. Clear some space in the middle of all those vegetables and toss the sausage in. Cook, stirring frequently and kind of chopping it up with the spoon or spatula to cut the meat up into manageable chunks. Saute until the meat is browned.

3. Add the tomato and vegetable stock along with the Parmesan rinds and half of the basil and oregano and bring to a boil, then turn the heat down to low and simmer for 20 minutes. Add the chard ribs, the beans and the rest of the herbs, stir, then add salt and pepper, taste it and adjust as needed. Cook for another 10-15 minutes then serve, topped with a sprinkling of fresh parsley and a lot of fresh, grated Parmesan.

You might also like:


For more delicious recipes, gardening ideas, foraging tips, and food-related inspiration "like" the Garden of Eating on Facebook, or follow me on Twitter and Pinterest.

I'll Drink To That - How Hard Cider Is Helping to Save Apple Orchards

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Very local apples by Eve Fox, Garden of Eating blog, copyright 2011

A few years ago, the good folks at Glynwood noticed that New York State's apple orchards had declined by a shocking 25% in just five years. Unacceptable! They stepped in to help keep a time-honored way of life and thousands of acres of prime agricultural acreage alive.

View of Stoneridge Orchard

Their solution was inspired - by helping to boost the popularity of hard cider, a dry, sophisticated drink that bears little resemblance to the sweet, fizzy six-pack ciders you can get in a grocery store - they hoped to create a sustainable market for New York's apples. And so far, it's working remarkably well!

I wrote more about it recently for Civil Eats - you can read the short piece here.

And this seems like a good time to mention the fact that hard cider is the perfect drink for a Thanksgiving feast. Apples are a natural pairing for every single dish on that groaning table...

Visit the Cider Week site to find out if there are events and tastings taking place in your area this month and next. If you're lucky enough to live here in NY's Hudson Valley, check out Cider Week Hudson Valley.

Hard ciders at a tasting

You might also like:
For more delicious recipes, gardening ideas, foraging tips, and food-related inspiration "like" the Garden of Eating on Facebook, or follow me on Twitter and Pinterest.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Sweet Potato Harvest!

Japanese purple skinned yellow fleshed variety of sweet potato grown from an organic supermarket potato by Eve Fox, The Garden of Eating, copyright 2014

Last weekend, we harvested our sweet potato patch. Hot damn, it was exciting! Like a very hands-on, dirty, Easter egg hunt. My husband and I were just as thrilled as the kids though, thankfully, our interest lasted significantly longer than theirs :)

Sweet potato leaves and vines by Eve Fox, The Garden of Eating, copyright 2014

We started at one corner of the patch and began to pull back the thick carpet of beautiful green leaves and tangled vines that's been in residence for the last several months, growing vigorously enough to spill out through the fence and begin exploring the lawn.

Rahm and Will harvesting sweet potatoes by Eve Fox, The Garden of Eating, copyright 2014

At each place where we'd planted a sweet potato slip back in June, there was a veritable trove of buried treasure. Scrape away the dirt and you'd find anywhere from three to ten perfect sweet taters!

A bunch of sweet potatoes, unearthed by Eve Fox, The Garden of Eating, copyright 2014

And they just kept on coming and coming and coming. Luckily, the kids thought it was fun to ferry them over to the plastic milk crates we were using to collect them in, prompting my husband to remark that this was the most truly helpful they'd ever been.

Putting sweet potatoes into the crate by Eve Fox, The Garden of Eating, copyright 2014

Some of them were tiny and will be perfect for roasting or in stews or soups, others were normal and a few were simply MONSTROUS! Like this one who we nicknamed "King Coil". I'd never seen anything quite like its shape - probably because stuff like this specimen does not make it into grocery stores - it probably gets tossed or left in the field to rot - such a shame and a waste.

Will holding a just-harvested sweet potato from the garden by Eve Fox, The Garden of Eating, copyright 2014

Speaking of which, have you seen this brilliant campaign by Intermarche, one of France's biggest supermarket chains? They're significantly cutting food waste by creating a special "ugly foods" aisle in their stores for produce like "King Coil" that looks odd but tastes just fine. And they're charging 30% less for the "cosmetically challenged" fruits and veggies. The French appear to be eating it up! Very, very cool. We need to do the same thing here in the states.

A bunch of sweet potatoes, unearthed by Eve Fox, The Garden of Eating, copyright 2014

It took a couple of hours, but we got all (or almost all, it's hard to tell for sure) of the sweet potatoes out of the ground. But here's the thing about sweet potatoes, unlike potatoes, you can't eat them right out of the ground. Or rather, you could eat them but you wouldn't want to because they are NOT sweet right away. They need time to cure and to develop their natural sweetness - it takes several weeks. But I'll write more about that next time - the adventure continues...

In the meantime, I'll just sum up by saying that it is, in fact, not hard to grow your own sweet potatoes from whatever your favorite organic variety is at the grocery store, farmer's market, farm stand, etc. It is more work than just ordering slips from a seed catalog but it's also way more fulfilling and magical, in my opinion.

And as for the other part of the Great Sweet Potato Experiment, I am pleased to report that I saw very very few bits of Japanese Silvergrass or other weeds. The spring will be a better test of how well the sweet potatoes may have outcompeted them but I was pretty impressed by the initial results - seems like the weeding followed by cardboard followed by sweet potatoes worked pretty well to smother them.

Will holding a just-harvested sweet potato from the garden by Eve Fox, The Garden of Eating, copyright 2014

You might also like:
For more delicious recipes, gardening ideas, foraging tips, and food-related inspiration "like" the Garden of Eating on Facebook, or follow me on Twitter and Pinterest.

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Swiss Chard, White Bean & Sausage Soup

Chard, sausage and white bean soup by Eve Fox, The Garden of Eating, copyright 2014

This soup's got everything - hearty greens, chunks of spiced sausage, creamy cannellini beans, sweet carrots, flecks of bright basil and oregano and a deeply flavorful tomato-based broth that's good enough to be a soup in its own right. I start by sauteing a small mountain of onions and garlic, then brown the sausage and throw in the chard ribs and carrots for a couple minutes. Then I add a Mason jar of pureed tomatoes and some vegetable stock.

Ingredients for chard, sausage, white bean soup by Eve Fox, The Garden of Eating, copyright 2014

But the secret ingredient is something most people throw away... I add the rind that's left when you've gone as far with a block of Parmesan as you think is wise. I save my Parmesan and Romano rinds in a ziplock bag in the fridge and toss them right into the broth to simmer. It adds depth and a wonderful savory flavor.

Parmesan rinds add great flavor by Eve Fox, the Garden of Eating, copyright 2014

Although this is best with fresh chard (which is one of those vegetables you can usually find fresh for much of the year), you can also use frozen with great results. I've been freezing the excess chard - I planted way too many plants - from my garden.

Chard plants growing by Eve Fox, the Garden of Eating, copyright 2014

I remove the ribs and chop them up to freeze them separately, then blanch the leaves for about two seconds, ice them, dry them and freeze them in ziplock bags for making soups and stews in the winter. The summertime me thinks it's kind of a pain but the wintertime me will think the summertime me is a genius. If you can't find fresh chard, you can also probably buy it frozen. Around here, the good folks at Hudson Valley Harvest sell great frozen kale, chard and other veggies, all from local farms.

Removing the ribs from the chard leaves by Eve Fox, the Garden of Eating, copyright 2014

I like to use cannellini because of their firm skin, creamy texture and mild, slightly nutty flavor but you could use navy beans or great northern beans, too. If you have time to cook dried beans from scratch, they'll be tastier, cheaper and probably a little more nutritious. But that's not always realistic so if you're using canned beans, I usually choose Eden Foods because all of their cans are BPA-free (more about buying BPA-free) However, I do NOT endorse the company's stance on birth control.

A can of Eden Organics cannellini beans by Eve Fox, The Garden of Eating, copyright 2014

I used a jar of our canned tomatoes (thanks again to the summertime me!) but if you don't go in for that whole canning production, I would recommend using either a container of Pomi tomatoes or a glass jar of Eden's crushed tomatoes for the same reason, they're BPA-free. At this point, I don't believe anyone has yet figured out how to create a metal can that can withstand the acid in tomatoes without using BPA so glass or a Tetrapak package are the only options. Of the two, glass is clearly the safer option.

A jar of our canned tomatoes by Eve Fox, the Garden of Eating, copyright 2014

Once the slicing and dicing is done, the rest is a breeze. Just keep on adding things to the pot, bring to a boil, turn down the heat and simmer for half an hour.

Adding the chiffonaded chard leaves by Eve Fox, the Garden of Eating, copyright 2014

Soon, delicious smells will begin to fill the air and people may start to flock to the kitchen in anticipation... Ladle your steaming, Parmesan-spiked soup into bowls, top with some chopped parsley, a blizzard of fresh Parmesan cheese and serve with a green salad and crusty bread with butter and salt.

Chard, sausage and white bean soup by Eve Fox, The Garden of Eating, copyright 2014

Swiss Chard, White Bean & Sausage Soup
Serves 6-8

Ingredients

* 1 large bunch Swiss or rainbow chard, washed, dried with the ribs removed, chopped and set aside
* 1 large or 2 medium onions, diced
* 3-4 large cloves of garlic, minced or pressed
* 3-4 carrots, sliced
* 2 cans of cannellini beans, rinsed and drained
* Half a bunch of fresh basil, rinsed, dried and chopped
* Handful of fresh oregano, rinsed, dried and chopped
* 1 lb organic pork sausage, uncased (try to buy from a farmer near you)
* 1 quart of pureed or chopped tomatoes
* 1 quart of vegetable stock  (I often make my own from kitchen scraps but when I don't have any in the freezer, I use Better Than Bouillon's organic veggie base)
* However many Parmesan or Romano rinds you can rustle up
* A few tsps chopped fresh parsley for garnish (optional)
* Freshly grated Parmesan cheese for garnish (optional)
* 2 Tbsps olive oil
* Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

Directions

1. Heat the olive oil over medium heat in a large soup pot. Add the onions and saute for 3-4 minutes until they begin to become transparent then add the garlic and cook another 2-3 minutes until the garlic becomes fragrant.

2. Add the chard ribs and carrots and saute for another 3-4 minutes. Clear some space in the middle of all those vegetables and toss the sausage in. Cook, stirring frequently and kind of chopping it up with the spoon or spatula to cut the meat up into manageable chunks. Saute until the meat is browned.

3. Add the tomato and vegetable stock along with the Parmesan rinds and half of the basil and oregano and bring to a boil, then turn the heat down to low and simmer for 20 minutes. Add the chard ribs, the beans and the rest of the herbs, stir, then add salt and pepper, taste it and adjust as needed. Cook for another 10-15 minutes then serve, topped with a sprinkling of fresh parsley and a lot of fresh, grated Parmesan.

You might also like:


For more delicious recipes, gardening ideas, foraging tips, and food-related inspiration "like" the Garden of Eating on Facebook, or follow me on Twitter and Pinterest.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

I'll Drink To That - How Hard Cider Is Helping to Save Apple Orchards

Very local apples by Eve Fox, Garden of Eating blog, copyright 2011

A few years ago, the good folks at Glynwood noticed that New York State's apple orchards had declined by a shocking 25% in just five years. Unacceptable! They stepped in to help keep a time-honored way of life and thousands of acres of prime agricultural acreage alive.

View of Stoneridge Orchard

Their solution was inspired - by helping to boost the popularity of hard cider, a dry, sophisticated drink that bears little resemblance to the sweet, fizzy six-pack ciders you can get in a grocery store - they hoped to create a sustainable market for New York's apples. And so far, it's working remarkably well!

I wrote more about it recently for Civil Eats - you can read the short piece here.

And this seems like a good time to mention the fact that hard cider is the perfect drink for a Thanksgiving feast. Apples are a natural pairing for every single dish on that groaning table...

Visit the Cider Week site to find out if there are events and tastings taking place in your area this month and next. If you're lucky enough to live here in NY's Hudson Valley, check out Cider Week Hudson Valley.

Hard ciders at a tasting

You might also like:
For more delicious recipes, gardening ideas, foraging tips, and food-related inspiration "like" the Garden of Eating on Facebook, or follow me on Twitter and Pinterest.