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Firsts and Homestead Happenings

August 1, 2010

Why one kid is practically naked and the other is in a sweatshirt I have no explanation for.

We got our first tiny egg from our spring-batch of chickens! We’re not sure if it came from Sunflower the Barred Rock Hen, or Dandelion the Buff Orpington, but it’s sweet how the eggs start so small, as if the hens are just practicing.

Speaking of starting small: Dandelion and Sunflower, circa March 2010

And now, mixing it up with the sorority sisters.

Oh, and scroll back up: we also recently harvested our first zucchini and squash! They’re rolling in now, a squash a day and I just told Dan that I’m committed to exploiting their delights this year, instead of sheepishly leaving them on my downstairs neighbors’ kitchen table. I love how briskly and efficiently they grow. They’re like newborns who outgrow their onesies overnight, making you feel like you’ve done something right as a gardener. What I don’t like is the rubberiness of cooked zucchini, or how it seems if I turn my head for a few days, I am cultivating a garden of baseball bats.

So far, we’ve just been slicing zukes into our de facto meals (which are some permutation of beans, rice, eggs, cheese, elk and whatever veggies are on tap), but I’d love to hear your favorite zucchini/summer squash recipes, and especially ways that you preserve this humble cucurbit.

Our first zucchini we ate raw, dipped in purslane salad dressing.

Do you love more than is perhaps reasonably so, the devouring of vegetables by your children?
And now that I’ve got you all curious about purslane salad dressing, here’s some recipe love:
First, harvest all the purslane that’s been flinging itself between your carrot rows. Next, pull off the leaves. This is incredibly time consuming, though perhaps you can get into the Zen of Plucking.

Still life with blender and plucked leaves. You know purslane right? Weedy, low-growing plant with fleshy leaves and tiny yellow flowers. High in omega 3's, citrusy, mucilaginous (don't be scared by that word, it means hydrating, cooling and soothing to internal tissues). I still have tons. Who wants to come over and get plucky with me? Will share spoils.

Blend:
2 cups purslane leaves, 1/4 cup water, juice of one lemon, 1/4 vinegar (rice or balsamic), 1/4 cup olive oil, pinch of salt, one clove garlic, 1/4 cup yogurt.

Purslane salad dressing: approved by 3 year olds, serve with flower bouquet.

Also, in new and exciting happenings, for the first time, we harvested all of our carrots mid-season and planted 4 whole new rows. Previously, we’ve pulled all our carrots after the first fall frost, giving them the full growing season to get big and sweet, though sometimes they got so big they’d split or become woody. But, by mid July this year the carrots were already a respectable 6-10 inches and fantabulously sweet. The kids chomp them raw and whole, specks of mineral-rich dirt still clinging to the roots. We’ve also done a 2nd planting of chard, lettuce, kale and beets. We’re learning how to coax more food out of this small plot of land. We’ll see how big our next carrot crop gets by the end of the growing season – which is closer than I want to admit to myself.

Farmer Rose with a haul of garden candy.

I also pulled all the chard (going to seed after 3 years of providing) out of the greenhouse, harvesting gazillions of those tiny stalk-leaves, in another exercise in the Zen of Plucking. Then, I dumped a bucket of goat manure (obtained via freecycle) in the greenhouse bed and transplanted some of the cucumbers from the garden into the greenhouse, where they’ll be so much happier and warmer at night.

climb babies climb!

And lastly, Dan and I had our first mountain date of the season, which included twenty luscious minutes in the alpine flower zone, before the highest peaks began arguing, cracking the sky with lightning.

someone’s napping in the wildflowers – see the knees?

What’s new on your homestead?

And how do you like your zukes?

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26 Comments leave one →
  1. August 1, 2010 6:11 am

    we live for zuke pancakes here! and once we discovered them i realized there were no such thing as extra zukes lying around to give away anymore:) here is a post i wrote on it with most of a recipe…
    http://leaningapple.blogspot.com/2009/07/zucchini-pancakes.html

    i love those first eggs from the new ladies…i always get really excited about it. our newest ladies are still so little that we might not get eggs until next spring from them (which is okay). oh i just discovered purslane as edible this year and i was wondering what to do with it…i may have to try your dressing. thanks for sharing!! xo, pennie

  2. Lisa permalink
    August 1, 2010 12:00 pm

    congrats on the first baby egg! That’s always so exciting :)

    The picture of the kids with the chicks is classic!

    One of my favorite things to do with zucchini in the summer when the garden is bountiful is to do mixed grilled veggies. Cut thick rounds or spears and then cut up a bunch of other veggies from the garden – whatever you have, like tomatoes (any kind/size), eggplant, peppers, onions, green beans, snap or snow peas, asparagus, broccoli, carrots, etc. Clearly you wouldn’t have zucchini and asparagus in at the same time, but you get the point. So, you toss everything together in roughly similar-sized chunks in a big bowl with a drizzle of oil, a squeeze of lemon juice, maybe some crushed garlic if you want, salt and pepper to taste, and some fresh thyme, oregano, parsley, or rosemary from the garden.

    Then I put all of it in a single layer in a grill basket over a charcoal fire and toss it until it’s warmed through and a few char marks are starting to show. I have no clue if you barbecue much, but hopefully you do because this is the easiest, most delicious way to cook up whatever overstocked veggies you might have (except greens). If you don’t have a grill basket or some sort, I’m sure Dan could fashion one for you. You just need something to keep the veggies from falling into the fire, like a piece of wire mesh or grate or whatever. Anything will do.

    So, basically to review, its:

    -veggies
    -oil
    -lemon
    -salt and pepper
    -garlic, optional
    -herbs

    Toss. Grill. Eat. Yum.

    Ok, I’ve blabbed enough,. That was meant to be a short, quick answer. Also, there is always zucchini bread. My mom had great success last summer with the recipe on Smitten Kitchen.

    And last but not least, I have this fantastic book on preserving the harvest that I got last year. Everything I have tried so far has been great. It has two interesting zucchini recipes that I have not tried. They sound weird, but I trust the book: zucchini & ginger jam (apparently this is a very old-fashioned jam), and chunky zucchini chutney (she said it sounds weird but it’s a great way to use up a glut of the squash and it’s super tasty – with onions, garlic, ginger, coriander, raisins, etc). In case you couldn’t tell, the book is British. Anyway, if you are at all interested in them, I am more than happy to send you the recipes!

  3. August 1, 2010 12:19 pm

    zucchini dill salad (slice zuke into thin rounds and squeeze lemon juice on top – let sit for 10 or more minutes – add chopped dill and one clove minced garlic – olive oil, salt, and then put on a bed of greens.)

    roast corn cut off the cob, cherry tomatos, basil, and diced zucchini with garlic, salt and olive oil in the oven for about 20 mins. this can then top pizza, pasta, go in an omlette or quiche — you get the idea)

  4. August 1, 2010 2:32 pm

    chocolate chip zucchini muffins. oh.yeah. also – purslane! yer such a brilliant, weedy lady! i was going to send you a snapshot of this very plant and ask fer info because i think it is so pretty and…i dunno – gentle (?) looking. i let it take over my garden because i love it so. and you can eat it! hooray! yer so educational. also, lovely. enjoy the day!

  5. ell.uu permalink
    August 1, 2010 2:48 pm

    we have zucchini and yellow squash coming out our ears by now. i like them raw, sliced into thin ribbons with a veggie peeler and tossed with a little olive oil, salt and pepper. I use that same preparation on top of dough with a bit of cheese, on the grill for grilled veggie pizzas. also, thicker slices grilled with oil salt pepper accompany pretty much every meal these days. I also cook them up chunky-diced with onion, garlic, and tomatoes and toss it over pasta.

  6. August 1, 2010 4:25 pm

    this is my version of a cleansing soup that uses zucchini, cucumber, and celery…
    http://www.sowabisabi.com/2009/07/homemadegreen-goodness-soup.html

    And I use the food processor to grate up zucchini and freeze it to make this soup. I am certain that nuitritionally and otherwise it is better to make it with fresh zucchini, but this is good to do with the baseball bats that go unnoticed and it is probably more nutritionally rich than ones shipped from who knows where in the middle of the winter.

  7. August 1, 2010 8:25 pm

    HA! I had to laugh at “they make you feel like you’ve done something right as a gardener.” Everything in my garden is coming along nicely…except the zucchini. Does this mean I’m a failure as a gardener? :) I can grow tomatoes (19 plants) and beans and beets and carrots and…and….and…but not zucchini. At least not yet. Next week I’ll probably have 20 and will have to come back here and take my foot out of my mouth.

    I love chocolate chip zucchini muffins. YUM! But I also like zucchini sliced thin, and lightly sauteed with olive oil and garlic. We’ll eat this as a side…or toss it with pasta. It’s light and fresh and delish. -Debbie

  8. Jen permalink
    August 1, 2010 9:07 pm

    I know what you mean about the heartwarming feeling (dusted with the lightest sprinkling of smug mother) when the widgets actually eat vegetables. “More broccoli please mummy” is the sweetest phrase to cross my ears.
    Re zucchini – this was just in our local paper. Haven’t tested it out.
    http://www.vancouversun.com/life/Zucchini+with+zest/3329262/story.html

  9. August 1, 2010 10:02 pm

    Congrats on the first egg! That is truly exciting. It sounds like your harvest has been delicious. I love the wildflower photo.

  10. Lisa permalink
    August 1, 2010 10:25 pm

    p.s. purslane… is it pretty bitter? I had some stuff the other day that looked JUST like that and the chef said they were pea sprouts. When everyone said they were really bitter, I piped up and said that they were definitely not pea shoots, but I didn’t know what they were. Maybe purslane? The chef bought them at an Asian store and the label was in a language she couldn’t read and bought the wrong thing. Looked just like your picture, so I’m pretty sure. I’m glad you posted about it!

    • 6512 and growing permalink*
      August 2, 2010 9:53 am

      Lisa,

      I have never known purslane to be bitter – not even after flowering. I wonder if it was some Asian mustard green?

  11. Lisa permalink
    August 2, 2010 10:01 am

    Hi Rachel,

    Thanks for responding. I’ve been doing some Google sleuthing because I’m totally convinced that what that lady had was purslane, based on your picture and now a bunch of others online. From the many websites I’ve now scoured, I’ve learned that purslane is very popular in Asian cooking and certain varieties are quite bitter, especially older shoots and after flowering. So, maybe what she had was just a different variety than what you have in Colorado. That’s my best guess. I’m actually glad to hear that the stuff you have is not bitter because now I more likely to seek it out on my own. It wasn’t terrible, but it was quite strong.

    Thanks again!
    ~Lisa

    • 6512 and growing permalink*
      August 2, 2010 10:13 am

      Good sleuthing! I just did some sleuthing in my weed bible (Weeds of the West). Purslane is a European plant, same family (Portulacaceae)as miner’s lettuce. I love hearing that purslane is popular in Asian cooking because my silly weed bible says purslane “is rarely eaten” and I didn’t believe it for a second.

  12. August 2, 2010 11:19 am

    Yea, Chickens! Mmm…I’ll have to try that purslane dressing. We’re not big squash fans in our house, so I try to disguise, er dress up, them as much as possible:
    -Zucchini fries (egg dip and batter w/flour & bkg pdr, fry in olive oil; next time I’ll try oven-baked instead)
    -Zucchini omelets (open faced, with thin slices and peccarino romano cheese & a squirt of lemon)
    -Cream of zucchinin soup
    -Stuffed squash blossoms (then you don’t have to eat the squash; remember to take out the pistil/stameny bits; good w/ goat cheese & herbs; you can also cut them up & use like spinach).

  13. August 2, 2010 11:43 am

    The purslane dressing sounds amazing!
    We like our zukes raw on sandwiches!
    There is so much goodness in the garden this time of year!

  14. August 2, 2010 12:50 pm

    Love that pic of Rose and the carrots. Looks like it belongs in a storybook – “This is what a good little girl harvests and eats for dinner.”

    Little Miss loves her veggies but has a special fondness for zukes and mushrooms so I throw them in a stir fry together with plenty of garlic and some green onions. Sometimes I use just salt and pepper, and sometimes it’s soy sauce. She enjoys it either way. As do I.

    So jealous of your garden. Nothing like eating fresh-plucked food. Mmm…

  15. Lisa permalink
    August 2, 2010 3:54 pm

    Zucchini Chutney, makes 4lb
    from “Jellies, Jams, & Chutneys: Preserving the Harvest” by Thane Prince

    – 2 1/4 lb (1kg) firm zucchini, cut into 1/2-inch (1cm) dice
    – 4 large red onions, cut into 1/2-inch (1cm) dice
    – 3 plump garlic cloves, crushed
    – 2 1/2 oz (75g) fresh ginger, finely chopped
    – 2 tsp black mustard seeds
    – 1 Tbs coarsely-ground coriander seeds
    – 2 cups cider vinegar
    – 7 oz (200g) golden raisins (sultanas)
    – 12 oz (350g) sugar
    – 1 Tbs salt
    – 1/4 cup fresh dill or fennel

    Combine all except sugar, salt, and dill in large nonreactive pot. Bring to a boil, then reduce to simmer for 10-15 min until veggies start to soften.

    Add sugar and salt and continue to simmer for another 15 mins or so, until most of the liquid has evaporated.

    Add the dill or fennel and simmer 2-3 min until chutney has reached desired consistency.

    Ladel into hot, sterilized jars, seal, and label.

    * she says this recipe works with any kind of summer squash and it is good served with sausage and mashed potatoes, though I would imagine it is good with any meat or probably even just with pita or something.

    ** as with all pickles and high-acid, high-sugar jams and jellies, this does not need to be processed after it is canned since the mixture is boiling when added to hot, sterile jars and sealed with hot, sterile lids. But, if you want an extra measure of protection, you can process the jars. It is up to you.

    *** I have not included instructions here on proper safe canning and sterilization methods. If you are new to canning, please take the time to learn about this before you proceed. http://www.foodsafety.gov/ is a good place to start.

  16. August 2, 2010 4:11 pm

    I’m hoping to make this tonight. I’ll let you know how it turns out.

    http://www.davidlebovitz.com/archives/2010/08/zucchini_cake_with_crunchy_lemon.html

  17. August 2, 2010 4:17 pm

    ooh – it all sounds delicious! roasted zucchini is my favorite too. especially with some red pepper flakes and a little hot oil. i too like the zuchhini noodles – just julienne the zucchini and mix with sauce, dressing or pesto. the zucchini soup recipe from 101 cookbooks, circa 2007, is delicious. i’ve been wanting to make zucchini cookies with pecans and a lemon glaze. my daughter’s favorite way to eat zucchini is in hash browns – i just grate the zucchini with the potato. delicious! hopefully our zucchini will still be producing when it’s time to harvest our potatoes :)

  18. August 2, 2010 5:28 pm

    Our carrots crashed and burned this year (tips??), but I’m pretty stoked about the two and a half teeny green bell peppers I just plucked. And one year, we had so much squash that I thought we were going to turn yellow. I never did find a recipe I liked better than squash straight up. =>

  19. Judy permalink
    August 2, 2010 7:37 pm

    would love to have a print of the kids with the baby chicks! enchanting!

    Love,
    Nana

  20. August 2, 2010 9:32 pm

    Oh, I am so jealous of your wonderful gardening skills! One day, when we live in a home with a backyard again, I look forward to becoming a good (not wonderful, mind you) gardener. For now, we must be content with the RV :).

  21. August 2, 2010 11:37 pm

    OK, it’s not healthy, but my most favorite way to eat zukes is sliced the long way, sauteed in butter till tender and then topped with fresh grated parmesan. It’s one of my comfort foods. Also love it on pizza, in quesadillas and in fried rice. Great healthier recipe, zucchini bake: Combine with homemade breadcrumbs, herbs and fresh grated parmesan cheese & bake till brown and tender, mmmmm. That chutney recipe looks interesting! So very jealous, all I can grow are weeds and moss.

  22. Diane H permalink
    August 5, 2010 11:06 pm

    Thanks for opening up the zucchini conversation because I’m always looking for ways to serve it when it’s bountiful. Good ideas here.

    Tonight I chopped it up in some red tomato sauce for pasta. I like the zucchini-tomato pairing.

    My son devours zucchini pancakes.

    We also both liked the summer squash-zucchini soup served cold. Add some yogurt or sour cream on top and yum!

    Also, when I get a minute or two, I grate a bunch and throw it in the freezer for baking in Fall or Winter. I like to make zucchini bread and send it to pre-school with my son when it’s his turn for snack.

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