Tuesdays are particularly fun at our house! There’s piano lessons, and of course it is produce ordering night. This particular Tuesday was a special sort of challenge. It involved fence defying goats, hopping fences after them, trudging through recently irrigated muddy mosquito filled pastures, getting the little Ms. Special Pants, Long lost bucking bronco, rodeo Jersey Family Milk Cow in the corral without a rope because I didn’t remember it as I dropped my shade structure project and ran to the back of the pasture after the goats. It was fun!
I got home and quickly looked in the fridge and threw together a soup with everything but the kitchen sink. It was AMAZING! There’s not a drop left and the house smells so good that when the Mr. gets home from the airport he will look at me with puppy dog eyes even though he already ate dinner. Continue reading “Potato Fennel Cheese Soup”
I found myself trading avocados a couple baskets ago for some extra carrots. Not realizing at the time I had 2 one pound bags already. Now what can I do with them???? I know carrot chips. There is nothing like homemade chips of any kind and carrots are one of my favorites. You can do sweet or spicy, hot or just plain salted. Really anything goes with carrot chips so let your imagination fly. And no one needs to know they are healthy. Continue reading “Chipping, carrots that is!”
I’m always on the hunt for a new jam since I opened my cottage food business… or since I started my garden. No, maybe since I decided my life’s goal was to become a mad scientist in the kitchen… that sounds more like it. It’s amazing how I just drool over everything I put into the baskets for ya’ll and just hear those gears churning and whirring and ideas fall into place. This recipe though… This came from a whole new avenue, even for someone as random as I am. Continue reading “Black Mamba jam – an exclusive!”
As you go through your Plummy Passion Pack it’s fun to identify what you are eating! It’s a family tradition in our house to cut one of each type into small chunks and try each type. Each person chooses their favorite! Have fun with your pack!
Radicchio is a bitter “green” that is part of the chicory family. Eaten raw, it has an acerbic quality that benefits from strong additions such as blue cheese, balsamic vinegar, citrus, and nuts. The flavor will mellow when grilled or roasted. In Italy, the green is usually brushed with olive oil and grilled. In the United States, it is most often mixed into salads.
Radicchio has been around a long time. Pliny, in his Naturalis Historia, noted that it is good for insomnia as well as purifying the blood. He also mentions that the Egyptians are the ones who bred radicchio from its ancestor chicory.
Radicchio’s bitterness is due to intybin, which stimulates the appetite and digestive system, and acts as a tonic for the blood and liver. Its also a potent anti-malarial agent and has a sedative and analgesic effect. Its leaves are an excellent source of antioxidants such as zea-xanthin and lutein, which help protect the eyes from age-related macular disease by filtering harmful ultra-violet rays. Fresh leaves contain moderate amounts of essential B-complex groups of vitamins such as folic acid, pantothenic acid (vitamin B5), pyridoxine (vitamin B6) and thiamin (vitamin B1), niacin (B3). Radicchio is also an excellent source of vitamin K. For more information about radicchio, check out Sally and Tanya’s take on it.
The carrots that lent a great pop of color to the veggie baskets today are no modern innovation. In fact, the original color of the carrot was deep purple- not the orange we all expect. The orange carrot that we know and love is actually the result of a royal whim. Yes, generations ago when Holland was the lead distributor of carrots, King William of Orange was fighting for his nation’s independence. Having never been very fond of the color purple, and in an attempt to increase national pride, the King instructed the royal carrot breeders (apparently that was a pretty important job back then) to breed the purple OUT and increase the orange shades. As the new orange-only carrots were shipped around the world consumers (particularly the Europeans) took quite a fancy to them and orange became the color of choice.
Today, modern growers recognize the increased health benefits and heirloom varieties of carrots including purples, whites, reds, are easier to find. These “Rainbow Carrots” are packed full of antioxidants, vitamins, and fiber. The colored carrots have similar (many would say identical) flavor and texture to the standard orange and can be used in exactly the same way. Of course, if you are looking for something to really make that color stand out, you can always try this recipe for purple carrot cake.
It is actually possible to turn your skin a shade of orange by massively over consuming orange carrots.
Orange carrots get their bright orange color from beta-carotene. Beta-carotene metabolizes in the human gut from bile salts into Vitamin A.
The origins of the cultivated carrot is rooted in the purple carrot in the region around modern day Afghanistan.
When cultivation of the garden style orange carrot lapses for a few generations, the carrots revert back to their ancestral carrot types, which are very different from the current garden variety.
In ancient times, the root part of the carrot plant that we eat today was not typically used. The carrot plant however was highly valued due to the medicinal value of its seeds and leaves. For instance, Mithridates VI, King of Pontius (around 100BC) had a recipe for counteracting certain poisons with the principle ingredient being carrot seeds. It has since been proven that this concoction actually works.
The Romans believed carrots and their seeds were aphrodisiacs. As such, carrots were a common plant found in Roman gardens. After the fall of Rome however, carrot cultivation in Europe more or less stopped until around the 10th century when Arabs reintroduced them to Europe.
British gunners in WWII were able to locate and shoot down German planes at night due to the invention of radar, which the Germans knew nothing about. To cover up the invention and extreme effectiveness of radar, the British spread about an urban legend that said that they massively increased the night vision of their pilots by having them consume large amounts of carrots. This lie not only convinced the Germans, but also had a bonus effect of causing many British people to start planting their own vegetable gardens, including planting carrots. This urban legend has persisted even to this day.
The largest carrot every grown was 19 pounds; grown by John Evans in 1998 in Palmer, Alaska.
The Vegetable Improvement Center at Texas A&M recently developed a purple-skinned, orange fleshed carrot called the Beta Sweet. This carrot is specialized to include substances that prevent cancer. It also has extremely high beta-carotene content.
Almost one third of all carrots distributed throughout the world come from China, which is the largest distributor of carrots in the world. Following them on gross production is Russia and then the United States.
Although the orange carrot was not cultivated before the 16th and 17th centuries, there is a reference in a Byzantine manuscript around 512AD which depicts an orange rooted carrot, suggesting that at least this mutant variety of carrot could be found at this time.
For centuries farmers have used nature to predict the length, intensity, and possible struggles of the upcoming seasons. Bushy or flat squirrel tails, curly or straight sheep’s wool, light or dark leaves, cows that are lying or standing in the fields, and of course a groundhog that does or does not see his shadow are all thought to be nature’s way of giving hints about the weather. Now, if you are a city-dweller such as myself you probably do not have the opportunity to drive past a cow pasture to let the sleeping cows tell you that rain is coming, and you could probably not tell if the sheep’s wool is curly or straight just by looking at it. Most of us rely on the good old weather man for our daily forecast. BUT- if you are careful, you might be able to get an idea of what winter holds in store just by cutting open the contents of your Bountiful Basket.
That small, orange, squash-looking thing is in fact a persimmon and it is said that the seeds of the persimmon fruit give pictorial clues into the upcoming winter weather. Persimmon seeds are flattened. In order to use this “weather forecasting method”, carefully remove the seed from the fruit. Split the persimmon seed parallel to the flattened sides. Once split open the seed will reveal a little, whitish sprout- the shape of this sprout is the key to your weather report. The sprout generally forms a “fork”, “knife”, or “spoon”- each indicating a different winter forecast. (Remember it is the forecast for the persimmon’s place of origin not necessarily the location of its final resting place- your dinner table.)
Knife: If the shape inside the seed is that of a knife, it is believed to mean the winter will be particularly cold and windy. Think of the expression “So cold it’s cutting right through you”- like a knife.
Spoon: When the shape inside the seed looks like a spoon, it is said to mean winter will bring heavy, wet snowfall. The spoon represents lots of shoveling.
Fork: The appearance of a fork shape within the seed is believed to mean that winter will be mild with only a light dusting of snow.
Persimmons are a small round tree-fruit generally available in the late fall. They are a soft, fleshy fruit with a tart, sometimes bitter taste. There are two main varieties of persimmons available in the US. The pointy-bottomed Hachiya should not be eaten until they are very ripe. Even then, this variety is best for baked goods and jams. Fuyus are short and squat and are said to be a better choice for eating raw. They have a slightly firm flesh that has a spicy-sweet taste. So, once you’ve gotten your weather report use this exotic fruit to cook up some delightful dishes.
Whatever the seeds show, I predict you will have lots of fun baking and eating these sweet little weather forecasters.
One of the exciting things about Bountiful Baskets is the occasional opportunity to try new fruits and vegetables. Once in a while, something really unique and unavailable in my Northern neck of the middle-of-nowhere woods Great Plains shows up in the basket. Today’s basket was one of those baskets! Papaya. PAPAYA! The only papaya I have ever tried before today is in Dole Tropical Canned Fruit—obviously not the same at all as eating the real, uncanned, fresh fruit. I am SO EXCITED! And my kids are too! Baloo the bear from Disney’s Jungle Book even sang a song mentioning the Papaya (in the Bare Necessities—you don’t need a claw to pick the big pawpaw!)
It is rumored that Christopher Columbus, upon trying a Papaya, called it the “Fruit of the Angels”. And, an amazing fruit it truly is! Aside from tasting heavenly and sweet, this fruit is PACKED with some power-house nutrients—provitamin A carotenoids, B vitamins, Vitamin C, lycopene, dietary minerals, and fiber, as well as many phytochemicals, including phynols (antioxidants). Papayas have a lot of natural pectin, which is useful for making jellies and jams. It is also the only plant that produces papain, an enzyme which helps break down proteins, and is often used as a meat tenderizer. Papayas are low calorie, and high fiber. The papaya seeds are edible and are sometimes used as a substitute for pepper, as they have a bitter but somewhat peppery flavor. The leaves have been made into teas in some parts of the world to help combat malaria and other ailments. And that is just the tip of the iceberg! Truly, a rather spectacular plant, and a spectacular fruit!
For more information about some of the health benefits of the papaya, here are a few links:
Think back over the basket contents of the last few months and ask yourself which item would be worthy enough to be used as currency in ancient Egypt and carried on golden platters as an offering to the Greek Gods. Many tantalizing and exotic fruits including pomegranates, mangoes, perhaps even grapes may be rushing to your mind but in all these cases you would be wrong. The item that captured the fascination of these ancient cultures was not a fruit at all- and most of us would not classify it as tantalizing or exotic. The pungent-tasting little root to which I am referring is actually a member of the cabbage family and is in fact…the radish.
Radishes are one of the oldest crops known to man and it’s really no surprise why they have been so successful. They grow just about anywhere, produce very quickly, require little care, and can thrive in small spaces. Well, small spaces now; the ancient Greeks and Romans would have snubbed their nose at the little guys we grow today. They were serious about their radishes, preferring them grown to an average of 100 lbs and then served up roasted and drizzled with honey and vinegar. (No wonder they were worthy of Olympus) Continue reading “A Food for the Gods”