Inventory, Part Two

My hoop greenhouse was demolished in yesterday’s wind storm, so any local foods I’m eating these days will be things I put up last summer and fall. And so, inventory continues.

Purslane Pickles

Using a recipe from Euell Gibbons’ Stalking the Wild Asparagus, I made a jar of Purslane pickles last summer. Using homegrown dill, peppers, and garlic with vinegar, I was able to fill one 16-oz jar with purslane stems and homegrown green tomatoes. I wasn’t sure what to do with them, so they sat at the back of the fridge for months, but I’ve been working them into sandwiches lately. They are fantastic. Purslane pickles add a tart crunch to a sandwich without the wet slipperyness of cucumber pickle slices.

Sun-dried Tomatoes

I don’t know if this is an innovation of my own, or if I read it somewhere, but it’s a great system. After picking homegrown cherry tomatoes dead ripe, I slice them, salt them, and put them on the dashboard of my car. Summer heat will dry them to the crispy stage within a day or two, at which point they are ready to be packed into jars, which are sealed but not processed. They will keep through to the next tomato harvest, and get tossed in with any sort of noodley casserole type dish.

Sprouts

I’m not sure where exactly the line falls on “local foods”, but sprouts are questionable. I’m growing them, but I don’t know where the seeds come from. I don’t have a large enough garden to allow plants to set seed for sprouting, so I don’t have much choice. The sprouts are “home-grown”, but only by a matter of a few weeks. I’m currently sprouting alfalfa and mung beans, using the alfalfa for salads and sandwiches and the mung beans for stir-frys. I’m a novice sprouter, but my loose and simple procedure seems to work:

Cover the bottom of a small, lidded jar with one layer of seeds. Cover the seeds with water, and allow to soak for a few hours, up to overnight for alfalfa. Drain the water. Every day that follows, rinse the sprouts off after breakfast and while preparing dinner. When the sprouts reach the desired stage of maturity (taste test to find your preference), stick them in the refridgerator.

They make special sprouting jars with mesh lids, but I just use the solid jar lid to hold back the sprouts, as if I was draining pasta in a pot. When my watering can is empty, I drain my sprouts into it to re-use the little bit of water that goes into sprouting.

Chives

When the snow isn’t too deep, I can still get thyme and parsley from the garden, and I have some basil–in pesto form–in the freezer, but the only truly fresh herb I have through the winter is chives. In the fall, I pot up a clump of the bulbs and sink the pot into the ground. Around the New Year, or whenever there is a convenient thaw, I pull the pot out and bring it indoors. The chive bulbs, which have gone through their required dormant stage, react to the warmth of the house as if it were spring, and they put on new growth. I’ve read that it’s best to have two pots going, so as to alternate and keep a steady supply through winter, but my single pot hasn’t given up yet.

Aside from a chunk of local venison in the freezer (given to me by the mother of an overzealous hunter), that is where I stand in the New Year on local food. Next month begins seed-starting season, so I hope to give some information on the shower-stall greenhouse I use to prepare plants for the summer garden.

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