Food Sunday: Ruminations on an Easter Sunday
No matter what glorious spiritual tradition you follow, it’s spring and we’re really happy for it. Whether you follow the return of the Son…or the return of the Sun, it’s still spring, which this year especially is a very good thing (do I have to trade mark that? I think Martha Stewart owns ‘good thing™’ or something like that), considering that for folks in the Deep South, this has been the Winter With No End™. The return of longer days and warmer weather is something we can all celebrate (where the rabbits came from is beyond me; fertility or something like that, I think – just pick up Watership Down).
Another thing that has returned are the farmers markets to a large part of the country. Our big local one basically went on a winter schedule, with two markets a month from November on in the basement of our local County Cooperative Extension building, Over the past month, consumers have been offered not only potatoes, onions and garlic as veggies, but also several different types of salad greens and spinach, courtesy of a grant that one of the growers got last year to buy and erect a ‘high tunnel’ (sort of like a semi-permanent plastic covered greenhouse) at her place. She started greens in it last fall and they have come back mightily over the past several weeks (even in our horrific weather here in Upstate NY) and in accordance with the grant, will be growing the same sorts of things inside the high tunnel and outside it in beds. I hear she is working on tomatoes and peppers which, given the long term weather prognostications, might be a very good idea, indeed.
And, to celebrate MORE green, here at Chez Siberia, the seeds that I planted under glass are now up, with the spinach making a strong showing as well as mustard greens, Chinese cabbage, winter lettuce and mixed cabbages. Now, just a reminder: I had the seeds for these all stored in a plastic bag in my fridge because I ordered them last fall so that I would have them. Gardening is more popular than ever and I did not want to miss out on my early spring crops. So, put a note on your calendar for October to order seeds from your favorite purveyor so that you have seems next spring when you want them early.
The soil temperatures, even in the uncovered beds are now up to 50 degrees F, so from an early spring crop standpoint, we could put other things in as well – peas, for example, and beets and chard. Tomatoes, beans, peppers and squash require much warmer soil temperatures, so those will have to wait. Another green idea is that when I went to my local grocery store (which is actually a regional one since they are now not only in New York but also New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Maryland and Virginia) I saw bags of chopped collard greens in the produce area. Now, this is not an item that we get at our farmers market here – local growers tend not to take chances on growing things that local consumers might not be interested in. But, collard greens are really good for you – high in vitamins (it’s another member of the cabbage family, after all), so my plan is to try a bag or two on the family dinner plates to see if getting seeds for next year might be worthwhile. So, another green idea is to check with your local grocery store or farmers market to see if they have something you have never tried, to get it and try it out on your family. You never know what people will like (Exhibit A at Chez Siberia: Brussels Sprouts, which my son asks for every…single…week).
This weekend, I’d planned to do a lot of yard work but got sideswiped by the rain. The DH, who had Friday off, spent the day planting currant and June berry bushes and a couple of ‘hazelburt’ hybrid shrubs up the hill. I really did believe that those June berries were what we call Shad Blow here (and what the Canadians call “Saskatoons”), but got fooled (mwa-ha-ha) by the catalog descriptions calling them ‘Shadlow”. Clever, hunh? Now I need to get another Shad Blow (technically called Amelchior) for the front so that we have have this single Amelchior out there not producing berries (for us or for the birds…). We had waited to transplant those bushes (which we’d had heeled into a bed in the back) until the septic guy told us the final determination on where and when the aeration unit is going to go in case we had to dig up all the landscaping right next to the house where the septic tank is (Dog, I love living in the country). Last week, he told us that it is now going ACROSS the driveway, down from the apple tree (Halleluiah!), so that a) we don’t have to dig up a lot of the landscaping; I think we just need to temporarily move a couple of evergreen bushes, and b) we then knew where the ‘do not plant here’ zone is. On the other hand, we have about 200 daffodil bulbs in the ‘do not plant here’ zone now which need to be moved and I have the feeling that because we are moving them in the spring (rather than being able to wait until the fall, when the flowers and leaves are all gone), they will not exactly take well to being moved. Oh well.
Oh. Yes. Food. Well, we stopped by the local farmers who we get meat from and they offered us something I’ve never seen before; it’s a cut on the cow that is usually thrown into the grinder to make hamburger, but is sometimes referred to as ‘rich man’s corned beef’. The meat comes from the shoulders, toward the neck and is one big muscle, with very little fat – it’s called ‘the clod’ (what an awful name). I’ve got it in the crock pot with a little bit of liquid, garlic and onions and I’m going to make pulled beef bbq with it this afternoon. Not exactly traditional Easter Sunday fare but ‘nummy’ nonetheless. This is just a reminder that there are a lot of things that we as consumers never get to try because in the commercial ag world, things get homogenized. You’ll never find that particular cut in a commercial grocery store, no matter how big the meat department is; but if you buy local and can actually talk to the farmer, sometimes you can get really unique cuts of meat that are absolutely wonderful and are frankly wasted in terms of what is done with them commercially.