Chilies are home

The chilies are harvested. With these in the kitchen, I just feel like making chili dishes all the time: hot soups, orange & chili ice cream,  pimenta for the black beans, chili in wok dishes, chili meringue, chili marinades, chili bread…  🙂

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Yacón harvest

Yacón is a South American tuber of the daisy plant family, Asteraceae, which among others includes echinaceas, sunflowers and jerusalem artichokes. It is a perennial and will resprout in the spring in regions with mild winters, but in harsher conditions the root crowns need to be harvested and kept cool but frost-free during the winter and replanted after the last frost in the spring.

We grew Yacón, Smallanthus sonchifolius, for the first time last year, from one small crown. The tuber yield was meager, which we attributed to cold, windy conditions, but there were crowns enough on that one plant to propagate several this year to give away to friends and fellow plant geeks, and grow four of them ourselves. This year we picked a sunny, sheltered spot and added a lot of compost to the planting hole. And what a response! Two of the plants are now harvested, yielding four kilos – almost nine pounds.  Big tubers just waiting to enhance our fruit salads, slaws, curries and culinary experiments. 🙂

Yacón tastes like a cross between jerusalem artichokes and sugar cane, it is wonderfully crunchy and pleasantly sweet, good for your digestive system, good for soil life and can keep for months. Mother Earth News provides a more detailed description of its characteristics.

Hopefully we can keep the crowns happy through the winter, we are sooo ready for new yacón adventures in 2013. =D

Multipurpose Jerusalem Artichokes

I couldn’t resist any longer, I just had to see what was in the ground under the jerusalem artichoke plants! Those jerusalem artichokes (Helianthus tuberosus) that have been guarding the garden against a recurrent blackberry invasion. They have grown to over two meters, flowered with their beautiful miniature sunflowers, held on to the soil on the slope and survived antler rubbing from the deer, all obvious to the eye, but how did they look underground? Turns out they looked goood…. 🙂 Smooth, lots of ’em, and the biggest were  almost the length of my palm. Tasty when diced and baked together with other root vegetables or in one of my favorite salads: grated jerusalem artichokes, carrots and apples. All in season locally right now. And another really nice thing about j. a. : they are really hard to get rid of, they keep coming back year after year, from overlooked tubers in the ground.  Oh, and they keep well in the soil through the winter, they can just be dug up when needed, as long as the ground isn’t frozen. It’s a win/win/win/win/win… many times!

Nordic Permaculture Festival 2012

It’s been three days since the festival ended, and it is still resonating in me. I have brought home a space of new inspiration and deep meaningfulness that’s very insistent on being put to practice. It wants to cultivate plants and mushrooms and microorganisms and the neighbourhood, it wants to pickle and can and ferment, it wants to provide a stay for birds and bees and WOOFers, and it wants to rejoice over it all. At this point you may be asking yourself: “What is she on???” Well, it’s a permaculture high. It comes from sharing knowledge and seeds and songs and food and decisive moments with people and getting rich soil on your hands  and keeping it simple. It can’t really be fully described, so go ahead and try this at home. 🙂 And come to Norway next year for the Nordic Permaculture Festival!

Ängsbacka, Sweden, 2012:

Cucurbitaceae

What a beautiful and impressive plant family, the cucurbitaceae are! Pumpkins, squashes, melons, cucmbers, cahiuas – such a varied, delicious and highly productive bunch. The hügelbeet is camouflaged by them these days, along with corn, sunflowers and a bunch of salad greens trying to defend their spot in the corner farthest from all the vines.

Ten kilos of pumpkin is a lot of food. We had pumpkin for days, in many ways, and all worth cooking up again, so for those of you who have bountiful pumpkin patches, here are some recipes we like, in more or  less detail:

Pumpkin soup

Put chunks of peeled and de-seeded pumpkin in a pot.
Add a few cms of water and boil until the pumpkin is tender.
Blend smooth and return to the pot.
Season to taste with lemon juice, finely grated lemon rind, finely grated fresh ginger, salt and finely chopped chili.
Bring to a boil and stir in a few spoonfuls whole cream.
Serve with sour cream or cottage cheese in the middle and a sprinkle of chopped bronze fennel or parsley.

Pumpkin lasagna

500 g.  sliced fresh mushrooms
2 large chopped onions
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon good quality vegetable oil
6 dl. grated pumpkin
2 dl. reduced fat cream
2 tablespoons sage leaves
pepper to taste
½ package lasagna noodles
5 dl.   cottage cheese
2,5 dl.   mozzarella cheese
2 dl.   grated parmesan cheese

Saute the mushrooms, onions and half of the salt in the oil until tender and set aside.
In a bowl, combine the pumpkin,cream, sage, pepper, and remaining salt.
Spread a thin layer of pumpkin sauce in a pan.
Cover with a layer of noodles.
Spread a thin layer of pumpkin sauce over the noodles.
Spread another thin layer of the mushrom mixture, cottage cheese,  mozzarella and a sprinkle parmesan cheese.
Repeat layers, ending with pumpkin sauce.
Cover and bake at 175° for 30 minutes. Uncover and sprinkle with mozzarella. Bake for another 15 minutes.

Pumpkin chutney

700 g. peeled, de-seeded and diced pumpkin
500 g. peeled, cored and diced cooking apples
2 large chopped onions
100 g. dried apricots or cranberries
100 g. raisins
2 teaspoons salt
60 g.  finely grated fresh ginger
½ teaspoon ground black pepper
2 teaspoons ground allspice
2 tablespoons  mustard seeds
1-2 finely chopped red chillies (to taste)
6 crushed garlic cloves
6 dl. apple vinegar
200 g. sugar
250 g. brown sugar

Mix all the ingredients except the sugar in a large pan.
Simmer for about 45 minutes, stirring occasionally.
Add the sugar and stir until dissolved.
Continue to simmer uncovered for about 1 – 1 ½ hours until the chutney is thick.
Pour into sterilized jars and seal.
Goes well with pumpkin lasagna, among many things!

Baked pumpkin

1 kg. pumpkin
½ dl. olive oil
1 tablespoon honey
1 teaspoon salt
pinch of  pepper

Mix all the ingredients except pumpkin in a bowl.
Cut the peeled and de-seeded pumpkin into large chunks, and add to the bowl.
Spread the pumpkin in a baking pan and bake at 180° for 45 minutes.

Pumpkin cake

500 g. sugar
3 eggs
500 g. flour
3 teaspoons vanilla sugar
250 g margarine
½ liter grated pumpkin
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
3 teaspoons cinnamon

Mix all ingredients.
Pour into a greased and flour-dusted baking pan.
Bake in a pre-heated oven for 40 minutes at 175°.

Pumpkin smoothie (surprisingly good!)

In a blender, combine:
Peeled and de-seeded pumpkin in chunks
1 teaspoon vanilla sugar
1 tablespoon honey
Apple juice to desired consistency.
Optional: ice cubes, if your blender can handle it, otherwise add them after blending.

Blend, pour, enjoy!

Cycles, it’s about cycles

Aphids in enormous numbers found the lovage. Then the ladybugs found the aphids. Two days later both the aphids and the ladybugs were gone and the lovage went on with its business of ripening seed. How do these tiny insects find their feeding grounds in this enormous world? The whole ordeal never ceases to amaze me in all its simultaneous drama and simplicity.

Fruit of the day

‘Tis the season of bounty, there is fruit every day and fruit on the way, an extravagance of colors, shapes, sizes and flavors.

The blackberry challenge

We spent quite a few days clearing the new garden area of blackberry brambles this past winter, and were  eager to see how the edge plantings stood up against summer’s invasion of brambles. We planted rhubarb (rabarber), Jerusalem artichoke (jordskok) and Walking stick kale (Jersey kale, brassica oleracea var. longata) to keep the blackberries at bay. The kale turns out to be one of the deer’s favorite snacks, so it will definitely not reach walking stick height this year, nor hold the blackberry brambles back. The rhubarb and Jerusalem artichokes however, are working out nicely. They effectively shade out anything coming form outside the garden, leaving me to keep the ground elder (skvalderkål) under control on the garden side. And there are still plenty og blackberries within reach for us, the Garden Chafer (Gåsebille) and whoever else may like them.

DIY capillary watering

The same kind of 10-liter buckets that make up the potato container farm also make  nice capillary watering containers. Two buckets and a small terracotta pot are  all the materials that go into a capillary waterer. How to:

1. Fill the terracotta pot with potting soil.

2. Set the  pot in the middle of one of the buckets.

4. Cut a hole, a couple of centimeters smaller than the circumference of the terracotta pot, in the bottom of the other bucket.

5. Set the bucket into the other, resting on top of the terracotta pot, so the soil is directly under the hole.

6. Fill the top bucket with soil and plant in it.

7. Water around the plant.

8. Fill the water reservoir below the top bucket by watering between the two buckets.

The soil in the terracotta pot will act as a wick, drawing water up to the soil above as needed.

I use them for everything that goes in the greenhouse and thus only have to water once or twice a week, depending on the weather. The tomatoes look happy and fruiting. 🙂

Farm-in-a-bucket

The local pizza place does a great job of  saving 10-liter buckets for me. The buckets would otherwise have gone to the dump. Strange state of things, that we produce buckets for use during a few days and then feed them to the furnace. Anyway, the pizza place sets them aside for me, and I am very happy to use them in the paved areas of my urban garden.  Many of them go to the potato farm, that not only gives us potatoes to eat, but also the opportunity to enjoy their beautiful flowers! Exquisa, Blue Congo and October Blue are flowering at the moment.