Saving (Pretty) Seed – Glass Gem Corn

Drying Glass Gem CornMy Glass Gem Corn has been happily drying above my home office and today was the day to strip the cobs and put up the kernels for popcorn and next year’s planting.  If you have been following my blog for any amount of time you know that I have an abundant affection for this particular varietal which translates into an excess of photos…

I stripped all the multi-color cobs leaving the two almost entirely blue cobs for last.

Glass Gem Kernels and CobsSome of the kernels will be seed for next year and some will be popcorn, but in the meantime, they are still decorating my home office.

Glass Gem Kernels

Posted in Backyard Gardening, Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds, Corn, Drying, Flint Corn, Glass Gem Corn, Heirloom Varieties, Non-GMO, Organic, Saving Seed, Sustainable, Trench Composting, Urban Farming | Leave a comment

Herbal Remedy

My experiment with the front yard herb garden has come to a close.

On Sunday I thinned my 150+ strawberry plants that were spread over two beds down to 32 first-year runners in one bed.  Back in April I wrote about a New Zealand farmer that said first-year plants produce larger quantities of bigger berries and determined that I would try to save enough runners to have a fresh bed for 2017.  This opened up a whole 4’x4′ box to overwinter herbs in.

Overall the herbs did fairly well in the front, though the bunnies enjoyed the french tarragon for a while this spring and the chives were eaten down to nubs repeatedly. I did a little research and it seems that the tarragon may over winter in my zone, and I am sure the sage and oregano will do fine.  The rosemary is a maybe and I have no idea about the thyme or dill, but I planted everyone in a checkerboard pattern to allow for some sprawling and hopefully some self sowing for a perpetual herb garden.

Once established, I will trim back the herbs and dry the cuttings for my fall/winter use and mulch the plants with leaves to retain heat, moisture and feed the soil.

Herb Box

Posted in Backyard Gardening, Chives, French Tarragon, Front Yard Gardening, Herbs, Oregano, Parsley, Raised Bed Gardening, Rosemary, Sage, Square Foot Gardening, Thyme | Leave a comment

Better With Basil – Pasta Maker

Late blight is wrecking havoc on North Carolina tomatoes this year, particularly the heirloom varieties.  Last year I was pulling down green tomatoes in late November and this year they were pretty much done by late August.  C’est la vie.

Luckily, there are some good things happening in the kitchen while I wait for the fall lettuce and spinach to fill in the garden.  I have been working with my pasta maker, trying different shapers and getting the hang of the process.  This week I wanted to try adding some fresh basil into the mix so I chopped it very finely and tossed 1 gram of it with the Anson Mills pasta flour before adding it to the maker using the angel hair shaper.

Extruding Basil Herbed PastaThe result was very pretty and did have a hint of basil taste.  I was concerned that the basil would interfere with extruding and/or the pasta’s ability to hold together when cooking, it did neither.

Basil Herbed Pasta with SauceI want to try the experiment again with a little more basil which means I should probably use the spaghetti shaper to be safe.  I had already started the sauce when I decided to try adding basil to the pasta but next time I would like to try it with a simple butter garlic sauce that won’t overpower the flavor of the pasta like the thick, homemade tomato sauce in the photo above.

I am also wondering if I can do the same thing with finely chopped, fresh spinach and a thicker noodle.

With fall/soup season just around the corner I have also ordered some kansui, the alkaline ingredient that gives ramen noodles their distinctive texture and the ability to hold up well in soups.

I am beginning to suspect that the folks that sell fresh pasta and noodles at the Farmer’s Market aren’t doing it to make money, they just want an excuse to make more than they can personally eat…

Posted in Anson Mills, Basil, Food Porn, Food Preparation, Herbs, Kitchen Implements, Organic, Pasta, Pasta Maker, Ramen, Recipe, Slow Food, Sustainable, Technology | Leave a comment

Getting Wired in the Garden

Early this spring I had high hopes when I reworked my square foot grids with outdoor nylon rope.  It lasted only 2 seasons.

Formerly Nylon GridThe needles and leaves are a results of Hurricane Hermine’s winds coming through earlier this weekend, but the nylon grid had disintegrated well before the storm.

I spent some time in Lowe’s yesterday finding what I hope will be the last grid material I need.  I have tried coated wire before, but the wire was purchased for supports for climbing squash and was too stiff in the garden.  This wire has a great blend of sturdy but flexible.

Cable and Wire CuttersThis wire also marks a change in direction for grid color.  I have always marked out my grids in white, liking the crisp contrast.  This time I went with black, to blend into the soil visually.

Cable GridA note if you decide to use wire in your beds for grids or anything else – I specifically wanted a coated wire because uncoated may get pretty hot in the summer sun and burn the plants that brush up against it.

Now that I am back on the grid (again), time to get my fall lettuce and spinach seeds planted!

Posted in Backyard Gardening, Kaizen, Pro Tip, Raised Bed Gardening, Square Foot Gardening, Sustainable | Leave a comment

10% Campaign and Starfish

In 2010, the Center for Environmental Farming Systems (CEFS) teamed up with the NC Cooperative Extension at North Carolina A&T State University and the North Carolina State University to launch the NC 10% Campaign to encourage individuals and businesses to make locally grown, caught and produced foods 10% of their food budget.  Over $35B is spent on food annually by North Carolinians meaning a whopping $3.5B would stay in state to support local farmers, fishermen and food producers if the campaign was adopted universally.

North Carolina has an embarrassment of food producing resources in the form of abundant sunshine, rainfall, land and coastal waters for seafood.  The campaign produced this wonderful seasonality chart that highlights just how bountiful our state is.  Designating 10% of food dollars to stay in state and supporting our local food producers couldn’t be easier or more delicious!  For North Carolinians, eating seasonally means eating fresher more nutritious food, enjoying a greater variety in our diets and eating locally means reducing the carbon footprint of each meal in terms of the energy needed to transport temperature controlled food long distances across the country or globe.

The 10% goal may seem to be a rather low bar for those that already support local food producers with a significant percentage of their food dollars, but it is the low threshold that makes it possible to be accepted and adopted by a larger proportion of North Carolinians thereby making a bigger difference in the lives of our food producers, our state economy, the sustainability of our food system.

Thinking about this challenge reminded me of the Starfish Story*

A man was walking along a beach and as he walked he could see a young boy in the distance.  The boy kept bending down, picking something up and throwing it into the water.  As the man drew closer he saw that the boy was picking up starfish that had been washed up on the beach and was throwing them back into the water.  The man asked the boy what he was doing, and the boy replied, “I am throwing these washed up starfish back into the ocean, or else they will die.”  “But you can’t possibly save them all, there are thousands on this beach, and this must be happening on hundreds of beaches along the coast. You can’t possibly make a difference.”, said the man.  The boy smiled, bent down and picked up another starfish, and as he threw it back into the sea, he replied, “I made a difference to that one.”

If you want to make a difference too, visit the NC 10% Campaign Partners Page to find restaurants, grocery stores, you pick farms and farmers working with the program to make North Carolina an even better place to eat.

*The Starfish Story has made the rounds over the decades and been adapted many times.

Posted in Local Farms, Local Food, NC 10% Campaign, Profitable Farming, Seasonality Chart, Sustainable | Leave a comment

Easy Decision Dinner

Morel and Kale Egg Scramble and Pan Roasted TomatoesEgg scrambles for dinner with almost any leftover veggies in the fridge is a quick and easy decision for nights that lack a dinner plan.

I had a small bunch of kale leftover after an Italian soup earlier in the week so I chopped it up and sauteed with some rehydrated morels.  Add in scrambled eggs and herbs/seasoning of choice (I used fresh tarragon and a little cayenne), top with a little cheese and viola – a delicious, nutritious and frugal dinner!

Morel and Kale Egg Scramble and Pan Roasted Tomatoes with Homemade White-Wheat-Rye BreadAs a side note on a side dish – a couple of weekends ago I processed 15lbs of my Roma Tomatoes into sauce.  2lbs of sauce to be exact.  I divvied up the sauce into freezer bags and started looking for other uses for the Romas I am growing.  I have diced them up into tomato salads along side the slicing and cherry tomatoes and lately I have been working on pan roasted tomatoes (above).  They taste delicious but the skins are a bit like tough paper after the roasting…still a work in progress.

Posted in Backyard Gardening, Food Porn, Food Preparation, French Tarragon, Kale, Morel Mushrooms, Mushrooms, Raised Bed Gardening, Roma Tomato, Slow Food, Square Foot Gardening, Sustainable | Leave a comment

Fill the Freezer

With only 7 Saturdays left before the end of the shopping season, the Apex Farmer’s Market shopping season I mean, it is time to start asking my favorite protein farmers about bulk purchases before the end of season and off season sales at their farms.

Carolina Catch Seafood – Seafood, part of a coastal catcher’s cooperative, possible off season sales at a location in Holly Springs

Heston Farms – Beef, family farmers, will do off season sales either at their farm in Roxboro, NC or possibly meeting in Durham so it is still a good idea to stock up

Little River Eco Farm – Pork (they also sell chicken, eggs, beef, turkeys), off season sales are unlikely so I will be placing a bulk order for the Mexican Chorizo and Sweet Italian Sausage that are mainstays in my kitchen

On a related note, the Apex Farmers Market is trying to go year round, possibly one market a month during the off season, but they need an enclosed winter location.  Fingers crossed they can find something!

Posted in Farmers' Market, Farms, Local Farms, Protein Farmers, Resources, Sustainable | Leave a comment


History and the culinary arts have collided in these fantastic 18th Century Cooking videos from Jas. Townsend and Son.

Half video recipe, half historical reenactment and with just a pinch of historical reproduction entrepreneurship thrown in for seasoning, I am loving learning “what’s for dinner” from the early 1700s through the early 1800s and some of these look good enough to try in 2016!

Posted in Food Preparation, Historic Cooking, Historic Recipes, Jas. Towsend and Son, Resources, Slow Food | Leave a comment

Chicago City Farm – Field Trip

City Farm SignI arrived in Chicago yesterday for an annual conference with a few hours to spare so I took the opportunity to go see City Farm in person!  I have been looking forward to seeing this fantastic piece of urban farming/city renewal since I wrote about it in January, unfortunately the three days I am here are the three days they are closed to the public.  Undeterred, I figured i could at least view it from the outside and see how the new location at W Division Street is coming along.

The very warm, but tired Farm Director, Meredith, saw me taking pictures and came out to chat with me.  Despite being at the farm since 5 am picking produce for the Farmer’s Market, she gave me a micro-tour and we chatted about growing food.

The lot looks even bigger in person and wraps north and east sides of the Chicago Fire Department building – the brick building to the right.

Cabbage and CollardsIt could not have been a more beautiful day to visit.

Cabbage and Tomatoes at the City FarmMeredith was very excited about the tractor that will help the workers and volunteers accomplish more on this sprawling lot.

It is wonderful to see young people engaging in a type of agriculture that doesn’t just build farms, it builds communities.  If you are ever in Chicago, preferably Wednesday-Saturday make this a must-visit!

Posted in Cabbage, Chicago Farm, City Farm, Collards, Farms, Sustainable, Tomatoes, Urban Farm Business, Urban Farming, Urban Renewal, Young Farmers | 2 Comments

Mangia – Seconda Parte

Recently I wanted to find some great make-ahead recipes that I could prepare in batches and freeze for fast and easy, but still homemade meals that I would feel good about on those “I don’t feel like scratch cooking” nights.  Stuffed pastas kept catching my eye as something highly versatile (options including but definitely not limited to: cheese, spinach, squash, beef, tuna with a bechamel sauce) and are super easy to freeze and reheat.

I already had a great homemade pasta dough recipe (for use with the KitchenAid stand mixer and pasta roller attachment) and ravioli filling recipe but wanted to do some research and see if some varieties freeze better than others.

While doing searches for freezing homemade stuffed pastas my results kept turning up all these recipes and ads for pasta maker machines…hmm.  A few dozen YouTube videos and reviews later, I decided a pasta maker was just what I needed both to make fast and easy ravioli for my make-ahead meals as well as ditching the boxed, dried stuff in my pantry for fresh, on-demand pasta made with high quality wheat*.

I found the pasta maker I wanted on sale at Williams-Sonoma – the Philips Smart Pasta Maker.  I liked this one in particular because in addition to the weighing function which helps you fine-tune your liquids if you are using more or less than a perfect single or double batch of pasta flour, it comes with 8 shaping discs meaning no accessories to purchase later.

I had to try it right away after it arrived so I made a simple angel hair pasta to get a feel for the machine and process.

Making Angel HairThe adverts say that you will have fresh pasta in 15 minutes, I am pretty sure they mean when the last of the noodles come out because this machine begins extruding pasta in just 3 minutes!

Fresh Angel Hair NestsI made a double batch which was double the amount I needed.  The other 1/2 can be dusted with flour and refrigerated for a few days or frozen for a longer storage time.

The pasta was fantastic – delicious and with great bite, perfect al dente!

Mangia* A note on the pasta flour I use – as much as possible, I buy my grains from Anson Mills.  I could do a whole series of posts on Anson Mills and founder Glenn Roberts and how they are reviving lost tastes through heirloom grains.  If you haven’t read it yet, a great way to get to know Glenn is through Dan Barber’s seminal book The Third Plate.  I became an instant convert based on what I knew about Glenn’s grains.  Tasting them only further cemented my ardor.

Posted in Anson Mills, Basil, Dan Barber, Food Preparation, Kitchen Implements, Non-GMO, Organic, Pasta, Pasta Maker, Technology, The Third Plate | Leave a comment

Big Finish – Glass Gem Corn

The Glass Gem Corn is winding down and I will have a couple more ears to harvest over the next few weeks but today was really the big finale with 4 ears harvested and two that were almost* entirely in the blue spectrum.

Last Big Glass Gem Corn HarvestI plan to make some popcorn from this year’s harvest, but also plan to double my planting for year’s crop from saved seed.  This is a exponential goal/reward because for every one corn plant I plant two black eyed pea plants to nourish the corn and climb the stalk for support and I am enjoying the still growing store of homegrown black eyed peas to cook up for good luck on New Year Day and would like to have even more for New Years 2018.

Black Eyed Peas Stash*the bottom right cob has a single green kernel that only makes the rest of the cob look all the more blue.

Posted in Backyard Gardening, Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds, Black Eyed Peas, Companion Planting, Corn, Flint Corn, Glass Gem Corn, Heirloom Varieties, Organic, Sustainable | Leave a comment

I Can’t Even – Glass Gem Corn Harvest

Glass Gem Corn HarvestYes.  It is just that beautiful!

Posted in #Food(Growing)Porn, #NoFilters, Backyard Gardening, Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds, Corn, Glass Gem Corn, Heirloom Varieties, Organic, Sustainable, Urban Farming | Leave a comment

Pomodori Aplenty

I had my largest one-day harvest of Roma Tomatoes at a little over 3.5 lbs, a similar weight in Amana Orange and Mortgage Lifter Tomatoes were ready to be picked along with some cherry tomatoes, a nice bowl of figs, more black eyed peas to add to the jar and four more cobs of Glass Gem corn.

Thursday HarvestI can’t get over how pretty and varied the glass gem cobs are, each seems to have their own color theme.

Glass Gem Corn Close UpI have at least 5 more cobs to harvest and I can’t wait to see their variations!


Posted in Amana Tomato, Black Eyed Peas, Cherry Tomatoes, Corn, Figs, Flint Corn, Glass Gem Corn, Hartman's Yellow Gooseberry Tomato, Heirloom Varieties, Mortgage Lifter Tomato, Organic, Paste Tomato, Roma Tomato, Slicing Tomatoes, Sustainable, Tomatoes | Leave a comment

First Glass Gem Corn Harvest

I harvested my first ear of Glass Gem Corn yesterday and it is beautiful!

Glass Gem Corn

Posted in Companion Planting, Flint Corn, Glass Gem Corn, Heirloom Varieties, Sustainable | Leave a comment

Mulligan Fire Roasted Cherry Tomato Salsa

A few weeks ago I finally had enough cherry tomatoes to give the Fire Roasted Cherry Tomato Salsa recipe I wrote about in February a whirl.  The cherry tomatoes I had in abundance were two varieties of yellow tomatoes and I thought that would work nearly as well as the red.  I was mistaken.

The salsa was flavorful and had the perfect amount of heat, but without the red tomatoes it lacked the acidic tang this salsa needed to balance the sweetness of the fire roasted onions.

So last week I tried again with farmer’s market red cherry tomatoes.

Pre-Fire Roasted SalsaThe kitchen smells unbelievably good during and after the fire roasting step!

Fire RoastedAnd the finished product!

Salsa and Cherry TomatoesThe mulligan Fire Roasted Cherry Tomato Salsa was delicious and I will need to rethink my yellow/red cherry tomato planting ratio for next year.

Posted in Chef John, Cherry Tomatoes, Farmers' Market, Food Preparation, Salsa, Sustainable, Tomatoes | Leave a comment