Tag Archives: squash

The Green Doctor, kindred souls and squashes.

While I was waiting at the fairgrounds gate I saw people leaving with their arms full of watermelons. A woman walked past me wearing a green t-shirt with bold letters proclaiming, “Things go better with kale.”

Then my friend Linda arrived. We entered the Farm-Garden-Homesteading-Everything show and soon found ourselves at a poultry exhibit. When she invited me last week I hadn’t investigated ahead of time what all there would be to see, and chickens were a happy surprise.

As we were admiring the different breeds one exhibitor explained to us that the truest Rhode Island Reds are a very dark mahogany color, and there was a rooster to demonstrate it. He told us about the “Frizzle” gene that causes the feathers of any breed to grow backward.

We got into a discussion with him about whether the upcoming winter would be warmer than usual. He mentioned seeing scores of baby lizards at what would normally be too late in the year, and wild birds setting on new clutches of eggs. I wondered myself yesterday when I saw a bird pulling rice straw out of my strawberry barrels.

Last week I heard another opinion, that the lack of sunspots of late foretells a cold winter coming. I didn’t even know what sunspots were, and will like to see how winter reveals itself. A related question of no import is whether I will remember any of this come winter!

A young woman I’d met briefly at church was at this fair, selling wool that comes from her family’s fiber mill. Another friend was at the medicinal hemp oil booth. I listened to a bright lady from the South talking for 45 minutes about fermenting, as she occasionally sipped from her bottle of kombucha. I even took extensive notes on that talk, and her recipe for kimchi, knowing full well that I will never make it.

More applicable to my life was the cherry tomato tasting, from which Linda and I and even Master Gardener people at a separate booth concluded without a doubt that Green Doctor was our favorite. It was developed by two women who are both doctors 🙂 . By contrast, I ate a little Yellow Pear, while telling the volunteer behind the table that one summer I had grown this variety and thought I must have got a “lemon” of a pear because every fruit on the vine was tasteless. She answered flatly, “They always are.”

For someone like me who avoids shopping, the shopping at this event was certainly great fun. There were two places with vintage clothing and other used items, from which I chose aprons! One seed booth featured corn, beans, and amaranth, all of which were appealingly laid out in varied and rustic baskets. I did indulge in a packet of orange amaranth seeds, and Linda bought a scoop of the Hopi type below; we will share with each other.

By the time we reached the moringa booth I still had some adventuresome energy to expend, but was slowing down a bit in the legs and feet. When I saw the jug of very green drink they were freely offering, signed “Peppermint Moringa Tea,” I helped myself to a cup, and it felt like Strengthening Medicine. From what I learned, the leaves are in fact concentrated nutritionally, but more pertinent to my situation long-term were other aspects of the plant, that it is easy to grow and can thrive in my area, and — look at these dear seeds! I have to try some. Linda bought a small tree. Now I am trying to figure out some way I might organize all my hopelessly burgeoning garden ideas.

It was refreshing to listen to a motivational speaker who was urging us, not to maximize our financial wealth, but to find ourselves and our joy by digging in the dirt and learning how to grow things. To talk to a man who has been hand-forging beautiful tools for fifty years. We hated to leave his booth, where the trowels, coat racks and trivets wanted to be hefted and stroked and admired, and their creator seemed content that they be appreciated, knowing that most of us couldn’t afford to own them.

Hundreds of people all in one place with whom one might discuss natural pest controls and sheep breeds, Mason jars and succulents…. and species of scented geraniums. Linda and I each took home a little nutmeg-scented plant which will remind us of our outing together. I have a few close friends who are fellow-gardeners and who love to share our excitement with each other, but never before have I had a day as full to the brim of like-minded folk as bright and colorful as the squashes we had come to see.

Whatever winter will bring this year, it is not yet upon us, which means more hours and days I might prepare for it, while bringing in extra basil, strawberries, and figs. Now that I’ve returned from the dream-invigorating festival, it’s back to the Real, my own garden.

A gift becomes a bisque

Two weeks ago I was given a hunk of very orange volunteer squash by the nuns at the monastery. After I baked it in the oven I wanted to eat it all just plain, because it tasted that good, and as sweet as candy.

But I had in mind to make soup using the same recipe that Kate (new nickname for my youngest) had found at Epicurious and cooked for us when she was home for Christmas. We collaborated on the soup, actually, and I’ll post here how we made it, not quite as the recipe instructed.

For example, the recipe told us to take two 2# butternut squashes, bake them, measure out the flesh and use three cups of it, then “reserve any remaining squash for another use.” If I did that sort of thing the remaining squash would get moldy in the fridge or sit in the freezer for a year or two and dry out. So we used all our squash (when Kate made it we used the true Butternuts from my garden, and they don’t come in even pound weights, by the way) and increased some other ingredients proportionally.

Curried Orange Squash Bisque

3-4# orange winter squash
olive oil
2-4 tablespoons butter
1 onion, chopped
1 large carrot, chopped
1 peeled apple, chopped
2-3 teaspoons Thai red curry paste (ours was Thai Kitchen)
about a quart chicken broth
2 bay leaves (optional)
1/4 to 1/2 cup whipping cream
1 tablespoon honey (or more if your squash isn’t sweet)
1/2 cup or more sour cream, stirred smooth
chopped fresh cilantro
salt and pepper to taste

Brush or spray the cut side of the squash with olive oil and place cut side down on a baking sheet. Bake at 375° for about an hour or until tender. Scoop out the squash and measure it if you care to know how much you ended up with.

Melt the butter in a large pot over medium-high heat. Add the onion, carrots and apple. Sauté 5 minutes. Add curry paste; stir 2 minutes. Add broth, bay leaves and squash. I used the bay leaves but Kate didn’t, and I liked her soup better, though I don’t know if it had anything to do with the bay. Maybe it was the variety of apple, or some other slight difference in our preparation.

You have to accept this degree of inconsistency when you cook — well, I do.  If it’s not the amounts of ingredients that affects the finished product, it’s the differences between one squash and another, or the change from 1/4 to 1/3 teaspoon of pepper that wasn’t measured. We are aiming for a hearty pot of soup, and not to become epicureans, even if we do like to search that website.

Bring the soup to a boil; reduce heat to medium and simmer uncovered 1 hour. Now, we couldn’t figure out any reason to cook it for an hour unless it was to get the flavor of bay into it, and when Kate made it we didn’t have time for that. You really only need to cook it until the vegetables are tender.

Discard the bay leaves, and purée the soup in batches in the blender or food processor. Return to the pot, stir in cream and honey and sour cream. Season with salt and pepper. Rewarm over medium-high heat. Divide among bowls and sprinkle with cilantro.

I forgot to take a picture with the cilantro on top….

I just now noticed that the sour cream was for drizzling over the top of the soup after it is already in the bowls. That would be pretty! But we mixed ours into the soup, and it was very tasty. The sour cream and curry gave the bisque just the right amount of zip, though I suspect that some brands of the curry would add more heat than Thai Kitchen did. If you want something spicy you’ll need to add more curry paste.

Even my husband, who despises squash, liked this soup!

Butternuts


I got my butternut squash seeds in the ground about a month earlier this year, and they are producing much better! In this photo Gus is crouching near the vines, a few weeks ago. There’s only enough room in that patch of dirt for the roots to grow; the vines crawl across the concrete of the utility yard.

 

These are my first 10 fruits, picked over the weekend, sitting on a towel drying from their dip in a mild bleach solution, which is supposed to kill any bacteria that might contribute to premature spoilage. Not quite ripe are at least 5 more fruits, some of which look to be at least as big as the biggest one here, which weighed in at 3+ pounds.