Friday, February 27, 2009

Farmer's Markets

I have to admit...I am a huge fan of Farmer's markets. After growing tomatoes, there is nothing I like better in the summer than visiting the markets on the weekends.

Farmers' markets are one of the oldest forms of direct marketing by small farmers. In a farmers' market, a group of farmers sell their products once or twice a week at a designated public place like a park or parking lot. Some farmers' markets have live entertainment. Shopping at a farmers' market is a great way to get local fresh, flavorful produce and seasonal items direct from the source.

One of the things I love about these markets is the diversity of products. You can get anything from homemade natural soaps to organic, fresh dog treats. Fresh cutting flowers, local honey, grass fed cheeses and meat and fresh seasonal berries are just a few of the things you can count on. Most of those products would cost you an arm and a leg thru a store but since there is no middle man, prices remain reasonable to low. Here in Ohio, the Amish are very present at the markets and a good place to find their products if you are looking.

One of my favorite aspects of the markets are the sellers or growers. They are the friendliest group of people. They are more than willing to educate you on any product and offer suggestions and smile the whole time they are doing it.

If you have never made it to a farmer's market, this is the year I would do it. They run every weekend in most states and some areas have them year round. You'll get the best of the best, the freshest and the most in season produce available.

You can probably do a google search for markets in your local area.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

A Tomato Prayer

A Tomato Prayer From "A Common Prayer" by Michael Leunig, well-known Australian cartoonist.

It is time to plant tomatoes. Dear God, we praise this fruit and give thanks for its life and evolution. We salute the tomato, cheery, fragrant morsel, beloved provider, survivor and thriver and giver of life. Giving and giving and giving. Plump with summer's joy. The scent of its stem is summer's joy, is promise and rapture. Its branches breathe perfume of promise and rapture. Giving and giving and giving.Dear God, give strength to the wings and knees of pollinating bees, give protection from hailstorms, gales and frosts, give warm days and quenching rains. Refresh and adorn our gardens and tables. Refresh us with tomatoes.Rejoice and rejoice! Celebrate the scarlet soul of winter sauces. Behold the delicious flavor! Behold the oiled vermilion moons that ride and dive in olive-bobbing seas of vinegared lettuce. Let us rejoice! Let this rejoicing be our thanks for tomatoes.


Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Started Peppadews today

Today I started 40 Peppadew seeds. Last year it was a bust. The seeds I got were imposters. So this year, I got them from 3 different sources. A grower in the U.K., a grower in Canada and a grower in Wasington State. All of them swear they are the real deal. I sowed all 40 of them. I have them marked so I know which ones came from which grower. The truth is, you can't have too many Peppadews. I have had some requests for the brine recipe... Well, it's a secret recipe and I have one that is supposedly close.

Peppadew Pickled Peppers

Cut off stem and deseed unless you want burning hot peppers. It's best to use surgical gloves, as the peppers can make your fingers burn. Cut off the stem end and scrape out the seeds with a small teaspoon. Try to remove all the seeds.

Dissolve about 4 tablespoons sea salt in just over 2 cups water. (We have metric measurements: 60g salt to 600ml water.In another submission of this recipe, the author gave the following instructions: Leave overnight in a brine consisting of 2 ounces kosher/coarse salt and about 2 1/3 cups water). Drop peppers into brine after deseeding, and leave them in for a few hours or overnight. (Increase brine mixture according to volume of peppers!) Put a plate or other weight on top if necessary, to stop them from bobbing on top. Before continuing, be sure your jars, caps and rings are very clean and sterilized in boiling water. Leave in the hot water until ready to fill the jars.

Syrup ingredients: 1-1/2 cups good vinegar, grape or wine or malt (5% acetic acid) 1-1/4 cup sugar
1 cup water
a few pieces sliced fresh ginger some fresh garlic cloves
2 tablespoons crushed peppercorns (the mixed peppercorns are nice)
some bay or lemon leaves
a little sea salt

Additional ingredients:

2 whole green chili peppers, reserved, optional extra small whole green chili peppers for garnish

Combine the syrup ingredients in a non-reactive pot that is large enough to hold the peppers. Stir over low heat until the sugar dissolves. Then bring to a rolling boil. Take care, as the mixture does foam up a bit.In the meantime, rinse the brined peppers. Place in a colander or sieve and shake to remove as much moisture as possible. Add the peppers along with the green chili peppers to the boiling syrup. Boil for a minute or two. Use a slotted spoon to fill the jars with the peppers. Push them in; you want to fill the bottles nicely! Then pour over the boiling hot mixture. Use a small rubber spatula along with gentle tapping and rotation of the jars in to fill the pepper hollows with the syrup.

You can add a green chili to each jar for decorative purposes if you like. Final filling should be to 1/2-inch of the top. Wipe the rims of the jars. Cap the jars and process in a boiling water bath for 10 minutes at altitudes up to 1000 feet, 15 minutes from altitudes of 1000 to 6000 feet, and 20 minutes above 6000 feet. Leave for about 2 - 3 weeks before use.This recipe fills 2 ordinary (supermarket size!) 375 ml bottles, i.e. each about 1 1/2 cups. Don't work with huge quantities -- rather make in smaller batches, it's easier and safer. * I use white grape vinegar because it's pure white. I dislike the cheaper spirit vinegar. Use whatever is available to you. Cider vinegar is also fine, except that it's slightly colored.

Also, Here is a link to Peppadew International that has recipes for the Peppers.

Let's all cross our fingers that all or at least one of the groups of seeds are the real deal. Then I will make sure everyone get's them. I might end up in Peppadew Prison's a worthy cause.