Friday, March 25, 2011

Spring Cleaning—Fast-Forward, Freezer to Mouth

Winter/spring greens at their most tender and succulent flourish in the south-facing cold frame.
No corners are being reamed or closets cleared here at the ranch. Not that they don't need it. The cleaning has to do with freezers, pantries, and all the other nooks and crannies where last year's harvest was stashed. Potatoes, now history, were stored in burlap bags in the chilly pump house; winter squash occupied shelves in the cool dark pantry in the back porch, sharing space with garlic and onions, canned salsas, dried peppers and tomatoes. Fresh garlic and spaghetti squash remain pantried in small amounts. Spaghetti squash lasts at least six months in cool dark storage. Impressive!
Onions may have persevered as long, but we ate them way before they could rot. And garlic? Well, we're still using what we harvested last June, but it is yearning to reproduce or decompose. The 2011 garlic crop, planted in October, is vigorous and will be ready to harvest in June.
2010 garlic is trying to have babies in the pantry. It's still good, even at the early sprouting stage.

But the freezers! Two refrigerator top freezers and one small chest freezer were crammed after the 2010 fall harvest. Items that now need to be exhumed ASAP? Pesto cubes; chipotle cubes; blackberries; kale; chard, and two-cup portions of grated zucchini in anticipation of zucchini bread throughout the year, which, of course, I never did bake. I'm not at all into throwing any of this into the compost, although it may come to that.
Yesterday was the first of the serious "clean out the freezers" meals. Since spring has arrived, at least in name, and we're full tilt into eating wonderful spring things such as fall-planted broccoli, kale, chard, and spinach and soon the asparagus that will begin fingering through the mulch, followed by peas, and more chard, kale, and spinach, and on and on throughout summer and fall. It's difficult to dip into the freezer for last year's harvest. But it must be done.

2011pepper, tomato, eggplant starts in the solarium soon-to-be transplanted into 4-inch pots.
With so much food insecurity going on around the world, and in our own community, it is humbling to outline our excesses. We share, but we need to share more—or grow less? Maybe somebody's up for frozen grated zucchini in two-cup measures? I know that PK will pot many more pepper, tomato, and eggplant seedlings than we'll be able to plant, and he already has in mind people who will welcome them. But on to clearing the deck for the coming bounty, as a recent prodigiously caloric menu exemplifies.

An out-the-freezer dinner combined with  2011-spring-garden menu:
  • Smoked trout (A yoga friend gave me frozen trout last fall. We used our Traeger Grill to smoke it a couple days ago. I buried the trimmings under where we'll plant corn.)
  • Steamed fresh broccoli and kale with ample butter, fresh Parmesan. salt and pepper

Spaghetti squash Mexican/Indian casserole center  on the left with fresh spring salad on the right, and a little
smoked  trout front and center. A big dollop of chipotle sauce spices up the casserole.

  • Last year's baked and shredded spaghetti squash casserole seasoned with frozen basil pesto, dried tomatoes,  fresh onions, olive oil, canned salsa, and a couple T spoons of commercial  red curry unearthed from the freezer, an unlikely but delicious combo. This was baked topped with Parmesan, and then dabs of mayo and sour-cream-loaded chipotle sauce. Wow! A testament to fusing Mexican and Indian flavors, which I would not have considered if I wasn't spring cleaning.
Cole crops in March on an island. Too much rain! But they survive, and recently provided a load of broccoli and kale. Coming soon, I hope: cabbage and Brussels sprouts.
A seasonal staple for salads, soups, and side dishes.
"Fresh" from the freezer, soon-to-be soup. Ham bone, ham broth, pepper/tomatillo broth. 
Today it was soup made from freezer dregs and fresh garden greens. But mostly freezer dregs. Here's what it looks like tonight, thawing for a gourmet treatment: ham bone; ham broth; pepper/tomatillo concoction; grated zucchini; semi-dried tomatoes that needed to be frozen, and dribs and drabs of salsa and marinara. Wish me luck. 

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

What matters? Weather, for one thing.

Inside this nifty pop-up are provisions for a couple weeks. Despite how tiny it appears, it's quite deluxe with a heater, refrigerator, iPod hook-up, radio, and a commodious queen-sized bed that appears when the roof is extended. 
We may mock those who stoop to discussing weather to the exclusion of more worthy topics, but guess what? Weather matters. Last Sunday PK and I canceled travel plans to Reno and southern California because of serious road-blocking storms in northern California. Our brave little camper was all packed and ready to roll. We've had this trip on the calendar for months. But there we were on departure day, hunkering down to avoid trouble on the road and instead deal with home issues such as pruning and spraying apple trees, transplanting seedlings, and knocking out a few stories on a newsletter. I guess it wasn't so bad. We're leaving this Sunday no matter what!