Rules of the Game

Even though we are not in overwhelming harvest season yet (whether that is good or bad, I’m not sure), the garden is constantly on my mind. Sometimes I wonder if it’s silly to invest so much time and energy into just this one week – but I think the long-term benefits are going to be far-reaching. To really know what our yard is capable of producing, and how long it could feed us? Valuable knowledge.

So with this in mind, I finally convinced Matt that we should expand our chicken flock. They are now 2 1/2 years old, and not producing as many eggs as they used to. Come October, we’re really going to need those eggs – both to eat and to trade! So we welcomed four beautiful hens into our farm family on Monday, and they’ve already given us 3 eggs. (Integration into our existing flock is yet to come – I’ll certainly post on how that goes later!) I’m looking forward to having more eggs on hand for baking and high-egg count recipes like frittatas.

One of the keys to successfully meeting goals can be accountability, so I thought it would be good to post the “rules” of our Eat-VERY-Local Challenge week for everyone to see.

Overview

  • During one week in October, participants will eat exclusively from the food production in their yards.

Motivations

  • Take on the ultimate gardening challenge—sustaining ourselves with what we grow.
  • Demonstrate the incredible potential for abundant and diverse food production in small spaces like suburban lots. It is possible to eat VERY LOCAL!
  • Demonstrate creativity in meal-planning despite the constrained, garden-sourced ingredients.
  • Gain a more fundamental understanding of the challenges faced by farmers and food producers who use sustainable and environmentally-responsible practices.

Goals

  • Don’t starve!
  • Maintain a healthy, well-balanced diet during the week that can support our active lifestyles.
  • Enjoy a wide variety of interesting and tasty meals.
  • Document our experiences and inspire others.

Project Caveats

  • Begin the week with an allotment of salt, black pepper, olive oil, and vinegar.
  • Previously harvested food can be eaten (frozen, dehydrated, pickled, or fermented).
  • Can trade our produce among ourselves and with other local gardeners and non-commercial food producers.
  • Foraging for food in local public areas is allowed.

Vegetable Enchiladas

We’re 11 weeks out from our Eat-from-our-Yard Challenge, so I thought I’d post a few pictures of the garden at its current stage. We’ve been getting a few cherry tomatoes every day (the earliest I’ve ever had – usually we don’t get tomatoes til August or later on the Mesa), handfuls of green and yellow beans, summer squash, and the occasional cucumber (the lemon cukes seems to be the most prolific).

We also harvested a gigantic 10 lb Blue Hubbard Squash and our first 5 lb spaghetti squash (both will keep for a few months), with a few more spaghetti squash on the way. If you have a second, you should google Blue Hubbard Squash and read about the best ways to prepare it. (It apparently involves smashing it on the ground to break open the hard shell, then roasting the pieces.)

We’ve also got pumpkins and butternut squash, as well as a very fast-growing potato patch. The plants grew over a foot tall in one week! And the grains: buckwheat seeds and amaranth seed heads are forming, millet is going strong, barley is still alive. Eggplants, peppers, onions and corn are all still steadily growing (LOTS of green peppers on the plants!).

I also started dabbling in fermentation with mason jars of sauerkraut, kimchi, and green tomato pickles lined up like science experiments, next to the sweet potato cuttings on the mantel (we transplanted a few, and I have NO idea how that will go in terms of growing and potential harvest).

It should go without saying that my New Mexican upbringing means I have an insatiable love of enchiladas. What may be surprising is that I don’t have a completely standard recipe that I go to whenever I want to make them. The last few years, vegetables have found their way into pretty much every meal I make (what’s not to love about adding an extra serving or two of vegetables into your diet?), and lately we’ve been choosing to omit dairy and meat, so that requires further tweaking. What follows would never pass for authentic enchiladas in my home state. But it was filling and delicious enough for our dinner.

Vegetable Enchiladas (9″ pan)

12 corn tortillas

1-2 jars your favorite salsa (I like Trader Joe’s roasted tomatillo lately, or you can use 1 can La victoria green or red enchilada sauce)

1 onion, chopped

2 medium summer squash, diced

8-12 small button mushrooms, chopped

2 big handfuls kale or other greens, chopped

1-2 cloves garlic, minced

2 avocados, flesh chopped

1 can black beans, drained

1 bunch cilantro, chopped (optional)

Saute the onion until translucent, then add the squash and mushrooms and saute for ~5 minutes. Add the kale  and garlic, and saute til wilted. Turn off heat and season with salt and pepper, then add the avocado, black beans and cilantro (if using) and stir to combine.

Preheat oven to 350. Coat a 9″ pan with olive oil, and spread a thin layer of salsa. Put a layer of tortilla (I often tear mine to fit), then a layer of vegetable mixture, tortilla, then salsa. Repeat, ending with a layer of salsa coating the tortillas on top. Bake for about 25 minutes til hot.

Note: As with all my recipes, vegetables are somewhat interchangeable. Carrots or celery could be added with the onion, and broccoli, corn, or peppers would be a great addition to the filling.