And so it begins

What if Santa Barbara was suddenly cut off from the rest of the world, and the only items available to eat were those grown here? What would you do to feed yourself? (Hint: going to the grocery store and stocking up is not the answer.) How would you survive?

For the next week I’ll be heading into my own yard, hoping to gain some perspective on these questions. In April, my friend Mark proposed that a group of us attempt to feed ourselves from our gardens (and through trading with other home gardeners), for one week, during the annual Eat Local Challenge in October. It didn’t take too much convincing, and next thing I knew I was buying quinoa and millet seeds on the internet. Its been a whirlwind of gardening ever since, and now here we are. The potatoes have been dug up, one last dose of fish emulsion fertilizer applied to the kale and greens, and we’re ready!

To start the week, I thought I’d post what we have stocked in our pantry, as well as the crops we’ll harvest from the yard. I’m confident that we will not starve, and that we will have a lot of fun cooking this week. Check back daily to see what we ate and how we’re doing!

Food items already harvested from yard, saved and/or preserved:
Winter Squash (Pumpkin, Butternut, Kabocha, Blue Hubbard, Spaghetti) ***
Zucchini (frozen, shredded, fresh) ***
Potatoes ***
Pea, broccoli, pumpkin seeds (for sprouting) *
Fava beans (frozen) ***
Cabbage (frozen) **
Broccoli (frozen) **
Zucchini (pickled) ***
Green tomatoes (pickled) ***
Garlic **
Amaranth ***
Millet ***
Buckwheat *
Barley *
Quinoa *
Edamame (frozen) *
Corn (frozen) **
Dry beans (kidney, black, lima) *
Pineapple guava (frozen) ***
Roasted Zucchini Spread (frozen) **
Roasted tomato-vegetable sauce (frozen) ***
Roasted tomatoes (frozen) **
Tomato sauce (frozen) ***
Bell peppers (frozen) **
Eggplant (frozen) **

Food items in storage, from prior trades with other gardeners or foraged:
Walnuts ***
Apricots (canned) ***
Grapefruit (canned) *
Tangerines (frozen whole and juice) ***
Rhubarb (frozen) **
Pickles (cucumber) ***
Mulberry & blood orange honey mead **
Elderberry wine **
Acorns (flour) **

Food Items currently growing in the yard, harvesting now and/or in October:
Barley *
Winter Squash (Spaghetti, Blue Hubbard, Butternut, Unidentified) **
Zucchini **
Cucumbers *
Potatoes **
Corn **
Onions (green) *
Tomatoes ***
Eggplant **
Peppers (Bell and Chile) ***
Green Beans **
Shell/Dry Beans ***
Cabbage ***
Broccoli **
Brussels Sprouts **
Corn **
Carrots ***
Celery ***
Lettuce *
Spinach *
Kale **
Swiss Chard **
Herbs (Basil, Rosemary, Oregano, Lemon Thyme, Lemon Verbena, Dill, Marjoram) ***
Pineapple Guava ***
Figs *
Blueberries *
Strawberries *
Eggs **

Abundance key: [***] = likely to have extra; [**] = probably just right amount; [*] = wish we had more!

Eating Local

October is only a few days away, and that means that some folks around here are gearing up for a month of local eating. This year, both the SB Farmer’s Market and the Community Environmental Council are co-sponsoring the Eat Local Challenge month along with Edible Santa Barbara. For us, this means we’ll do our Eat-from-our-Yard week long challenge October 1-7, and then commit to only eating food grown in SB County for the rest of the month. Edible SB included a feature about us in the Fall 2012 issue, and CEC just wrote a nice blog post, found here. How’s that for accountability?

With less than a week to go, I feel relaxed: anything still growing or near harvest doesn’t need to be preserved (except maybe in the fridge), and there’s nothing I can do at this point to increase the harvest yield, although I did plant a few lettuce starts last weekend. I still have millet to thresh and buckwheat to grind. And maybe a few cabbage worms to deal with on the kale – but otherwise, we’re in the home stretch now!

A friend of mine shared this article with me last year, and I meant to share it a long time ago. But it’s still relevant today, and may provide that extra boost you need to consider what eating local means to you, and what you are going to do about it. Here’s the gist: 99% of what is grown in SB County is exported, but 95% of the fruits and vegetables consumed in SB County are imported from elsewhere. What?? Maybe I should wait til the end of October to say definitively that I could survive on SB county-produced food alone, but that statistic just seems ridiculous to me. One look around our farmer’s market and I’m easily overwhelmed with meal ideas.

The concept of “local eating” has been gaining ground in the last few years, from Barbara Kingsolver’s book Animal, Vegetable, Miracle to the many school gardens popping up, all over the country. For me, I like to know exactly where my food comes from, and if buying locally means keeping dollars in my community – all the better. Food is one of those things that most of us DO have a choice about, and our choices really do make a difference. So I encourage all of us to think about what choices we’ll make in the next month around where our food comes from.

Here are a few tips:

Shop at the Farmer’s Market. Hands down the best way to learn what’s in season, in your community. Sometimes it may cost a little more than the supermarket, but try to think about the bigger picture: at the market, the farmer gets your money. At the supermarket, big corporations get your money (and the farmer gets almost nothing).

Search out Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) in your area. This is an even better way to make a strong connection with a local farmer, and get something delicious in return.

Plant something where you live. This could mean you build a raised bed in your backyard. Plant a tomato in a pot on your patio. Grow some herbs on your window sill. The point is, just grow something with your own hands, and then eat it.

We don’t have too much fruit growing in our yard yet, but we do have a very productive pineapple guava tree. I’ve been freezing them whole to use in smoothies next week, and I also made a batch of delicious jam with hints of lemon, lime, and Tahitian vanilla bean (not to eat next week, but for trading and gifts). On a particularly hot day last week, I made a simple refreshing smoothie with lime and guavas – and its definitely going to come in handy next week when we’re craving something sweet!

Pineapple Guava Cooler

5-6 pineapple guavas, ends chopped off (optional to only use the scooped out flesh – I don’t mind the skins, but some people do)

1-2 limes, juiced

1-2 tbsp honey

8-10 ice cubes

Just enough water to blend

Put all ingredients in blender and whizz away. Only add enough water to blend or to your desired thickness.

Zucchini Muffins, Two Ways

September is one of my favorites months in Santa Barbara. The weather invariable turns hot for a spell, which makes cool ocean dips extremely inviting. But despite the tendency to long for icy drinks, there are still signs that fall is coming: shorter amounts of daylight, kids going back to school, and a slightly less overwhelming daily harvest. I’m always tempted to rip out the ugly-but-barely-producing squash plants and plant new ones (I did exactly that one year, and the plants barely grew once October hit). Really, the whole yard is looking pretty scraggly. But I’m ready for a break from intensive garden time – and anxious for our Challenge week to arrive!

I noticed that the birds were starting to peck at the millet, so I’ve been harvesting the heads that appear to have the most developed seeds. I also harvested at least half of our amaranth heads – and got nearly 4 cups of grain! I never did find clear directions on the internet about the how-tos of harvest. But here’s what I pieced together for my own method:

1. Keep an eye on the birds in the garden.

2. For amaranth: rub a few flowers with your fingers. If seeds pop out easily, its probably ready.

3. Cut the whole head, then zip your fingers along the stems to release the seeds/flowers into a big bowl or bag. In batches, I put a few handfuls at a time through the food processor to seperate the seeds out. Then sift through a fine sieve (but with big enough holes for the amaranth seeds to escape).

4. Once you have a bowl of seeds + flower chaff, you winnow. This involves dumping the contents of one bowl into another, while outside with a slight breeze, so the chaff gets carried away while the seeds fall. This was nerve-wracking for me, but mostly seemed to work.

5. Once most of it is separated, spread it out and let it dry. Then sift through a sieve or colander again – most of the dry stuff won’t go through.

Millet was much easier. I let the heads dry a bit, then ran them through the food processor for a few pulses. After sifting, it was really easy to winnow – the chaff is much lighter (or the seeds heavier). And actually, sifting through a colander took out most of the chaffy bits. I’m definitely saving as much as I can for our upcoming week, and its nice to know we’ll have at least some grains!

I managed to cut down on the pile of zucchini a few weeks ago by making a few batches of zucchini muffins (and freezing one-cup piles of grated zucchini for future use). The zucchini carrot is one of my favorites, while the chocolate? Where can you really go wrong with a chocolate muffin?

Zucchini Carrot Muffins (adapted from Food with Malvi)

This is one of those recipes where my husband looked at it and asked, “Is it good? It looks healthy.” Then took a bite and said, “mmmm!” Success.

DRY:

1 cup all-purpose flour*

1 cup whole wheat flour*

1/2 tsp baking soda

1/2 tsp baking powder

1/2 tsp salt

2 tsp cinnamon

1/2 cup coconut flakes

1/2 cup pecans

WET:

3/4 cup packed brown sugar

1 tsp vanilla extract

2/3 cup coconut or vegetable oil

2 large eggs

1 3/4 cups shredded zucchini, with peel (1 medium zucchini)

1/2 cup shredded carrot, with peel (1 medium or large carrot)

Preheat oven to 375. Line or spray a 12-cup muffin pan with nonstick spray. Mix together the wet ingredients except for the zucchini and carrot. Stir in the dry ingredients, then fold in the zucchini and carrot. Fill muffin cups 2/3 of the way full, and bake for 20-25 minutes until a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean.

Double Chocolate Zucchini Muffins
adapted from Cooking ala mel

2 cups zucchini, shredded

2 eggs

1/3 cup honey

1/2 cup coconut oil

1/2 cup brown sugar

1 t vanilla

1 t salt

1/2 t baking soda

1/2 t baking powder

1/3 cup cocoa powder

1 2/3 cups whole wheat pastry flour*

3/4 cup chocolate chips

In a large bowl, whisk the eggs, honey, olive oil, vanilla, and sugar together, until smooth.  Slowly stir in the dry ingredients until just incorporated.  Gently fold in the zucchini and chocolate chips. Fill each muffin cup about 2/3 of the way full.  Bake at 350ºF for 18-20 minutes, until toothpick in center comes out clean.

*When it comes to flour, I generally like to use whole wheat pastry flour. But sometimes I use a blend of all-purpose and whole wheat… or even a gluten-free flour mix. Just depends on what I have on hand and who I’m baking for!

Summer Succotash

This weekend I went to the Santa Barbara farmer’s market for the first time in awhile. Its such a good time of year: peaches,  plums, grapes, citrus, figs, melons… and that’s just the fruit side of things. I don’t really allow myself to buy vegetables, since we have so many in abundance. But I did buy two that I’ve never used before: tomatillos and okra.

As a kid, I loved fried okra! But I was curious what other recipes involving okra were out there, besides gumbo. A search for okra through Tastespotting led me to this succotash recipe. I don’t really know much about succotash in general, but it’s Wikipedia definition is “a food dish consisting primarily of corn and lima beans or other shell beans.” To me, this is just screaming for substitutions in the form of whatever I have on hand, which usually works out in my favor. And the end result to this dish was really good. But how could I have ever known about the okra slime factor?

Did you know about that? Because I definitely had no idea that okra, when cooked for some amount of time, releases mucilage. Ew. Hence all the fried okra, I suppose. (Or following the directions and blanching it! Oops) Its rare that I’m apprehensive about the dishes I make, so I was extremely relieved that this turned out well – and that Matt really liked it.

We ate this for dinner last night served on top of roasted sweet potatoes, topped with a squirt of Sriracha. I ate it again for lunch today with a fried egg – the perfect recovery food after running half of the 9 Trails course this morning (17 miles of steep up and down in ~ 4 hours). Since giving up meat and dairy, I do think I’m running better and faster, as well as recovering a little better from hard efforts. Normally the transition into runs 16+ miles leaves me feeling wiped, but today I felt really strong at the end. But not strong enough that I wanted to turn around and do the second half!

Summer Succotash

http://tastingnotesnyc.com/2012/08/10/recipe-card-chickpea-succotash/

I deviated from the original recipe by using yellow split peas instead of chickpeas (because I’m trying to clean out the kitchen cupboards before October), and added zucchini (because I have a lot of it). I included the directions for blanching okra – highly recommended to avoid slime!

1 ½ lbs okra

1 small red onion, chopped

2 c cooked yellow split peas (1 cup dried, cooked in 2 cups water for 25 minutes)

Kernels from 2 ears of corn

½ bell pepper, chopped

1 zucchini, chopped

1/2 bunch swiss chard or kale, chopped

salt

1 inch piece fresh ginger, finely chopped

1 jalapeno or chile pepper, finely chopped

Large handful cilantro, roughly chopped

½ lime, juiced

1. Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Meanwhile, prepare an ice bath by filling a large bowl halfway with water and adding two large handfuls of ice. Boil the okra for about 5 minutes, strain, and then plunge in the ice bath. Once completely cooled, chop the okra into bite-sized pieces. This step can be one day ahead.
2. In a large pan over medium-high heat, add olive oil or butter and sauté the red onion until translucent. Add the corn, bell pepper, zucchini and a generous pinch of two of salt and sauté for another few minutes. Add the greens and saute til wilted. Add the ginger and jalapeno and cook for another minute.
3. Remove from heat and stir in the okra, cilantro and lime juice.