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.
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
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
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!