Thursday, June 30, 2011

If I had to depend on my garden for food, I'd be in trouble right now

Seasons like this one, which cost me crops, make me think about what it must have meant to be dependent on your garden for food. I lost two early crops that normally provide our vegetables for part of May and all of June.

This year my peas, snow peas and chard were a dead loss. The first two plantings of these early crops just washed away in the nearly 20 inches of rain between April 15 and June 15 (half our normal annual precipitation in just 8 weeks); the penultimate of the peas and snowpeas fell prey to the bumper crop of slugs that were a consequence of the weather. I have maybe a single meal’s worth of peas ripening, and I get a meal’s worth of broccoli every four days.

I’m going to have a harvest-free week or two at this point, as the broccoli gears down (if it does) but the beans aren’t quite ready. I still have lettuce, but although it hasn’t bolted, it’s bitter. I’ll have chard, after all, but not until late summer and autumn.

Probably if I depended on the garden for food I’d have fought harder for the lost crops. Rather than weeding the lamb’s quarters and purslane, we would have been eating it. Rather than chasing the rabbits away, we’d have been trapping them.

Appreciate your food supply. Appreciate your farmer, who does have to fight the weather for her crop, which feeds you.

Honey-rosemary roast chicken
Brush a whole chicken with honey (you can thin it slightly with boiling water to make it brush more easily); I then sprinkled it with rosemary salt, but you can also grind some dried rosemary with sea salt and make your own.

Roast according to your favorite cookbook recipe (I use the Woman's Home Companion Cook Book from 1952).

While the chicken is roasting, use the sweetmeats, neck, and skin flaps from the neck, with a cut up onion, some green peppercorns, sea salt and 2-3 sprigs of fresh rosemary in 3 cups of water to create a broth-- boil down to 2 cups. Use 1 cup of this plus enough additional water to cook rice; use the remaining broth to make pan gravy with the drippings.

Pan gravy
Pour the drippings into a sauce pan, add about 1 teaspoon of flour per 1/4 cup of drippings (should create a thin paste). Simmer for 2 minutes over medium heat, stirring constantly. Turn off the heat and allow to quiet down (i.e. no more simmer). Turn the heat back on and add boiling liquid-- this can be almost anything- wine, stock, broth, fruit juice, milk or just plain water depending on the flavor you want. It will immediately thicken; thin it to the desired consistency with cool water. You can strain this if you want, although I seldom strain my gravy-- I like the little bits and pieces!

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