Recent Posts by Esmaa-Self

Wild Woman on Feral Acres: Eating in Season? Pick a Pack of Parsnips!

Published by Thursday, December 6, 2012 Permalink 0

by Esmaa Self

From the archives

Consider the parsnip. Sweet. Nutty. recipe. From fritters (recipe) to soup (recipe), homemade gnocchi (recipe) to curry (recipe), the mighty parsnip delivers folate, vitamin C, fiber and flavor. Even if you’ve never before tasted parsnips, my bet is that if you try one of these recipes, you’ll not only want more parsnips, you’ll want to grow your own (tips on that below).

Photo courtesy of Sharon Mollerus

Speaking of yum, here’s a recipe from Simple Organic Kitchen & Garden that I’ve adapted to fit the items in my pantry, notably dried tomatoes and porcini mushrooms. The original recipe is known as Parsnips and Chickpeas in Garlic, Onion, Chili and Ginger Paste. I added ingredients, skipped a couple others and decided to shorten the title to the equally descriptive Parsnips Piquant.

Incredible flavor, marvelous nutrition

RECIPE

PARSNIPS PIQUANT

Ingredients

 

Click here for Imperial-metric recipe conversion

2 pounds parsnips, cut into ½ inch chunks
½ pound dried chickpeas, soaked overnight and drained (or 2 cans)
1 ½ cups dehydrated tomatoes, reconstituted and chopped
1 ½ cups dehydrated porcini mushrooms, reconstituted and chopped
2 ¼ cups vegetable broth (made from reconstituting mushrooms and tomatoes, see below)
½ cup chopped mixed salted nuts (set aside)
8 garlic cloves, minced
1 small onion, chopped
2 inch piece of fresh ginger, peeled and chopped
4 medium Serrano chilies, chopped
4 Tbsp porcini and sun-dried tomato infused olive oil (or plain olive, sesame, or peanut oil)
1 Tbsp sesame seeds
2 tsp coriander seeds
1 tsp turmeric
1 tsp chili powder
1 tsp ground cumin
Fresh ground pepper
Plain yogurt


 

Instructions

 

  1. Presoak chickpeas.
  2. Cover chickpeas with fresh water and boil for 10 minutes. Reduce heat, letting it boil gently. Let cook for 60 to 90 minutes, or until done. Drain and set aside. (If using canned chickpeas, simply drain and set aside.)
  3. Set tomatoes and mushrooms in a bowl; cover with boiling water. Let cool. Reserve broth.
  4. Set about a quarter of the minced garlic aside. Put remaining garlic in a blender with the ginger, onion and half of the chilies. Add enough vegetable broth to make a paste (about ¼ cup).
  5. Heat the oil in a frying pan; add coriander seeds, turmeric and chili powder. Add garlic-ginger-onion-chili paste. Stirring constantly, cook until broth begins to evaporate. Add tomatoes; stir. Cook another minute or two.

    Simmer until liquid is reduced

  6. Add the parsnips, chickpeas and remaining water; boil, stir then simmer, uncovered 15 minutes or until the parsnips are tender but not mushy and sauce has been reduced.
  7. Stir in Serranos, sesame seeds and reserved garlic.
  8. Plate Parsnips Piquant, add fresh ground pepper. Sprinkle with chopped nuts and a dollop of yogurt. Garnish with parsley. Serves 4.
  9. Chapatis, naan and kulcha make a lovely accompaniment, as does homemade sourdough or wheat berry bread.

Growing Parsnips

 

Photo courtesy of Matthew Folley

 

 

 

The parsnip’s full flavor emerges after the plant has been exposed to near freezing temperatures, thus this root crop is considered a winter vegetable. Here in Colorado where we redefine cool, if not winter, a person may scoff at the very idea of growing a slow maturing vegetable. But parsnips are the only root crop that can survive in the ground all winter. Indeed, it is one of the few crops with which high elevation gardeners might achieve success. (source)

According to Shane Smith, in his book, Greenhouse Gardener’s Companion, parsnips require bright light, cool temperatures and may go to seed if overwintered. So you might wonder if I’ve slipped a cog when I mention that I grew two small patches of parsnips last winter in our attached passive solar greenhouse and that both test plots were partly shaded and further  that one of the beds regularly reached air temperatures above 87 F.

However, if I mentioned that I fully intend to seed parsnips again for Colorado’s less industrious, though longer, growing season (AKA winter), you might want details regarding these attempts. You are in luck.

Two tries, two successes

I planted one batch in early August for inclusion in December’s root crop rich menus. This first sowing was in the raised bed nearest the southern greenhouse vent, which is the bed furthest from the main house’s southern wall and which is largely shaded in winter, thus the coldest spot in the greenhouse. The soil does not freeze, though air temps do occasionally reach the mid 30s. The parsnips we harvested from this test plot were every bit as large and straight and lovely (not to mention sweet) as those we’ve purchased in the store.

In addition, I grew a dozen parsnips in the west wing. This second test plot is within three feet of the main house’s west wall. The bed receives afternoon sun, which in the winter months, means that air temperatures reach the nineties, but soil temperature remains between 50-65 F. In addition, overnight air temps are generally a few degrees warmer than those in the first plot. We planted the second crop of parsnips in mid-October and harvested them in late January. They were two-thirds the size of the others, but possessed incredible flavor. Parsnips from this plot are featured in the images of Parsnips Piquant, above.

Companion plants include peas, potatoes, peppers, beans, radishes and garlic. Get more parsnip growing tips here.

Read more about Esmaa’s organic farming techniques on her site Middleground Farm.

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Wild Woman on Feral Acres: Backyard Poultry Skills; from chick to plate in mere weeks

Published by Wednesday, July 20, 2011 Permalink 0

by Esmaa Self

Insulted by misleading labeling U.S. laws that allow “free range” to mean the chickens had limited outdoor access, while “natural” meat can include a percentage of injected saline, for after all, salt is natural, and “fresh” chicken can be sold as such even if it has been kept at 30 degrees, we decided it was time to take matters related to the quality of the meat we consumed into our own hands.

Which is a wordy introduction to the following fact: this year we raised and butchered our own meat chickens.

Cornish chicks. Photo courtesy Wiki Commons.

Our goal was not to simply eat cheaply. If price per serving was the only consideration, we’d shop Sam’s Club and save the trouble of raising our own food. No, as always, our goal is to grow excellent food while reducing overall costs (shipping, packaging, additives, bacterial contamination, supporting factory farming). We hoped to produce this higher caliber meat for less than we could buy a locally produced ‘natural’ chicken. And we did. In 11 weeks we raised a baker’s dozen of Cornish roasters, realized 77 pounds (about 35 kilograms) of meat at an amazingly low $1.43 cost per pound. This figure includes butcher paper and freezer bags, feed and lighting, and, of course, the animals. Excluded from the weight are necks, giblets, wing tips, etcetera, reserved for making nutrient rich stock.

Keep in mind that what we produced is not organic meat, for we used a non-medicated, locally produced non-organic feed, however neither is local favorite Red Bird brand organic, and their skinless, boneless chicken breasts sell for $2.99. What we produced is an incredibly tasty, tender and truly farm fresh chicken meat without the factory, the trucking or the non-recyclable packaging.

Our Cornish roasters at 4 weeks

And zero labeling lies.

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Wild Woman on Feral Acres: Backyard Poultry Skills

Published by Tuesday, July 5, 2011 Permalink 0

by Esmaa Self

We’ve had a backyard flock seven years and have sold extra eggs for about four. I have been around and kept my own layer flocks before moving here and working to massage a thriving farm from our rocky span of hogback. And we’ve been sold out of eggs for three full years, but I wouldn’t call myself an expert on chicken behavior.

One of our 'girls'.

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Wild Woman on Feral Acres: Can One Eat Soapweed Without Frothing at the Mouth?

Published by Friday, June 10, 2011 Permalink 0

by Esmaa Self

 

In a word: yes.

Narrow leaf yucca blossoms.

Soapweed is a common name for narrow leaf yucca, which is also known as yucca angustissima and moohu, the latter being the Hopi name for this useful plant. No matter what you choose to call it, you can find yucca growing wild all over the American west.

Our back yard, for instance.

The yucca plant is exceptionally beneficial: the leaves contain a strong fiber that can be used to weave cloth, the root can be used as soap, plus the long stem can be used as a vegetable, as can the flowers and the fruit.

As part of our plan to reduce our exposure to GE and GMO foods, and to further reduce our carbon footprint while optimizing our use of this fabulous property, eating free, readily available and nutritious wild food just makes sense.

So when the yucca plants began to bloom this week, I began to harvest.

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Wild Woman on Feral Acres: Falling Far From the Tree

Published by Saturday, May 14, 2011 Permalink 0

by Esmaa Self

We have a 35-year-old Jonathan apple tree that produces marvelous, sweet apples. This tree is supposed to be dead by now, for Jonathans have a life expectancy of about 25 years. While tending the special needs of this fire blight affected tree, I got to thinking about the saw that apples don’t fall far from the tree. It has long been my intention to do just that.

My appetite for a simple, healthy, self sufficient life was teased by failure: the sins of my father, the sometimes health food nut. He introduced me to organic gardening, raw milk and farm eggs; insisted that I eat a hot breakfast; refused to buy white bread, candy or soda pop and preached that from-a-box cooking was no way to live a healthy life.

photo: Wellerco

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Wild Woman on Feral Acres: Thirty Green Living Skills You Can Gain Today

Published by Tuesday, April 26, 2011 Permalink 0

by Esmaa Self

We are expanding the farm –and along with that our self-sufficiency*– this spring, thus have been busy away from the computer. Jonell asked me to jot ten things a person could do to begin a green lifestyle. I sat down and thirty came out.

Walk more. There is no better energy to spend than your own.

Wash your hair 4 times a week rather than every day. Commercial shampoos are mostly chemical. So very ew.

Turn off a light and an appliance. ‘Nuff said.

Shop the produce aisle for less packaging and fresher, more nutritious food.

Buy items in simpler, recyclable packaging.

Recycle that packaging… and everything else your local facilities accept.

Eschew one-use items. Do this again and again.

Sell your TV. Spend more time talking, gardening, hiking and reading.

Keep your car. Clunkers are cheaper to insure, sure, but just think of the manufacturing energy saved if you buy one car per decade rather than 2 or 3.

Plan a staycation. While avoiding pat-downs may be one reason to stop flying, wasteful jet engines is higher on my list of reasons.

Just say no. To new drapes, your fortieth pair of shoes, whatever. Do you really need them?

Live within a budget. Less is so much more.

Skip the makeup. If he doesn’t see your beauty without it, he does not deserve you.

Find uses for old things. Give them away, sell them, turn them into something new.

Cook from scratch for better family time, superior nutrition and less production energy per serving.

Don’t get a pet. Pet foods and waste are huge contributors to our environmental woes.

Don’t have another child. 6 billion, ya know?

Grow some of your own food. Dude.

Share seeds. Two can grow for the price of one. Or something like that.

Buy direct from an organic farmer. Cut out the middleman and not only pay the farmer what she’s worth, but purchase a fresher, better product as well.

Plant a shade tree. Or four; you may have heard about climate change.

Plant edible landscaping. Why water things you cannot eat? Seriously.

Turn your lawn into a garden. Ditto.

Learn to forage wild foods. Eat things you didn’t even water.

Don’t take antibiotics for a cold or sinusitis. Irrigate irritated sinuses with saline and wait out a cold. Then determine to eat well, exercise, wash your hands, and stop licking public restroom doorknobs and you won’t even miss the drugs.

Learn about homeopathic remedies. Willow tree bark can relieve pain. Yellow dock root can purge your lymph system. Motherwort can calm your nerves, instantly.

Use unscented toilet paper and tissues. Reduce the chemicals you swipe onto sensitive areas.

Use cloth napkins rather than paper. You knew this.

Flush with less. Put an 8-16 oz sand-filled bottle in the tank of your older toilet to reduce water use with each flush.

Gather ‘round. Spend evenings in one room. Together. What a concept!

* Here’s what we’re doing: growing more medicinal and culinary herbs (added motherwort, anise, black cumin, meadowsweet, borage, burdock, common thyme, goat’s rue, chamomile and two spearmint varieties to complement our already wide assortment of wild and cultivated herbs); installing two bee hives (can you just imagine the pleasure of one’s own honey?); raising our own chickens (three-day-old broilers and layers arrived yesterday!); farming fish (what can be so wonderful as one’s own responsibly farmed seafood?); growing more intensively in the greenhouse and expanding the outside gardens, which is where we grow tomatoes, squash, peppers, corn and potatoes. In addition we are selling a few extra tilapia fingerlings and potted plants. We are struggling to fit in workouts, sleep and at-the-table meals between all this activity, and usually not getting to the social media portion of life. This, too, shall pass. Eventually.

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Wild Woman on Feral Acres: A Well-rounded Flatbread

Published by Friday, March 4, 2011 Permalink 0

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by Esmaa Self

Perhaps it’s just the way I’m wired, but for me, recipe adaptation and experimentation is a way of life. Take a recent afternoon in the kitchen whipping up kulcha, an Indian flatbread.

Kulcha and chole

According to Wiki, kulcha is particularly popular in North India and is usually eaten with chole. According to me, this is a versatile quick bread, a recipe no from-scratch cook should be without. Indeed, in a few hours of kulcha making I prepared Tandoori Chicken and Black Bean Pizza; Pear, Gorgonzola and Walnut Pizza; Apple Brie Kulcha and Salmon and Onion Stuffed Kulcha.

This Chef in You entry contains the recipe that presented my jumping off place. If you’ve never prepared kulcha, you may benefit from reviewing the numerous photographs included with their recipe.

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Wild Woman on Feral Acres: How to Keep Eggs 4 Months Without Refrigeration

Published by Friday, February 18, 2011 Permalink 0

by Esmaa Self

Backyard hens are an integral part of our sustainability efforts here at Middleground Farm. I feed ‘the girls’ wild greens, table scraps and essential nutrient-rich gruel; in return they give us incredibly healthy eggs. Our free-range flock reduces the property’s bug population and we protect them from chicken predators. It’s a beautiful relationship, and one that blesses us all.

Select fresh, clean, unblemished eggs

Perhaps you’ve heard that happy hens lay eggs. While flock contentment is relatively easy to attain (simply provide food, water, shade, soil to scratch, safe spaces in which to lay eggs, roost and roam), I am here to tell you that there is a poultry discontent beyond human control.

Some hens are better layers than others and will vigorously produce eggs come what may. Others find it too taxing to lay when the mercury rises above 92° F or falls below 32° F. A few breeds lay through the molt and when days are short, but many do not. Nearly every mature hen will lay eggs in abundance during spring, so productive are they then your refrigerator may become overrun by eggs.

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Recipes: Wild Woman on Feral Acres: Pantry Meals: Bounty from a Dormant Garden

Published by Wednesday, February 2, 2011 Permalink 0

by Esmaa Self

We often think of fall as a good time to prepare meals from the garden, but those with a pantry filled with last season’s bounty will recognize the bitter days of a northern hemisphere February as a great time to dish up homemade soup.

As I write this, much of America is experiencing extreme winter weather. Our local forecast calls for a low of -21° F. So you may well imagine how hunkered down is the farm today. But isn’t this the sort of weather we plan for when we plant, tend, harvest and preserve the bounty from our gardens? Indeed, a pantry filled with homegrown goodness can assuage the sting of an ice storm.

Here are a couple of bone-warming recipes that make good use of a pantry stocked with home-grown foods. If you have no such thing, consider this an invitation to get into the gardening game.

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