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“That we live now in an economy that is not sustainable is not the fault only of a few mongers of power. We are all implicated. We all, in the course of our daily economic life, consent to it whether or not we approve of it.”
Wendell Berry, in his Jefferson Lecture
Everyone always talks about having zucchini coming out of their ears, but I’ve never had that great of luck growing it. I must have a black thumb when it comes to zucs. I need to do some research. Fortunately, we’ve had plenty of zucchini (and other summer squash) from Victory Acres and from the farmer’s markets, so it’s not like we’ve gone without. Our favorite way to use zucchini is to shred it and use it in place of pasta in lasagna and other pasta dishes. We’ve made this dish close to once a week for much of the summer: we shred zucchini in the food processor, saute it in a large pan with some olive oil and basil for just about five minutes or so. Then we put some marinara or meat sauce on top.
For lasagna, I use a mandolin to slice the zucchini length-wise. For lasagna, I like to sweat the zucchini a bit, so it isn’t so watery. To do so, I slice it up, salt it, and then let it sit in a colander for at least an hour. I only have a picture of making it in a baked pasta dish, but the idea is the same for lasagna – you just use the zucchini “noodles” instead of the lasagna noodles (and no pre-cooking necessary of course). We find zucchini a much tastier pasta substitute than spaghetti squash, so I try to shred and freeze several bags of it for use throughout the winter as well.
I also made some zucchini and sweet pepper relish (using this recipe), which turned out quite delicious. We’ve been eating it up on just about everything, but our favorite so far is in tuna and salmon salad.
I’m really the only one in the family that likes this raw zucchini salad, which is fine by me. The zucchini stays a little crunchy, which is nice for a change.
Raw zucchini salad
Adapted from Food52
Handful fresh basil or mint
Juice on one lemon
1 clove garlic, sliced
Splash of extra virgin olive oil (1 – 2 tbsp, to taste)
Salt and pepper
Cut the ends of the zucchini and slice it on the lowest setting on your mandolin (if you don’t have a mandolin, you can attempt to slice thinly with a knife instead). In a jar combine the remaining ingredients except the basil and shake well. Pour the dressing over the zucchini, add the basil, and gently stir to combine. Enjoy!
*More zucchini recipes here.
I feel like I say this about lots of summer vegetables, but is there really anything better than an ear or two of fresh Indiana sweet corn with lots of butter, salt and pepper? I think not. I don’t really love corn other than in the summer straight off the cob, but for the last few years, we’ve frozen batches of Indiana sweet corn for use in soups, tacos, etc. throughout the winter. That corn is a totally different story from the canned or frozen stuff you find at the grocery store, if you ask me. We canned a whole bunch too (recipe coming), but here is our easy process for freezing sweet corn.
Step one: recruit your sweet husband to shuck the corn.
Step two: cook the corn by your method of choice. I like the pressure cooker personally, but I also roasted a few dozen ears under the broiler and grilled another dozen or so on the grill.
Step three: cut all of the corn from the cobs. We like to do this on big baking sheets because 1) it’s easy to catch the flying kernels and 2) we spread out the corn on the baking sheets and then plop them in the freezer. Freezing them on the baking sheets first makes it easy to just take a little out at a time versus putting them in the bags directly and then having them all freeze together in the bags.
Step four: After freezing the corn (usually overnight for us) on the baking sheets, we put it in bags, label them, and get excited about eating Indiana corn all winter long (or at least as long as it will last!).
“All of us who are living owe our lives directly to our connection with the land. I am not talking about the connection that is implied by such a term as ‘environmentalism.’ I am talking about the connection that we make economically, by work, by living, by making a living. This connection, as we see every day, is going to be either familiar, affectionate and saving or distant, uncaring and destructive.”
Wendell Berry, in a recent speech
I love rainbow chard. It’s so pretty! And tasty and healthy too, but mostly just so pretty. I really only saute it in some olive oil and garlic because I think that’s the best way to play up its strengths, and I haven’t gotten sick of it yet. We’ve been using it as a base for burgers (at our dream restaurant, Grant says we’d call this “paleo on a plate”) in place of using buns, so here we tore up the chard, sauteed it in some garlic and olive oil, and then piled on top our burger and all of the fixins (sauteed mushrooms, red onions, bacon, avocados).
We also eat a ton of eggs for lunch, so this is a pretty regular lunch around our house: sauteed chard (or kale or spinach) with a fried (local, happy chicken) egg on top.
This has been our go-to lunch (and sometimes dinner) for pretty much all of July – local sweet corn, a cucumber sandwich, and some rainbow chard with eggs. Indiana summer on a plate!
We love cucs around our house. Our cucumber plants did just alright this year. I talked to other gardener friends, and many of them said that their cucumber plants didn’t fare so well either. The plants did well, just didn’t produce much. I’m wondering if it’s just another consequence of the crisis facing our bees (and other pollinators). It’s one of those things that we need to address as communities, not just individuals. Most likely, pesticides play a significant role in the problem, but all of our neighbors use pesticides, so not using chemicals on our yard doesn’t help the bees much (although I do notice much more insect diversity in our yard than we had when we first moved her and were weaning off the pesticides and fertilizers).
At any rate, we find all sorts of things to do with the cucumbers that we did get from our garden – and the ones from Victory Acres too. Our favorite way to eat them is as cucumber sandwiches. I like lots of butter, cucs, and red onion on mine; Grant likes them with my tomato jam (recipe coming); Jasper likes one my way and one Grant’s way. I also love my mom/grandma’s cucumber salad – summer isn’t complete without it. I also make lots of jars of refrigerator pickles. I do can a few as well for the winter months, but the canning process makes them a little less crispy than I would like so I prefer the refrigerator method (plus, let’s be honest, I eat them so fast that canning them isn’t really worth it). You can even use the brine from your pickled veggies, or try this recipe below that I’ve been using.
Adapted from Food in Jars
8-10 small cucumbers
4 cloves garlic, sliced
1 small onion, sliced
1 jalapeno, sliced (keep the seeds if you want it spicy, leave them out for a milder version)
1 cup apple cider vinegar (or white vinegar – I used white this last batch because I ran out of ACV)
1 cup water
2 tsp dill seed
1 tsp peppercorns
2 tsp sea salt
Clean jars. This makes about three pints worth of pickles. Clean the cucumbers and chop off the ends. Slice them into spears (or slices if you prefer) and put them in the jars. Add the garlic, dill seed, peppercorns, onions, and jalapeno to the jars, splitting them up evenly among the cars. Combine the vinegar, water, and salt in a small sauce pan and bring to a boil. Pour the brine into the jars, leaving 1/4 inch headspace at the top. Put the lids on and let them cool on the countertop before putting them in the refrigerator. They will keep in the fridge for a month (or three days at our house).
In the woods, the bucket is no metaphor; it simply reveals what is always happening in the woods, if the woods is let alone. Of course, in most places in my part of the country, the human community did not leave the woods alone. It felled the trees, and replaced them with pastures and crops. But this did not revoke the law of the woods, which is that the ground must be protected by a cover of vegetation, and that the growth of the years must return—or be returned—to the ground to rot and build soil. A good local culture, in one of its most important functions, is a collection of the memories, ways, and skills necessary for the observance, within the bounds of domesticity, of this natural law. If the local culture cannot preserve and improve the local soil, then, as both reason and history inform us, the local community will decay and perish, and the work of soil-building will be resumed by nature.
A human community, then, if it is to last long, must exert a sort of centripetal force, holding local soil and local memory in place. Practically speaking, human society has no work more important than this. Once we have acknowledged this principle, we can only be alarmed at the extent to which it has been ignored.
I love canning stuff. I get so sad in the middle of the winter when fresh, seasonal produce seems so faraway…but then I remember my canning stash and I get so excited about whatever might be preserved for later. I get excited (and a little hoard-y) about the stuff I’ve frozen too, but it just isn’t as exciting as those cute little glass jars.
Homemade canned food also make great last minute gifts for friends, so I love having them on hand since I’m quite forgetful in that department. I ordered a big order of sweet onions from the co-op several weeks ago, but I didn’t use them up fast enough so some were starting to look a little sad. I found this recipe and knew I had to try it. I was expecting them to be tasty, but not quite this tasty. If you don’t want to mess with canning, just make a batch (you may want to halve or quarter this recipe), stick them in the fridge and use them within 2-3 weeks. You’ll thank me later.
Sweet and sour pickled onions
Not at all adapted from Put ‘Em Up
4 cups white vinegar
2 cups water
1 cup sugar
2 tbsp salt
1 tbsp celery seed
1 tbsp mustard seed
1 tbsp turmeric
4 pounds big sweet onions (I sliced mine, but the recipe calls for chopped – it’s up to you)
6 garlic cloves, sliced
Bring the first seven ingredients to a boil in a large pot. Add the onions and garlic and return everything to a boil, stirring constantly just until everything is mixed together. Remove from the heat. If you’re not canning these, ladle the onion mixture into your jars, cover and refrigerate (for up to three weeks).
If canning, use the water bath method. Ladle mixture into clean, hot canning jars (I used a mix of pint and half-pint jars because that is what I had on hand – I would use half-pint if you have them). Make sure the onions are covered by at least 1/4 inch of liquid/brine. Leave 1/4 inch head space at the top of the jar. Tap the jar on the counter to release any air bubbles, and I like to run a butter knife around the outside to ensure the air is all released. Wipe the rim of the jars clean, center your fresh lids on the jar, and screw on the jar band. Process in water bath for 10 minutes. Remove jars after ten minutes and sit aside for 24 hours. Check seals after 24 hours, and then store in a dark place for up to one year.
We have been eating these on nearly everything, but my favorite is on top of freshly grilled brats or burgers. We’ve used it on scrambled eggs, sandwiches, salads. We haven’t tried something that didn’t taste better without the pickled onions on top!
Last Tuesday in worship, Shane Benjamin talked about the difference between dominion and domination. Humans were given dominion over creation—that is, God asked them to take care of it. God gave them a garden and everything they needed, more than they needed, and God trusted them with all of it.
God asked them to work with creation, in and through and alongside nature. But the wounds of sin cause us to lash out in fear and a need for control. Instead of having dominion, we seek domination. We live on this earth aggressively and violently, destroying and dominating rather than caretaking. Concrete and metal and machines and big agriculture separate us from the ground from which we were made, and our relationship with adamah, with the created order, and with our food is broken.
God created us for a life of abundance and intimacy with God, with one another, and with creation. Our walls of separateness and domination cannot stop God from being a God of abundance. God always has leftovers.
“Then the angel showed me the river of the water of life, bright as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb through the middle of the street of the city; also, on either side of the river, the tree of life with its twelve kinds of fruit, yielding its fruit each month. The leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations” (Revelation 22:1-2).
God’s original plan was to hang out in a garden with a bunch of naked vegetarians. So let’s get naked—metaphorically. Let’s throw away the fig leaves and receive the gift of healing that God offers us. Let’s tear down some walls and build a garden instead.
(you just knew I was going to sneak that last one in there!)