We’ve moved! (300 feet)

We’ve been building a new office on our farm for the past couple of years. It has timber framing, a radiant floor, super-insulated blown-in cellulose walls, large south-facing windows, wide eaves to make it cool in summer, a loading dock, a small warehouse, and on the cool north side, an insulated, air-conditioned, dehumidified seed room with a straw bale wall.


The past few weeks have been an exciting time of moving in. The first part of the move was the seed room, shown in the following three pictures. Once the last coat of earthen plaster was dried on the straw bale wall, we carted all our packets of seeds and all the other items that we sell from the old office to the new.




Next, we got our phone and fax lines hooked up to the new building, and then our IT team brought computers over. Soon after that, we set up order shipping in the new office, and then seed packing.

But we’re still not entirely done. We still need to move our jars, buckets, and bags of as-yet-unpacked seed from our old trailer to the new one. We still need to move our gardening library into our new office. We still have not finished making the living roof terraces or installing our furnace. In the meantime, we’re delighted to find that even on a very cold winter day – and like much of the country we have had a few unusually cold winter days recently – the entire space can be sufficiently heated by two space heaters, several computers, and several human bodies.

Squash-athon

When my relatives were e-mailing about who would bring what foods for Thanksgiving, I wrote, “Ken and I will bring squash. And probably greens. And probably one lacto-fermented vegetable or another. Hmm, I wonder how many kinds of squash I can feed you? Five?” To my surprise, several relatives chimed in asking for more kinds of squash. In the end I brought nine squash, all different kinds, from our trials.

My dad used half the Thai Rai Kaw Tok pumpkin, half the Thai Kang Kob pumpkin, and half the Sucrine du Berry to make pumpkin pie. Some guests joked about how it was a squash pie rather than a pumpkin pie, but in fact very many pumpkin pies have a higher proportion of non-pumpkin squashes than this one did.

On Thanksgiving afternoon the oven was too full of free-range turkey (from J. and L. Green Farm, run by former interns at Polyface) to fit any squash in. So I hosted a Squash-athon on Friday. I baked the three halves left over from the pie, as well as a Shishigatani, a Futsu, a Canada Crookneck, and, from the farmers’ market my parents visit, a Buttercup.

All but the last of these are in the Cucurbita moschata species. Buttercup is a Cucurbita maxima, and I wanted to roast it mostly because it would be the first time I’d eat a maxima and know that it was a maxima. Squash vine borers make maximas much harder to grow in our region, so our farm we generally don’t plant them. But as a species, they are renowned for tasting great. On the other hand, I didn’t roast either of the two Cucurbita mixta squash I had brought, because these were too large. (There are some mixtas in the upper right of the photo above.)

I enjoyed the Buttercup, and so did several others, but I was surprised that my sister did not. She compared it to a potato; I compared it to the egg fruit we’d eaten in Hawaii. I found it dense, rich, and much more filling than other squash I’ve had. The mixta species, I have found, also has its own distinct taste: appealing but mild, a bit more reminiscent of summer squash than of moschatas or Buttercup.

Of the moschatas, Thai Rai Kaw Tok (pictured above) and Thai Kang Kob took the cake. They were denser and more flavorful than the competition. They were also surprisingly different from one another in taste, with Thai Kang Kob having a strong traditional squash flavor, and Thai Rai Kaw Tok having a spicier, more complex flavor that I think is more typical of the squash I’ve eaten in Thailand. Both Thai squash had better yields than most of our trials, and Thai Rai Kaw Tok had the best yield of any moschatas we grew this year. So this winter, when we send our seed growers the list of varieties we’re looking to have grown in 2014, Thai Rai Kaw Tok is very likely to be on that list. With any luck, we’ll have it for sale in 2015.

After eating only squash for dinner, I was surprised to find myself not just full, but completely satisfied. My mother had asked about the water in the bottom of the squash baking pan, then poured it into a glass and drank it as we ate. She said she felt completely satisfied after a meal of only squash water! My sister got out some crackers and cheese, but no one ate much of them. No one prepared or suggested any significant second dish. No one said that the meal was monotonous or too simple. And I didn’t even add any seasoning.

Fermented green tomato “olives”

Though many of our tomatoes are done for the season, our late-planted Matt’s Wild Cherry tomato plants are still going strong. Many of our other late-planted tomatoes – especially cherry tomatoes – are still producing. It might be the ideal time to ferment a batch of green cherry tomatoes.


Green Riesentraube and Matt’s Wild Cherry tomatoes

We still have green cherry tomatoes that we lacto-fermented in the summer of 2012, when we were aggressively rouging out off-types of Amy’s Apricot tomato because it had cross-pollinated in our trial patch two years before. But fermented green tomatoes are so delicious, even when softer than the way we like them most, that we probably don’t have enough to last us through the winter. Really, they can taste incredibly similar, though of course not identical, to green olives.


Fermented green Amy’s Apricot tomatoes

Here’s our recipe, scaled down for family use: Wash and de-stem about a gallon of green cherry tomatoes that are at least half of full size. Throw in a handful of peeled garlic cloves, a couple hot peppers, and a heaping spoonful each of coriander, dill seed, and dill leaf. Cover with a brine made of about 8 tablespoons of salt and 8 cups of water, and then with a weight to hold the tomatoes under the water. (A food-grade plastic bag half-full of brine can make a good weight.) Tie a cloth over the top of the container to keep flies out, and let it sit at room temperature until the tomatoes are as soft as olives. Then put replace the cloth with a lid and put it in the fridge for long-term storage and eating.

As with other lacto-fermentation, as long as you don’t forget the salt, the rest of the choice of ingredients is up to you. For example, feel free to add lots of hot peppers or none of them. Feel free to add onions, sweet peppers, your favorite spices, etc.

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Saving the Past for the Future