Wild Things Farm

  (Crab Orchard, Tennessee)
Farm life adventures of the Happy Hoer
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The last of the fresh tomatoes

Although I'm always ready for the intense labor of the gardening season to subside, I'm never ready for fresh tomatoes to end.  Yesterday I made a scrambled egg/pepper jack cheese sandwich with 2 slices of a very ripe, juicy, Cherokee Purple heirloom tomato.  There was a bit of it left, just begging to go.......

cherokeepurplewebsizeOh my!  I call that an "oralgasm"!



Another great raw kale salad

It's been a few days since I've taken time to post any news....rain, rain, rain.  We've already had as much rain as we usually do in an entire year.  That means several crops have drowned, weeds are thriving, and us farmers are busy trying to salvage the season.

One crop that has been a staple in the CSA boxes so far has been kale, and it has been really yummy.  I've tried cooking it several different ways and it's okay, but I personally prefer it raw (if it's young).  Tonight was another late night and I was craving something fresh and green, so I harvested a big handful of kale.  After rinsing it,  pulling out the stems and tearing it into bite sized pieces, I went scrounging in the kitchen.  

In the fridge there was some rice left from a night or so ago, and I had cilantro, tomato, onion, added some garlic scapes that were in the fridge as well, some roasted garlic cloves, a couple spoonfuls of corn relish, a handful of pickled pepper rings, and a can of black beans.   I splashed some extra-extra virgin olive oil (unfiltered) and a tiny bit of balsamic vinegar.  I tossed it all together and YUM!  Yet another tasty way to eat kale RAW!

I got a new camera and it has a setting on it called "food".  This is what "kale kitchen sink" salad looks like on my new camera setting "food"......



I also rescued two kittens from the road today but that will be another post--- :-)


Swiss Chard and Sweet Potato Fritters

We've spent most of our lives being told to "eat your vegetables" and now that we are, we're being told to "eat your green vegetables".  For years and years I tried to act as though I liked greens (spinach, turnip, chard, kale, mustard) in the cooked stage, but it was all an act.  Having been raised on canned food both at school and at home, greens were just a slimy mass that required vinegar poured on them to make them palatable enough (huh?) to go down.

In my opinion, anything that requires vinegar in order to make it palatable shouldn't be eaten anyway.  Enter fresh greens.......

Although I'm still struggling with the texture of a bowl of cooked, steamed sauteed or otherwise heated up greens, it is definitely getting better.  I actually lightly steamed/cooked some fresh kale in beef broth a couple of months ago and it was DELICIOUS!  I since haven't been able to duplicate the event.

The menu for supper was all lined out the other night, but something green was absent from the list, so I ventured into the garden, picked a small bunch of Swiss Chard, medium sized leaves, and headed back to the kitchen.

Here's the recipe:

9-10 leaves of Swiss Chard, medium size (about 2 cups cut into thin shreds)

2 small sweet potatoes (about 1-1/2 cups grated)

1 egg

1 Tablespoon oil

1 Tablespoon or so of flour 

a couple of teaspoons of honey

salt and pepper to taste

Put the oil in a large nonstick skillet and turn on medium heat.  Mix the grated sweet potato and shredded chard in a bowl and add the egg and flour, honey and salt and pepper.  Mix thoroughly.  Drop by big spoonfuls onto the pan (oil should sizzle when mixture is added) and mash out into fritters about 4" in diameter.  Let them cook on one side until browning and crispy then flip over and finish cooking on the other side.  Drain on paper towels and enjoy hot!  Actually, when I cleaned up the pan most of the oil was still in there.

Yet another yummy way to enjoy those all nutritious green veggies!



"Vegetarian" Chile Rellenos

Ok, I finally did it--made "vegetarian" chile rellenos and they were actually quite tasty.   Through the years I've had eggplant fixed two different ways:  eggplant parmesan or breaded and fried.  It's great both ways, but boring.  I subscribe to a blog called My New Roots and this lady comes up with some really interesting ways to prepare veggies.  She uses eggplant as a neutral base for other flavors much as you would rice or pasta.  Because it is sort of bland it soaks up other flavors nicely.

The ingredients in this dish are:

1 eggplant prepared and chopped (see below)

1/2 onion, chopped

2 Anaheim Chiles halved lengthwise and seeded

dash of cumin

4 small flour tortillas

oil for sauteeing

Monterrey Jack (or similar) cheese

Sour cream or cream cheese

splash of milk

The first step in making this dish is to peel and slice the eggplant then salt it really well and set aside for about 20 minutes.  This causes a lot of the moisture to come out of the eggplant then you take paper towels and dry it off.  Pulse the eggplant in a food processor until the consistency of ground meat (see where I'm going now?)

In a pan saute some chopped onion and a little garlic.  I also put the anaheim chiles in this pan to soften up a bit before placing in tortillas.  After the onion is soft, add the eggplant and a dash of cumin, salt and pepper to taste.   I stirred this around for about 8-10 minutes to get more moisture out.  When you're satisfied with this conglomeration, heat up just a tad of oil in a frying pan large enough to accommodate two tortillas and spread out a chile pepper on one of the tortillas.  Add eggplant mixture and top with cheese (I used Cracker Barrel Aged Reserve cheese--YUMMY!) then top with the other tortilla.  Place in pan on medium low heat until that side is browning then flip it over and repeat.

I made a sauce with some of the cheese, a dollop of whipped cream cheese and a splash of milk, then topped it with some freshly made salsa.

Very tasty.

Footnote:  The Cracker Barrel Aged Reserve cheese AND the whipped cream cheese was purchased at a local grocery stored called United Grocery Outlet or UGO.   The cream cheese was 50 cents a cup and the cheddar cheese was $1.29!   If one were purchasing cheese for this dish I'd say Monterey Jack would work and sour cream would work in the sauce--HOWEVER if you've been reading my recipes very much you'll know that I never have everything in the pantry that a recipe calls for so improvising is one of my strong points!


Basil pesto with spaetzle, beets and swiss chard

I've been scheming to prepare beets for supper, and there's an awful lot of beautiful basil coming in right now.  A quick look through the pantry and I found a partial container of spaetzle I had bought on a shopping trip with a friend who was reminiscing about how her Czech grandmother used to make spaeztle and green beans.

The beets are going to take longer to cook than the pesto or the spaetzle so I washed about five 1 to 1-1/2 inch beets and trimmed off the tops and the roots.  Put them in a microwave safe dish with a little water in the bottom for 5 minutes at a time until they are soft to touch--mine took about 9 minutes.  Take them out and let them cool a bit.  Meanwhile.....

Wash a small bunch of swiss chard and roughly chop.  Heat a small amount of olive oil in a skillet, throw in a tad of garlic then the chard.  Stir around until wilted down, add a little water and put a lid on until the chard is tender, about the time you're ready to eat this meal.  While the chard is steaming,

Wash and put a couple of handfuls of basil into a food processor.  Pour in about a tablespoon of olive oil, about 1/4 cup pine nuts, a couple cloves of garlic, salt and pepper to taste.  Puree till smooth and set this aside.  You've got water boiling for the spaetzle and now it's time to put the spaetzle in the water to cook.  While that's happening, peel the beets, cut them in half, and wash your hands immediately so the red will come off.

When the spaetzle is done, drain it and toss with the pesto.  Put the sliced, warm beets on the plate and cover with feta cheese (a wonderful taste combo).   Plate up the chard and sprinkle with acid of your choice (vinegar, lemon juice, etc.)   The best part of this meal is that the feta cheese tastes wonderful when it migrates over to the basil spaetzle AND when it stays on the beets.

Enjoy a quick and nutritious meal with fresh veggies!


Creamy Garden Vegetable Soup with Tomato Salad

So right about now the fridge is getting overrun with fresh veggies.  It's hard to keep up with them this time of year.  We had much needed rain all day yesterday and other than having to pick squash and dig potatoes in the rain, it was rather enjoyable.

I decided to try out a creamy fresh vegetable soup.  It actually turned out to be very tasty and was relatively easy to prepare.  Here's the recipe (it's a loose one, okay?)

Peel and slice about 3 carrots

Peel and cut 3 or 4 potatoes into 1" chunks

I used about 6" of a Daikon radish, peeled and 1" chunks

1 kohlrabi peeled and cut into about 1/2" chunks

Roma green beans, stem end broken off, sliced lenthwise about 3 times then crosswise to make "French Style" beans

Cover all these with water and simmer slowly until tender.  You might need to drain a little liquid off at this point but save it in case you need to add some back.

Salt and pepper, parsley, and a can of cream of celery soup.  I let this cook a while then added garlic powder, a dash of cayenne pepper and a package of frozen corn from last year.  Then I added a handful of peas I had frozen earlier in the season.  I stirred the pot vigorously to kind of "puree" the potatoes a little to make the soup creamy.

At this point I would have added some cream to thicken the soup a little, (if I had any) but a big dollop of whipped cream cheese was the best I could do.  Stir the cream cheese or cream into the soup and let it thicken a little.


For a side dish I prepared a tomato/rice salad.  There was a bowl of leftover wild rice in the fridge so I took about 1/2 cup of that, chopped one tomato, 1/2 of one of the long Diva cucumbers growing so prolifically right now, a generous sprinkling of fresh basil, some chopped onion, minced garlic, then drizzled with lemon juice and a little unfiltered olive oil, salt and pepper, and tossed well.


The best part of both of these recipes are that they use fresh ingredients that are pouring in from the garden right now, and that's why we garden (or belong to a CSA), right?


"New Way" with Swiss Chard

I say "new way", but someone had to dream it up--I love Allrecipes.com and when I'm trying to find a different way to prepare a veggie that's the first place I look.  This recipe is Baked Swiss Chard with Feta Cheese and actually I bought some feta cheese last trip to the grocery store.  So, here goes:

1 bunch of Swiss Chard, stems and leaves separated

1 onion, chopped

4 large garlic cloves (I added this part and left them whole)

1 TBS olive oil

salt and pepper

2 TBS olive oil

4 oz crumbled feta cheese

Wash the swiss chard and tear the stems out of the leaves; put these in a bowl with chopped onion, peeled garlic cloves, and toss with 1 TBS olive oil.  Place on an oiled baking sheet in a 350 degree oven for about 15 minutes or until onion is starting to brown.

Toss the leaves in the 2 TBS olive oil (I only used 1 TBS here) and salt and pepper to taste.   Careful with the salt; the cheese is pretty salty in itself......Place the leaves on top of the stems and sprinkle with crumbled feta cheese (I only used 2 ounces instead of 4) and put the pan back in the oven for 15-20 minutes longer,


or until some of the leaves are starting to get crispy on the edges.



Eggplant stuffed peppers

This year wasn’t a particularly “great” year for eggplants but there were a few harvested just before the first predicted frost. So, I have a bag of eggplants in the fridge–what do I do with them?

Last year, or maybe the year before (time gets away, doesn’t it?) I made eggplant “meat” balls with marinara sauce and spaghetti. They were totally edible and actually pretty good. So, I took the eggplant–the skinny Asian eggplants–peeled them and sliced them into about 1/4 inch slices or so, sprinkled them with salt and put them on a paper towel for about 20 minutes or so. This draws the moisture out of the eggplant. Then I pat them dry and roasted them for 20 minutes or so until they seemed kind of done.

At this point I put them in the food processor and processed them until they were ground up like, well, hamburger. I added garlic and some onion (I need to go to the grocery store so its flakes, okay?) Mixed this up with about 1/3 package of an 8 oz pack of cream cheese, about 1/3 cup shredded cheddar cheese, and 3 pieces of sun dried tomato that were chopped up. Oh, I also chopped up a jalapeno pepper that was laying on the counter, just for a little heat. Mix all that together and stuff it into the pepper. Oh yes, the pepper. As I was harvesting all the eggplants before the predicted frost, I harvested all the peppers as well. I had a couple of “Sweet Diablo” peppers which are just a sweet pepper that is about 5-6 inches long by 2 inches wide at the top and sweet, but not hot. I slit the pepper, removed the pith and seeds, and stuffed with this mixture. Then sprinkle with Panko bread crumbs and bake at 350 for 20 minutes or until they start to brown a little. Yum, yum!


M - I - C - K - E - Y

T - o - m - a - to


Well, what else am I supposed to do in the sweltering heat while picking produce?


Awesome online gardening tools

I purchase a lot of the seeds used on the farm from Johnny's Select Seeds and yesterday they sent out an e-mail that had links to the most useful tools that I just had to share...  go here


There's a ton of info in seed starting, how much to plant, when to plant, how long till harvest, blah, blah, blah.

Hope you find something in there useful.....I did!  Happy Spring, y'all :)


Starting Sweet Potato Slips

I've grown sweet potatoes in the garden for a few years but didn't try to start my own slips until last year.  A friend's grandpa grew the biggest sweet potatoes--football size sometimes-- and I tried to start slips according to his method. 

He said to take a big black bucket, like a feed bucket, and put fresh manure in the bottom of it.  Cover the manure with soil then place the sweet potatoes on the soil, cover with soil, then cover with hay.  In a few weeks sprouts are supposed to start coming out.  All I could get out of this method was rotten potatoes.

While "googling" how to start sweet potato slips I ran across many folks who just sprouted them like you would an avocado pit.  Cut the sweet potato in half then suspend it with toothpicks in a glass with water.  Put the cut side down and set the glass in a warm spot in the house.  I put mine all around the woodstove in the livingroom.

It took a few weeks for them to start sprouting, but sprout they did!  I've got around 30 glasses with sprouting potatoes in them.   When the sprouts get about 6" long pull them loose from the potato and place  in a glass of water.  If the sprouts get too long before time to plant you can take cuttings from them and stick the cuttings in the water to root.  I've got one jar with about 40 sprouts I've pulled off the "mother" taters, and I check them daily for new sprouts that are ready to be on their own.   One of the CSA members came to visit a few weeks ago and she laughed and said that reminded her of her classroom years ago when she would have the kids sprout things and plant seeds just to teach them where food really comes from. 

See......most of what we really needed to know we probably did learn in kindergarten!


New veggie varieties this year

Each year I like to try new varieties of the crop menagerie at the farm, and this year is no exception.  It is so hard to resist buying one of everything in the seed catalogs when it is stark, naked, winter, but better judgement must take over because there are only so many garden beds to be filled (although there are quite a few).  New varieties that will hopefully find their way into the members' boxes this year include:

  • Cauliflower, variety 'Amazing' from Johnny's Selected Seeds
  • Several new varieties of beans, including 'Christmas' heirloom seed passed along from a couple who have been long-time members of the farm; 'Dragon Langerie' from Pinetree; 'Provider', from Johnny's; 'Royal Burgundy' from Pinetree
  • 'Red Ace' Beets from Johnny's
  • 'Nelson' Carrots from Johnny's
  • Eggplant, varieties 'Fairy Tale', 'Orient Express' from Johnny's
  • Melons 'Tasty Bites' and 'Sun Jewel' from Johnny's
  • Snow peas, 'Oregon Giant' from Johnny's
  • Peppers 'Lipstick', 'Sahuaro', 'Aconcagua', 'Marconi Red' from Pinetree and Johnny's
  • Squash 'Ambassador', 'Metro Butternut', 'Kabocha', 'Horn of Plenty', 'Cashflow'
  • Tomatoes 'Yellow Pear mini', 'Matt's Wild Cherry', 'New Girl', 'Black Cherry'
  • Rutabaga

Last year I attempted to grow Artichokes but our winter was just too cold and wet; it was one of those experiments anyway. 

The tried and true varieties are the staples of the gardens on the farm but it's always fun to try new things each year. 


Saving Tomato Seeds

I've always been interested in saving seeds of vegetables that aren't hybrids.  Tomatoes have got to be one of the favorite crops grown in any garden. General instructions on saving tomato seeds include the words "ferment" which is a little scary to me--that's the last step before "rot"!

A friend of mine eased my fears from saving tomato seeds last year.  All you do is get a clean paper towel, cut the tomato, and SMEAR the seeds onto the paper towel.  If you can space them out a little bit, that works great because when you're ready to germinate the seeds, all you do is "plant" the paper towel and voila!  Tomato plants :)


Get to know your veggies--Sweet Potatoes

One potato, two potatoes, sweet potatoes, MORE!

I luv sweet taters (that’s how we say it in Tennessee).  There’s nothing better than a big ole’ tater baked to perfection, topped with real butter, and perched on my plate awaiting consumption!

Happy Hoer doesn’t have much experience growing sweet potatoes, but something went definitely right in the tater patch this season.  There are some “double headers” in there–that means one potato will feed two heads, and some of the hills have like 8 or 9 good sized potatoes in them.  It’s really exciting to go to the potato patch across the pasture, over the creek, and up the hill to see how many potatoes I’ll get in so many hills!

Sweet potatoes aren’t related to white potatoes at all; they are in the morning glory family, whereas white potatoes are in the nightshade family along with tomatoes, peppers, and eggplant.  If you can get past growing the slips (I’m going to attempt that next season) they are really pretty easy to grow, although they do take up quite a bit of space and quite a bit of time to mature. 

I always knew sweet potatoes were good and good for you, but I “googled” them for this blog and found out something amazing–sweet potatoes are ranked the number one most nutritious veggie by the Center for Science in the Public Interest. 

Here’s an excerpt from their info at foodreference.com:

CSPI ranked the sweet potato number one in nutrition of all vegetables. With a score of 184, the sweet potato outscored the next highest vegetable by more than 100 points. Points were given for content of dietary fiber, naturally occurring sugars and complex carbohydrates, protein, vitamins A and C, iron and calcium. Points were deducted for fat content (especially saturated fat), sodium, cholesterol, added refined sugars and caffeine. The higher the score, the more nutritious the food.

Sweet potato baked 184
Potato, baked 83
Spinach 76
Kale 55
Mixed Vegetables 52
Broccoli 52
Winter Squash, Baked 44
Brussels Sprouts 37
Cabbage, Raw 34
Green Peas 33
Carrot 30
Okra 30
Corn on the Cob 27
Tomato 27
Green Pepper 26
Cauliflower 25
Artichoke 24
Romaine Lettuce 24
The Center for Science in the Public Interest, Washington D.C. copyright 1992

The reasons the sweet potato took first place? Dietary fiber, naturally occurring sugars, complex carbohydrates, protein, vitamins A and C, iron and calcium. The sweet potato received a score of 184; the vegetable ranked in second place was more than 100 points behind with a score of 83.

The numbers for the nutritional sweet potato speak for themselves: almost twice the recommended daily allowance of vitamin A, 42 percent of the recommendation for vitamin C, four times the RDA for beta carotene, and, when eaten with the skin, sweet potatoes have more fiber than oatmeal. All these benefits with only about 130 to 160 calories!

One of my favorite ways to prepare sweet potatoes is to peel and slice them into about 1/4 inch slices, peel and slice an onion too, put them in a pan with a little oil.  This method is called “slaute” for those who can’t bring themselves to say the word “fry”.  It’s kind of like frying, but with not quite as much oil, but you use a little more oil than you do when you saute’.  Anyway, cook them until they start to caramelize and turn brown and that taste along with the caramelized onions is scrumptious!

It’s late summer and time for these colorful, underappreciated root crops to start appearing at farmer’s markets and in CSA baskets.  Enjoy the fruits of the season, and this time of the season, enjoy number one!


How to cook a flying saucer

Well, they look like flying saucers anyway.  Once summer squash starts coming in boy howdy, you better keep your windows rolled up when you park your car around here.  Not that it might get stolen or anything like that, but somebody might throw some squash in there (it's a local joke) (well, maybe not too local.....)

Anyway, I really haven't taken the time to enjoy any summer squash so far this season, so the other night I got in early, around 8:30, so I thought "wow, I have time to cook".  I decided to attack one of the cool squashes I had been harvesting for a couple of weeks.  This is a rendition of a recipe I found on veggie ventures kitchen parade blogspot.  It's a stuffed ufo. 

First, I selected which one of the aliens would be invited to my oven.  I chose a pretty yellow one.  Next I retrieved my favorite paring knife and proceeded with the evening's main course. 


 I bet you're looking at that and thinking "what kind of countertop is that?"  It's an awesome slab of Crab Orchard stone, courtesy of my handy-dandy friend, Shane. 

Back to the squash.  Cut a circle out of the squash.  I pretty much followed the green circle.  Then take a spoon and scoop out the insides and put them aside for chopping.

 That little chopper is a great tool.  It's a Black and Decker and it sits on top of the cup and you press down on it and push one of the buttons on the front to make it go--easy to use, easy to clean up.

Put the squash and some onion, I used a green onion, in a pan with a drizzle of evoo.  Saute until tender, remove from heat, then mix it in with 1 T flour, egg, and about 1 oz of feta cheese. 

 The recipe makes 4 squashes and I was too tired to split one egg into 1/4's, so a whole egg went in the one squash.  The feta cheese I used had basil and tomatoes in it (courtesy of a friend who didn't like it). 

Stuff all this into the hollowed hole of the squash.  Pop into a 350 oven for about 30-40 minutes, or until the squash is tender.  I sauteed a chicken breast with sun dried tomatoes and added sour cream to make a sauce and browned a piece of polenta to accompany the flying saucer to my belly.  I felt like a queen eating something besides cereal for supper!


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