Monday, June 8, 2009

Independence Days Challenge - Okra Edition

Time for another Independence Days update.

Plant something I got my first ever okra seedlings into the ground. This is one of my two experimental plantings this year. Okra should do reasonably well in my area, but it's not something that has ever regularly been a part of our diet. I germinated a bunch of seeds and put the eight most promising ones in the ground over the weekend. We'll see how it does and how much we enjoy eating it. We're hoping that the freshness factor overwhelms our heretofore ho-hum impression of okra. In any case, the plants apparently have beautiful flowers, so I'm looking forward to seeing how it grows. I also put in some anise hyssop and more onion family transplants over the past week.

Harvest something I'm still looking at not much beyond greens and herbs from my garden. I feel way behind the curve. Still eating salads, and I harvested quite a large quantity of herbs for bread baking (see below). A few garlic scapes were big enough to cut, but most of them will probably be cut later this week. Eggs from the girls as usual. Lots of weeds "harvested" for the girls too.

Preserve something Last Thursday was supposed to be unusually cool, so I earmarked it for a marathon baking day. I baked 24 loaves of bread, and most of those went into the chest freezer. I'm hoping this will get us through the summer without the need to buy or bake any more bread. Lots of my own herbs went into one of the two types of bread I made: oregano, chives, and sage.

Reduce waste The only new thing I can think of in this category is that I identified yet another weed that my hens will happily eat: yellow wood sorrel. It comes up like crazy in my garden, so now I've got another way to reduce their feed costs and give them still greater diversity in their diet.

Build Community I bartered a few of the loaves of bread I baked for some local honey.

I didn't make it to the opening day of the local farmers market. My excuse is that my husband's away on business travel again, and I'm stuck with a lot of leftovers. So I haven't shopped in more than a week. More garden surplus goes to the food bank this week though, and I'll try to make it to this week's market. I want some beets!

I offered some unwanted ornamental plants from our yard to some neighbors down the road. They may come dig them up today.

Eat the food I'm just trying to bat cleanup on all the leftovers!

Preparation/Storage I priced some new shelving (ouch!) and have been scouring the free listings for a way to help organize our dry food storage area. We need a better system. Right now it's too difficult to see what all we have, and what we might need to pick up.

Also, I picked up some silicone caulk and have begun the project of sealing the air gaps around our windows and doors. This will help make our "envelope" more air tight and so help us to conserve energy when either heating or cooling the house.

I've cooked on the rocket stove a few times, so as to begin learning its ins and outs and be in practice with it. There are several items now on my project list to make this a more feasible regular activity. More on this, no doubt, in future Independence Days updates.

I bought some extra-large wide mouth canning jars and will soon use a borrowed vacuum sealer contraption to seal beans, grains and other things critters might like to help themselves to. Then I can put them in the basement and not worry about moisture or anything else.

Finally, I picked up extra sunscreen to have on hand. See? I am capable of thinking about things other than food!

You can play along on the Independence Days Challenges too. Post your own achievements, or link to them, in the comments.


Anonymous said...

Okra, eh? Not something I've developed a palate for yet. Probably good deep fried, but that isn't part of my healthy eating plan....

Your question freaked my friend out, so she changed her mind about posting. Apparently she did not seek a permit. It probably won't be a problem as my town has a long history of permitting issues and code violations forgiven with a quick hearing and a pittance fine.

Anyway, the project should be interesting, wish I could share. For us in Maine who heat with wood, the wood oven makes much more sense. The rocket stove is also piquing my interest, however. If/when my oven materializes, I am thinking it might include a rocket "burner" and a smoking pit of some kind.

Gabrielle said...

I feel pretty confident you will love the okra, if for nothing else than its beauty. I encourage you to try to pickle some if you have enough--yummy! Let us know how it goes!

Kate said...

Ali! I'm so sorry my comment freaked your neighbor out. That wasn't my intention at all. I was just curious how many hoops she had to go through if she had permitted. Now I feel like a party pooper, because that project looked so interesting, and was really looking forward to how it turned out. I screwed it up for everyone! Bummer.

Gabrielle, I think we can find a way to enjoy (eating) okra quite a bit. I've had it at Indian restaurants and enjoyed it, and I'm sure it was nothing as fresh as we'll enjoy it straight from the garden. Thanks for the encouragement.

Amanda K said...

I never cared for okra, until I was given this tip by a man from the bayou (what he's doing in Delaware, I haven't a clue). Only eat okra when it is small, as in less than four inches. Beyond that, it makes good food for ducks when it's chopped up which is probably applicable to your chickens.

Anonymous said...

I started my okra seedlings inside about a month ago, and hopefully will get them in the ground this weekend... first time trying them, but my family loves them so I hope it'll turn out!

Kate said...

Penny, I'll have to remember those. Thanks for the tips.

LIALZ, I hope the okra works out for both of us. It should be an instructive summer.

Diane said...

When okra is fried or sauteed it doesn't develop the "slimy" texture that most people object to. I think that only happens when it is cooked with water. And the flavor is quite nice and delicate.

Lorna said...

24 loaves of bread! Wow! I remember my mother baking 7-15 loaves of bread once a week, every week, for much of my childhood. Very good memories :) May I ask how you freeze your bread without it getting dry? I would love to bake "extra" and put it away, but when I do it gets so dry my husband won't eat it! I do let the loaves cool completely and then double bag them before freezing. Am I missing something?

Kate said...

Penny, I'm hearing similar suggestions from other folks too. I think we'll like it if it ever dries out hereabouts and the garden stuff starts to grow.

Lorna Jean, I bake two loaves of bread at a time, and some of my loaves are flat ones that bake on a stone and so only take about 20 minutes to cook. Still, it's an all-day affair, and the cleanup is formidable. As for freezing bread, I cut my round loaves in half and wrap them up well in saran wrap. I store them in the chest freezer, which does not cycle like a frostless freezer does. I find that this causes much less damage to foods stored for relatively long periods. I also let the breads thaw completely before I unwrap them and cut them up. If you're already doing all those things, I'm afraid I don't have any other suggestions!