Archive for July, 2012

Lucky Radish

Not what we have, but what we enjoy, constitutes our abundance.
I’ve never thought much about radishes. I’ve always admired them as a beautiful vegetable, they’ve just never been a big part of my culinary landscape. Sure, the occasional restaurant salad boasts one or two, and as a child I remember being beguiled by the radish rosettes at the salad bar. Beguiled that is, until I took a bite. Woody and spicy-hot, it was like having a mouth full of discontented bark.
This year, as part of our market garden shenanigans, we planted many, many rows of the little devils. I think I mentioned in an earlier post that my optimism regarding our huge, overwhelming garden is, well, less that optimistic. I’ve planted the cabbage three times; the kale four. What wasn’t stunted in the first place has been repeatedly assaulted by insects, deer, and a pair of fornicating woodchucks that stare at me from a crack in the garden wall while I weed.
So, while many of our crops seem less than stellar thus far, the radishes are FLYING! In bed after bed, perfect candy-cane-red orbs are popping up under a lush blanket of green, leafy tops, and have been doing so for weeks. The trouble is, our little farm stand doesn’t open until this weekend (god willing) and radishes get a bit pithy when left in the ground too long. So we’ve been picking.
And picking.
And picking.
We’ve managed to give a few bunches away, but most of them have ended up in our fridge.
At first I was at a bit of a loss. What is a radish besides a member of the green salad gang, and a not-so-popular one at that? I wasn’t even sure I liked radishes.
What to do but pull out my very dog-eared copy of The Victory Garden Cookbook by Marian Morash? Published in 1982 (as was I! Haha!), this compendium of vegetable recipes, preparation how-to’s, and gardening tips, is easily my favorite cookbook of all time.
With Marian’s help I’m slowly learning the delicate joy of a fresh-picked young radish, prepared simply, but not necessarily in a lettucecucumbertomato ensemble.
Cory doesn’t know it yet but tomorrow night we’re having Radish Salad with Red Onions and Basil alongside Radish Top Soup. And for dessert it’s got to be Radishes and Oranges. I’m sure he’ll just love it!
Radish Salad
4 cups thinly sliced radishes
2(ish) tbls fresh basil; chopped
1 small red onion; chopped
3-4 tbls wine vinegar or lemon juice (I used lemon juice) 
1 tsp sugar
1 tbls kosher salt
Freshly ground pepper
Mix together radishes, basil, onion, lemon juice, sugar, and salt and let marinate for at least one hour. Drain excess liquid and add pepper to taste.
Radish Top Soup
6 tbls butter
1 cup chopped onions (or leeks)
2 cups potatoes; peeled and diced
6 cups chicken stock
Freshly ground pepper
Sour cream (optional)
Melt butter in a large saucepan. Add onions and cook until soft and golden. Stir in radish tops. Cover and cook over low heat until tops are wilted. 8-10 minutes.
Meanwhile, cook potatoes in chicken stock with a pinch of kosher salt. When soft, add potatoes (along with stock) to radish tops and cook to mingle flavors. Puree in a food processor or food mill. I used a stick blender.
Serve plain or with a dollop of sour cream.
Radishes and Oranges
3-4 oranges; cut into sections with pith removed
2-3 cups thinly sliced radishes
1-2 tbls sugar
Lime or lemon juice
Combine oranges and radishes. Sprinkle with sugar. Marinate in lime or lemon juice.

Piggies and PB&J’s

When in doubt tell the truth.
-Mark Twain

I had one of those parenting moments the other day. Y’know, where  you’re faced with a hard question and don’t know quite what to say? I wouldn’t mind so much, except I’m not a parent. Let me explain. Cory has nieces. Two little angels that I love more than I think prudent for a merely, two-year relationship, but I digress. Hallie, 5 years old and wise beyond her years, came up to the apartment when Cory was still at work. After hitting me up for a PB&J, we settled in for a nice chat.

We talked about the weather, unicorns, chickens, the staying power of stickers; y’know, good stuff. Then little Hallie fixed me with a look reserved for 5 year olds and Disney Princesses…

“Jen, where did the piggies go? I know you used to have piggies! Where did they go?!”

I froze.

This was the moment I’d been dreading. I had been told over and over, NOT to tell Hallie (the perceived Drama Queen) where the pigs went. I had been warned that any attempt at the truth would result in tears and I was not UNDER ANY CIRCUMSTANCES to tell Hallie the truth.

I looked into her earnest little eyes, took a deep breath and said: “Hallie, that’s a hard question. Do you know where bacon comes from?”

She thought for a minute and then she said, wide-eyed, “You turned them into BACON!”

I nodded.

“But…but…why didn’t you just buy bacon at the grocery store?!”

Good question.

“Well Hallie, all bacon, even the bacon that comes from the grocery store, come from a piggie.”

She looked confused.

“Sometimes, the pigs that get made into bacon for the grocery store don’t lead very happy lives. We wanted to make sure the bacon that we ate, came from VERY happy pigs.”

“Oh.” She still looked confused. “But why didn’t you just wait until the pigs died [naturally] and then make them into bacon?”

Another good question. In my opinion more difficult to answer.

“Pigs get very big. After many years they get too big to keep, and the bacon gets too fatty to eat. Pigs are best eaten after about one year.”

“Well,” she sighed and flung her hands down onto the table, “I guess some pigs are made into bacon. I guess that’s just the way it is. It’s sad though. I liked the pigs.”


While the above is a bit paraphrased, there were no tears. Just questions. As far as I’m concerned, very intelligent questions. Hallie eats bacon. No one would hesitate to show a child where broccoli comes from, and while there may be a world of difference between a pig and a broccoli plant, I think it behooves us all to teach children a reverence for their food sources. Just sayin’.

I’m not a parent, but I’ve decided that if you’re doing something you have to lie to a 5-year-old about, you probably shouldn’t be doing it in the first place.

And just for the record…”Daddy (or Mommy) and I need a little privacy right now”, is NOT a lie.

There and Back Again

“Not all who wander are lost.”

-J. R. R. Tolkein

About three months ago, Cory and I traveled down to Ludlow, Vermont to pick up a baby beef calf from Cory’s cousin. His name is Triscuit and he smells bad, but more on the cattle next post.

While Triscuit lounged in a calf box in the bed of the pick-up, five guinea fowl squawked and bleated and pissed all over the cab behind our seats. They were tucked into cardboard boxes but the effect was the same as if they had been running free.  After three hours I hated them more than I can say.

It’s just as loud as it looks

We housed them in the old chicken trailer and debated our permanent guinea fowl accommodation options. Guineas are not like chickens, as they don’t easily “home”. While chickens will head into an established coop as soon as it begins to get dark, guinea fowl will venture far afield, roosting in trees despite your best efforts. Sometimes they will just “leave”, never to be seen again.

I tried training ours with millet, a guinea’s favorite treat, and we had just arrived at the stage of, “at least they looked at me when I called,” when Cory’s father, in an effort to move things along, built them a pen and little house near the garden. We sighed and moved them in.

 Here at least they were a bit easier to care for, but try as we might, we still couldn’t get them all to go into the house at the same time each evening. We had originally wanted them to pest patrol the garden. Guinea’s eat bugs and seeds but generally leave plants alone. In their pen, they not only weren’t eating bugs off our cucumbers, but they were living in what amounted to a barely adequate cage. 

I still kind of hated them. They were loud, mean, neurotic, and ugly, but their feathers were beautiful, and I do get attached easily. It was all a bit of a puzzle.

Then, a little over a week ago, Cory discovered that something had squeezed through a hole in the fence and slaughtered four of our five guinea fowl. One hen remained. We named her Juno. 

As she certainly couldn’t stay in the pen amid the scattered feathers of her fallen companions, we put her in with the chickens. We weren’t sure if they would flock together, but we had to try. She needed company. I took Stan the Rooster aside and explained the situation. (I really did this). He cocked his head, looked me straight in the eye and I think, understood every word. 

Juno stayed close that first day and hopped into the coop with the rest of the girls when it got dark. I gave Stan a nod and whisper of thanks and breathed a sigh of relief. 

I was sure we were  in the clear, but it was not to be. The next day while weeding the beans, I watched as Juno traversed the meadow, passed the garden, and slipped into the underbrush at the edge of the woods. I thought about going after her, but stopped. I realized that she had chosen her freedom and I was not going to be the one to take it away again. She had been through so much, watching her friends get ripped apart while somehow managing to escape the same violent fate. She deserved to walk the journey of her life unencumbered by human constraints. Also, it was hot and my shoes were back at the house.  

She stayed away for two days and two nights. I thought about her out in the world, a great big world for a little guinea hen. I worried; I was feeling affectionate. I thought about the creature that had eaten her friends, and the rednecks with their guns and pickup trucks. But Juno was a survivor, I was sure of it. 

And then… 

When I got home today I immediately heard the unmistakable, bleating horn of a guinea hen. Juno was back! I raced around the garage to see her strutting about the yard, pecking the dirt. She had recognized our benevolence and come back! If she could feel at home here, so could I. All my doubts about our farm, our animals, and our vegetables faded. Surely, this was a sign! 

Juno is now roosting with the chickens, calm and happy. Perhaps the world was just a little too big after all. 

Or maybe she just got hungry.