Dec. 24, 2010

Organic turnips as Christmas ornaments? Uh, maybe not

By Jim PathFinder Ewing

On Christmas Eve, it’s doubtful many folks are contemplating their gardens, but I have to admit, I’ve been mixing the two.

Pulling turnips out of the ground, I started humming Christmas carols, and thought: Wow, these purple top turnips actually look like ornaments! Hmmm….

But I reconsidered where this brainstorm was headed. Wife Annette might not see the merits of turnip-as-ornament quite as clearly.

Turnips roasting on an open fire?…. Nahhh. Oh, well.

Processing veggies is one of my favorite activities. The turnip greens are too buggy to sell right now, so we compost the greens. As I was chopping them off, I remembered my mother telling me about briefly living in Ohio before I was born and going to the grocery story one winter day.

She saw the turnip greens in a box on the floor and asked the produce manager, “How much?” He looked at her like she was crazy and said, “Lady, we just throw those away, take all you want.” Northern folk thought all but the turnip was a throwaway!

Nowadays, that wouldn’t fly.

Hope your “Jim’s Plot” 4×8-foot garden is doing well. For comparison, despite the recent temps in the teens, our little fall garden is still chugging along under its row cover when nights dip below 32.

Of course, the row cover (Agribon) keeps the bugs snug, too; so, some of our plants are well chomped. For example, our Tokyo bekana is fairly riddled with holes. Still tastes good. Annette made some tasty slaw out of it, mixing in nuts, carrots and craisins (dried cranberries). Our mustards, collards, turnips and beets are healthy, some with new growth. Our bok choy is looking better. Brussels sprouts are flourishing.

Jackson being about an hour south of us, you may be doing better on the growing front.

I should have mentioned last week that Barbara Damrosch is the wife of Eliot Coleman who runs Four Season Farm in Maine with him. She writes a weekly column in The Washington Post called A Cook’s Garden. She is also an author (The Garden Primer and Theme Gardens).

It’s wonderful to see couples doing what they love together!

Reader response:

From Annette, regarding her Paneer recipe: It would be more clear to say, combine vinegar and water, then pour it slowly into the milk mixture until it curdles. The water and vinegar do not need to be warm.

Whole milk is the best tasting, but low fat milk also works. Skim will work but yields a very small amount of curd.

Goats milk works as well. We love goat cheeses and have experimented with making classic goat cheese, which is created with bacteria, rather than curdling. We purchased some starter bacteria from a cheese making supply company (www.cheesemaking.com – a very good source, and also has loads of helpful instructions and information) and used the goats milk that is available in grocery stores. Even though that goats milk is ultra-pasteurized (not recommended for cheese-making) it did work, but yielded a product less firm than regular soft goat cheese. It was still delicious.

If you look online, you will find many recipes and detailed techniques on how to make mozzarella cheese with rennet. It is delicious when it works, but we have found the milk in our grocery stores to be of inconsistent cheese-making quality; sometimes it fails to curdle properly. (See why on the cheesemaking site.)

We wish you a happy, wondrous Christmas!

Maybe a turnip under the tree …

Find Jim on Facebook, follow him @edibleprayers or @organicwriter or visit blueskywaters.com.


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