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Ayers Creek Farm Newsletter January 20 2013 Market

Sarah West

The van will be redolent with the fragrance of roots and leeks as we crawl over Bald peak on our way to the Hillsdale Farmers' Market this Sunday. We have the able assistance of Sam O'Keefe, a family friend who will make sure we are ready when the old cowbell tolls at 10:00 AM.

Monday, we will give a presentation before a joint meeting of the Avid Gardeners and the Willamette Farm and Food Coalition. It is open to the public and will take place at the Garden Club at 1645 High Street in Eugene. We will be sharing our thoughts on growing fruits and vegetables at the 45th parallel, replete with various digressions. The meeting starts at 6:30. Please stop by if you are in the neighborhood.

Here is what we will bring to the market:

Cornmeal and Popcorn  

Pumpkin Seed Project, Year 3:

Three years ago, we planted a row of naked pumpkin seeds as a trial. The hulless or naked pumpkin seed originated in Styria, a region of Austria. Pumpkin seeds are roasted and pressed for their oil, a characteristic food of the region. In the late 19th century, an observant Styrian farmer found a pumpkin where the tough hull was reduced to papery covering. Apparently, Austria is not considered a sexy land of origin in the seed catalogue land, so some seed companies list them as unique Japanese pumpkins. Echos of calling prunes from Germany "Italian Prunes."

The mice quickly volunteered as tasters, eating every last seed and leaving naught but a hole. Obviously, the mice had decided pumpkin seeds were tasty, so we hastily set out a few more as seedlings and harvested six or seven fruits. Upon harvest, we agreed that mice have a good palate.

We repeated the trial in 2011 and discovered the seed companies have done a poor job of managing the seed. Most of the fruits had various undesirable characteristics, including a tendency to have tough, split or bitter seeds. More than half the pumpkins had to be discarded, their seeds inedible. Bulk naked pumpkin seed costs about $80 per pound - more in the 1/4 pound lots we usually buy - and should produce a reliable crop. Unfortunately, we are encountering similar seed quality problems for other crops.

Last spring we ordered seed from several sources and picked through thousands of seeds, finding just 100 with the characteristics we wanted, discarding the rest. Cost was about $1.00 per seed, plus labor. We planted them and all but two of the plants produced good seeds. Ten of the pumpkins yielded beautiful plump, dark seeds easy to separate from the fruit pulp. We have reserved these for this year's planting. When we harvest the pumpkins in the autumn, we will again carefully select the fruits for seed.

Our goal is to produce a pumpkin that produces flavorful, high quality seeds that are easily removed by hand from the fruit's cavity. It will take a couple more years before we iron out all of the genetic kinks, but we are making progress. This year, we have the flavor nailed, even if the seed removal remained tedious.  These Austrian pumpkin seeds are delicious raw or roasted in a dry skillet until they pop. Wonderful addition to soups and salads. Supply is limited.

Pulses: Dry beans and chick peas.  

Cayenne Peppers: whole dried.

Winter Squash  

Greens: leeks, chicories and mustard/turnip/radish greens.

Preserves:  Full complement, including some gift boxes. We are waiting for the cherry preserve labels. We will have them by the next market.

Sweet Underground: horseradish, lots of beets, spuds, daikon, knob celery, sweet potatoes, parsnips.  

Colwell's Marriott Krensuppe

There is not much horseradish lobby, so its wonderful health benefits are barely explored and publicized. For example, digging it offers wonderful cardiovascular stimulation. In addition, it is clearly an aphrodisiac as we love putting it on all manner of foods. Linda Colwell, who shares our affection for this mulish root and helps us dig it for the farmers’ market, recreated two krensuppe recipes from lasting memories of a soup we enjoyed years ago.

A strike at Charles DeGaulle Airport had thrown the European airline schedules out the window, necessitating a layover in Frankfort, Germany. We were given a room in a Marriott Hotel miles from anywhere and quite late in the evening. The dining room did not look promising at first, but reading the menu we relaxed. The fare was simple German cooking using local ingredients. Among the soups offered was krensuppe. It was actually two soups; a red and a white soup served in the same bowl.

Although they can be served on their own, the red and the white versions together in a soup bowl make a striking visual display and, with the shared horseradish, harmonize wonderfully on the palate. The colors, by coincidence, are those of the Austrian flag, and horseradish soups are part of Austrian cuisine. Served hot or cold, they provide good vegetarian fare. The third version is from an old Romanian cookbook of Linda's. It uses beef stock, roux, and a very generous quantity of horseradish. The grated root is cooked with the flour, softening its flavor in the soup; the flavor is peppery and mellow.
 
Red and White Horseradish Soup
 
to make the horseradish and potato soup
 
30 gr (1 ounce) butter
½ medium onion, diced
600 gr (20 ounces) potatoes, peeled and cubed
1 liter (6 cups) water
1 teaspoon salt
4 tablespoons, more or less, freshly grated horseradish
 
In a large enameled pot, melt the butter and cook the onion in it over medium-low heat for about 15 minutes, until the onion is translucent and soft but not brown. Add the potatoes, water, and salt. Simmer over low heat until the potatoes fall apart, then cool them to room temperature.
 
Purée the ingredients through the medium plate of a food mill. Bring the soup to a simmer, taste, season accordingly. Add freshly grated horseradish to taste.
 
to make the horseradish and beet soup
 
900 gr (2 pounds) beets
500 ml (3 cups) water
2 teaspoons red-wine vinegar
1 teaspoon salt
4 tablespoons, more or less, freshly grated horseradish
 
Cook the whole beets in their skins in heavily salted water until tender. When cool enough to handle, peel and cube them. Pass them through the medium plate of a food mill into a large enameled pot. Add the water, vinegar, and salt. Bring to a simmer, taste, and season accordingly. Add freshly grated horseradish to taste.
 
to serve the soups
Ladle the beet soup into one side of a shallow soup bowl and the potato soup into the other side, so the soups meet in a line down the middle. Serves 6.
 
Horseradish Broth Soup
 
30 gr (1 ounce) butter
200 gr (2 cups grated) horseradish
30 gr (2 tablespoons) flour
1 teaspoon salt
1 liter (6 cups) beef broth, heated to a simmer
120 ml (½ cup) heavy cream
bread and butter for croûtons
 
In an enameled cast-iron pot, melt the butter over medium-low heat. Add the horseradish, and cook until wilted and soft, about 4 minutes. Add the flour and salt and cook thoroughly without browning. Add the hot broth slowly, whisking to prevent lumps. Simmer 10 minutes. Add the heavy cream, taste, and season accordingly. Serve hot with croûtons — cubes or slices of bread fried in butter or fat until they are golden brown and crisp — prepared at the last minute so they sizzle as they are scattered on the soup. Serves 4.

Cheers, see you all Sunday

Carol & Anthony