Ziedrich’s cookbooks include Cold Soups, The Joy of Pickling, and The Joy of Jams, Jellies, and Other Sweet Preserves. She keeps a large organic garden on her family homestead east of Albany, Oregon.
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I could have sworn that the only variety of pea I planted this year was English — the kind you shell before eating — but instead we’ve found ourselves struggling to eat our way through a big, continuous crop of flat-podded snow peas.
Although I’ll probably freeze some, I’ve found that peas in their pods, like green beans, are best preserved by pickling.
The other day, I pickled some snow peas using the same method I often follow for pickling snap peas (the kind with rounded but still edible pods). The recipe calls for white-wine vinegar, tarragon, and a quart jar; the resulting pickles are stored in the refrigerator.
Continue reading Pickled peas, please »
In jams, pies, cobblers, and other sweet treats, rhubarb routinely gets paired with strawberries. And for good reasons: rhubarb and strawberries tend to reach the peak of their seasons together, and strawberries disguise the often lackluster color of rhubarb. (Although all-green rhubarb can be attractive on its own; check out my recipe for Green Rhubarb Jam.)
But in a spring as cool the one we’re experiencing in the Pacific Northwest now, local strawberries lag behind the rhubarb. There’s hardly a spot of red in the berry patches yet, and nobody wants to substitute hard, green-centered strawberries from California for sweet, tender red fruits from the garden or farm stand.
Continue reading Frozen blueberries love fresh rhubarb »
During a long, cool spring — like the one we experienced in the Pacific Northwest last year and the one we’re grousing about now — the rare warm day is an occasion for celebration.
In summer, I often try to satisfy my craving for tabbouleh, the Middle Eastern salad of parsley, mint, and bulgur wheat, only to find my parsley gone to seed and my mint old and tough. Spring, not summer, is the best season here for tabbouleh.
But as a main course, at least, tabbouleh is best on a warm day. So one day recently, when the thermometer neared 70 degrees, I set out to make tabbouleh for lunch, with tender parsley, mint, and lettuce from rain-soaked garden beds.
Continue reading Tabbouleh time »
Even as I was curing olives for the first time, in 2009, I knew I’d do it differently in 2010. Cured olives, like breads and wines, are wonderful partly for their variety. I love them green or black, big or little, salty or shriveled, bitter, sour, herbed, or oiled. Both ripeness and curing method, I knew, determined a cured olive’s look and taste. But how much difference did the olive cultivar make? I wasn’t sure.
The olives I ordered in 2009, from M&CP Farms of Orland, California, were green Sevillanos, which grow as large as an inch across and have firm flesh that you must chew off the pit. They were delicious both lye-cured and long-brined. But when M&CP offered another variety, Lucques, in 2010, I ordered them without hesitation.
Continue reading Curing Lucques olives »
While last summer’s blackened tomato vines still hang on their bamboo trellises, the seed catalogs are starting to arrive in my mailbox. Before I get absorbed in dreams of next year’s crop, I need to take stock of this year’s successes and failures.
It’s time to update my running, year-by-year tomato report, which I’m writing with my friend Sally and sharing with whoever cares to read it. Because it seems unfair to judge a tomato variety that I’ve grown only in a year when summer never came (as happened here in western Oregon), I’ll reserve some judgments until next year. But there’s one find I want to share: the oxheart tomato.
Continue reading Oxheart tomatoes »
In the woods one day, my friend Jocelyn saw me eat an Oregon grape, tried one herself, and screamed. I was unfazed; just after my daughter, not yet two years old, had eaten her first Oregon grape, she had pantomimed death throes.
If you were to taste one of these little not-grapes — and I urge you to try one — you too might guess that they were poisonous, for they are very tart and a little bitter. But they are rich in pectin and make a fine jelly. Nearly black in color, the jelly has a grape-like but spicier flavor.
Continue reading The Oregon grape »
“The Gravensteins are almost ripe,” I emailed my mother. “Want some?”
Her reply came five minutes later: “We’ll be down after dinner.”
Still farming at age 80, my parents hadn’t had time to come to dinner for a long time. But they would drop everything and drive two hours for a bucket of Gravenstein apples.
Who wouldn’t? As Luther Burbank wrote, “It has often been said that if the Gravenstein could be had throughout the year, no other apple need be grown.”
This broad green apple, often striped with red, is wonderfully tart, sweet, juicy, and aromatic. It ripens early, beginning in late July, to provide relief from the long hunger for fresh apples. The Gravenstein isn’t a keeper; its short stem often makes it fall, and its moist, crisp flesh bruises easily.
Continue reading World’s best apple »
While happily munching pickled garlic scapes — budding flower stalks, that is — at the Portland restaurant Evoe, my daughter suggested I try pickling some scapes of the many leeks going to seed in my garden.
I had never eaten leek tops before, and the garlic tops at Evoe were a little tough for my taste. Besides, the length and rigidity of either garlic or leek scapes would make them hard to pickle in small quantity; you’d need a very big jar, which you’d want to fill well to avoid wasting vinegar.
Continue reading Pickling leek tops »
Here in western Oregon, summer seems a long way off. The heavy soils that dominate the region are still too wet to plant, and my summer vegetable garden is pot-bound in the greenhouse.
Strawberries are beginning to ripen, and I have even picked a few raspberries, but the 2010 preserving season has yet to begin.
Yesterday, however, I found in my freezer plenty of berries from last year to make a big batch of jam. So I decided to try combining red currants, raspberries, and strawberries in Mixed Berry Jam. The results were — well, see for yourself.
Continue reading Mixed berry jam »
Very old preserving books always include candied angelica, and I wanted to continue this tradition in The Joy of Jams, Jellies, and Other Sweet Preserves. I ended up leaving out this herb, though, because I’d never managed to grow it. In fact, I didn’t even know what it tasted like.
But last year, luckily, I found a start at Nichols (a local seed company in Albany, Oregon, and one of my favorites), and the plant has happily sprung back despite the extreme cold of December. So over the past week, for the first time, I have candied angelica.
Angelica is a member of the genus Umbelliferae, which provides an awesome assortment of flavors for the kitchen. Other family members include parsley, carrot, parsnip, fennel, anise, coriander, celery, dill, cumin, lovage, and caraway.
Continue reading How to candy angelica »
To my regret, I never got around to curing the fruit of the huge old olive trees on my parents’ California ranch, which they have long since sold. Like many other gardeners in the Pacific Northwest, I now have my own little olive tree, of the hardy Arbequina variety, and I await the first crop with greedy anticipation.
Last year, though, I got to wondering: In the age of the Internet and overnight delivery, did I have to wait? Could I buy some fresh olives to cure at home?
In fact, I could. For less than $30, I had 10 pounds of green Sevillanos delivered to my door in early September. I looked them over carefully; you don’t want to cure olives that are bruised or otherwise damaged. Nearly all were perfect. I grabbed my copy of the University of California’s Olives: Safe Methods for Home Pickling, and studied up.
Continue reading Cure your own olives »
Four consecutive days of below-freezing temperatures recently put an end to the remains of my vegetable garden.
As in many years past, I was late in digging carrots and setting up plastic tents over the greens (which might actually have survived if I’d included an electric heater, set on high). After three days of bitter cold, I dug up the carrot bed, in frozen chunks six inches deep, and set the blocks in the garage to thaw.
I also dug up two enormous bulbs of Florence fennel, the kind sold in stores as anise (which it isn’t) or finocchio (Italian for “fennel”). The bulbs were frozen through.
Continue reading A new use for fennel »
A few days ago, while tearing up the sorrel that had invaded my rhubarb bed, I took care to separate the leaves from the creeping roots. The roots I left on the ground to rot; the leaves I took into the house for soup.
In past years I have grown French sorrel, Rumex scutatus, which has relatively large, shield-shaped leaves, but this Eurasian perennial has never survived our wet winters. I might one day try garden sorrel R. acetosa, which has big leaves shaped like arrowheads and grows well in England. But for now I may as well enjoy my field sorrel, or sheep sorrel, R. acetosella, with its small, arrowhead-shaped leaves.
Continue reading A good weed »
When sunlight streams through the red and yellow grape leaves as if they’re made of greased paper, when the walnut spreads a gold carpet of leaves across the driveway and pelts the roof with its black-husked nuts, when the new grass shimmers as green as in April and everything looks brighter in the clean air, it’s time to bring in the pumpkins and other winter squashes.
They should be hard-shelled and full-colored now, dark green as the cedars, yellow and orange and red as the leaves dropping all around. The thick stems of the maximas should have turned woody, ready to separate from the dying vines. You need strong clippers for the bigger pepos; cut the stems to just an inch or two. Be careful not to break off a stem, or rot will set in early at the wound site.
Continue reading A tribute to winter squashes »
My neighbor Roxanne called to thank me for “the magic beans.” I was surprised; how did she know I called them magic beans? I hadn’t mentioned the beans at all when I’d handed her husband a brown bag that also contained cucumbers and tomatoes from the garden.
“They’re magic,” Roxanne explained, “because they’re the best beans we’ve ever eaten.”
This was high praise from the wife of a man who grew green beans for 85 or so of his 90-some years, though he doesn’t grow them anymore, now that he is permanently bent in a planting posture. I agreed with Roxanne that these beans were the best, and then I explained why I call them magic beans.
Continue reading Magic beans from Spain »
The Friends of the Library are coming tomorrow for a potluck. Tidy gardeners all, they are sure to frown on that patch of dried-out nigella stalks by the blueberries. This gives me extra incentive to harvest the seeds today.
Nigella damascena, or love-in-a-mist, is an annual beloved by less-tidy flower gardeners for its lovely little blue flowers surrounded by delicate, lacy foliage. The flowers develop into pods rather like those of opium poppies. When the pale green pods have turned golden and their little black seeds rattle inside, many gardeners cut the stalks and save them for winter arrangements.
Continue reading Harvesting ‘love-in-a-mist’ »
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