Stalking the “Wild” Asparagus

I’m a forager wannabe, as my regular readers know well. I’ve been known to pick dandelions for the rabbit and to incorporate into salads, pesto – you name it. When Chuck and I take walks, we’ve learned the location of raspberry bushes that no one harvests.

I have my perennial rhubarb and a raspberry patch that is slowly but surely recovering from its near-destruction in the building of the new garage. I have my annual garden patch with tomatoes, peppers, and whatever decides to bloom where I plant it. So far, that includes potential for zucchini, spinach, parsley, peas, and perhaps butterfly garden flowers. Maybe.

I bought the butterfly garden seed-infused mat from a recent online auction. My main objective in this auction was a 10 inch cast iron skillet, and as long as I was bidding, I dropped a minimum bid of $2 on the butterfly garden. Now, I have no idea how old this batch of seeds might be, or how many of those seeds were stolen by the cardinal family in the backyard. I tore the mat apart to spread it out to fill the space, and it fell to pieces. Is that good or bad? No, don’t answer that. Here’s the result.

Lovely? Not yet. I planted peas in the spaces in between the mats.

But I’m off on a tangent. I didn’t start out to talk about the potential butterfly garden. I actually started out talking about foraging in the great urban-slash-suburban cityscape. I was at a most unlikely place when I saw asparagus growing. The airport, my friends, it was the airport. While waiting for Petunia’s plane to arrive, I kept myself busy playing Pokemon Go. Out of the corner of my eye, I noticed that a gravel landscape between the parking and the pick-up areas had a speck of green in it.

The wind was blowing hard and blowing cold, so I did not get out of the minivan to take a close-up. The signs that said “No Unoccupied Vehicles” might have had something to do with that, too.

Well, there you have it, people. I found asparagus growing in the gravel at the local airport. Foraging now is simply fun. If it ever becomes a necessity, you’ll want to be with me. No matter where we are, we’ll stalk something edible.

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Rhubarb Season!

It’s that time again. I hadn’t been able to get to the rhubarb patch due to illness followed by bad weather followed by the siding project. By the time I got to it, harvesting and weeding were all happening at the same time. I ended up with about 5 – 6 cups of the delicious tart fruit, and I searched my cookbooks for an easy way to use it.

Daisy’s Rhubarb Compote

  • 4 cups fresh rhubarb, cleaned and finely diced
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup orange juice
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger

Combine all ingredients in a large saucepan. Bring to a boil. Reduce to medium heat and cook for 15 minutes, stirring frequently. Rhubarb should be soft and sauce thick. Serve either warm or cold, but my recommendation is to serve it warm with a dollop (you choose the size) of whipped cream. I suppose vanilla ice cream would do, too.

This compote, like a thick applesauce, had a nice tasty kick to it. I might try adding orange zest or ground ginger to my rhubarb barbecue sauce next time I make it.

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The Daisy Reality Show Returns and Reminisces

Readers, if you haven’t been around long enough to recognize the Daisy Reality Show, here’s a brief introduction.

Daisy (yours truly) hosts a reality show at the O.K. Chorale. The show’s director and her bumbling assistant keep the show on track and provide a running commentary off-screen. This episode “aired” in late summer of 2013, two years before the surprise guest was recruited to become Speaker of the House. Oh, sorry. Was that a spoiler? Well, here goes.

Daisy: I’m baking cookies this afternoon. We have no snack foods worth eating. Well, few snack foods in the house. Peanuts, cashews, the makings for trail mix – that’s it.

Assistant: I see chips. What’s wrong with potato chips?

He had to ask, didn’t he?

Daisy: It’s like Michael Pollan says in his Food Rules: Eat food, not too much, mostly plants. In this case, I’m following his advice that whole foods are better than processed foods and junk food is okay in moderation when I make it myself.

Assistant (pretending to understand): Oh.

Daisy’s cell phone chirps, indicating a text message. 

Daisy: Oh, it’s La Petite. She says:

So we were sitting at the fair eating ice cream and I spotted something terrifying — Paul Ryan.

Daisy (Laughing): That’s my daughter, a good progressive young woman! I’ll respond and tell her to run, run fast, run far in the other direction.

Director: Oh, I remember you were a volunteer for Obama last year. Was it really only a year ago?

Daisy (texting): It’s been a very full year. La Petite lives in Paul Ryan’s congressional district, and she took great pleasure in voting against him twice last November.

Assistant: She voted twice? Daisy’s phone chirps again. 

Daisy: Here’s the next one!

I was walking towards him to document this with my camera and cousin Doodles, age 2, followed. Her mom was all like, “No, nooooo! Don’t get too close!”

And then, after Daisy responds with “He didn’t try to talk to her, did he? Scary.”

No, I didn’t want to talk to him either, so I stayed my distance. Took a photo of people in line to greet him.

Assistant: Twice? Is that legal?

Daisy: She voted for his opposition in two different races — Congress and Vice President.

Assistant: Oh. Um — never mind. Oh.

Daisy: Back to cookies! Real food for snacks at the O.K. Chorale.

Director: Camera One, zoom in on the cookbook.

Daisy: The recipe is on my blog.

Director: Camera One, zoom in on the laptop on the kitchen counter.

Readers, with the exception of the reality show, this post is entirely true. Cookies can be a good snack, I looked up the recipe on a previous post of Compost Happens, and La Petite really did text me the conversation above. She was mixing work with pleasure by photographing the county fair for the local paper and spending time there with her adorable toddler cousin and family.  

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What Free Lunch Really Means

Subtitle: a story told through experiences

I once worked in a child care center that served several programs for low income families. Some of our kids had parents in prison. Some children were in foster care. A fair number were living in what we called “risky homes” – families where abuse and neglect happened, but not severely enough to remove them from the home.

These children were hungry. On Monday mornings, they dug into their breakfasts like they hadn’t eaten in days – and sometimes that was precisely the case. We planned our Monday morning meal accordingly – often oatmeal, because it was inexpensive, nutritious, and filling.

Fast forward several years to my first teaching job, in which I learned about free and reduced lunch. One indicator of the importance of this program showed on half days – those days that dismissed students before lunch and had meetings and training sessions in the afternoon. Attendance was weak, very weak, on days that the school did not serve lunch.

Fast forward again, same school, same neighborhood, same large number of low-income families. Our school meals program earned a grant to provide Grab and Go lunches on half days. These were essentially bag lunches with a sandwich and fruit and a small juice box or milk. Do you see where I’m going? Half day attendance picked up in a big, big way. Kids who straggled in late would greet me with “Can I still order lunch?”

I learned even more as I became aware of the McKinney-Vento Act, a program for homeless students. When a family becomes eligible for services through McKinney-Vento, one of the first things that happens is automatic free breakfast and lunch. The family doesn’t need to jump through the usual paperwork hoops required to qualify for free or reduced meals. When a family’s housing is insecure, schools make sure that the students in that family have at least two meals a day.

I’m not quoting numbers or dry statistics, my friends. I’m speaking from my own experiences. Now imagine: if this is my experience, in a relatively stable community like Happy Valley, the need that we label “food security” must be even more widespread in inner cities and poor rural areas.

And in Betsy DeVos’ experience? I’ll rephrase that. Betsy DeVos, the completely unqualified Secretary of Education, has no relevant experience. She has no idea how important free and reduced meals can be for families. She has no idea how feeding a child makes it possible for that child to grow, to feel safe, and ultimately, to learn.

Free meals matter. That’s the bottom line.

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Planting Season?

The Burpee seed catalog came a few days ago.

I decided to try an experiment I saw on Facebook.

These two are unrelated, unless you consider that fact that I am Daisy, the one who approaches new experiences and ideas with, “Hey, could I grow that?”

I haven’t opened the catalog yet, but it won’t be long. I might start with a quick inventory of seeds I already own. I reorganized my seed collection last August to make inventory easier.

The Facebook experiment came in the form of a short video. Lop off the base of a head of leafy lettuce, soak it in water for a week, and then plant it. Easy, right?

I cut off pieces from two kinds of bunny food:- romaine lettuce and green leaf lettuce. Each hunk of lettuce got dropped into a wide mouth canning jar with a few inches of water. Then, good gardener that I am, I waited. And I waited. I kept looking for roots to grow or signs of sending out shoots from the bottom. Nothing. I waited the seven days and a few more, and still saw nothing in the way of rooting material.

Chuck commented, “At least they’re not dead,” which prompted me to back off a little. Sure enough, he’d noticed new growth at the top of each lettuce head. I’d been looking at the bottom. I decided to try the next step: planting.

Small, but very green, this has potential.

I also planted a few green onions. The onions have root balls, but they’ve been sitting in the cold garage since late October. I don’t know if they’ll grow or not. With that in mind, I also planted a toothbrush.

A toothbrush?

Yes, people, I planted a toothbrush. While I monitor the scallions in the hopes that they’ll thaw and grow, I’ll also monitor a toothbrush. My sister-in-law passed it on to me, saying it was supposed to be biodegradable and would I please test it? Of course! I left a little bit sticking out so we can observe and evaluate the process. Heck, it works with tongue depressors and craft sticks.

And now, I wait. There’s a catalog to browse while I let the greens grow and the toothbrush decays.

Readers, do you plant indoors? Have you tried any of the lettuce experiments?

 

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Depression Cake – another variation

Here’s the original recipe.

Depression Cake
(Named for a historical time period, not the illness)

2 cups granulated sugar
2 cups strong coffee
2 cups raisins or currants or chopped dates
½ cup applesauce
2 cups all-purpose flour (or 1 cup all-purpose, 1 cup whole wheat)
2 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. each ground cinnamon, allspice, cloves, and nutmeg
1 cup chopped walnuts or almonds (optional)
Powdered sugar for garnish (or serve with whipped topping)

Preheat oven to 350.
In large saucepan, combine granulated sugar, coffee, raisins, and applesauce. Simmer 10 minutes. In large bowl, blend remaining ingredients, except powdered sugar. Stir raisin mixture into flour mixture. Pour batter into well-greased and floured 13 by 9 pan. Bake at least 30-40 minutes, until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean.

Let cool. Sprinkle with powdered sugar or serve with whipped topping.

Adapted from a recipe in a California Raisin cookbook put out at least fifteen years ago.

Here’s how I really made it. The apple preserves are more like a homemade and home canned apple pie filling. I’d made cranberry sauce that morning, so the saucepan had some stuck to its sides, leaving a hint of cranberry flavor.

Depression Cake
(Named for a historical time period, in the hopes that our leaders learn from the past so as not to repeat it)

2 cups granulated sugar
Strong coffee and apple preserves, enough to make 2 cups
1 cups raisins
2 cups whole wheat pastry flour
2 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. each ground cinnamon, allspice, cloves, and nutmeg
1 cup chopped walnuts

Preheat oven to 350.
In large saucepan (still sticky with cranberry sauce), combine granulated sugar, coffee, raisins, and apple preserves. Simmer 10 minutes. In large bowl, blend remaining ingredients. Stir raisin mixture into flour mixture. Pour batter into well-greased and floured 13 by 9 pan. Bake at least 30-40 minutes, until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean.

Let cool. Sprinkle with powdered sugar or serve with whipped topping.

Adapted from a recipe I’ve had for years – I never make it the same way twice, but it’s always delicious.

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Jar Variety

The batch of jars from a recent estate auction contained some interesting variations in size and shape. Several were the basic half-pint jelly jar size and design. Some were different.

Milk bottle, perhaps?

Milk bottle, perhaps?

Old fashioned lid - slightly odd shape

Old fashioned lid – slightly odd shape

Some had the word “freezer” embossed on them. Most were Ball; a few said Kerr. Two or three lids, the solid gray lids – does anyone know what they’re made of? I’ve seen lamps and hanging lights made from jars with this type of lid, so I’m not quite ready to throw them away.

For now, I’m sorting and storing those that are clean and suitable for food storage. The others might become…well, who knows? It’s all part of the fun of finding and procuring and using old jars.

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Cranberry Sauce – Daisy’s Way

1-2-3 Cranberry Sauce

1 cup water
2 cups sugar
3 cups cranberries

Bring to a boil, then simmer 20 minutes or until all the berries have burst. Add cinnamon to taste. Serve warm.

Now, the backstory. I brought this recipe home from kindergarten on a sheet of construction paper. We made it at home since it was so easy. It became a standard at Thanksgiving dinner, the tradition lasting long after the original paper faded.
A generation later, my kids started helping me make it every year. If we have leftover cranberry sauce, I use it in jello or add it to muffins. This little piece of my “saucy” childhood continues, along with Thanksgiving memories that will never fade.

Have a wondering Thanksgiving, readers.

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Progress in healing

Yet another cabinet member has been announced to a fanfare of “Oh, no!” Amigo didn’t remember the name, but he remembered enough to inform me that the new Secretary of Education will be a “billionaire school choice advocate.” I can only take so many of these announcements. They’re bad for my blood pressure. In the interest of my own health, let’s look for some silver linings.

The next time a woman runs for president, she will not have to jump the same hoops that Hillary did. Trailblazers, Geraldine Ferraro and Hillary Clinton included, blazed a trail so that others can follow.

Tomorrow is Thanksgiving. We’re bringing mashed potatoes, butternut squash, Packer veggies (peas and corn), and cranberry sauce. Have I forgotten anything? La Petite will bring the wine. The potatoes are in the crock pot as I type. Oh, pies! I bought pies from a local bakery this morning.

The nearby meat market (I love that place) was hopping. In fact, I changed my route to avoid the traffic on their corner as I was on the way to the bakery, another small business I love. I walked in, paused to inhale, and then picked up a box of cookies while I waited for my turn. The problem with shopping at a local bakery is simple; I always come out with more than I planned to buy. Problem? Maybe that’s not a problem. Small Business Saturday is coming up, and I saw two small businesses that were doing well already today.

Amigo has already found Internet radio stations that are playing 100% Christmas music. I’ll make a list, check it twice, and bookmark a few to listen to at work. Now if I can stop myself from singing along…

I predict January will bring another down period. This inauguration will be hard to take. But for now, let’s look at positives. For those who celebrate, enjoy your Thanksgiving.

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Buying a Dishwasher – fun?

We did the research online before heading to the Big Box store. On the short drive there, I tapped into as many Pokemon Stops as I could (to fill my bag with balls, etc.), and Chuck told me all about the features we could get.

Sales Dude in Blue approached, and we welcomed him. He knew what he needed to know, so we asked our questions, got answers, made our decision, and ordered a dishwasher to be delivered and installed in a few weeks.

That’s the short story.

Somehow, within this entire shopping journey, we discovered that we have a great deal in common with Sales Dude in Blue. Gardening, canning, foraging. Foraging! Water conservation, rain barrels, desire to see more cities rewarding those who conserve. Cataract surgery. Cataract surgery? Yes, indeed, Sales Dude in Blue recognized a particular glint that indicates eye surgery, and asked if I was satisfied with my results. For the most part, yes, I answered. If the left retina had stayed attached, I’d be more content.

But anyway, we’re replacing our aging dishwasher in a few weeks. Days, in fact, before Election Day. Oh, my, even the behavior of a major appliance can make me think of November 8th. I sense a theme here.

We didn’t talk politics with Sales Dude in Blue. We didn’t need to. And when we’ve had the dishwasher for a few days and Election Day is done, I’ll have more reasons to sigh with relief.

 

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