It’s Soup Now!

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Reading Magnifico’s #2 story about how global warming is affecting the oceans on today’s Four at Four and Inky99’s warning about GM foods (which also came in my Organic Consumer’s Association newsletter today) made me shake my head again at the sheer insantity of how we do things in the modern world. It’s not so hard to get decent food without causing a dead zone or contaminating everybody’s water with arsenic or Building Better SuperWeeds through Genetic Modification and all…

Now that my corner of southern Appalachia is officially no longer suffering serious drought (my place never did, but then again, it is a temperate rain forest by nature), I only get to do my garden chores in between downpours that have my sandals caked with mud, my gloves so slick-wet they give me blisters, and every pair of calf-length jeans I own now brown-red from the knees down. So it has been today.

I don’t mind rain, it helps keep things semi-cool although seriously muggy, and I can’t garden in the sunshine anyway because hats bug me and my freckles are never going to run together to give me a decent tan. So these rainy late spring days allow me to get ahead of the weeds a little bit without having to get up at daybreak or be outside during ‘skeeter-swarm in the evenings. I just slather on the bug repellant, tie up the oversized tee-shirt, don the gloves and head out.

Planted peppers today. That involved raking the 2 feet deep pile of leaves that’s been smothering turf on the third tier over to the side to expose the mushy underside and its burgeoning population of fat earthworms, then digging holes here and there into the soft dirt (no-till is great once you’ve got things under control) and plopping the seedlings into the earth. Don’t even have to water them in, because sure enough it rained the minute I was done. Anaheims, cherry hots, tobascos, serranos, jalapenos (think I’ll try to chipotle this year) and ‘the usual’ dozen habaneros for Aunt Granny’s Satanic Hot Sauce. The kids love that stuff, I don’t know why…

Hoed and weeded the experimental peanuts – just a few plants to see if they’ll grow here, so far they don’t like it much – as well as the bunching onions (red and white), the carrots spaced very oddly since the downpour waterfall washed the seeds into strange places, the leeks, the bulb onions (red and white, and I also mulched them up), the potatoes, the peas, the greens (collards and kale), and the tomatoes that will have to be staked this week at last. BEFORE I planted the peppers. I don’t get a lot of help in the garden, but that never stops anyone in the household from eating whatever comes in! It’s sweaty work, but very satisfying.

Amidst all this I managed to harvest about a dozen smallish collard leaves, a bunch of fingerling carrots from thinnings, 4 half-fist size new red potatoes (grown under mulch so all you have to do is roll it back), and the first dozen ripe pea pods. On the way back to the kitchen I pinched off sprigs of rosemary, oregano, sage and thyme. Still have celery and three overripe tomatoes I got from a friend last weekend, so tonight’s dinner was obvious… veggie soup!

First thing is to put about 3 quarts of water in the soup pot and turn it on to boil. I drop in all the herbs as-picked to let them simmer while I chop up the other stuff and put it all in a bowl to add later. Carrots, celery, collards, a big vidalia onion, and potatoes. Cut the tomatoes, set aside. After the water’s boiled with the herbs for about 20 minutes (how long all the chopping takes), I fish them out – this is why it’s good to keep the sprigs whole, they’re easier to fish – and drop in a couple of bay leaves. Add two teaspoons of salt and a quarter teaspoon of white pepper, then stir in the chopped veggies and shelled peas. I added a half a can of from-dry black beans (organic) because I had it in the fridge from making tamales the other day, and a pint of tomato juice canned from last year’s garden. Let it cook for half an hour and voila! Best Organic Veggie Soup On The Planet.

You know this kind of food. Goes great with fresh cornbread and/or whole wheat crackers. I’d made some earlier today with flax, black sesame and shelled pumpkin seeds. Delicious! You can feel the vitamins and minerals coursing through your veins when you eat like this. Why, if you don’t watch out, you might find yourself feeling healthier, having more energy and stamina, looking on the sunny side of life!

I grow as much as I can, I trade with neighbors who also grow organically, I visit the organic section of the regional farmer’s market in A-ville (and buy as much as I can when I get that chance, whatever’s in fresh), and haunt the organics parts of our area grocery stores, where they all carry organics because demand is so very high here. Why, we can buy a can of organic beans for just two cents more than the ‘regular’ kind, and that’s definitely worth it. Just beans, water, salt.

It’s honestly not that hard to grow organic. Or buy organic. Or eat organic. Or even to cook organic, if you like plain food like my family does. Tonight’s soup will be put in the fridge when the boys are done with their seconds and thirds, it’ll be great lunch tomorrow. I’ve built a solar food dryer, will be trying my hand at drying things I usually freeze or can, hoping this no-energy way to preserve will work out really well. And since I’m down to the last jar of balsamic from the muscodines 3 years ago, it looks like my grapes won’t be wine again this year. I can’t wait to dry pears and apples! All this is just the work, I won’t have to worry about electricity going out to ruin the frozen veggies, won’t have to boil jars, buy lids or suffer the water bath on the patio grill to can everything else. Dry, I hear, is safer and lasts longer.

It may be too late to start a garden where you live, but you can always grow tomatoes, peppers, greens, lettuce, peas, herbs and such in pots on a sunny patio or porch. It’s fun! You can, if you’ve got any money at all and a Saturday off, go to your local or regional farmer’s market and see what’s in and ripe and so fresh and tasty you can’t believe it. You could buy a box-lot of whatever’s cheap, try your hand at preserving. You could learn to make big batches and freeze quart jars of soup or stew or whatevers to eat sometime down the road. You could grow your own sprouts to go with your clipped windowbox lettuces and take ’em for lunch during the week at work. You could save your fresh veggie trimmings and learn to make your own V-8 pick-me-up juice…

As for me, I’m big on homemade sourdough bread, herbed pastas and colorful cornmeal. Have a grinder and warm my kitchen all winter with fresh baked goodies. So I’m trying my hand at growing organic wheat, amaranth, oats and rye. Not much to start with – just to see if it’ll grow without me having to do too much tending. But right now all this typing has me ready for seconds, and it’s soup now! See ya at the farmer’s market… §;o)

Garden Granny

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  1. Wonderful town, was thinking of moving there in the early nineties.

  2. http://www.veggietrader.com/

    It’s like freecycle for food, sorta.

    Have a loaf of rosemary bread going in the machine now. (I’m a sysadmin. I firmly believe in machines doing most of the work, LOL!) Trying to find out if the non-rising problem was the whole wheat flour I got on sale in bulk being too old, or the Flieschmann’s yeast just not able to handle the whole wheat-ness of it, so am testing out a packet of Hodgson’s based on advice from a friend.

    Saw a quasi-secret “victory garden” someone started alongside the railroad tracks the other day. My house doesn’t get enough sun to really grow much, but I do have a few herbs out on the deck and just planted a blueberry bush that I got for my birthday.

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