While I’ve been cooking 3 square meals a day here so far, I haven’t gotten to focus on food as much as I’d like – taking pictures and really putting flavors,, textures and colors together like they deserve to be. Mostly just soaking beans, thawing lamb sausage, pressure-cooking rice, and tossing into a soup pot whatever vegetables were gleaned from the over-winterers in the high tunnel; or simply what the fridge saw fit to throw at me. But today with it raining outside, a lot fo our plans were put on the back-burner (literally or figuratively – you decide) and I was able to dispel some of my creative kitchen energy. Come forth Chickweed & Parsley Pesto w/Chives. (Gathered entirely within 1-acre of the back door.)
After weeding the high tunnel yesterday and sparing those ‘weeds’ that actually make for great cash crops (dandelion, chickweed and bolted veggies like bok choy and mizuna; edible flowers anybody?) I went in to harvest a few handfuls of chickweed growing amongst the thriving and robust parsley, of which I nipped a few sections. Turned around and sliced through a handful of chives from the next bed, and while I was in there harvested some spinach also.
I then high-tailed it through the mud and drizzle and upon returning to the kitchen – sans muckboots and zip-off rainpants – I pulled out the blender from its resting spot, gave it a nice situation on the counter, and put my greens in the dish pan to soak in cold water.
All this ‘recipe’ calls for is:
-About 2 cups of chickweed
-About 1 cup of parsley
-About 7 long chives
-About 1/3 cup olive oil
-About however many of whatever kind of nuts you prefer (I used walnuts, a small handful)
-And some sea salt (duh)
This got blended up to a nice, smooth blender consistency with the delightfully surprising crunchy fullness and texture the nuts lend. This pesto was a vibrant and alive! green color (Dr. Seuss would be proud,) satisfying eyes, tastebuds, belly and even limbs.
In order to enjoy this best, it is recommended you also take (from the same acre mind you) some homemade bread, toast it, slather it with homemade mayonnaise (with local yolks) and top the plate off with a side of some meat you’ve procured from the premises as well, in this case: rack of lamb, seasoned with salt, pepper and red wine vinegar and roasted til done. YUM!
And if you’re feeling extra local and generous to yourself, you should finish up with some local honey on another piece of that bread you made.
Onto to other farm news:
The sheep are doing well! 5 lambs so far, 2 had to be tube-fed for a couple of days as their mom’s udder just isn’t up to any production (she’ll be a great “taste” of the acre come Fall.) But now they’re suckling from a bucket fitted with a nipple attachment and doing quite nicely. 2 more ewes look as though they’re about to pop, you can see the kicking around inside of them when they’re lying down, but they just keep chewing their cud and pawing the ground (a sign of mothering instincts.)
We got 2 beds of lettuce planted yesterday, it felt so good to finally be working the ground and planting again! First we raked off the covering of hay from the surveyed and marked beds (3ft wide to 2ft paths,) then pulled up any obnoxious grass and dock that just wouldn’t be subdued, used the wheel-hoe to upearth about 2 inches into the ground, raked it level then used the furrower to create 7 evenly-spaced rows for the seeds to rest in. The bed was then given a moderate dose of hydrated lime and planting proceeded! Tat soi, mizuna and arugula to one bed (a great salad combo!) and green romaine and red romaine to the next one. The beds were then gone over by the back of the rake and tamped down lightly to “tuck the seeds into their beds.” Floating row covers topped all this off to protect them from the downpours in the forecast for the next few days and we now can sit back and look proudly at the bed of vegetables that are growing for harvest now (yeah right, for like 4 minutes – we’re a working farm here!)
Back to that unsubdued dock – it’s actually a great medicinal plant. Rumex crispus being the latin name, it’s also known as yellow dock, broad dock or patience dock. The root holds the medicinal qualities and has a bitter/sweetish taste and bright yellow color. It targets the liver and intestines mainly and is a good blood tonic. I love to pair it in formulas with other herbs like burdock root and dandelion root.
Normally, you would harvest medicinal roots in the fall when they’re storing up their energy down there for the winter, but as we don’t want this invasive plant invading the gardens this summer, and since the ground was nice a pliable what with all this rain – today was the day the dock was getting dug.
At first glance you might not this this little weed is of much consequence, especially this early in the year, right? Wrong. Honey, let me tell you this little plant’s taproot is incredible! It takes your whole weight on a garden fork to pry it out of the ground; and no wonder – some of the taproots are up to 18″ long! Skinny, but stubborn. So after about 2 hours of pulling up 200 dock plants (apparently they don’t like to live alone, they get lonely and invite 20 of their friends to come live there too,) I fed the green tops to the sheep, washed the long yellow roots and laid them to dry on a piece of metal fencing in the barn. I’ll tincture some of them in 100 proof vodka for about 6 months and either save the rest for future use or sell them at market in a tea blend I’m coming up with in my head right now. Something to the effect of ‘Spring Awakening; a Blend of Herbs to Spring Clean Your System.’