In kilometers per hour that is. That’s right…I’m in Canada! Sorrento, BC to be exact. About 5 hours north of the border of eastern Washington. 5 hours of driving by fruit stands, farm markets, cabins tucked away in the hillsides above the river, $1.06 per liter gas, the “houseboat capitol of Canada” which is Sicamouse, a couple metropolises and one good sized rainstorm before pulling into the drive of Notch Hill Organics Farm.
Immediately greeted by Sue (owner/farmer) I was taken inside to meet the other full season interns – 4 in all – and given the option of a small camper just outside in the yard or a small walk-in-closet sized room in the house, I opted for the closet. I’ve been in standalone structures the past 2 places I’ve lived and I’m ready to feel I’m not the only one under my roof for a while. And a wise choice it was indeed! The view out my back window is a span of the acres (14) in cultivated fields, the scenic mountain range and……..the train that comes by every half hour – all 48 of them. Thankfully Lawrence, KS, got me used to the rushing and piping of a constant train, so I slept well and full the first night to rise early to a breakfast of farm eggs and homemade granola before venturing out on our first task of the day: covering the female flowers of the zucchini bed in the seed-saving field.
Zucchini (in the Cucurbiteae family) is insect-pollinated and contains both male and female flowers on the same plant. It is relatively easy to recognize the female flowers of the zucchini plant as they are the ones
with a little fruit of a zucchini itself forming (the ovary) while the male flowers merely extend off of a short stem coming off the main stem. The trick is to eyeball the F flower just before it ‘pops’ and promptly place a paper bag over it to keep the M flowers’ pollen (of other varieties in the same family) from cross-pollinating into it. Cucurbits, if insect-pollinated are never true to seed because of the mixing of pollen sources. So, in saving seeds true to name the only way to make sure of the variety is to cover the female flowers; too early in formation and the flower might not develop properly, too late and you risk cross-pollination. To maintain seed purity, we pollinate these plants by hand; if space weren’t an issue, isolation planting away from other varieties of the same species could be done as well.
Hand-pollinating is an easy, breezy, quick and dirty one-flower stand. You take the M flower (it’s easiest to rip off the petals down to the base so the anther is better exposed) and simply rub the pollen-laden anther against the stigma of the F flower which has bloomed in the meanwhile in the bag and readily accepts the donation. Cover it back up with a bag, dispose of the M flower, and in about 2-3 days the fertilization should have taken place and zucchini can go about their normal life.
These fruits will be harvested for their seeds and along with an assortment of other seed-saver veggies and plants (beets, onions, borage and basil to name a few) will be sold to the local, organic seed-savers company down the road.
In the Kitchen:
A wonderful way to use up stale bread is to cut it up into bite-sized chunks, slice up some tomatoes, herbs like basil, cilantro or dill and any other veggie you might have on hand (cucumbers, peppers, cauliflower, etc) add a dash of olive oil along with salt and pepper. Let this soak in the fridge overnight and the next day for lunch, voila! You have a wonderful, moist and flavorful bread salad. You could even add lettuce at the last minute and maybe some balsamic for an added flavor boost. But it’s just as refreshing and satisfying as is. (Strata and bread pudding are some other great options for stale bread too.)
And the scapes are in! Loads of garlic scapes have sprouted and are curling their tails in signal that they are ready to be harvested! 3 handfuls came back into the house with me yesterday afternoon, and along with some bolting cilantro became delicous scape-cilantro pesto. Need I say more?