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From the Garden this Week…

From the Garden this Week…

Lettuce Heads, Summer Squash, Fennel, Cucumbers, Carrots, Thai Basil, Basil, Garlic, Onion, Beets, Peppers, Eggplant, Santa Rosa Plums and/or Apricots

Coming Soon… Tomatoes and Green Beans

Using your Produce… by Julie Moreno

I was had a squash recipe in my mind last week and it came out and on to the table.  Cindi mentioned making a squash gratin and I love the idea, but I didn’t want a heavy rich dish that would hide the squash flavors, so I made several changes to what I found online and then combined it with my mom’s recipe which has southwestern flavor.  I cut the squash by hand and salted it for 30 minutes to drain off excess moisture, then I made a thick roux (flour-butter) with milk and mixed it with the squash and herbs, layered the mix in a casserole dish with a little cheese.  It’s soft and creamy from cooking the squash, but this is a vegetable dish first and cream-based goodness second. Use basil and oregano with Parmesan or you can take it southwest and use a hot chili like I did.

Summer Squash Gratin

5 pieces summer squash

1 & ½ teaspoons salt

2 tablespoons flour

2 tablespoons butter

1 cup milk

¼ cup diced onion

1-2 tablespoons chopped, jalapeno, fresh herbs or 1 teaspoon dried herbs

¼ cup grated cheese

Slice the summer squash into thin slices. You can use a mandolin, but I like a slightly thicker slice for the squash and use my knife.  You can slice them lengthwise or cut coins.  Put the squash into a large bowl, sprinkle with the salt and let sit for 30 minutes. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. While the squash is sitting, melt the butter in a small saucepan and add the flour, mix well for 1 minute. Add the milk to the flour-butter mixture and stir over medium heat until thickened, set aside. Drain the squash in a colander and rinse with water, then let the squash drain completely.  Put the squash back in the bowl and combine with the thickened milk, onion, herbs and cheese, stir well. In a buttered 9-inch casserole dish layer the squash slices, scraping the bowl and covering the squash with any remaining gooey cheese mix.  Bake for 50-60 minutes until bubbly, remove from the oven and let cool for 20-30 minutes. Slice into portions and serve. You can alternatively, let the gratin cool completely, slice when cold and reheat to 140 degrees.

Cucumber Varieties…

We are currently growing four types of cucumbers, but there are hundreds to choose from.  The Marketmore is the traditional slicer that is in the middle of the picture.  On the right is a Suyo Long, you can recognize it by being slightly spinier. The lemon cucumber is shaped like a lemon, some say that it tastes like one, but its flavor is very mild.  Both of these can be peeled, but you can just give it a good massage to remove the spines. The striped Armenian is the cuke on the left, this is technically a melon and therefore it grows well for us in the summer heat.

Thai Basil…

In addition to the traditional Italian basil we grow Thai basil and

Purple basil. This week’s Thai variety has a stronger flavor but you can use it interchangeably with regular basil in pesto or salad.  It holds up better in a cooked dish, so try it in this Thai Basil Chicken Rice Bowl and let the basil flavor shine.

Thai Basil Chicken Rice Bowl

1 cup Jasmine rice

¼ cup water

1 tablespoon reduced sodium soy sauce

1 teaspoon fish sauce (optional)

1 tablespoon light brown sugar

1 tablespoon unseasoned rice vinegar

2 tablespoons oil

1 eggplant, diced 

3 cloves garlic, minced

¼ cups onion, thinly sliced

1 hot chili pepper, thinly sliced

3- 4-ounce chicken breasts thinly sliced

1 1/2 cups packed fresh basil leaves

Cook rice according to package instructions; set aside. In a small bowl, whisk together water, soy sauce, fish sauce, brown sugar and vinegar; set aside. Heat oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the eggplant and cook until soft about 5-6 minutes. Remove the eggplant and add garlic, onions and chili pepper. Cook, stirring frequently, until fragrant, about 1-2 minutes. Add chicken and cook thoroughly, about 3-5 minutes. Stir in the cooked eggplant and sauce mixture and cook, about 2 minutes more. Stir in basil until just wilted, about 30 seconds. Divide rice into bowls. Top with chicken and vegetables. Serve immediately.

Metaphors of Soil and Soul . . . by Ronda May Melendez

Pumpkins and more squash went into the ground this week in the garden. Preparing these rows provided a much-needed reminder that what is below determines the quality of fruit above…and it all starts in the soil. 

Volunteer Pat had gone before me with the broad fork, breaking up the hardness of the ground, exposing where the clumps of really hard dirt were.  Market Garden Professional, Anna, taught me that different plants need differing levels of soil “refinement” (i.e., breaking down), so I went through again, breaking up the bigger clumps. Then, in her sweet, graceful way, she began to spread gypsum. In gardening, gypsum or calcium sulfate, as it is formerly known, offers a two-fold benefit…it removes excess sodium and adds calcium and sulfur, fertilizing the soil with nutrients.   It also helps to break up heavy clay soil.  Then, for the pièce de résistance…the manure. Can I say that even refined manure…still stinks?! Even so, this facet of amendment adds nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium, to provide even more organic matter and growth power. These provide food for the plants that are about to sprout and grow. 

So, it is with us, friends. The soil of our hearts needs amendments in preparation for growth and the producing of fruit in our lives. Are you being broken, at the moment? Does it seem as just as the broad fork as gone through and tore through the ground of life that the finer forks come through to break even more? Is there the scattering of very fine organic matter that stinks and makes it hard to breathe, at moments? If this is what is happening in the landscape of your life, may I offer encouragement? Acknowledge the pain and stinkiness…then, take a deep breath and begin to rejoice. Our saltiness is being removed so that growth isn’t impeded, and nutrients are being added…which means growth and fruit ARE coming! It is simply a matter of time. Let God have His way and for nature to take its intended course. Growth will come.


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