Sunday, June 12, 2011

CSA Week 5 and Pompano

Lots of exciting treats in this week's CSA pickup! A bunch of leeks, various kinds of cucumbers (including two yellow ones!), a huge bag of beets, three turnips, a pile of cured onions (meaning they can be stored on the counter for a long time, as opposed to spring onions, which are right out of the ground and need to be refrigerated and used quickly), and a batch of potatoes, mostly blue ones (my favorites!), as well as mozzarella cheese. Mozzarella! Perfect for the many, many pizzas being made around here these days as a vehicle for eating all the great early summer veggies. Just wait until the tomatoes ripen, it'll be pizza day every day here in Carrboro...

I made it to the Carrboro farmer's market bright and early this week, and lucky I did! The most wonderful and exciting treat was waiting there for me, a treat I missed out on two years ago because it only made a two-day appearance at the market and I waited to purchase it, and in my waiting I lost my opportunity because it sold out entirely. What is it?

Honey from Whitted Bowers Farm! And this is no ordinary honey, no sirree. This is Rob's amazing, raw, biodynamic honey, complete with giraffe cartoon on the jar designed by his six year old daughter, Téa. This Saturday was Rob's first day bringing honey to the market, and given my lost chance to have it two years ago, I jumped on it quickly this go around. I also bought a clove of perfect, perfect garlic from him ("Rob, how do you get your garlic to look this beautiful? It's perfect!" "Well, Rachel, it takes a lot of love."), as well as carrots from Ken at Maple Spring Gardens, and cilantro from Bill at Ayrshire Farm.

I also talked to Bill about my desire to plant cilantro from seed. The cilantro I planted in the garden this spring bolted really quickly, so quickly that I barely got a chance to use any of it. I bought a packet of Santo variety cilantro (coriandrum sativum) which is labeled as a slow bolting, container-compatible variety. I started some seeds in a pot this weekend, and also planted some containers of Purple Petra basil (ocimum basilicum) from seed, a beautiful ornamental and edible basil that I thought would look cute growing in tin cans. This is my first time planting from seeds - I've always used seedlings before - so I'm hopeful that they grow.

In other planting news, I transplanted my first rooting project! I snipped this cutting off the basil plant in the garden a few weeks ago, and after a week or ten days, just when I thought I might need to toss it and start over, I noticed that it had started growing some roots. After a week or two more, the roots were almost two inches long! Time to transplant.

I've had this blue pot for years, but have never successfully used it because it lacks drainage holes. (Why anyone makes pots without drainage holes I cannot understand, but anyway.) I took a hammer and a nail to it yesterday and managed to bust a hole in the bottom without shattering the whole thing. Add some potting soil, water, and the rooted basil plant, and I've got a lovely new addition to my room!

I'm not sure how big this guy will get - basil plants I've grown outdoors get big, fast - but I imagine that given the limits of the container, the plant will naturally restrict itself to growing only to a manageable size.

After gathering advice from a number of farmers and garden store employees, I also decided to take the plunge and throw some beet seeds into the garden. I chose Detroit Dark Red (beta vulgaris) seeds, though I hesitated to purchase them at first because it is so darn hot out, and technically beets are a cooler season plant. But I read online somewhere that it is possible to succession plant beets all summer long, meaning that you plant a row every week or so and then harvest continuously once they ripen. I was advised to try to find a shadier spot for the beets (not going to happen in my full-sun garden - the only shady spot available now is under the tomato plants, where I did in fact throw in a few lettuce seeds a few days ago as an experiment!) and to make sure they stay really wet. I took out the remaining lettuce plants, which had bolted up to heaven, and added a bit of compost to one of the empty rows. I put in about eight beet seeds, and covered it up with mulch. Hopefully the combination of lots of rain last night, the mulching, and my promise to keep the seeds well watered will lead to some success. We'll see!

Remember the whole fish that came with last week's CSA? I promised lots of photos. Here they are!

First we rinsed off the fish and took a good, long look at them.

Then came they part I was the most nervous about: the gutting. It wasn't too bad! I am sparing you readers the Discovery Health style images of the fish guts, in part because it seems too graphic for this blog and in part because my hands were too messy in the midst of gutting the fish to take photos. But here we have a nice picture of the gutted and scored pompano.

Then we stuffed the inside of the fish with rosemary and lemon.

Then we nested the fish on a bed of onions, sprinkled them with some olive oil, salt, and pepper, and briefly broiled and then baked them.

They were delicious! And easy! And had barely any bones! We ate them with rice and some cooked green veggies. So, so good. A good lesson in going ahead and taking the plunge on somewhat intimidating food adventures. Often, like with these pompano, they turn out great!

It also gave me a silly opportunity to call Sara's dog Maggie "Pompano" for a few days. She hasn't started responding to the new name. Shucks. But I did recently teach her to lie down! I take my successes where I can.

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