Tuesday, October 26, 2010

The Compost's the Thing

Well, I have to be honest. I am having a hard time getting everything done, and I'm not sure why. Maybe my age is slowing me down or something. I really can't figure it out, but it sure is frustrating. There are so many things rattling around in my head these days, it is hard to center on a topic. Let's see...

I've been thinking about the upcoming gardening season. I've always felt like this is the optimal season to get crops in the ground, plus I love greens and lettuces, which do much better over the winter. Roger has been doing such a great job with composting our crops and keeping the weeds down. I marvel at this because that was my job for many years, and it is very difficult to stay on top of it.

Last year one of our customers told us how she mulches with cardboard boxes, so we have been excited to be able to use up all the cardboard that seems to find its way to our house. It really is a great way to mulch the crops and helps keep the weeds down, plus it gives us some great pathways through the rows.

Roger is much better at keeping up with the composting than I was for a number of reasons. First of all, we eat a lot more vegetation than we did back when it was my job, so we fill up our bins much faster. Because we have so much, he is motivated to clear out the first bin in the cycle so he can have another one when he fills up the last one. We've got it timed out so that the first one is usually ready when the last one gets filled up.

Another reason he's better at it than me is because he's just so darn much taller and stronger than me. It used to give me fits trying to use the pitch fork and move it around and so forth. It really is a job better suited to someone his size. (Of course, there aren't too many jobs well suited to my height, now that I think about it!)

I really believe compost is the most important thing we can do for our crops. If tasks have to be prioritized, which of course they do, I would have to say work on the compost and let other things like weeding and even irrigation go. Good compost rotation will go a long way in helping to solve other woes.

Besides just adding organic matter to the soil which is very important in Florida due to the high percentage of sand, I think compost is important because it is a living soil. We talk alot about eating living foods and preserving the enzymes in our food, but how our food is grown is an important part of how it will turn out when mature and ready for the table.

I'm convinced that a lot of people think they don't like their fruits and veggies because they have never eaten any that have grown in soils teeming with life. They really do taste differently.

For example, last year, Roger grew the most tender and tastiest collards imaginable. I couldn't believe it. I know his excellent management of the compost is what contributed to this. I use this as an example as many don't think of collards as a raw food nor a particularly tasty one. These were definitely the exception to that rule. We can't wait to start cutting them later this week and making some veggie wraps with them.

What else has he got out there? The pepper plants are producing bumper crops this fall, and that is a blessing as we use them in many of our recipes. Hopefully we'll be able to make some rellenos next week. He's also got some nice looking lettuce and the broccoli should be up in a couple of weeks. The cherry tomatoes he picked this week were out of this world as well. We've ordered more seed of our favorite kind to see if we can protect them over the winter and keep them going. They make other tomatoes seem like ugly stepchildren...

Well, I've rambled on about that long enough. We're having so much fun with our beast boxes and our beasties (the name we lovingly give our customers who purchase them), that we can hardly think about anything else. We're finding a box that will suit it better and will be looking for artwork with which to decorate it, etc. Who would have thought this would be this much fun.

My oldest son and his girlfriend finally tried some of the foods from it last week and had mixed reviews. I think they understand why the beasties all enjoy them so much anyway. He's been going with me to deliver them, and he's seeing how neat everyone is too, so he can see why I enjoy doing it as much as I do (I think).

Here's the results from the survey for the box from the week before last week. Highest ranking items are on top. (Some have asked why there are scores over 5 when 5 is the highest score, but some people assign higher numbers indicating 5 is not good enough. That's ok by me!)
5.40 Chocolate brownie mousse trifle
5.18 sushi rolls w/ dipping sauce
5.00 smoothie
5.00 fruit add-on
4.50 veggie add-on
4.70 spinach salad w/ sliced pear, candied pecans, & raspberry vinaigrette
4.67 cheesy crackers
4.45 Mexi-cali wraps
4.39 mushroom, pepper, onion fajita filling
4.31 peanut sauce
4.30 Hawaiian granola
4.20 sweet bell pepper soup
4.14 carrot patch dessert
4.05 Mexican rice
4.00 pickled beets
3.21 cashew flower cinnamon yogurt
This was a good week; nothing scored less than a 3! We appreciate everyone's kindness and effort they took to respond.

Last week's survey just went out, so we'll see how everything fares this week. We work in so many weeks at the same time, it is hard to keep it all straight.

This week we are making something that is new to me, mu shu with hoisin sauce. Apparently this is a popular food at Asian restaurants and though I've never tried it, it sounded delicious, so we are excited about it. We've made the tamales several times before and love them, so we are anticipating good reviews on them. Desserts are always popular, and we are trying two new ones this week: almond butter cacao chunks and caramel bars. Well, I'm not going to say anymore; I'll send out the e-mail on that shortly.

For our recipe this week, I'm posting a sauce to copycat fish sauce for Brian, one of our customers. He was excited to see we had bok choy as they have a great recipe they love, but it calls for fish sauce, and they didn't know what to substitute for it so the dish could be healthier.

Here's info I found about it on the internet -
Fish sauce is a thin, salty liquid that is used in place of salt as a seasoning in many Asian recipes, and also serves as a dipping sauce. Made from salted fish, it is rich in Vitamin B and protein.

Although associated primarily with Vietnamese and Thai cuisine, fish sauce is also found in southern Chinese dishes. Depending on where it was made, you'll find it sold under a number of names. Chinese brands are often labeled "fish gravy" or "fish sauce," while it is called "nuoc mam" in Vietnam and "nam pla" in Thailand. However, they are all basically the same product, although the Thai and Vietnamese brands are considered superior.

Fish sauce can be stored indefinitely without refrigeration in a dry place.

Written by Rhonda Parkinson
Also Known As: Nuoc Mam, Nam Pla, fish gravy
Recipes Using Fish Sauce: Tom Yum Gung - Thai Hot and Sour Soup

Instead of fish, this recipe uses sea vegetables. This ones for you, Brian:

Better-Than-Fish Sauce

yields 3/4 cup

3 tablespoons hiziki seaweek, soaked in 1/3 cup water (reserve water)
1 1/2 teaspoons sesame oil
2 tablespoons dulse flakes
1/2 large date
1/4 teaspoon apple cider vinegar
1 1/2 teaspoons nama shoyu

Blend all the ingredients including the soak water together until smooth.

Let me know how it turns out!

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