Saturday, February 6, 2010

Seed Potatoes

AI ordered some seed potatoes form Wood Prairie Farm.  They're in Maine -- I almost felt guilty from ordering someplace other than Idaho!  But I survived it.

They have so many different varieties--how can you choose?  And I don't need a whole pound of each variety I want to try.  For one thing, I would seriously go over budget.  But I can't eat that many potatoes anyway.

So I ordered their Organic Potato Blossom Festival.  I don't care about the "organic" part of it.  I think "organic" is way over-hyped.  But this has a nice mix of potato varieties, a pamphlet on growing spuds, and a recipe book.  The potato varieties were selected for "their exceptional blossom beauty and fragrance":  Red Cloud, Carola, Cranberry Red, All-Blue, Onaway, and Butte. 

The Wood Prairie catalog itself contains a wealth of information about the different types of potatoes (the ones included in my order are itallicized):

Soft MoistSteamedCranberry Red
Au GratinAll-Blue
Creamy Mid-DryBakedCarola
SteamedRose Gold
Creamy Soups
Mealy DryBakedSwedish Peanut
Waxy MoistBoiledOnaway
Soups & StewsReddale
Waxy Mid-DryAll purposeCaribe
BoiledPrairie Blush
SaladsRose Finn Apple
Russian Banana
King Harry
Firm DryBakedRed Cloud
FriedYukon Gold
BoiledIsland Sunshine

I'm really looking forward to getting try see and smell all the beautiful blooms.  And, of course, to tasting all these varieties.  Well of course I'll have pictures of the plants blooming, and of the potatoes.

Bean and Squash Seeds

I also ordered some seeds from the Vermont Bean Seed Company (guess where they're from). I got some Dragon's Tongue beans, which I'm really excited about. You can pick them early for green beans, or let the beans mature for shelled beans, or let the pods dry on the bush for dried beans. These beans also have a built-in color indicator! When the pods turn from green to yellow with purple stripes, they're ready to eat as a snap bean. When you pick them and cook them, they turn green, so you know they've been suitably blanched and you can freeze them. Or can them, I suppose. They are a bush bean so I won't have to trellis them. I think I'll plant them out by the fruit trees. I have plenty of room there, they'll get lots of sun, and like all beans they're nitrogen fixers so they'll help fertilize the soil.

I also ordered some Scarlett Runner beans. Who can resist the pretty red flowers? They can also be used at all three stages: as green beans, shelled beans, and dried beans. These do require a trellis. I have some 1X1s out in the shop. So I think I'll drill some holes in them, string some twine, and make teepees. The runner beans should be beautiful growing up the teepees.

I ordered a couple rhubarb plants. Again, I'll plant them out by the fruit trees (which, come to think of it, is where the wildflowers will go). I won't be able to get any stalks from them this year, but in a couple years I should start getting plenty. All the more for rhubarb sauce and leather.

I ordered 1 pound of Jerusalem Artichoke tubers.  What is it everyone says?  "They are neither from Jerusalem nor artichokes".  They're actually related to the sunflower.  I think they look like Maximilian Sunflowers, if you're familiar with them.  But these have edible tubers.  I've never eaten any, so I hope I like them.  If not, at least they'll be pretty flowers that should attrack bees and butterflies.  And I think they grow thickly enough to act as a hedge.  Maybe I should plant them around the fruit trees that the deer keep "pruning" for me!

And I ordered a couple packets of Snackjack Pumpkins--one for my little brother and one for me.  These pumpkins have shell-less seeds.  That's right.  You can roast them or eat them raw, and you don't have to take the shells off.  Yipee!  Their flesh is supposed to be good for pies, too.
Ooh, and I ordered some Turk's Turban Squash seeds.  I don't know how they taste, but they look too cool to pass up.

Wildflower Seeds

I took The Prudent Homemaker's advice and purchased some wildflower seeds from Wildseed Farms.  They're in Texas, but they have seeds that will grow all over North America.  I got 1/4 pounds of the Western Wildflower Mix, plus some chicory, yarrow, shasta daisy, Laura Bush petunia, and gloriosa daisy.  And they threw in a free packet of seed mix.

The Western Wildflower Mix has a lot of lupine, some california poppy, blue and scarlet flax, tickseed, african daisy, cornflower, wallflower, dame's rocket, black-eyed susan, corn poppy, and several others.  It should attract lots of beneficial insects as well as bees and butterflies. The chicory and yarrow are both good for improving the soil.  And of course, the petunias, shasta daisies, and gloriosa daisies are just plain beautiful.  Well, they're all beautiful.   I should really have planted these last fall.  But they'll do OK planted this spring.  I just can't wait until next fall!

I'm going to plant these out in the field, around the fruit trees.  I didn't get enough seed to plant the whole area this year, but this is a good start.

Dehydrated Frozen Corn

I've read in several places that you can dehydrate frozen vegetables.  So I finally decided to give it a try.  I bought a couple bags of frozen super-sweet corn and spread then, still frozen, on the fine mesh tray liners in my dehydrator.  It turns out that 2 bags was exactly the right amount, as each tray can hold 1/2 bag.

I dried the corn for about 6 hours.  I stopped it an hour or so into the drying and stirred the corn around a little.  The pieces closest to the center of each tray dry faster than those near the outside edge.  So they dry more evenly if I stir them up at least once.

One problem I have drying things is that I often want to dry them while I'm at work.  But I'm gone for longer than most foods take to dry. If I leave them drying while I'm gone, they'll be too dry by the time I get home.  So I grabbed an electric-socket timer that I had on a lamp, set it for 6 hours, and plugged the dehydrator into that.  Worked great.

Here's what the dried corn looks like.

The dried corn makes a great snack.  It tastes really good.  Well, it tastes like sweet corn.  I took it to work and everyone who tried it said they liked it.

At first I just put the dried corn in a zip-lock bag.  But that was awkward.  So I finally hit on the idea of using a small RubberMaid pitcher.  It worked great!  Take off the cap to fill it, then just flip the flip-top to pour some out.

It was so well, I went out and bought some frozen peas to try.

Apple and Cherry Fruit Leather

I made some apple and cherry fruit leather the other day (actually, it was about 6 weeks ago).  It was really easy.

You know you can make fruit leather by just spreading a big jar of applesauce on a lightly-oiled leather tray and drying it, right?  Well, that's pretty much what I did.  I just pureed a can of drained bing cherries and added it to the applesauce.  You can use applesauce with no sugar added.  If you use the stuff with sugar in it, it'll take longer to dry.  And it's plenty sweet without added sugar.


It turned out that I needed a bit more than 1 jar of applesauce to fill up my 4 fruit-leather trays.  So I just dropped spoonfuls of pure appleasauce in with the cherry applesauce already in the tray.  I thought it might look artistic.

I dried it for about 6-8 hours (I can't remember for sure), and it was ready to roll up and cut.  I used a small serated knife to cut it up.  But an electric knife actually works better.

You know, it was fine, except that it really didn't have a lot of flavor.  I couldn't taste the cherries at all.  But then, I snuck a cherry out of the can before I pureed them, and it didn't have a lot of cherry flavor either.

I munch of pieces of this now and then.  To be honest, I don't gobble it up like I did the rhubarb leather I made last summer.  But it's still good.  I keep it stored in one of those Glad  disposable plastic containers, and it's holding up just fine.