Ozarks Leaves

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I once ruined someone's dream. Not intentionally, but when the leaves start changing in our woods, I am reminded of the incident. I'd traveled to the jungles of West Papua, New Guinea to go trekking with a friend. We'd flown into the Belim Valley, a remote town with an airport so tiny all of the daily passengers could fit into one twin-engine Cessna.

The only accomomdations in the tiny town was a little guest house run by Ebu Hinkie, an elderly Javanese woman. The rooms were rustic, spartan, with a bathroom that consisted of a hole in the floor, and a concrete tank filled with water. To bathe, you dipped a bucket into the tank and poured it over yourself like a shower.

Ebu Hinkie (Ebu, or maybe it was Eboo, is a respectful term like Mrs. or mother) was large, always wearing big caftan-type dresses when she served our morning breakfast of fruit, eggs and toast. The dining room was a little room with a table and chairs, a big tea pot much like a restaurant coffee pot, always filled with boiling tea, and a little window. The wall behind the table and chairs, about 8 x 8 ft. held a mural of colored leaves in Vermont in October. It was a surprise to see a mural of Vermont, deep in the jungle of New Guinea, and one morning I inquired about it. "With this beautiful landscape all around you, why did you choose a photograph of trees in the United States?" I asked. Ebu Hinkie understood only so much English, and spoke less, but she replied, "It's my dream to some day, maybe see the place where trees are always like this."

She understood when I explained the leaves in Vermont are green, they only change to orange, yellow and red for about 3 weeks once a year. Ebu Hinkie's face fell. "Oh," she said and turned and walked away. Why couldn't I have kept quiet. I regretted crushing a simple dream but hopefully she had others that weren't so fragile. Here are the leaves in the yard this week. I wish Ebu Hinkie could see and enjoy them.
Sumac leaves. It's correctly pronounced shoo-mack.
Virginia creeper on persimmon bark.
Persimmons are ripe on our trees this week.
Hickory leaves.
Spicebush (Lindera benzoin) an herb, has yellow leaves and red berries now.
View of our Herb Shop with the hillside in the background.
I think the woods in the Ozarks looks every bit as good as Vermont in the fall of the year.

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Happy Halloween. Don't eat too much candy!


Fish House Green Tomato Pickles

This week I've been picking as much of the garden produce as I can before a killing frost comes. We've had 2 light frosts but even the basil plants haven't been hurt much. Yet. After a summer of drought and heat and low tomato and pepper production, those plants have gone into high gear, trying to catch up on production.

Adam, who I have written about here many times, left us with a fabulous fall garden. Too bad he didn't get to enjoy such lushness during the summer when he was farming the garden and selling at local farmers markets. (Adam left in mid September to work on a farm in Maryland for the winter; that farm sells at the DuPont Circle farmers market the year around).

Ten pints of fish house green tomato pickles.

I've spent the day today, putting up some of the excess produce. With all the green tomatoes, I wanted to use the smaller ones for fish house green tomato pickles. They're a favorite in the catfish restaurants in the South and it's a great way to use up some of the tomatoes. Josh plans on making green tomato mincemeat, too, for pies this winter.

Tomatoes ripening in the window.

The larger green tomatoes will simply stay on the kitchen windowsill where they will slowly ripen over the next couple of months. (I've used the wrap-in-newspaper method, which is a hassle, also the put-in-the-basement method, also a hassle to check every couple of days; on the windowsill, where I see the tomatoes every day, is the easiest and simplest and works just fine. Some years we have the last of our summer's ripe tomatoes on Christmas Day).

You can use green tomatoes in any recipe that calls for ripe tomatoes, too.

Here's the recipe in case you want to use up your green tomatoes:

Catfish-House Green Tomato Pickles

2 quarts quartered green tomatoes
2 cups chopped onion
1/3 cup chopped hot peppers
1/3 cup chopped sweet red bell peppers
2 cups sugar
3 Tablespoons salt
3 cups apple cider vinegar
1 teaspoon celery seed
1/4 teaspoon yellow mustard seed

Combine ingredients in a large cooking pan and bring to a slow boil. Let simmer for about 5 minutes. Ladle into hot, sterile jars, wipe lip edge of jars, screw on hot, new jar rings and flats and lightly tighten. Place into a boiling water bath, with at least 1/2 inch of water above the jar lids. Bring to a boil and keep slowly boiling for 15 minutes (for pints). Remove and cool on a towel. Don't tinker with the lids, they will seal in a few minutes. Let cool overnight then label and store in the pantry. These are best after the flavors have matured, about 2 weeks or more.

Hot sauce with a kick, and green tomato salsa are from a single recipe. 

I also made a batch each of green tomato salsa and one of green tomato hot sauce. If you'd like the recipe for those, visit my recipes blog. Both are a combination of varieties of hot peppers and it's a tasty hot sauce with a real kick.


Freezing Pesto

Rows of sweet basil in our garden.

With predictions of frost in our area in the next week or so, friends have been thinking about ways to preserve basil. It doesn't have to actually frost, for basil to drop its leaves, just a very chilly night and the leaves start falling. I know my friends have been thinking, "pesto" because I've gotten 2 phone calls and an email, asking for a good pesto recipe. Here's my favorite and it can be frozen and kept for the winter months. Just fill ice cube trays with the fresh pesto, freeze, then pop out the pesto cubes into plastic bags and keep frozen until ready to use. And there's a simple trick to keeping frozen pesto tasting fresh (below).

Freezer Pesto

4 cups basil leaves, loosely packed
1 cup extra virgin olive oil
4 tablespoons almonds or walnuts (you could use pine nuts, they're more expensive, but I like almonds better)
6 cloves garlic, peeled
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon salt

Put everything into the food processor and blend ingredients until smooth. Scrape the edges to make sure everything has been processed.
Pour the mixture into ice cube trays, filling each section. Freeze for 24 hours, then pop out the cubes into Zip-Lock bags and keep frozen.

Now the trick. When you are ready to use pesto, combine it with half Romano, half Parmesan cheese, freshly grated if possible. Since those cheeses don't freeze well, the flavor of your pesto will stay much fresher if you don't put the cheese in the pesto before freezing.

Rose and Basil Pesto
Roses and basil taste great together!

2 cups fresh basil
1 cup fragrant *rose petals
3 cloves garlic
1/2 cup pine nuts (I prefer walnuts)
3/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
1 teaspoon food grade rose water
1 teaspoon freshly squeezed lemon juice (don't substitute bottled juice)
1 cup Parmesan cheese, freshly grated
1/4 cup Romano cheese, freshly grated
Salt, optional

Peel and coarsely chop garlic, then add rose petals, basil, nuts and olive oil in food processor. Pulse blend until everything is well pulverized.
Add remaining ingredients and mix well. This can be stored for up to 4 days in the refrigerator.

*If you aren't sure what roses you can use, visit my YouTube video for tips on using roses in food.
You'll find more of my videos at http://youtube/longcreekherbs/ as well.

You might also enjoy my book, How to Eat a Rose, available from my website.

Another suggestion about pesto. Collect the leaves from plants that aren't blooming, the flavor will be better. Lemon basil is tasty mixed with sweet basil or any of the varieties. Thai basil is the least interesting basil for pesto, but even that works if you've kept the flowers clipped off.
Sweet basil is one of the best flavored basils for pesto. Clip off and discard the flower stalks.

Lemon basil gives a fresh flavor to pesto, so use it in combination with other basils if you have it.


Rosalind Creasy, The Edible Landscape

I'm excited to share with you a garden I was privileged to visit a couple of weeks ago. Rosalind Creasy has been gardening and writing about gardening for decades. Back when no one had heard about local foods and heirloom vegetables, much less edible landscaping, Ros was plowing her garden and planting the seeds that are now part of a nationwide movement. Her first book, The Complete Book of Edible Landscaping, was published by the Sierra Club in 1982. To get an idea of what she started with in the late 1970s, here's a view of her front yard:
Just an ordinary house on a small lot. The book, and the garden, had not yet been created.
Roalind Creasy is a landscape architect with a great eye for design, so it is no wonder the simple lot went from that, to what you see below. Instead of filling the newly cleared spaces with more green bushy things (the kind of plants I claim don't pay their rent, meaning, don't justify the space they take up in the landscape because they give nothing back) she planted edible plants everywhere. Here's almost the same view just 2 weeks ago:

Rosalind Creasy meets ust curbside in her edible landscape paradise.
Here (above) is that pesky dividing strip between houses, neighbors driveway on the left, Ros' driveway on the right. What's there besides the little hedge that acts as a curb? A few flowers, but if you look close, there are 3 very large eggplants and a planter filled with sweet peppers of several varieties. Just think, most people make this spot lawn that has to be mowed.
Still curbside, the bed is filled with herbs, vegetables and flowers.
I took 2 steps to the right after taking the curbside photo, still at Ros' driveway. Remember that photo in the beginning of the blank looking front yard? The street shows in the lower right corner, the driveway in the lower left of the photo, and everything else, between, is edibles. Great, arching rosemaries, potted figs, tomatoes, oregano, nasturtiums. Keep in mind, I'm still in the street, I haven't even stepped into the garden yet!
Standing at the front door, looking toward the street.

If you could look to the left, near the blue-green lattice fence in the left of the photo, you would discover the chicken pens. School children make a bee-line through the front of the garden almost every day to check on and see the chickens.
One of two chicken pens in the back of the photo. This is still curbside, too.
We're still in Ros' front yard. Several kinds of peppers and squash are in this bed, plus some herbs.
I didn't count how many raised beds and planters there were in the front garden, but many. Ros has blackberries, tomatoes, squash, eggplant, herbs, roses (remember my How to Eat a Rose book? Roses are edibles, too) and so many more vegetables and fruit I don't even remember them all. You could feed a family from the front garden and that doesn't even begin to describe the back garden!

Rosalind Creasy's first book, The Complete Book of Edible Landscaping can still be found on Amazon. Her second book, Edible Landscaping, newly released is also available on Amazon as well as through your local bookstore. It includes the basics for how turn your front (and back) yard into something other than grass and bushes. Learn about growing vegetables and herbs in containers, learn about organic pest controls, composting and a whole lot more. This is a large, hefty book, and it's overflowing with information from someone who knows gardening.

When I asked Ros if I could see her compost area, it didn't surprise me one bit to find a wonderful, working, well tended compost system, landscaped, of course! The chicken litter, garden debris, kitchen vegetable scraps and other organic compostables, all go into the compost and get recycled as new, rich soil into the garden beds.

Garden waste in, organic soil out and no fertilizer required to grow a garden.
And one more growing area, in the photo below, still in the front garden between the street and the house. The chicken pens are in the upper right of the photo, near the street.
Click to enlarge.


Follow the blog

Come on, you are welcome to Follow this blog; even Paul Bunyan (or is that Harley Davidson) does!

Two or three times a week I receive emails from people who say they'd really like to follow my blog but can't figure out how. It's really quite simple and there are several options. I can see by the Visitor Counter on this page that lots of people stop by every day or two, but aren't followers. I like knowing who's reading my posts, like to know that it's not just ghosts but real people. So here are the Follow This Blog basics.
In the upper left corner, you'll see one of the several Follow buttons.
At the top of the blog page on your computer, you'll see the words, "Follow," Share," "Report Abuse," and "Next Blog." Click on the "Follow" button. It will open the pop-up window, below:
The pop-up window gives you options. You can follow publicly, meaning your name or a nickname which you choose, or, you can follow anonymously. If you look through the list of people who already follow my blog, you'll see some folks who choose to remain anonymous. Either way is fine. If you have a blog or website, you might want to follow publicly, because more people can find you that way.
Another way (there are actually 4, count them FOUR, different ways to choose to follow this blog) shows up in the next photo:
Simply click on the Join this site button. You'll get the same pop-up bottom as the other options.
By clicking on the Join this site button, you'll need a Google account, which takes about 2 minutes to start. Or you can follow anonymously, same as the above options.

Or, you can click on the "Posts" button under the "Subscribe to this blog" on the right side of my blog:
You can choose to receive an email when I post a new story, or with the options in 1, 2 and 3, you can put a little blurb on your Yahoo or Google page that keeps updated every time I post something and you simply click on that little button on your Yahoo or Google page to read the blog post.

So many options, all there to make it easy to follow the blog. The more people who follow my blog(s) the more my blogs are taken seriously by people curious about my books and website. You can follow with a photo of yourself, or if you're a shy person, you can let the blog site generate a ghost-like image. Or, if there really are ghosts who follow my blogs, then they will all be invisible but they can still Follow.

Like I've mentioned before, no one can contact you by looking through my followers unless you list your blog or website. Anonymous people remain anonymous, even to me. Being a follower does not expose you to spammers, I can't contact you, nor can other followers. And if you do choose to get a Google account, you don't have to use G-Mail or anything else Google (I have a Google account because my previous smartphone required it, but I don't use it any longer, it's just an account I don't use, but it does make it easy for me to subscribe to other blogs that I follow). Nothing bad happens if you follow my blog, I promise. And, since I post once a week and sometimes the stories are about marginally interesting things, you'll simply receive a notification that I posted something, making it convenient for you.

If you are interested in checking out some of my other blogs, here's the partial list:
My columns from magazines I write for: http://jimlongscolumns.blogspot.com/
Bi-weekly newspaper columns: http://ozarksgardening.blogspot.com/
Herb of the Year (Roses 2012): http://herboftheyear.blogspot.com/
My recipes blog: http://jimlongsrecipes.blogspot.com/
My Dream Pillows stories: http://jimsdreampillows.blogspot.com/
I post to those more sporadically, but there are different photos and stories there that you might be interested in. And with even those, you can choose to hit the Follow button, just like this site. 
Even this cornstalk horse follows this blog!
Thanks for stopping by. I'll try to write about something fun in the next post.