Yacon & Green Beans with SE Asian Flavors

In this recipe the shredded yacon and green beans are highly seasoned. The Yacon absorbs the color and flavors of the sauce and assumes a new identity. Shrimp Paste with Yacon and green beans with SE Asian flavorsBean Oil is a wonderful sauce recommended by our friend, Chef Eddie Chong. It’s similar to the expensive Chinese XO Sauce. Look for it in Asian Grocery stores. It contains shrimp, garlic, soy oil, salt, peppers, MSG, (I know) and paprika. Hope the coming photo of the 7 oz. jar makes your shopping easier. To prepare without this sauce add 2 tablespoons minced dried shrimp, an extra garlic clove, and ¼ teaspoon paprika. The garlic, peanuts, chilies and paprika give this dish a delicious punch and even the shrimp can be omitted with good results. Yard long asparagus beans were used in this photo, they are interchangeable with green beans.

2 large cloves minced garlic
1 tablespoon minced ginger
1 Serrano pepper deseeded and chopped or ½ teaspoon red pepper flakes
1 tablespoon cooking oil
1 pound yard long or green beans trimmed and cut in 1.5” pieces
2 tablespoons water
8 ounces yacon, peeled and shredded
2 tablespoons Shrimp Paste With Bean Oil
1 teaspoon sugar
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1/3 teaspoon grated black pepper (2-3 twists of the mill)
1/3 cup roasted peanuts

Select a large lidded non-stick skillet. Lightly heat skillet and add garlic, ginger, Serrano pepper, and cooking oil. Stir briefly until garlic becomes fragrant and then add beans. Stir for 2-3 minutes with temperature turned high. Beans will begin to wilt and show darkened spots. Add water and cover with lid, turn temperature to medium and cook for five minutes. Lift lid during this braising period to stir once or twice, adding another two tablespoons of water if it evaporates. Add yacon, shrimp paste, soy sauce, sugar and pepper. The yacon will give off liquid and you will need to stir with a spatula to combine and evenly cook ingredients until beans are tender. Stir in peanuts, adjust seasonings and serve. Depending on the meal this dish accompanies you may want this to be a little sweeter, more garlicky or hotter. Try this recipe as written or with the suggestions above and then fine-tune it to your own preference.

Yacon Pineapple Slaw


This recipe we’ve made since first growing yacon and we keep returning to it. An easy fresh and unusual winter salad it’s a novel addition to the Thanksgiving table.

1 medium fresh pineapple
1 pound fresh yacon, 1-2 tubers
¼ cup lime juice
¼ cup sweet red pepper, rings or diced

Peel and slice the pineapple into eight sections making longitudinal cuts. Remove the core and slice the pineapple pieces into ½” thick wedges. To peel yacon, a standard potato peeler does a good job and doesn’t cut too deeply into the tuber. You can trim with a knife. Rinse when peeled. Yacon peel is bitter so peeling is always recommended. A food processor with a medium shredding disk produces larger shreds if you press down firmly on the feed tube. Immediately add lime juice to shredded yacon to prevent discoloration and then combine with pineapple and peppers. The tiny pepper rings in this photo are from Nichols new Baby Belle Sweet Pepper. A few shredded leaves of fresh spearmint is a good variation. If you choose to use canned pineapple chunks select two 16 oz. cans that are lightly sweetened with juice drained.
Note: a Mandoline produces a perfect julienne but watch your fingers, the blades are sharp and no one wants to see blood in the salad. I usually peel the yacon, cut into large chunks, and press firmly down as it goes through shredder on my food processor.

Happy Thanksgiving


All of us at Nichols Garden Nursery wish you a happy Thanksgiving. Among several of our favorite recipes for Thanksgiving dinner are those which include foods specific to the Western Hemisphere prior to Columbus. Hope you’ll find useful recipes and menu ideas.   Also if you are looking for recipes for yacon we have developed several to offer. This plant of the Andes, our best selling plant, produces heavy yields of crunchy sweet tubers. They make a great low calorie snack, peeled, sliced, and sprinkled with a few drops of lime juice and a touch of salt.

Every Thanksgiving I set myself a little challenge of preparing foods of the Western Hemisphere for this quintessential US holiday. What I’ve learned is only a few of the foods we associate with this celebration actually originated in the US, cranberries, pecans, sunflowers and of course turkeys. Corn, squash, potatoes, chocolate, etc. all made their way north from Central and South American. But then we’ve always been a mixed lot so why not our foodstuffs.

Here in Oregon it feels like winter. It’s wet and windy. Stay cozy.

Thanksgiving-Cornbread and Sunflower Seed Stuffing

Our traditional stuffing. For Thanksgiving we use cornbread, the grain of America. Stuffing needs to be tasted and seasoned as you prepare, a reason to not use raw eggs. Hold back on the salt as the natural juices of the bird and sausage add sodium. This recipe makes 4-5 quarts of stuffing. The rule of thumb is ¾ cup of stuffing per pound of turkey. A 15-pound turkey holds 11-12 cups. Bake extra stuffing separately adding broth.
Sunflowers are native to North America and have been cultivated for thousands of years. Used for snacks and cooking, the seeds are one of our best sources of Vitamin E.

2 lb. cornbread, semi-dried and crumbled for stuffing (three boxes of prepared Jiffy Cornbread is a possibility )*
1 lb. bulk lean turkey sausage or diced smoked turkey sausage
3 tablespoons butter
2-3 large onions, peeled and diced (1.5 lbs.)
1.5 lbs chopped celery, use the outer green stalks from two heads)
1 cup chopped mushrooms
1 teaspoon dried thyme leaves, 2 teaspoons fresh
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
½ teaspoon dried rosemary or 1 teaspoon fresh rosemary
1 tablespoon butter(in addition to above)
1 cup sunflower seeds
1 cup dried cranberries
½ teaspoon salt if needed

To prepare cornbread, use your favorite recipe or cornbread mix and cook according to directions. If you can find a cornbread stuffing mix that is not overly seasoned use it.* When cool crumble onto a two large cooking sheets and place in a 200-degree oven for 30 minutes. Remove from oven and stir well and let cool. In an extra large skillet begin slowly cooking sausage, stirring occasionally and breaking into small pieces. While sausage cooks chop onions, celery and mushrooms. If celery leaves are in good condition include them. Melt butter in skillet with sausage and add chopped vegetables. Over medium heat sauté until onions are translucent and add seasonings. In a small skillet melt butter and add sunflower seeds, stir them about until lightly toasted. Combine all the ingredients in your largest mixing bowl, including cranberries. This makes a fairly dry stuffing if you prefer one that is moist add broth. Taste and adjust seasonings. Stuffing can be made a day ahead and refrigerated. Remove from refrigerator an hour before using as extremely cold stuffing will slow the cooking time of your turkey. It is recommended that turkey thigh temperature be 180 degrees and interior of the stuffing be 165 degrees for turkey to be considered done.
I find *Mrs. Cubbison’s seasoned cornbread is lightly and pleasantly seasoned. Three boxed provide the amount needed for this recipe. Since it is very dry you will need to add broth, if you can only find highly salted broth use white wine or apple cider.

Thanksgiving Recipe- Gluten Free Corn Sticks


Corn Sticks
The best cornmeal for this recipe is medium grind stone ground. It will give you a combination of floury particles and larger ones with a bit of crunch. If you can’t find it use regular yellow corn meal. This recipe will also bake in a 9” cast iron skillet or baking dish. When baking the gluten free version in a pan or skillet I recommend a thin layer of batter. The corn stick molds are charming and this is a good excuse to use them. Use actual oil to grease the molds, I once tried non-stick spray and the batter stuck like glue. This recipe fills two molds making 14 corn sticks. My husband, Keane, likes to add a finely chopped, deseeded Jalapeno or Serrano pepper.

The original recipe below calls for 1/4th cup of flour. After some experimentation for a gluten intolerant friend I learned it makes excellent cornsticks by making the following changes. Delete the 1/4th cup of flour and add 2 tablespoons ground flaxseed. Next reduce buttermilk by one tablespoon. If gluten is an issue make these corrections.

1 cup yellow cornmeal
¼ cup flour
½ teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon baking powder
½ teaspoon salt
2 large eggs
1 cup buttermilk
2 tablespoons oil
½ cup cooked corn

Set oven rack in middle of oven and preheat to 425 degrees F. Oil and preheat seasoned corn stick pans for ten minutes.
Take a medium mixing bowl and add in cornmeal. Add sifted flour, baking soda, baking powder and salt. Stir to combine dry ingredients. Lightly beat eggs and combine with buttermilk, oil and corn.
Remove corn stick pans from oven and using a brush lightly oil the molds. If excess oil gathers in the bottom use a paper towel to wick it away. Quickly fill molds with 2 to 3 tablespoons batter and bake for 15 minutes. Remove from oven and let rest for 2-3 minutes before removing from pan. Use a small sharp knife blade to gently loosen edges These are at their best served fresh from the oven. If you are preparing ahead, cool on a wire rack and freeze well wrapped sticks. Reheat on a cookie sheet at 350 degrees. Lightly oil skillet or baking dish if not using molds.

Speaking at Tilth Conference

Saturday, November 18, I’ll be speaking on container gardening using edible plants at the annual Oregon Tilth Conference. Celebrating their 32nd anniversary, the  conference takes place over two days in Salem, Oregon. This non profit organization provides a strong outreach education program on sustainable agriculture and is one of the leading providers of organic certification.

Thanksgiving – Zesty Chocolate Pecan Pie


Zesty Chocolate Pecan Pie – a Thanksgiving favorite

This rich and decadent pie combines some of the great flavors of the Southern US and Central America. Pecans are the state trees of Texas and native to the US, chocolate and vanilla come from Mexico. We use the classic Karo corn syrup which is not high fructose. A hint of hot pepper adds warmth and depth of flavor for a delicious ending to a festive meal. Serves 10-12.

For the crust: use one frozen or refrigerated pie crust or your favorite recipe. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Line a 9” or 10” pie plate with crust. Partially bake crust for 7 minutes. Remove and set aside, if any areas have bubbled up gently press down with the back of a fork. Reduce oven temperature to 350 degrees.

Filling ingredients:
2 cups fresh pecans lightly toasted
1 cup semi-sweet dark chocolate chips
2 tablespoons flour
½ cup brown sugar, firmly packed
4 tablespoons butter (1/2 cube)
3 tablespoons milk
4 large eggs
1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract
1 cup light or dark corn syrup
¼ teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper (optional)

When pecans have cooled, break them into small pieces. If you are working with pecan halves, set 12 perfect ones aside for garnishing. Place pecan pieces in a large bowl add chocolate chips and flour and toss until chips and nuts are coated.

Use your mixer or food processor to mix filling ingredients. Place butter and brown sugar in container and cream until light and fluffy. Add milk and then add eggs, one at a time so that each is completely incorporated before adding the next. Add vanilla, corn syrup, salt and cayenne and beat until evenly mixed. Pour this egg syrup mixture into bowl with the nuts and chocolate. Stir well until combined. Pour mixture into the partially baked crust. Place reserved pecan halves on top of filling evenly spacing.
Set pie on rack set at second level from the bottom. Bake 55 to 60 minutes or until a knife inserted 2 inches from the edge comes out clean. Cool on a wire rack before slicing. This pie can be made ahead and frozen.

Des Moines Garden

One focus of this blog is community gardening and encouraging participation in the Garden Writers Association program “Plant A Row For The Hungry”(PAR). My friend, Cathy Wilkinson Barash, author of “Edible Flowers From Garden To Palate” and other gardening books is president of The Garden Writer’s Foundation which helps to support and promote PAR.
Cathy lives in Des Moines, Iowa and is an inspired life long organic gardener with a keen eye for design. Recently her landlord requested that her front yard garden be converted to a lawn. This means many valuable perennials had to be dug and distributed. All the vegetables were harvested and shared. Fortunately, her neighbor, David Clem, convinced the landlord of the merits of a “formal” low growing edible landscape. Then her Sherman Hill neighborhood pitched in to help and in the process a plan for several new community gardens emerged.
Throughout the neighborhood, other gardeners who had loved Cathy’s garden were interested in converting their lawns to growing food, herbs and cutflowers in their front yards. Now they are creating several new organic community gardens in Des Moines. Their objective is to create a series of show-stopping,  organic edible gardens with Sherman Hill becoming the gardening hot spot of Des Moines. They also will participate in PAR by contributing surplus produce to local organizations.
I talked with Cathy on Friday, November 10; snow was falling with an inch on the ground. Earlier in the week temperatures were in the 80’s. She and her neighbors had prepared the soil of these new plots and sowed some with a cover crop of Tyfon. It went in a little late and they are nervously hoping it will establish before severe cold arrives. We’ll be checking in with this group and showing a few photos as this community garden develops.

Thankgiving Baked Squash

Winter Squash with Maple Syrup
Squash is historically a staple crop throughout most of the Western hemisphere. Indeed intercropping of squash, beans and corn formed the fabled “Three Sisters”of the South West. These three plants grow harmoniously together, store well and when eaten together are nutritionally complete. Native Americans in the North East were collecting maple sap and cooking it down to use as a sweetener and flavoring. Added to squash it boosts the flavor. Allspice berries are collected from the Pimenta dioica tree native to Jamaica. Because it’s complex flavor reminded Europeans of cloves, pepper, cinnamon and even nutmeg it was dubbed Allspice. Peppers of course are native to the Americas. Chipotles are jalapenos, smoked and dried creating a unique flavor. Chipotles are also canned in adobo sauce and this can be substituted for the dried. Use sparingly at first as you can always adjust and add a little more.
I cooked an entire 10 pound heirloom Sweet Meat squash for this and used 1/3 for the mashed squash. My favorite is Oregon Homestead a superbly flavored selection from Carol Deppe who spent ten years in a process of always picking the best flavored, largest seeded and thickest walled. Set aside some squash for pie, make soup or freeze until needed. I find it easier to cook it all at once rather than store pieces of uncooked squash. Almost all canned “pumpkin” is actually squash. The old fashioned ‘Small Sugar Pumpkin” makes a fine pie.

Sweet Meat or other Winter Squash (3.5 pounds) 4 tablespoons butter
½ cup chopped onion
½ cup chicken broth
1/3 teaspoon ground allspice or cinnamon
½ teaspoon seed free dried chipotle pepper
1/3 cup real maple syrup
salt if needed

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Set deseeded squash halves, cut side up on a baking sheet. Bake until soft and fork tender, about 90 minutes, less if using smaller squash like Butternut. Remove from oven and when slightly cooled scoop out flesh to a large bowl.
In a medium sauce pan set on medium heat melt butter and saute’ onion until softened and translucent about 10 minutes. When onion is cooked add chicken broth, allspice and chipotle pepper to pan and simmer for two minutes. Add this mixture and maple syrup to pumpkin. Transfer in batches to a food processor and process until smooth. Season with salt as needed. This may be prepared several hours ahead and reheated before serving with a nice pat of butter swirled across the top.

Thanksgiving – Tomato Aspic


Tomato Aspic With Shrimp and Avocado
Aspics are a rather old-fashioned dish and thus perfect for a festive meal. This combination of ingredients is a family favorite. Sometimes we add in a ½ cup of chopped cucumber or a ½ cup of salsa. Here is the basic recipe and it’s quite satisfactory. There are several steps to this recipe, please read through first.

One 46 oz. can tomato juice (pour one cup into a large bowl and set aside)
1 cup tomato puree
½ cup chopped onion
2 celery stalks, chopped (use flavorful outer stalks)
1 large clove garlic, crushed
10 drops of tabasco sauce or to taste
1 teaspoon salt
In a large saucepan, slowly simmer the above ingredients for 30 minutes.

5 envelopes unflavored gelatin or 4 tablespoons
Combine gelatine with the 1 cup of tomato juice that’s been set aside. Place gelatin mixture in a bowl sufficiently large to later hold all the tomato juice mixture as it chills.

Strain tomato mixture into gelatin and stir until gelatin is dissolved. Chill until the consistency of a very thick syrup.

3 tablespoons lemon juice
½ cup sliced pimiento stuffed green olives
2 cups Oregon Bay shrimp, fresh preferable, if frozen thaw and drain
1 large avocado, cut into 1/2 inch dice
Add these above remaining ingredients to your cooled thickened tomato mixture

Rinse a 6-8 cup mold or bowl, shake out excess water. Pour in the aspic and refrigerate. After 20 minutes give a gentle stir so heavier ingredients don’t settle. Chill until set, 2-3 hours. If you have more mixture than your mold will hold pour it into a lidded plastic container to eat later.
To unmold, dip the bottom of mold in hot water. Carefully run a small knife along the edge, cover with the serving plate and with great confidence, invert onto your serving dish.

All America Thanksgiving Menu 2006

Our family Thanksgiving dinner is a celebration of foods of the New World. When Europeans first arrived they quickly took seeds and plants to Europe and these were soon in wide distribution. In fifteen years, hot peppers had circled the globe. Beans became household staples in Italy and sailors carried pineapples around the world as an exotic fruit that prevented scurvey.

All the foods marked with an asterisk*originated in the Americas and were cultivated and used for thousands of years before the first Europeans arrived. Our recipes include some wheat flour for cornbread and piecrust, onion and herbs for seasoning. However, it is a salute to our native foods many of which we commonly grow in our gardens. Some of the foods I use are local to Oregon, you may have access to special mushrooms, black walnuts, fish, an old recipe for peanut butter soup or even food from the hunt. Serve it forth!

*Harvest stuffing using commercial corn bread stuffing, or *cornbread, *dried cranberries, *toasted sunflower seeds and turkey sausage.
*Corn Sticks or *Cornbread
*Mashed Potatoes with *Oregon truffle giblet gravy
*Slaw from Yacon, *sweet red peppers and *pineapple
*Green Beans with *mushrooms and shallots
*Spiced Heirloom Sweet Meat squash and *maple syrup
*Tomato aspic with *avocado and *bay shrimp
*Cranberry sauce with an optional dash of *Bourbon
*Pumpkin Pie
*Blueberry Pie
*Chocolate Pecan Pie
Make one or more pies depending on preferences

Recipes coming one or two at a time through the coming week Rose Marie