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.

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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

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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!

*Turkey
*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