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One Size?

March 23rd, 2013

One of the things you learn to love about growing your own is the fact that not all things are created equal and one size does not fit all. When you harvest your homegrown veg, every head of broccoli looks different, tomatoes are different sizes, things are not exact cookie cutters of each other. The same goes for eggs from a flock of backyard chickens. They come in all shapes and sizes (and colors if you’ve got the right hens).
backyard eggs in all sizes
I also notice that the shells vary in shades of brown and the eggs are shaped differently as well. Some have shells that are thicker than others, I guess it depends on the chicken that laid that egg. There is as much individuality among the eggs as there is among the chickens in my flock.
brown eggs
There’s a definite beauty in variety, it certainly makes things more pleasing to the eye, but there are other benefits as well. The smaller eggs have a higher ratio of yolk to white, that means they’re perfect for custards or ice cream. Noticing the difference and learning to appreciate each thing for what it brings to the table is quite nice. Now, if I go into a grocery store I’m actually taken aback by the uniformity. Around here, one size definitely does not fit all and we like it that way!

What’s your favorite “imperfect” home produced food?

Real Food

July 14th, 2012

Maybe most important, farm food itself is totally different from what most people now thing of as food: none of those colorful boxed and bagged products, precut, parboiled, ready to eat, and engineered to appeal to our basic desires. We were selling the opposite: naked, unprocessed food, two steps from the dirt.

Kristin Kimball from The Dirty Life: A Memoir of Farming, Food, and Love

The main reason I started an edible garden is because I was dissatisfied with the quality of produce at the grocery store. There’s just something about food that’s freshly plucked from the garden. I still buy some things at my local farmer’s market, but even that isn’t quite as good as something that’s only minutes from plant to plate.





This week we’ve been enjoying so many wonderful homegrown vegetables: beets, potatoes, zucchini, tomatoes, onions, and all kinds of herbs to season and add flavor. Every morning we’ve been enjoying harvest vegetable hash with eggs poached on top – life is truly good! (for my recipe visit Eat Outside the Bag).

What are you enjoying from the garden this week?

Storing Homegrown Onions

June 21st, 2012

After posting about onions yesterday, everyone was asking about how I store my onions. The home in which I spent part of my childhood had a proper root cellar. It was located under the porch and had a gravel floor. As a result it stayed cold and humid. It was full of spiders and had one a lightbulb in the middle of the room – you had to open the wooden door and step into the damp dark room while feeling around for the pull cord – it was the scariest thing in the world when we were little (right up there with the basement stairs without backs). A proper root cellar like this is the best place to store crops, but many of us do not have such spaces.

Our home is like most modern homes, we have a basement, but no proper root cellar. Generally I simply store my onions in baskets on shelves in the basement. We don’t heat our basement so it stays about 50-55 degrees all winter long. A little warm for storing vegetables, but better than the upstairs. Things would store a bit longer if we could keep it cooler, but they usually store until we eat them all. The biggest challenge you will face if you don’t have a cool enough spot is that your onions will start to sprout, That’s not a huge problem since they can still be used.

I often store my onions in the workshop off the garage until the weather starts to get below freezing. In the fall it’s much cooler than our basement. If you have an enclosed porch that hovers around these temperatures that might work as well. We’ve considered turning our basement stairway into a root cellar but haven’t taken the plunge. I have friends that store their potatoes in their barns in makeshift root cellars made of bales of straw. My grandpa tells stories of them using a pit in the yard to store potatoes between layers of straw. Back to Basics: A Complete Guide to Traditional Skills, Third Edition has a section that describes how to build a few different types of root cellars. Here’s an article on how to build a proper root cellar into your basement via Mother Earth News

Here are a few things that you can do to ensure longer storage of your homegrown onions.

Select the right variety. Some onions are long-keepers and are meant to be stored in root cellars, others are not. Most companies will list this information in the description. If not, head off to Google to find out. Consider starting your onions from seed or purchasing onion plants. Seed started onions generally will store longer than onions grown from sets. If you grow both, make sure you label each kind and keep them separate so you can eat the set grown onions first.

Don’t over fertilize. Onions are heavy feeders and like a lot of water, but over fertilizing can cause crown rot. It’s better to have smaller onions that keep longer than huge onions that rot. Keeping onions well watered and well weeded will help the bulbs grow larger without as much fertilizer. Eat large onions from you pantry first as they don’t seem to store as long as the smaller onions.

Cure onions before storing them. In summer the tops of your onions will flop over and the leaves will start to yellow. This signals to the plant that it’s time to get ready for the winter ahead. When the necks look dry, pull onions and allow them to cure in a warm spot to cure. Let them sit in a single layer in a warm dry location for two weeks (a garage or attic works well for this). Once the necks of the onions are completely dry you can store them in baskets in a cool dark location (35-40 degrees is best).

Check onions in storage regularly and use up those that are starting to soften or sprout first. If you notice that the majority of your onions are sprouting, cut them all up, cook them and freeze them.

You can also grow a variety of other alliums to fill in the gaps throughout the year. Here at Chiot’s Run we also grow: traditional leeks, potato onions, shallots, Egyptian walking onions, scallions, bunching onions and perennial leeks. More on these alternative alliums tomorrow.

Do you have any tips to share on storing homegrown onions?

Highly recommended reading about long term vegetable storage:

For The Love of Harvests

May 23rd, 2012

This time of year the harvest basket starts to fill with delicious goodness. No longer is it just greens of various shapes and sizes and a few straggling overwintered leeks. Last week we picked our very first strawberry, just one delicous berry and which we split. Then Friday evening, Mr Chiots harvested a few handfuls. On Monday – an entire bowlful. These are ‘Earlyglow’ strawberries from Nourse Farms that I planted five years ago.

Yesterday morning we had strawberry shortcake for breakfast (here’s my recipe for anyone who wants it). No spongy sweet cake, we’re a lightly sweetened biscuit family, which is crumbled into a bowl, topped with strawberries and smothered in milk.

I also harvested my first garlic scapes yesterday, which we enjoyed sautéed over swiss chard. Can you believe swiss chard has never graced my plate before?

What are you enjoying from your harvest basket this week?

Fresh Greens from the Garden

October 20th, 2010

I’ve been harvesting some of my fall planted veggies, mainly spinach and arugula. These two greens are my favorites, with arugula being my favorite of the two. If I had to choose only one green to eat the rest of my life it would be arugula.

There’s just something about it’s wonderful peppery complex flavor that I love. It works beautifully in salads, as a substitute for basil in pesto and it makes a marvelous BLT. No boring iceberg lettuce here at Chiot’s Run!

I like to grow heirloom arugula and collect seed from it each year to keep it going in the garden. Mine is the white blooming variety, I’ve grown the yellow blooming variety as well but I didn’t like it as much as this kind.

What’s your favorite garden green?

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About

This is a daily journal of my efforts to cultivate a more simple life, through local eating, gardening and so many other things. We used to live in a small suburban neighborhood Ohio but moved to 153 acres in Liberty, Maine in 2012.

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