Saturday, October 23, 2010

Cooking Squash & Making Muffins

I made squash muffins yesterday. They were a big hit!

They are best made with real cooked and mashed winter squash, either fresh or from the freezer. Just, please, don't use that canned stuff!!

First, cut open your fresh squash and scoop out the seeds and inside. Save the seeds for roasting ;-)

Cook the squash.

There are several ways this can be accomplished.

Baking: Turned squash halves upside down in a pan with a little water and baked for about 45 minutes in the oven. Let cool and scoop cooked squash out of peel.
Boiled: Peel and cut into big chunks. Bring to a boil and cook for only 10 minutes. If it cooks in the water for too long, it will be too wet. Drain well and mash. A potato masher works well for this, as does a ricer.

Or you can cook it in the microwave. I have never tried that as you can only do one piece at a time and I am usually processing many squash at once for the freezer.

When the squash is well done, mash it with a potato masher. What a beautiful bright orange this is! Lots of beta carotene!

Baking is easier but I had squash pies in the oven so I peeled and boiled this.

Squash Muffin recipe:

1 cup squash, cooked and mashed
1/3 cup oil
1/4 cup light corn syrup
3 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1 cup sugar
2 eggs
2 cups all purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ginger
1/4 teaspoon mace
Raisins (optional)

Makes 1 dozen muffins.

Preheat oven to 350F.

Mix the wet ingredients together in a big bowl. Then mix the dry ingredients together in another bowl. Stir the dry ingredients into the wet ones until well mixed. Spoon into muffin papers or a greased muffin pan. Fill quite full as they don't rise a lot. Bake at 350F for 20-23 minutes until barely starting to brown on top.

Delicious hot with real butter or at room temperature! Good in lunches too!

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Harvesting Grapevine

Yesterday I started cutting some grapevine for wreath making. I plan to make some evergreen wreaths to sell at the end of our driveway or on our corner. I made a few last year and was happy with the results, so I am making a lot more of them this year, if possible.
You can read directions on how to make your own evergreen wreath in a previous post on this blog: "Making An Outdoor Evergreen Wreath"

The picture at the top is the pile I cut from the end of our driveway yesterday. I still need to strip the leaves, coil and wire them before they dry hard. There is a bit more grapevine there and it needs to be cleared so that we can see the road when pulling out of the driveway.

This is the grapevine on the fenceline with the forest. We have a lot of it! I can cut grapevine in the county forest too, although it's not on our property. I don't think anyone will mind.

It grows all the way into the tree tops!

Yesterday I managed to score these great pinecones from a strip mall nearby! You never know where you will find useful things if you keep your eyes open to the gifts around you!

We have lovely, large acorns from our own oak trees to add to them. I have considered painting the acorns with red spray paint for the Christmas wreaths. I don't know yet if I will do that or not. I'm just thinking about it.

Today I need to get those wreaths shaped and wired to dry. I will, at least, get that much done. I also want to make some soap with the purple soap colour I made from chichiquelites yesterday. I have everything I need, except for the time.

Today is Thanksgiving, here in Canada. We are very thankful to the Lord for all that He has given us! PTL!

Winter Squash From This Year

We grew a lot of winter squash this year. We love squash pies and it's so easy to grow! This year I experimented with a few different varieties. The little orange one are our favourites so far, ambercup. They are small, easy to peel and very sweet.

The most interesting ones were the Hopi indian squash, black and pale gray. I have posted pics of these two types here because I have read folks complain that there aren't any pictures of them on the internet. I know they are rare. These are the original "Three Sisters" squash grown by the Hopi indians. Next year I will have this seed for sale on my site, in addition to a few others. I only have the "Upper Ground Sweet Potato" squash seeds for sale this year because they are the only ones I have with positive seed purity. Next year will be different. I will be growing various types of squash with insect protection and seed purity in mind.

This is the Hopi black growing.

This is the Hopi black after it is aged and ripe. That's an acorn squash next to it to show the large size. It's the only acorn squash I got this year. Just the one.

These are a couple of the Hopi pale gray. It is suppose to be a very good keeper.

The two massive squash at the back of the group in the picture at the right are the "Upper Ground Sweet Potato" squash. It's big, the size of a very large pumpkin! It is suppose to taste more like sweet potatoes than squash. It also grows well in very poor conditions, making it a good squash for our depleted field. It did very well there! I have this seed for sale in my farm store.

The colourful ones in this pile are the "Turban", also called "Turk's Cap" squash. These are a buttercup relative so I am sure they will be dense, sweet and delicious! I grew them because of their colour. I think they will be a good addition to any fall decoration. I didn't grow a lot of them this year but might be growing them for sale next year.

In the group picture behind the "Turban" squash are the four spaghetti squash we grew to try. We have never grown or eaten spaghetti squash before. We are looking at recipes now. We'll see how it goes. If we like it we will grow it again next year. If not, well, it will go the way of the butternut and Ebisu we grew previously and weren't impressed with. We have grown the big blue hubbard before, as well, and like it a lot but didn't grow it this year. I think what we have will be enough and the hubbard, while delicious, is big and hard to peel. An axe does a fair job. A knife...not so much.

These two little, dark green little ones are "Sweet Mama" squash. I only have the two and I am looking forward to trying them. Next year I will plant "Sweet Dumpling". I already have the seeds!

I have several of these. They are big blue hubbard and ambercup crosses. I didn't grow the hubbard this year but I grew it right next to the ambercup last year. Even though I hand pollinated all the flowers last year, there were still some crosses. It'll be good. Both the hubbard and ambercup are good, similar in their sweetness and density, both delicious!

Next year I will be tying both the male and female flowers with netting, I think, to ensure seed purity.
All things considered, we are very happy with this year's squash harvest! It's time to start cutting into a few ripe ones, baking them for the freezer and making a few pies!

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Edible Lappa Burdock

Burdock has been the bane of my existance for the past three years! I have spent a few entire afternoons going about with the clippers, cutting off any and all flower stalks that grow on the rosette of leaves that has spread all over my property.

Burdock is a biennial. It germinates and produces the leaf rosette the first year. It blooms and goes to seed, producing the burrs the second year, then dies.

These burrs can often be found in huge balls, wrapped up in my dog's fur, especially his tail and rear. It's uncomfortable for him, poor fellow! For this reason I have tried very hard to iradicate it, to no avail! I had more first year burdock this year than ever before!

Next year there will be a difference! I have done some research on the burdock plant this year and learned a few helpful things. Not helpful in getting rid of it, but information to help me appreciate it more.

Did you know that "Greater Burdock", which is what I have growing all over, is edible? It is also called "edible burdock or Lappa burdock". The roots are highly prized and sought after by other cultures and used to prepare many dishes in Asia and the Mediterranean.

What I found most intersting is that the budock plant is closely related to the artichoke. The young, tender flower stalks, apparently, taste like artichokes.

So, next year, I'll be hunting those flower stalks again, but with a different purpose in mind. Image that, we'll be eating burdock and it will probably be delicious! I don't think I will tell hubby what it is until after we have eaten it. He trusts me. He knows I am not going to feed him something that he cannot eat.

Do any of you eat burdock? Do the young flower stalks taste like artichoke?

I have even put some seeds on my farm store! I am amazed at the idea that someone would deliberately plant it, but after some thought I guess it's not so far fetched. If it's really is that good, why not plant it? Just make sure you eat all the flower stalks before they make burrs and bury themselves in your dog's fur!

I can tell you right now that it can't possibly be more prolific and invasive than some other things I have growing here on purpose. I will have to post a picture of my now-chickenless chicken pen, covered like a jungle with curly dock and it's not really that invasive. At least it doesn't stick to my dog's fur! (I fed those to the chickens last year.) There is also a giant pumpkin growing in there and in the old chicken manure, it's HUGE!

Burdock could be pretty and interesting in a perennial bed, I suppose, if one can release one's temptation to yell and demolish the THING on site!

So, a new discovery and a surprising one too! Another step in becoming a little more self sufficient!