Wednesday, September 15, 2010

In touch with my food. Literally.

One thing I've learned in trying to eat more local, less processed foods is how much I have to touch my food now.  Whether it's for preservation or just prep for dinner, there is a lot more involved when you quit opening up cans.

Take the purple hull peas.  I'd never had them before.  Farmer Sandra grows them and I was intrigued.  They're a pretty greenish purple and look like beans.

Except they are not.  The edible part lies within the hull and must be painstakingly removed.

Shellin' peas - it can either be relaxing or mind-numbingly boring.

The first time, I did them all by myself.  What began as relaxing soon became monotonous.  It took well over an hour.

I cooked them in sauteed onion and bacon and then boiled them for about 90 minutes.  Delicious!  The kids LOVED them!

So, I decided they were worth the effort and the next time I brought them home from the farm I made it a Family Project to shell the peas.  What began as relaxing soon turned into bickering, adolescent fits, and at least one nameless person leaving the room in tears.

But I digress.

The point is, it took no little while to get all those peas out of their hulls.  But they were worth the work.  Purple hull peas are not something you'd ever find in the grocery store, in a can, or in the frozen food section. They are wonderful and this is the only way you can enjoy them.  By touching every little dang pea.

A few weeks back, when I went to "my farm" to get my veggies, Farmer Sandra had harvested ALL the carrots.  They were not going to stand up to the heat, and needed to be used now or they'd be no good at all.

I pretty much filled my bag with carrots that week, intending to find a way to preserve them.

Homegrown carrots are neither as "pretty" or as large as you find in the grocery store.  But they have a much more robust flavor, and earthiness that all good root vegetables should have.  And a lot more charm in their appearance.

Problem is, before preserving, all of these carrots needed to be vigorously scrubbed.  I'm a scrubber, not a peeler.  I think peeling is wasteful in both taste and mass and nutritional value.  Scrubbing hundreds of little carrots took no little while.

The next challenge is to preserve them in a way that I think enhances their flavor and makes eating them a pleasure rather than a chore.

As usual, I scanned a lot of recipes and decided to go a bit exotic.  Star anise, cinnamon, clove all seemed to be good compliments to their earthy flavor, and some lemon (juice and peel) to brighten the overall effect and contract all that earthiness.

They sure look pretty, but I need to give them a few weeks in the jars before trying them.  I'll let you know how they taste.

All this prep work gives new meaning to "handmade food."


Granny Sue said...

The carrots are so pretty! We completely missed ours this year--left them too long in the ground an they rotted :( note to self to pay more attention next year.

Toyin O. said...

peas and carrots look good.