Posted November 16, 2007: White. It frosted hardily
last night, making for a beautiful four-minute drive to work. With
steam pouring off the Rodale Institute pond, the ducks appear to be
part of a fairy tale (they probably wouldn’t agree). In any
case, it’s a sign that things are winding down. Only one more
week left for the shareholders at Quiet
Creek Farm’s CSA. I am proud to be a member, filling in
for research manager Paul Hepperly while he’s in Uruguay spreading
the message of organic agriculture as a Fulbright Scholar. Before
this move to Kutztown, I was living nearby in Topton, and was addicted
to the Burkholder’s roadside farmstand, located conveniently
on the way home from work. It was then that I started to experiment
with food—not basing meals on recipes, but on what crops were
available. This opened up a whole new door.
Zucchini-and-squash pancakes, anyone!? Yep, zucchini pancakes!
Delicious! They’re very popular in Korea. When sustainable
agriculture students from Gyeongsang National University in South
Korea visited earlier this summer they prepared an enormous meal,
complete with all kinds of great food. This included sushi with
kimchi, sweetly marinated beef, rice balls, pancakes and a lot more.
Did I mention pancakes? Now I’m a cereal-for-breakfast kind
of gal, but these pancakes you can eat anytime. They’re made
of zucchini and squash. By late summer the squash and zucchini were
coming in nonstop, so I gave them a try. Flour, eggs, salt and grated
zucchini/squash—with or without cheese—and then, thinking
it was a little dry, I attempted a sauce. I looked in the fridge
and saw some yogurt and remembered the Greek dressing that tastes
so good: yogurt, garlic, lemon juice and …no cucumber, I already
had my cucurbit. It was delicious, if I do say so myself. I had
made something I don’t normally eat. And I liked it!
Moving to Kutztown, Areum Song—my roommate and one of the
South Korean students who returned as an intern—and I became
de facto shareholders at Quiet Creek CSA as a perk for house sitting
for Paul. I’ve never experienced so many vegetables. Areum
and I have a responsibility to eat our weekly vegetables and it’s
a challenge we haven’t been meeting recently. Luckily we have
this week to catch up as there is no pickup until next week. Areum
knows her vegetables. After securing some apples at that roadside
stand, we came home with our share and she headed straight for the
blender. I looked over and there was a green liquid swishing about
in there. Well obviously, it could only be the kale-apple drink
that her mom makes. I hesitated to try it, not knowing a thing about
kale other than it’s decorative, which conflicts with the
T-shirts and bumper stickers suggesting that we should all “Eat
more kale.” It tasted all right, and it certainly felt healthy.
Another time we had stockpiled some serious vegetables that needed
to be taken care of, so Areum takes out a pan and cuts up practically
every vegetable around—red beets, potatoes, broccoli, onion,
celeriac-—and grates butter, broccoli and cheese on top. Having
created an interestingly squiggly piece of art, she’s about
to call it a day when she adds the forlorn garlic that had been
overlooked, regarnishes and pops it into the oven. Delicious! But
she considered it a failure, not expecting the celeriac to taste
quite the way it did.
Now celeriac is definitely a new one for me. For the uninitiated
(like myself), here’s the scoop: it is a fist-sized knobby
root that tastes like celery and parsley. Half a cup equals 30 calories,
and it’s a good source of dietary fiber. Heidi—the face
of Quiet Creek Farm—is perfect for her role at the distribution
center. She knows everyone’s names and is very friendly and
helpful when you have any questions regarding the produce. I asked
her how to prepare celeriac and she said one of the shareholders
reported steaming it until it’s soft and adding a lot of cheese
on top; others put it in stews. And she listed quite a few other
methods of preparing this vegetable. It wasn’t until I was
walking away that I realized it was all vaguely familiar; I’d
asked her before! That’s it, no more questions, just do it.
I went home and steamed it until it was soft and loaded it up with
cheese and was pleased to taste something like a pre-seasoned potato.
Not bad for such an odd looking vegetable.
Needless to say, I’ve learned a lot about growing, preparing,
eating and even some about storing food in my time here. I’ve
learned what’s seasonal and how to fix it. For myself, eating
raw vegetables is phenomenal, but that’s not something you
can readily give to company, or easily do when you come into contact
with red beets. I’m sad to see the season ending, but at lunch
when I see how happy the Quiet Creek crew is I know that it’s
time to move on.
We—the research interns—are going to be busy for a
while yet, processing and collecting field corn and keeping the
hairy vetch weeded; we have another garlic planting ahead of us
and some soil samples to be collected out of the Farming Systems
Earlier this week, while threshing and cleaning soybeans for the
soybean rust experiment (three different varieties and four different
treatments), it took me back to Mali where it’s getting closer
to harvest time in the rice fields.
Once the men have harvested all of the rice and hauled it in, the
women take over. Whirling long sticks around their heads and bringing
them down hard on the rice stalks—"mosada, mosada"—they
separate the rice from the stalks. Cleaning what they’ve gathered,
they loosely brush off the larger organic material, leaving the
heavy rice at the bottom. Then they lift up their baskets with the
rice and let the wind take all of the lighter material, and the
rice falls to the mat below. This might be considered old-fashioned,
but it is still quite a viable method and the only option for a
lot of traditional farmers.
After seeing all of the work that goes on from the seed to the
pot, it would be a real crime to mess it up in the final preparation
for consumption. We get hung up on the products not the processes,
but in order to fully appreciate the outcome, we should at least
understand the process.
By preparing the celeriac, the pancakes and the kale, I’m
concentrating on the process, and am able to feel some control in
this product-oriented world. My trips to the grocery store are getting
fewer and fewer, and it feels good to be conscious of what I eat.
So as winter approaches, and my trips to the store will most likely
pick back up, I am thankful for what I’ve learned from our
gardening neighbors. On the research farm, this concept of good
solid practices resulting in a good product is reiterated on an
agronomic scale: invaluable though not as personal. We here in the
industrialized West have the technology to remove the majority of
us from dealing as intimately with our grain as the rice farmer
In whatever field you work, you are no doubt familiar with your
product and what it takes to get it to market. Imagine yourself
in a train cart looking at the train on the next track; all you
see is a blur and maybe fleeting vertical lines that lead you to
believe it’s made up of multiple carts. You in your cart are
related to the cart in front of you in that it’s pulling you
along, but until you cross the walkway between carts, you don’t
know about it. The intern experience—being where I am, being
in contact with these people—has allowed me to get on and
visit several carts to get an insider’s perspective on that
part of the process. This is a better way to decide on which train
and in which cart I’d like to settle for awhile.
To concentrate on the processes rather than the products, this
is the way to not get too overwhelmed in our world of so many things.
Growing, preparing and eating food has allowed all of that to take
place for me. The forecast is calling for flurries, and nuts continue
to drop off the trees—winter’s coming. Next spring when
the hairy vetch and garlic get the grow memo, there will be a new
set of interns to get the results of what we’ve worked on