Archive for September, 2012

Elderberry crazy

Last spring we foraged for elder flowers, making cordial and fritters and drying them for tea.We’ve grown to really like elder. Czechs apparently do, too, or at least they used to, because elder is growing just about everywhere. Roads are lined with them, old hedgerows and older homes all have elder bushes. Really, they are everywhere.  I imagine the birds have done their part in spreading them, too. So, now that we are in elderberry season, there are berries everywhere. Colleagues have told me about the cordial they have made from them, and I was all read to go wild, but friend and neighbor Andrea related to me how she had made some last year and her family wouldn’t drink it. So I was a bit tentative this year and picked a small bucket full to make into cordial.

The recipe was quite simple and can be found here. The hardest part was getting the berries off the stalks. They recommend using a fork to sort of comb them off. It works, but the inter-tine distance makes a big difference, so if it seems hard at first, switch to a different fork! The rest was quite simple really.

Boiling the berries.

Squeezing out the juice and straining out the skins.

And it’s delicious! Next year  I’m hoping to make much more, and perhaps try some jam, too.

I guess it’s the combination of my innate frugality and the fun of DIY, but I love foraging for  food. I especially like preserving foraged food. It makes me feel so secure (and, okay, maybe just a little smug) to know I can find food out there in the world and bring it home and feed my family. Free food, that is. And though it seems to raise a few eyebrows here and there, foraging from the hedgerows used to be quite common and normal. As much as I would like more people to eat locally and seasonally, I am glad that I seem to have most of the hedgerows to myself these days!

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I was at a potluck gathering on Saturday and had a very tasty lasagna. What I really liked about it was that it was not sauce or cheese heavy – just layers of fresh pasta and vegetables. Delicious. So I thought I would try to create one of my own.

Farmer’s Market Vegetable Lasagne – Attempt #1

fresh lasagna noodles°

fresh spinach* sautéed with garlic

sauteed mushrooms°

roasted red peppers°, peeled, seeded and sliced

a bit of tomato sauce

a bit of mozzarella cheese

salt, pepper, oregano to taste

Cover the bottom of the lasagna dish with a layer of sauce seasoned with spices. Layer noodles on top. Then place some spinach, red peppers and mushrooms on the noodles. Put another layer of noodles on top of this, more sauce, more veggies, some cheese and then a final layer of noodles. Top with sauce. Bake for about 45 minutes.

Yummy layers.

Once again I failed to photograph it before we had eaten most of it! Here it is in the container heading for the fridge, but you can still see the yummy layers!


* = from our garden

°= from the farmer’s market

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Kompot – in English!

A few days ago I wrote about a local CSA and shared their leaflet though it was in Czech. Today they sent me an English version! Wanna join?

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Monday Menu

We’ve been eating lots of garden-based meals lately and tonight is no exception. Sorry about the bad photos – I was so hungry I almost didn’t think to take photos, and I certainly didn’t take the time to make them nice! Just trust me – it all tasted much better than it looks here!


radish top soup

ratatouille, sort of


The soup is more or less the same as the one I made here, though, and don’t tell the girls, I didn’t have quite enough radish tops*, so I added beet greens*. They detected no difference, and neither did I.

The ratatouille, sort of, was a stew of onion°, peppers*°, zucchini* and tomatoes* seasoned with thyme*, oregano*, salt and pepper.

The biscuits were awesome. Just a basic baking powder biscuit, but there’s nothing like homemade biscuits warm from the oven. And it really doesn’t take so long to make them. I really should do it more often.

And tomorrow’s breakfast? Warmed biscuits with jam!

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“Komunitou podporované zemědělstvi”

Of course!

I am so excited that I have found a local CSA that is open for new subscribers. And when I say local, I mean local. It’s in the next village over from ours. I can ride there on my bike in about 10 minutes (though how to transport the veggie box home on my bike is a bit of a challenge).

Here is their web site: http://www.kom-pot.cz/. It’s in Czech but I am sure Google translator will do a good job for you!

They call themselves Kompot, from the Czech for community and food, but kompot is also the word for compote (see how easy Czech is?!). They are hoping to use some family land to produce basic veggies for about 40 members. The price will come out to about 250Kc per week for a box of veggies during the season, about 20 weeks. That works out to about US$12.50 per week.

They also write on their website about building community, supporting local farming and open spaces, functioning as a co-operative with a voice for all members. It really sounds wonderful and I am hopeful that it will be successful.

The next event there is Pumpkin Day on 29 September. Hope to see you there!




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Monday Menu

Another simple but delicious garden meal…

Tonight’s Menu

Zucchini* Hash


Salad of Baby Greens*

sliced cucumbers*

Zucchini hash was an on-the-spot invention designed to use up some of the veggies in the fridge. I sautéed a chopped onion° and two small chopped carrots°, added diced zucchini* and some corn kernels*. A little salt and yumminess ensued. Served with bulgur.

Salad of baby greens (mizuna, Chinese mustard, arugula, lettuce, spinach, all from the garden)  topped with a foraged apple, goat cheese°and walnuts°.


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Monday Menu

What should I say about tonight’s menu?

“Most of the things were from our garden. It was delicious! Especially the corn. It was straight from the garden. You picked it and then you cooked it.” – Sofie

“We had our own roasted string beans and they were very good. They were delicious. We roasted them with garlic.” – Olivia

“I also liked the zucchini. We didn’t get a lot of zucchinis this summer. But we’re getting more now.” – Sofie

“It was all from our garden, except the salt and pepper, the cheese and the butter and the olive oil.” – Olivia

Tonight’s Menu

roasted string beans* and garlic

zucchini*, onions° and cheese

tomato* salad

salad of baby greens*

corn on the cob*

homemade bread

Once again, nothing complicated, just fresh vegetables. I roast the string beans with olive oil and peeled garlic cloves until they are slightly caramelized. Sprinkle with salt and serve. The zucchini is sautéed with onions and topped with cheese. The tomatoes are sliced and dressed with a bit of olive oil and salt. The corn is steamed until barely done. The salad is just mixed baby arugula, lettuce, spinach, mustard and mizuna. I topped it with the tomatoes.

First corn of the season and it was so good! Not the starchy, heavy stuff I bought at the farmer’s market a month ago. This was real sweetcorn, just ripe, juicy and sweet.

THIS is why I have a garden…

Tomatoes and corn. The rest is just filler.

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A Hard Day’s Work

Well, we are back at it again. School, that is. And each day is hectic, with classes and meetings, and the start of school is such a shock after the lazy days of summer.

So I come home on the bus, and as the bus leaves the city and we pass fields and fruit trees and the forest, I start to decompress. I walk from the bus stop as the clouds gather. Please, rain! The garden needs it. I walk along the streets of my village, thinking about nothing in particular. Truth be told, I am looking for burdock to harvest in the near future.

And then I spot my garden…looking thirsty, but my little piece of paradise.

And it’s out to the garden to pick veggies for salad and whatever else needs picking.

Another pound of beans tonight!

And a few other things.

I’m really hungry tonight and craving greens. And eager to try calendula petals in the salad. And to roast more string beans. And to eat fresh tomatoes. So hungry that I eat it before I photograph it. (It was delicious.)

And I am restored.

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