Celebrating diversity and making lemonade...

Celebrating diversity and making lemonade...

Sunday, October 24, 2021

Smoking seeds!

 In the Kitchen

I love seeds!  I love planting seeds, saving seeds and eating seeds!  Seeds are so healthy.  An egg is similar to a seed.  It has everything in it to grow a new organism!  Because of this, they are extremely nutritious (both seeds and eggs!).  Seeds have protein, fiber, healthy fats, and important vitamins, minerals and antioxidants.  When consumed as part of a healthy diet, seeds can help reduce blood sugar, cholesterol and blood pressure, boost digestive health, and fight free radial formation.  Here is a great article about seeds and how they are different from nuts, grains and beans.

I really enjoy putting both sunflower seeds and pumpkin seeds on my salads.  Sunflower seeds are high in vitamin E, thiamine and manganese. Pumpkin seeds are high in healthy fats and protein and rich in manganese, magnesium and phosphorus.  

A couple years ago I learned that you could grow hulless pumpkin seeds inside a pumpkin.  They do not have the harder, tan seed coat.  They are the green seeds.  I see them for sale in the grocery store as pepitos.  Well, this year I had a bumper crop of the pepito pumpkins!  Here is a pic of our barn cat, Apple Jack, sitting on the deck with the pumpkins in the background.  I think I had about 40 of them!
They are small pumpkins and the flesh is not really that good for eating.  I have learned how to scoop the seeds out, wash them and then put them into the dehydrator to dry them down for storage.  This year, I decided to try smoking some!  I also decided to try smoking some sunflower seeds.  This was actually a request from Joshua.  One day he asked if he could eat the sunflower seeds so I figured...why not?  This is what we did to smoke the sunflower and pumpkin seeds.  

First, I cut the pumpkins in half and scooped out the green seeds.  
I roasted the flesh part of the pumpkins and we fed that to the chickens and ducks!  Joshua enjoys feeding the ducks each afternoon when he gets home from school.  Here is a video of him feeding pumpkin and sunflower seeds to the ducks...
Here is a pic of the sunflower heads that we harvested seeds from...  
We were able to get gray colored seeds, some black seeds and striped seeds.
The next step is to boil the seeds in salt water.  I put 8 cups water in a pot and then added 1/4 cup salt. and boiled the seeds for 15 minutes.  When I boiled the sunflower seeds, they all turned black...but then when they dried back out, the color dissipated and you could see the different kinds again.
Then, I strained off the salt water and put them on metal trays.  I put them into the smoker at 230 degrees F.  I used hickory smoke for 2 hours and then continued to bake them in the smoker for a couple more hours.  I wanted to make sure they were nice and dry.  I also stirred the seeds every 30 minutes.  Let me reiterate, for long time storage, the seeds have to be bone dry or they will mold.
Finally, once they were dry, I gathered them up and put in a jar!  
They both taste amazing and I am happy that I decided to try something new with the pumpkin seeds.  This will definitely spice up my salads this winter!  Or they will be great just as a healthy snack!  The seeds in this jar are from about 5 pumpkins so I am going to have about 8 times that amount when I am done!  I am not going to do anymore of the sunflower seeds...I think these will keep us busy for a while!

One last note:  you can totally do this with the seeds you get out of your Jack-o'-lantern pumpkin!  Or seeds from you butternut squash!  Or any winter squash!  You know, the seeds with the shells!  They will be crunchier but we always roast some pumpkin seeds in the oven each year.  I really liked boiling in salt water because I can never get the salt to stick well after they have been roasted so this is a great hack to get nice salty seeds.  If you don't have a smoker, you can add some liquid smoke to the seeds before you roast them in the oven!  I usually put some butter/olive oil on the seeds before I roast them in the oven so you just add about a tablespoon of liquid smoke to the oil and mix it all together well and then roast in the oven.  Yum!!!

Have an eggcellent day!

Sunday, October 10, 2021

Storing vegetables for winter

 In the Root Cellar

We got a freeze on the farm this past week!  This means I was running around trying to bring everything in so that it would not get ruined.  When we purchased the farm 4 years ago, I was most excited that there was a large root cellar located under the garage!  We have never had a root cellar before so I started doing some research.  I think most people know that you store vegetables in a root cellar for the winter because it stays cool.  One thing that I didn't realize is that a root cellar is not the best place to store everything!  Some items need humid conditions and some need dry conditions.  A root cellar has cool and humid conditions.  One of the first things I put into the root cellar was onions.  What I didn't know is that onions need cool and dry storage conditions.  The onions started to get some mold on them.  Also, the onions started sprouting because we have 2 windows in the side of the root cellar and light was coming in.  That problem was easy to fix and we covered the windows with boards.  Then, as mentioned in the last blog, we ended up putting an air conditioner in one of the windows and we use that to keep it at 40 degrees and because it is built partially underground, it has a good amount of humidity in our root cellar (it is at least 80% humidity).
Onions, garlic, squash, and potatoes need to be cured before storing.  I am pretty sure I did not properly cure my onions that first year either.  Curing involves leaving the vegetable in a warm, dry place for a couple weeks to allow the skin to thicken and toughen.  Potatoes should also be stored in a dark place so that they do not sprout or turn green because of the light.  Potatoes like cool and damp storage conditions.  After curing, I like to put the potatoes in a box with layers of shredded newspaper to allow for some ventilation and then I put that box in the root cellar. 
We store a lot of squash to feed to the chickens and the ducks in the winter.  I have been surprised to find that summer squash actually store pretty well.  Squash needs cool and dry conditions for storage.  I let them cure and then put into bins and place in a storage room of the house that we do not heat.

Once I get the container full, I put the squash on a shelf in a room of the house that stays cool.  I also have the onions and some sunflower heads here on these shelves.  In a perfect world, I would have the onions in a dark container so they cannot get too much light.  I will have to get some more containers...but we do have the windows blocked in this room too so not much light gets in.
Top to bottom...sunflower heads...summer squash...onions...on the right side you can see a bag of garlic hanging there...
Here is a pic of some of the winter squash that we will be eating this winter...I was mostly running around bringing these and the green tomatoes in from the garden last Tuesday.  From top to bottom are spaghetti squash, butternut squash, delicata (not sure all these are "ripe"...the unripe ones will be for the girls), also some banana squash and then buttercup squash...not pictured are a couple Baby Blue squash and pepito pumpkins...this is a good harvest...we have plenty of squash this year!
Root vegetables are easy to store and need cold and very moist conditions.  Root vegetables do not need to be cured.  In fact, it is best to pull them out of the ground and store them immediately.  I like to put them in layers of damp sand.  I have read that damp sawdust also works well.  I store carrots and beets this way.  One of the first years I grew beets, I canned some.  This was fine but it seems much easier to me to just store them in the root cellar now.  Side note:  the wet sand gets very heavy...I had to ask Henry to bring this in to the cellar after I filled it up in the garden.  Seriously thinking about switching to sawdust next year...
It is best to store larger root vegetables but the carrots just did not grow very big...if the small ones become rubbery, we will just use them for making broth...Joshua LOVES roasted carrots so I have a feeling that they will not last long...
I am experimenting with drying down some sunflower heads for seeds for the chickens and the ducks.  It is challenging to get them to dry down all the way.  They need to be completely dried or they will mold.  I looked at them today and noticed that some were getting a little fuzzy so I turned them over so the underside could dry out.  I think they would be best to dry on a screen but I don't have a huge screen to put them on...I will have to think about it a little more for next year...even though we got a good amount of sunflower heads, they will be used up in the next couple of weeks...the girls LOVE their sunflower seeds!
Speaking of seeds, I diligently saved some pea seeds a month ago when the plants started to dry down.  Luckily, I opened the jar the other day and noticed that they have weevils!  I guess the bugs must have been in the seed when I put them in the jar.  I picked some more pea seed and this time, I put it in the freezer for a week to keep any weevil eggs that may have been in there from hatching.  I am glad I decided to save some seed early in the season and realized my mistake...
I bought these special root cellar storage containers (to the left of the celery in the pic).  As you can see, it is mostly burlap and this allows for good ventilation.  I put the carrots and beets in these containers.  I dug up this celery from the garden and kind of "replanted" it in this large pot...it should be good for a few weeks...I like to dry it (when I have time) and can add it to soups this winter...
I have some apple wine in the root cellar.  I don't really want to store fresh apples long term.  Our apples have a LOT of insects so they are not ideal for storage.  I try to can them into applesauce or apple pie filling or dry them as we pick them so I am storing apples that way.  Also, since apples release ethylene, you have to be careful and not keep them near your potatoes or it will make your potatoes sprout.
I also store heads of cabbage in the root cellar.  They don't really need any special treatment...I just put them on the shelf and grab one when I need one.  You just have to peel off the outer layers of the cabbage because they will brown and dry out a little...the inside is all good.  I also put the watermelon in the root cellar but we will be eating these ASAP!  They will not keep more than a couple weeks.
I also store my ferments in the root cellar/cold room.  I have some dill pickles and fermented salsa in there right now.  Also, I just got finished making some cordita which is a mexican sauerkraut.  This is something new I am trying, along with cabbage, it also has shredded carrots, onions, and oregano in it.  
I tried to stay on topic...this is mostly what I store as whole vegetables in the fall...summer and winter squash, potatoes, onions, garlic, carrots, beets and cabbage.  I have heard of people storing tomatoes in the root cellar and wrapping each tomato in newspaper but I just can/ferment most of the tomatoes into salsa and sauce.

Busy busy time of year!  Have an eggcellent day!