Thursday, December 5, 2013

Guest Post by Suzanne: Having Faith in Slow Food

By Suzanne Taylor, wannabe pawpaw farmer, raptor spotter, and nosy local foodie.

I drove up to Wellandport today to get a basket from Linda, noting that even though the snow had mostly melted in Grimsby, there was still plenty on the roads out to West Lincoln and the myriad little towns you pass through. It was a fine day for raptor-spotting, and I saw both a golden and a bald eagle on my drive, as well as several American kestrels looking for field mice from the telephone wires.

I went out and talked to Linda for a while, about why nobody farmed exotic mushrooms in Niagara (she says that's because they are annoying to grow), and how interesting the Niagara-grown pawpaws that Tiffany had gotten me were, and did she know they weren't pollinated by bees, because the pawpaw trees predate bees evolutionarily-speaking, and that instead they were pollinated by beetles and flies, and you could attract those by hanging roadkill in the trees? 

(The look on Linda's face when I told her that fact cannot be captured in words.)

Despite being a native of Ontario, I never did quite become a winter-lover. The four months of basically living in a slushsicle isn't something I enjoy, and the look of drab winter tires and salt-caked snow boots and the wide emptiness of January are just depressing to even consider, even though we aren't even quite yet in the thick of the Christmas season. 

I lived for a year in the southern US, and remember my roommates having fits because we had a 5 cm snowfall and those people simply don't have snow-clearing equipment for the roads or their cars. They brushed their cars off with kitchen brooms and drove to the store to buy out all the milk, and then it'd melt two days later. I was half-tempted to take them for a trip to Thunder Bay and introduce them to real winter, but those people don't own boots or coats.

Anyhow, in October my husband and I finally turned our little patio garden over and put it to bed for the winter. Most of the tomato plants had given up ripening outdoors and I brought the green tomatoes in to ripen inside (which they did quite nicely), and pulled out most of the rest of the plants. 

But my peppers were a source of indecision for me on that chilly October afternoon. We had planted three kinds of heirloom peppers this summer, and being peppers, they sort of farted along for most of May to July and didn't do very much. We had that giant hailstorm in mid-July which did some damage to our tomato plants, and pretty much figured the pepper plants were wrecked after that. 

The peppers, however, had other ideas, and in late August and early September began shooting up and putting out flowers, and some tiny green fruit appeared. Which was rather annoying, since it was going to be a race against time to ripen anything, but they kept merrily growing along to spite me. I didn't want the frost to kill them after they came back to life. 

Finally I had to make a decision, and so I brought the pepper plants inside after repotting them. I paged through the gardening advice blogs, and determined that even if they didn't ripen, bringing them in would strengthen the plants for the next growing season, and so I did that. I had a pepper on each plant, not much worth saving, but why not, right?

Well, one of them shrivelled into nothing and fell off with a plop while watering last week. The other one is looking grim and I am not holding out high hopes as we begin to motor through December. 

However, one pepper has finally ripened as of today. The plant is called a Quadrato D'Asti Giallo, which is a yellow Italian bell pepper variety, and it has produced a single pepper for me to feast upon in this long December.

This little lonely pepper sort of illustrates what I like about eating locally and eating organic heirloom veg and being a CSA member. Not every plant is going to work, not every crop has a good year. In 2012 the apple crop was mostly wiped out; the 2013 apple crop is a bumper year. This year I hear they picked ice wine grapes in November. 

But that's what eating local is about; having faith and patience in what grows. Winter in Niagara is long, but the local foodie crew has faith that the growing season will come again, even if your stubborn plants manage to make it stretch to December. 

With the winter growing season upon us and Linda's hoophouse offering greens by the bundle, I leave you with a recipe for baked eggs with greens and mushrooms, the latter of which Linda won't grow because they annoy her, courtesy of Brooklyn Supper ( 

Happy winter, fellow Niagara food nerds; may the long December bless you with many delicious things. 

Baked Eggs with Greens and Mushrooms
2-3 bunches of leafy greens (I used collards, swiss chard and beet greens)
4 eggs
1 pint fresh mushrooms, or a handful dried
8 oz. marscapone
2 oz. feta
2 tablespoons butter
zest of 1 lemon
2 tablespoons lemon juice
4 cloves garlic
1 tablespoon chives, diced
salt and pepper to taste

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Butter a large baking dish and set aside. If using dried mushrooms, soak them in warm water for 10 minutes. Wash the greens thoroughly, spin dry, and chop roughly into 1″ strips.

In a medium bowl, combine the eggs and the marscapone. Things will be lumpy, but blend them as best you can. Crumble in the feta, and add the chives. Add a pinch or two of salt. Set aside while you prepare the greens.

In a large saute pan, melt 2 tablespoons butter oven medium heat. When it is bubbly and fragrant add the garlic, lemon zest, and mushrooms. Saute for 3 or 4 minutes, add the lemon juice and then the greens. Gently cook until the greens have wilted, but still have some crunch. Add salt and pepper to taste. Remove the greens to the baking dish and pour in the egg mixture. Make sure everything is evenly combined, and put into the oven. Bake for 20-30 minutes until the eggs are just set. Remove from oven, cool for a few minutes, and serve with rice or quinoa.

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