Fiddle Dee Dee: Ostrich Fern Harvest

May 8th, 2018 § 0 comments § permalink

Ostrich Fern (Matteuccia struthiopteris) in the Secret Garden

Hoo Wee! It’s fiddlehead season again in Southern Vermont, and don’t you blink or you’ll miss it. Normally just two weeks long, fiddlehead season is particularly short with spring’s late arrival this year. So when I noticed bloodroot (Sanguinaria canadensis), and troutlily (Erythronium americanum), beginning to bloom on the forest floor, I rushed right out in the early morning hours with a big harvest basket. Time to visit the damp, woodsy lowlands and forest streams, seeking out the tightest, brightest, green Matteuccia struthiopteris fronds.

It’s Fiddlehead Season! Beautiful in the woodland garden and the dinner plate: Ostrich Fern (Matteuccia struthiopteris) 

Matteuccia struthiopteris makes a tall, elegant, ground-covering ornamental in damp shade. Hardy in zones 3-7, it can reach 3-6′ high and its spread, by underground rhizome, can lead to 6-8′ colonies. This is a great plant for naturalizing in a high understory, and for pairing with spring ephemerals; such as Sanguinaria canadensis, Erythronium americanum, Phlox divericata, Tiarella cordifolia, and woodland bulbs of all kinds.

By late spring, Matteuccia struthiopteris makes a lovely, softening backdrop and filler plant toward the back of the border. It’s a great plant for pairing with ephermerals and early-blooming bulbs.

Although I cultivate Ostrich Fern in my secret garden, it also grows wild here in the Vermont woodlands surrounding my studio and home. When I go out foraging for fiddleheads, I look for the deep green, shiny curl of Matteuccia struthiopteris. Often, the fertile, dark brown, spiky fronds —which persist, tough and upright, through the winter months— lead me to the emerald green fiddleheads at the base of each fern. I’m careful to harvest only one or two from each plant.

After Harvest, I Soak Fiddleheads in Cold Water, and Rinse Thoroughly to Remove Sand and Brown, Papery Husks. Once Cleaned, Steam for 7-10 Minutes or Blanch for 10-15. Then, Use in Salads, Stir Fries and Pastas or Bag and Freeze for Later.

Ostrich Fern fiddleheads should not be consumed raw. Instead, after thoroughly cleaned (see instructions above), be sure to steam (7-10 minutes), or blanch (10-15 minutes), fiddleheads to al dente. Once steamed or blanched, these delightful greens may be eaten in a variety of ways. Toss them in a simple soup or salad, sauté in butter as a side dish, add them to favorite pastas and risotto or enjoy them in savory tarts and quiches. Cleaned and sealed in airtight bags, raw fiddleheads will keep fresh several weeks in the fridge. Once steamed or blanched, they may be bagged and frozen for up to 9 months.

Article and Photography copyright Michaela at The Gardener’s Eden, all rights reserved. All content on this site, (with noted exceptions), is the property of The Gardener’s Eden and may not be used, reproduced or reposted elsewhere without written consent.

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Cold Hands, Warm Heart

February 14th, 2018 § 2 comments § permalink


H A P P Y     V A L E N T I N E S     D A Y

.

Article copyright Michaela at The Gardener’s Eden, all rights reserved. All content on this site, (with noted exceptions), is the property of The Gardener’s Eden and may not be used, reproduced or reposted elsewhere without written consent.

Do you enjoy visiting The Gardener’s Eden? You can help support this site by shopping through the affiliate-links here. A small percentage of each sale will be paid to The Gardener’s Eden, and will help with site maintenance and web hosting costs. Thank you!

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Spicy & Savory Winter Squash Stew

February 5th, 2018 § 0 comments § permalink

Winter Squash Stew from The Edible Herb Garden

After posting my recent review of Rosalind Creasy’s The Edible Herb Garden last week, I decided that I simply had to try one of the many tempting recipes at the back of the book. Cooking with fresh herbs and homegrown vegetables is a bit more challenging at this time of year; especially in cold climates like New England. But with a good supply of windowsill herbs, a root cellar and/or freezer, attempting a few of Rosalind’s recipes is certainly not out of the question —even in midwinter. Onions and garlic are items most gardening cooks have on hand throughout the cold season, and butternut squash stores well right through the early days of spring. Of course, I always have homegrown herbs, even if they are just little, potted plants on my countertop. Who could live without fresh herbs?

Many of the recipes in Rosalind’s wonderful Edible Herb Gardening book sound both tasty and simple to make, however it was the hearty, native squash stew that leapt out at me on this raw, Superbowl Sunday weekend. Butternut squash has always been one of my favorite vegetables, but I often find it underrepresented in cookbooks. For this reason, I’m always looking out for creative ways to use this mildly sweet, hearty vegetable.

The Edible Herb Garden by Rosalind Creasy

The basic recipe included in the book is delightful, however on my second batch, I chose to jazz it up a bit with homemade vegetable stock, a few smoky chipotle chiles and ample hot sauce. Spicing is always personal, but otherwise I recommend following Rosalind’s cue.  Served with crispy corn chips, this thick and satisfying soup is as perfect for Meatless Monday as it was for Superbowl Sunday. I’m looking forward to trying many more of Rosalind’s recipes; including her Fancy Carrot and Onion Soup from this wonderful book, next weekend.

 

Winter Squash Stew

(Adapted from Rosalind Creasy’s Native Squash Stew, The Edible Herb Garden. Posted with Permission)

Ingredients:

3      Tbs  Olive Oil

2      Medium-Large Onions, Chopped

10    Cups Butternut Squash, Peeled & Cut into 2″ Cubes

4      Garlic Cloves, Finely Chopped

2      Red Bell Peppers, Roasted, Peeled & Chopped

6      Anaheim Chiles, Roasted, Peeled & Chopped (or equivalent canned, roasted, mild chiles)

3      Chipotle Chiles, Chopped (canned, in adobo sauce)

1      10-12 oz Package Frozen Corn (in season, use 2-3 ears of fresh corn, scraped)

3      Tsp Ground Cumin

3      Cups Vegetable Stock (or sub Chicken Stock for meat eaters)

1      Tbs Hot Chili Sauce (or to taste)

Salt & Ground Black Pepper to Taste

4      Tbs. Freshly Chopped Cilantro (plus more for serving)

Corn Chips or Corn Tortillas for Serving

 

Method:

Heat the oil in a large stockpot set to medium heat. Add the onions and sauté until translucent. Add butternut squash, garlic, peppers, chilies, corn, cumin. Pour in 3 cups of stock and simmer on low heat until squash is tender (approximately 45 minutes). Mash the stew slightly with a potato masher to break apart some squash chunks and thicken the stew. Add salt, pepper and hot chili sauce to taste. Sprinkle pot and individual bowls of stew with cilantro and serve with a side of warm, homemade corn tortillas or chips.

Winter Squash Stew, Perfect for Lunch or Dinner on a Cold, New England Day

 

A copy of The Edible Herb Garden was provided by Tuttle Publishing in exchange for independent, un-biased review. No other compensation was received. The Gardener’s Eden is not an affiliate of Tuttle Publishing, but is an affiliate of Amazon.com.

Article copyright Michaela at The Gardener’s Eden, all rights reserved. All content on this site, (with noted exceptions), is the property of The Gardener’s Eden and may not be used, reproduced or reposted elsewhere without written consent.

Do you enjoy visiting The Gardener’s Eden? You can help support this site by shopping through the affiliate-links here. A small percentage of each sale will be paid to The Gardener’s Eden, and will help with site maintenance and web hosting costs. Thank you!

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Heirlooms on Ice: Preserve the Harvest By Freezing Fresh, Whole Tomatoes …

September 4th, 2012 § 6 comments § permalink

Frozen Heirloom Tomatoes: German Pink, Brandywine, Orange Blossom, Green Zebra & Russian Black 

Is it me, or has summer flown by a little too quickly this year? Hard to believe that Labor Day has come and gone, and there are only 2 1/2 more weeks of summer remaining. It’s been a busy season. This is good, of course, but between professional work and other obligations, I’m finding it difficult to keep up with seasonal tasks on the home front. Last year, I managed to put up a great deal of garden-fresh produce. This season, I’m in a crunch and find myself freezing more fruits and vegetables, in order to preserve them quickly and move onto other tasks …

Wheel of Wonder: Heirlooms in Various Shapes & Colors

I love cooking with fresh tomatoes and, although the killing frost is but a month away, thanks to my freezer I will be enjoying homemade tomato sauce and the flavor of fresh tomatoes in all of my cooked recipes, all winter long. Freezing raw, heirloom tomatoes is one of the quickest and simplest ways to preserve the colors and flavors of summertime. Find your garden producing more tomatoes than you have time to eat or can? Tomatoes can be frozen cooked or raw, skin on or skin off, whole, cut into sections, pureed or juiced. I preserve tomatoes in a variety of ways, but when I’m very busy  —and who isn’t?— I simply freeze tomatoes without blanching or skinning. Later, I pull the tomatoes out and then blanch them (you can remove the skin just as easily after freezing and blanching) and can them, or thaw them and use as-is in my cooking throughout the winter months (freezing does destroy the firm texture, so don’t substitute frozen tomatoes for fresh in uncooked recipes). Follow the simple steps below to freeze raw tomatoes whole, and then process or add to cooked-recipes later. This method works so beautifully, I find myself wondering… Can I find a way to zip-lock and freeze a little more summertime?

Select Only the Highest-Quality Tomatoes for Freezing; No Bruises, Gashes or Mold. Wash the Tomatoes and Gently Pat them Dry Before Freezing.

Freezing Whole, Raw Tomatoes with Skin On

1) Select firm, ripe fruits for freezing. Choose the same high-quality tomatoes that you would use for a fresh tomato salad. Avoid over-ripe fruits with bruises or holes and never freeze tomatoes with any sign of mold.

2) Wash and gently pat the tomatoes dry with a lint-free towel

3) Slice the top of each tomato with a shallow “X” to prevent bursting

4) Place tomatoes (“X” up) on a cookie sheet or in freezer-safe dish and freeze until solid

5) Remove the tomatoes from the freezer. Label and date large sized zip-lock bags (a quart sized baggie fits about 3 heirloom tomatoes). Slip the frozen tomatoes into zip-lock bags according to how you will use them: measuring by weight works well if you will be using them for sauce, or you can just fill each bag and measure later. Press out extra air and zip securely closed.

6) Return bagged tomatoes to the freezer and use within 8 months for best flavor. Try them thawed and used in sauces, stews, soups, juices and pastes. You can also blanch the still frozen tomatoes and remove skins. Use the thawed tomatoes in all cooked recipes as you would fresh tomatoes, but don’t substitute thawed, frozen tomatoes for fresh tomatoes in recipes, as the texture is ruined by freezing. See steps below for blanching and removing skins from frozen tomatoes (yes, you can postpone that step and do it later)!

Prevent Explosion Upon Re-Entry by Marking the Tomatoes with a Shallow “X”. Place with “X” Facing Up and Arrange on Cookie Sheets or Freezer-Safe Pans. Stick in the Freezer Overnight.

Remove Tomatoes from Freezer and Weigh or Bag Up According to Anticipated Use. Here, Whole Tomatoes, Bagged Up & Ready for Processing Later. Be Sure to Date and Label Your Baggies and Use Produce within 8 Months for Best Flavor.

You can also puree or juice fresh tomatoes for use in recipes later. I also like to freeze fresh, homemade tomato sauce and tomato/vegetable stock. Always use containers intended for freezing and label/date ingredients. Sun-dried tomatoes are another low-labor way to preserve these heirloom treasures. Visit this page for more ideas on preserving the harvest by freezing and drying herbs, tomatoes and other produce. And for an easy intro to canning, check out my friend Jennifer Audette’s guest post on Dilly Beans —with canning resources— here.

For important safety tips and helpful hints on the subject of food preservation —canning/freezing, etc— please visit the USDA’s National Center for Home Food Preservation online here.

Preserving Lightly Cooked & Pureed Sauce and Stock (Tomato Juice) in Freezer-Safe Containers

Fresh-Frozen Whole Tomatoes, Tomato Juice, Puree and Homemade Sauce, All Ready for the Freezer

Beyond Freezing, Drying and Canning Tomatoes, I Also Try to Extend the Fresh Season by Utilizing Hoop-House Cold Frames. Click Here for Easy Tutorial Post & Build Your Own Mini Greenhouse!

Addendum: Yes, You Can Remove Skins After Freezing Tomatoes!

This frozen, whole tomato was blanched in boiling water for about one minute. You can see the loosened skin. As soon as the skin is loose, remove tomatoes from water with a straining ladle, as shown.

I’ve received a number of questions sent via email about removing the skins after freezing the tomatoes. Yes, you can easily remove the skins after freezing. You can do this when they are still frozen solid (works very well, actually, and is easier on your hands). Simply plunge the frozen tomatoes into boiling water for a minute or two, until the skins loosen, and then remove from boiling water with a straining ladle. Allow tomatoes to cool for a minute or two, then slip the skins off with your hands. They will come off very easily. Now, place tomatoes in a bowl and allow them to continue thawing in the refrigerator until you are ready to make dinner! You can now add them to your favorite recipe (use them for stews, tomato sauce, etc), or follow USDA instructions for canning (linked below).

Skin easily slips from the still-frozen, blanched tomato (see it there, all wrinkly and cleanly pulled?). Now, place the tomatoes in a bowl, in your refrigerator and continue to thaw until it’s time to make dinner! Add to your favorite cooked recipes. The texture of thawed tomatoes is too mushy for salsa or salad… But great for sauce. You can also can previously frozen tomatoes. Follow USDA guidelines (linked above) for safely canning food.

If you are going to preserve the tomatoes by canning, thaw them and then prepare them as you normally would. Take all of the same safety precautions. I can not stress how important it is to follow the steps for canning recommended by the USDA (linked here). This post is intended for temporarily freezing tomatoes for thawing and re-using in cooked recipes.

Photography and Text ⓒ Michaela Medina/The Gardener’s Eden. All images, articles and content on this site (with noted exceptions), are the original, copyrighted property of The Gardener’s Eden and may not be reposted, reproduced or used in any way without prior written consent. Contact information is in the left side bar. Please do not take my photographs without asking first. Thank you! 

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