Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Letters From The Barn: Summer Strawberries And Greens

Letters From The Barn:
Summer Strawberries And Greens

I almost opened up my last jar of strawberry preserves this morning but I just couldn't. The previous owner of my land gave me several as a gift recently when I went to go hand over the mortgage. Yes, I was lucky enough to have the previous owners carry the note for me. In this economy, I guess even poor folks can buy land. Sometimes it's good when the banks get the heck out of the way.

The land itself grows wild strawberries, but they're too tiny to make jam from as she did from a spiffy container garden at her new home. Wild strawberries grow about the size of a fairy's pinky, but that's okay. They're so plentiful, you make jam with every step as you walk across the land.

I'm sure the ants and whatnots are quite happy with the tiny speckled strawberry colored trail I must leave everywhere I go. When they come in season, I do collect ten or so each day to sprinkle on top of whatever I'm eating. A little, red summery splotch on various otherwise non-fancy dishes. If it were a savory dish, kind of like you might do with chives. It livens up the dish, makes me feel connected to the land and really, no matter what you eat it does taste better.

Even if you're taste buds are secretly whispering.......maybe it needs ELEVEN wild strawberries for me to quite pick up the taste.

She left behind an asparagus bed that has started sending out runners as well. They will pop up in the strangest places. The other day, a goat came up to say hi and I could distinctly smell asparagus on its breath. I had to laugh. They don't usually graze too strongly in that area, but this day they had. Then, she pawed the ground twice and asked for it be sauteed in butter next time, please. Or, maybe she thought it needed a bit of lemon. My goat is a bit rusty.

The oregano grows freely outside the bounds of the garden, so I use it as a green. In drier areas, herbs concentrate their oils and have stronger tastes. Next to a creek, they grow far more plentifully but with less pungency. Add in a few dandelions greens (the NEW leaves, not the old) and you're in business.

The best dandelion leaf (speaking taste wise here, not medicinally) is the new one that grows before the flower appears. You can just about eat those right off the plant. If you wait til they get bigger (and toothier) they are also more sour. You can eat those, too, but need to boil
'em (and then boil again) maybe with a bit of apple juice in the water to make it edible for anyone but a goat.

Once the leaf is old enough for the white sap to appear, run for the hills. At least as far as taste goes. So, if you choose wisely, you really can relish a fresh green growing right at your feet.

If you're not averse to pork, add a bit into the pot as you cook your greens. If you're a vegetarian and have oil leftover from frying potatoes, you can add a bit of that and it adds a similar full bodied taste. If your greens are still young, you can often just steam them on top of pasta or potatos at the end.

For next year, I need to reign in the asparagus bed, weed it, and treat it properly if I ever expect anything but goat fodder from it. Though if you hear it from the goat's point of view, I might already be doing it exactly the right way.

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Meriwether O'Connor is a columnist and short story writer. She works one on one with folks trying to get their writing where they would like it to be. Please contact her through this ungodly contraption called the internet if you'd like your own writing to be quicker and less painful. She'll sit down with you weekly over tea, the telephone or the godforsaken email and surprise you with how much a small chat can help you when you need it most. meriwetheroconnor@hotmail.com.

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