Tag Archives: winter squash

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Make Pumpkin Rolls for Thanksgiving

5350998200_ea6b3b34b7_o Eating freshly baked bread is one of life’s joys. When my daughters moved away, my recipe for Pumpkin Rolls was one of the few they requested from me. The recipe below makes delicious dinner rolls and is a great addition to your Thanksgiving table. It’s also a wonderful way to get non-squash/pumpkin lovers to eat the nutritious vegetable.

Ingredients:

1 scant tablespoon yeast (or 1 package yeast)

1/4 cup warm water

2/3 cup milk (whole, 2%, skim, or soy)

1 cup cooked, mashed pumpkin or winter squash (If using a small commercial can of pumpkin, buy plain pumpkin not pumpkin pie filling. Use the entire can even though it’ll be a little more than a cup).

1/3 cup brown sugar

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/3 cup butter or margarine (butter tastes better!)

2 cups whole wheat flout

2-3 cups unbleached white flour

Oven temperature: 400 degrees

Makes 12 dinner rolls, 1 large loaf, or 2 small loaves

Directions:

Mix yeast, warm water, and 1 tablespoon of the brown sugar in a large bowl. Set aside for 10-20 minutes so the yeast can “proof.” The yeast mixture will look like a foamy, tan mass when it’s ready.

While the yeast is “proofing,” place the milk and butter in a small saucepan and warm over medium heat until the butter has melted (or microwave). Once the butter has melted, cool slightly (you should be able to touch the milk and butter mixture with a finger and it should be warm, but not hot) and add to the yeast. Add the cooked pumpkin or squash, the brown sugar, and salt to the yeast and milk, then stir until blended.

Add the 2 cups whole wheat flour, and stir. The mixture should be getting thick. Now add the unbleached, white flour one cup at a time – the dough should get so thick you’ll eventually need to give up the spoon and will have to knead, by hand, the rest of the flour in. Depending on the flour, you might not use it all or you may need a few more tablespoons to get firm dough.

Turn the dough out onto a floured surface and knead for 10 minutes, adding additional flour to keep the dough from sticking to your hands. As you knead, you’ll feel the dough taking on an “elastic” quality – this is the gluten strands developing. I like to knead yeast breads in the bowl I’ve mixed them in – it contains the flour mess and I don’t have to clean up the countertop or table afterwards.cooking

Once kneaded, round the dough into a ball and place in an oiled bowl that is at least twice as big as the dough. Cover the bowl with a tea towel or plastic wrap and place in a warm place to rise. After an hour, punch the dough down, re-round into a ball, and let rise again for 40 minutes or so. Once it’s grown to about double in size again, push down, knead gently for a minute or so, and then set aside for five minutes so the dough can “rest.” Letting the dough rest allows the gluten to relax and makes shaping rolls or loaves easier.

At this stage, preheat your oven to 400 degrees. Butter or oil your baking pans. I suggest a 9×11 cake pan for rolls, one large loaf pan, or two small loaf pans. This bread also makes a lovely, free-form round loaf that can be cooked on a cookie sheet.

The bread dough is now ready to shape into a dozen rolls, 1 large loaf, or 2 small loaves.  After shaping the dough and placing it in a pan, cover and let rise 30 – 40 minutes. The shaped dough should be about doubled in size; if your kitchen is warm, it may rise faster than the 30 minutes. When finished rising, place in the oven and bake for 20 minutes. You can check for “doneness” by tapping on the top of the bread – if it gives off a “hollow” sound, it’s ready.

Take the rolls or loaves out of the pans and cool on a rack; let them cool before cutting. It’s very tempting to eat the bread as soon as it comes out of the oven but, if the bread’s still hot, it won’t slice well.

Note:  This recipe doubles or triples easily. Also, once baked, the rolls freeze well for later use.

bread

Curing onions by Jacinda Davis

How to: putting up veggies for the winter

The changing weather signals that it is time for putting up food for the coming winter months. Since each crop prefers different storage conditions, I wanted to share some storage information that has helped me to stretch my local food long into winter (and even spring!).

The Crop Run Down

Potatoes

  • The key to good potato storage is to keep them away from light, at temperatures around 42- 55°F, with a relatively high humidity.
  • Try storing your potatoes in places like an unheated entrance, spare room, attic, basement or garage. Choose a place that is insulated to protect the potatoes from freezing temperatures.
  • Since potatoes like a bit of humidity store them in a perforated plastic bag, but do not tightly seal the bag — air flow is crucial to preventing mold and decay.   Bringing home the goods.

Winter squash and pumpkins

  • This crop stores best at 50 -60°F with a low humidity.
  • Good places to keep your squash are similar to potatoes (see above) with a bit less humidity. Just think cool and dry.
  • Winter Squash and pumpkins are a relatively easy storage crop. That said, their typical storage life is anywhere between 8-12 weeks. Hubbard and spaghetti varieties store a bit longer, acorns a bit shorter.
Pumpkins in the Youth Farm fields by Jacinda Davis
Pumpkins ready to be picked in the Youth Farm fields. Photo by Jacinda Davis.

Onions, Shallots, and Garlic

  • The important factors of good storage for onions, garlic, and shallots are low humidity, good air circulation, and cool temperatures.
  • The mesh bags you took these crops home in are great for storage. Try hanging the bags in a closet, or in an unheated room of your house.  It is as easy as that, and you will have these jewels to spice up your meals all winter long.   A few more storage tips…
  • Be sure to check your vegetables frequently and remove any crops that are starting to go bad.
  • Always protect your crops from freezing temperatures.

Carrots, Beets, Cabbage, Kale and Kohlrabi

  • Carrots, beets, kale, and the monster kohlrabi do best with near freezing temperatures, a.k.a. the refrigerator.
  • High humidity is also critical for long term storage of these crops, so keep them in a perforated bag. Watch humidity, if the bag is full of condensation open it up a bit to let some moisture out. If your crops are drying out close the bag up tight.
  • If you are willing and able to give up some space in your refrigerator for these winter crops they will easily last you till the spring!
Greens by Jacinda Davis
Chard, collard greens and curly kale. Photo by Jacinda Davis.

 

 

Experiment with storage locations, new recipes, and most importantly enjoy!

Enjoy the fruits of your labor – Harvesting basics

In order to enjoy the fruits of all that labor you put into your garden you’ll have to  harvest, but sometimes it’s hard to tell when something is ready to go. As gardeners we know our food is good even when it doesn’t look perfect, so the good news is that it’s not absolutely necessary that we have our harvesting techniques down to a science (like many of our fellow farmer friends do).  So go ahead and give yourself a break, but read on for some harvesting tips.

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I would argue that as gardeners we are mainly concerned with harvesting crops before it is too late…… Too late generally means the plant has started to flower, which means it is putting more energy into growing seed rather than its various parts that we like to eat. And this generally results in a bitter-tasting veggie that is starting to lose its nutritional punch. But even when it’s “too late,” it’s often not really too late. You’ll see.

On the other hand, many things actually taste a little sweeter when harvested on the early side, for example, carrots, beets, and pretty much any kind of green. We miss out on some growth potential if we harvest our crops early, but they’ll still pack plenty of nutrients! (and look cute too…?) This also comes in handy when you are thinning your rows — big or small, they are still edible.

Carrots and Beets and Greens – oh my!

Crops like the aforementioned carrots, beets, and greens are fairly straightforward. You can tell just by looking at their size if they are ready. In general, if your veggies look like something you could get at the grocery store, they are ready to go! Carrots are typically at their peak around 1″ – 2″ in thickness, while beets are typically at their peak around 2″ – 3″ in thickness. You can poke your finger in the ground to feel how big your carrots and beets or other root veggies are, and of course you can just admire those beautiful leafy greens from afar to figure out if they’re ready for pickin’.

Note that regular, timely harvest of greens (including kale, lettuces, swiss chard, etc.) usually increases the length of harvest. And if you’re not going to eat them right away, it’s best to pick greens in the early morning or evening when the sun isn’t so hot – it helps to keep the greens from wilting.

A few other common crops are harder to determine – like squash, cucumbers, potatoes, onions, cabbage, and broccoli and cauliflower. Here’s a little more info on those:

Squash – summer and winter varieties

Summer squashes are best harvested when young and tender, when their skin is easily penetrated by a fingernail.  Zucchinis grow a ton in a day, so these guys require a careful eye. If you run late harvesting one it will probably taste better shredded in zucchini bread than used fresh. Or, hollow out the seeds, stuff it with a yummy filling, and bake!

Unlike with your zukes, you don’t want to watch winter squash so closely every day – at least not for awhile (unless you enjoy watching water boil). The hard skin of winter squash develops over time and is what helps it store so well, so you don’t want to rush on harvesting these gems. Mature winter squash will be hard and impervious to scratching. Once that thick skin has developed and you perform the fingernail test (press a thumbnail against the skin; your nail shouldn’t leave a visible dent) harvest your squash,  leaving at least 1” of stem attached. It’s also best to harvest before a frost comes, which could decrease their storage time.

Young, tender zukes about ready to harvest
Young, tender zukes about ready to harvest
This big guy should have been harvested a few days ago for best flavor
This big guy should have been harvested a few days ago for best flavor

 

 

 

 

 

 

Cucumbers

These also can grow a lot in a short amount of time and so require a watchful eye. Cucumbers are best when slightly immature. Most varieties will be 1.5”- 2.5” in diameter and 5”- 8” long, except for pickling cucumbers, which will be blocky and not as long. Immature cukes are spiky, but will become less spiky as they mature. You can easily wash off the rest of the cucumber spikes after harvesting by running your hand over the cucumber under water. If you get to a cuke too late, it will still taste pretty good pickled!

These cukes will be ready in no time!
These cukes will be ready in no time!

Potatoes

You can harvest potatoes early or late, depending on your preference or what you plan to use the potato for. New potatoes, or earlies, can be harvested soon after the plants start blooming their beautiful flowers. Early potatoes are generally smaller and don’t store well so you want to eat them right away.

Or you can wait to harvest a crop of potatoes later – after the tops have died down and when the ground is dry. These potatoes will store much better, as long as they are cured for 10-14 days in a dark, well-ventilated location at 45 F to 60 F.

Onions

Onions can be harvested at different times according to what you’ll be using them for. If using them fresh, harvest at ¼”- 1” in diameter (basically, when they look big enough to be useful for whatever you need them for). If harvesting onions for storage, wait until they are bigger, their tops have fallen over, and their necks are shriveled. A mature bulb will not be dented if you push your finger into it.  To cure onions, place them in a single layer or mesh bag in a dry, well-ventilated area out of direct sunlight for 3-4 weeks. Remove their tops when fully dry.

An onion ready for some pickin'
An onion ready for some pickin’

Cabbage

A beautiful cabbage head ready to harvest
A beautiful cabbage head ready to harvest

Cabbage is ready to harvest when the leaves surrounding the head start to open up a bit, and when the heads are solid. If cabbage heads become over mature they may split. If your head splits, it’s still edible. It just won’t last as long and you’ll likely have to cut out the parts around the split.

 

 

Broccoli and Cauliflower

Broccoli and Cauliflower may be the trickiest plants in regards to timing their harvest. Broccoli is best harvested while heads are a deep green, still compact, and before buds start to open into flowers. If the buds start to separate and the yellow petals inside start to show, harvest immediately. I often get to my broccoli a little too late (oops), but I still eat it, flowers and all!

This broccoli head should be harvested immediately. Many of its buds are about to pop!
This broccoli head should be harvested immediately. Many of its buds are about to pop!

When harvesting, cut the stem at a slant about 4 to 6 inches (10-15 cm) below the head. Removing the head on some varieties will produce side-shoots in the axils of leaves and you can get 4 to 6 additional cuttings of shoots per plant over several weeks.

A beautiful broccoli head ready to be harvested
A beautiful broccoli head ready to be harvested

Follow the same rule of thumb for cauliflower, but when the curds are about 1”-2” in diameter fold some of the outer leaves over the cauliflower heads. This helps prevent the head from becoming yellow and/or blemished. Once you cover the heads they should be ready for harvest in 1-2 weeks.

Broccoli buds starting to open and flower
Broccoli buds starting to open and flower