Monday, June 7, 2010

Spring Harvest Pickling: Beets, Fennel, & Carrots


Between the oil spill, last weekend's tragic shooting in Mt. Vernon where an off-duty Baltimore officer fatally shot an unarmed Marine 13 times, the continuing morass in Iraq and Afghanistan, the Gaza blockade, the economy... the negatives start to pile up sometimes.

Maybe that's why I and so many others are escaping to the garden.

I count myself pretty lucky in this world, and try to keep a positive spin on things. The garden is a place where things are constantly growing, neighbors come around to say hello, rainwater stays clean, and insects, birds, flowers, and seeds are everywhere.

Instead of feeling powerless about the news, I've decided to aim for a life that contributes to fixing what I believe is broken.

Repairing the soil, water, and air through plants, reducing fossil fuel use, using reusable instead of disposable goods, and meeting other Baltimore citizens who care about positive action are all things I can do instead of worrying about the news.

Tending to the garden and preparing vegetables happens to be extremely meditative for me. Which is lucky, because Sunday meant harvesting about half of my early spring vegetables, putting in summer plants, and canning some of the excess.

I harvested about one-fourth of the Bull's Blood beets, all of the golden beets, and all of the carrots:

I left a few of the best looking plants in the ground to save for seed.

For a little less than $10 worth of seed and a whole lot of labor, I sure got a lot of produce!

In the empty spaces where the beets and carrots used to be, I added compost and put in tomato seedlings, Mexican marigold seeds, sweet basil, and pumpkin seeds. Now to wait until July-September...

My friend Victor had a ton of fennel seedlings, so I asked him if I could have some of the fennel to pickle, and we could split it. It's nice to spread the canning love so more people can sustain themselves from homegrown produce year round. Plus it's a fun thing to do with friends!


After a little bit of resting, it was time to meditate (i.e. prep a whole bunch of veggies!) I cracked a beer, sat on the stoop, tore the tops off carrots, peeled beets, and sorted yummy beet greens from ones with insect damage. Lots of scraps for the compost worms!




Beet peeling tip: many people suggest boiling or roasting the beets, then slipping off their skins. I just treated the beets like ginger root and used the side of a spoon to scrape off the skin.

The beet greens were tossed with pieces of mango from Punjab. Drizzle the mango-greens salad with tahini, and you've got a perfect barbeque side dish.

I didn't have time to can the Bull's Blood beets or carrots, but I did manage to can the golden beets as I prepped the salad for the barbeque.


Pictured above: golden beets, fennel with hot pepper & peppercorns, carrots, and two mixed blends of carrot + golden beet and carrot + both beets + fennel. All pickled in white wine vinegar.

That's a lot of work on a Sunday for six small half-pints and two large salads worth of beet greens. But I've still got the raw carrots and Bull's Blood beets to prepare, so that's a lot of food for $10.

And for me, this is the kind of labor that puts my anxieties about the world to rest.

7 comments:

DK said...

Very cool! I like your attitude re: the news, too - Voltaire's advice at the end of Candide was for people to tend their own gardens, which is exactly what you're doing. It's inspiring, it really is.

Lori + Gregg said...

wonderFULLness. ☀

pamwest said...

They all look great and offer inspiration too!

Martha Like said...

Great post Aliza. Very inspiring!

************* said...

Thanks everyone! Positive feedback from good friends is also one of the main things that helps me feel peaceful :)

Sheila said...

I am looking to grow fennel this year. Would you be able to tell me where fennel seedlings can be purchased. My email: kalebpeo@gmail.com.
Thanks.~Sheila

AlizaEss said...

Hi Sheila, I'll post a reply here in case anyone else is curious about growing fennel but I'll send you an email too. I haven't seen many fennel seedlings around, but it should be pretty easy to start your own from seed. Fennel is very hardy weed in some places so it should sprout up quite easily! Be warned: if it goes to seed in your garden it may start spreading everywhere. Pollinators love it though, and you can always collect the seed before it drops to use in cooking. I like to mix coriander and fennel into the water as I cook beans!

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