Tag Archives: walnuts

Chipmunk Disorder Flareup (collecting food for the winter in full swing)

These are olives my friend Sharon and I foraged from someone’s yard.  Don’t worry – we asked permission and were granted it by the really nice ladies who lived there.  They even supplied us with a step ladder to get at some of the higher branches.  When we walked up their steps and rang their bell I thought they’d probably think we were trying to bring them some religion and worried they might be hostile.  Or maybe they’d think we were on to some make-up scam and be hostile.  I’m glad we took the chance and I’m equally glad that they were so agreeable.

There are more olive pictures at the bottom of this post.  I’ve been meaning to share this disturbing picture with you: this is what happens when you think you’re being all thrifty and freeze “tomato water” for use in soups.  What I don’t want to know is why is the water part all yellowy?  Such a nasty surprise to find in my freezer.

I also wanted to chronicle how much you have to cook tomato sauce down to get a nice thick sauce.  This is the pre-cooked picture.  See how full that big pot is?  Do you know how much work it took to clean, score, core and blanch then peel, squeeze, and dice that big pot of tomatoes?  If you’ve done this before then you DO know.

The steam didn’t cooperate with my camera but you can see through it that the tomato level has dropped dramatically.

This is my 22 pound French heirloom squash that the produce stand people called “Peanut Squash” – it was difficult to find anything definitive on the subject but I’m completely sure that this squash is actually called Galeux d’Eysines.  It’s fairly pumpkin-like in flavor but is less watery than pumpkin.  This mean-ass squash caused me to cut myself.  When wrestling such enormous cucurbitas – I recommend being particularly aware of the location of all your fingers in relation to your knife.

Olives are one of my favorite foods.  The only kind of olive I’m not fond of are the black canned Mission olives ubiquitous on pizzas from chain restaurants.  I don’t hate them but I would never voluntarily add them to food.  But give me any kind of green olive or black olive that is salty, or salty and vinegary, or salty and herby – yeah, big fan here.  Years ago I read a whole book about olives because my Grandfather was interested in them.  He told me stories about the olive orchard he bought in Italy when he was still a young-ish man.  It was supposedly one of the locations written about in Homer’s Odyssey.  My grandmother eventually forced him to sell the orchard and I got the feeling he still wasn’t over it in his 80’s.  Big clue as to how come they got divorced eventually.

The book I read was “Olives” by Mort Rosenblum.  It was informative and whet my appetite for curing olives on my own.  It also irritated me – Mort is something of a pompous windbag – though he may not be like that in real life at all.  It’s just the tone of the book and honestly, I read it so long ago now I’m not sure I’d have the same opinion the second time around.  The point is that for over 12 years I’ve had the ambition to cure my own olives but back then it didn’t occur to me that I might be able to forage some and I certainly didn’t have any access to fresh olives for sale.

Since that time I have become a pretty good forager of walnuts, nettles, elderberries, blackberries, rose hips, and plantain – but until moving back to California there were no olives to forage for.  But now I am seeing them everywhere.  The biggest problem is that a lot of the ones I’m seeing are too small to bother with curing them.  Sharon and I definitely got enough to play with and in just a few minutes I’m going to introduce my haul to a lye bath*.

What I really want to do today is drive all over town looking for more olives to forage.

I am in full chipmunk mode now.  I’m taking the dog for a walk to see if the walnuts have started falling in the neighborhood.  Sometimes I wish I could forage and preserve food all the time – without other obligations like working or writing books (not really an obligation since I am unpublished and completely unknown – let’s just call it an obligation to myself) or running errands.  I want to spend all my time cooking and experimenting with food preserving.  And foraging.

I must go get dressed and made up – the olives are waiting for me and I need lipstick today.  I should also probably check on my fermenting pickles, shouldn’t I?  You might be curious how they’re doing about now.  I’m a little scared to look.  Drat – I also need to clean my work table.

And all I want to do is go collect nuts and fruits in my cheeks to store in my tree trunk.

*In case you’re curious – I’m using this recipe for curing olives with lye from Hank Shaw’s blog Hunter Angler Gardener Cook

Don’t Molest the Bees

There’s an alleyway the runs several blocks long in our neighborhood halfway between our street and the main street one block over.  Max and I like to walk this alley on our way home from the nearby diner.  It’s a place of much interest – assignations take place there, there’s an airstream trailer, creepy spidery garages, the backs of houses with tiny bathroom windows winking down at passers by, and this beehive located in someone’s shed.  The beehive is inside and this is the entrance.  When you pass by in the hot sunshine the bees are swarming around but if you pass by when it’s grown darker and cooler it’s very quiet.

The first time I saw this I was so riveted I just stood as bees flew around me and I thought “if I just stay very still they won’t be bothered” and immediately felt a sharp sting in my shoulder.  They don’t feel comfortable with me standing there like the village idiot watching them slack-jawed.

a) I love that right here in the city someone has found such a creative way to keep bees

b) Someone keeping bees so close to my own house means that when I plant an edible garden here I’m going to have good pollination

c) I love that Max pointed out the incorrect use of the apostrophe

Figs in the hood.  This tree hangs over someone’s fence into the alleyway.  They weren’t ripe when I took this picture and the last time I walked by they were gone – I’m glad someone is eating them!  I hate seeing food drop to the ground to be wasted.  I love dried mission figs but am not a fan of fresh figs.  My mom loves figs fresh so I would have nabbed a couple for her.

I’ve got my eye on the neighborhood walnut trees.  Usually they start dropping walnuts with the first storm of the season or early November, whichever comes first.  However, I’m starting to notice walnut debris under the trees and am hoping I don’t miss out this year on walnut foraging.  My friend Chelsea knows of a place I might be able to forage a bunch of them so if I don’t get much from the neighborhood – hopefully this place will pan out.

The neighbors across the street have an enormous persimmon tree covered in fruit just beginning to blush up orange.  We’ve been put on the neighborhood email list and have been invited to the neighborhood potluck next weekend.  This is the kind of thing I really missed while living in Oregon.  Maybe some neighborhoods have potlucks in McMinnville where everyone is invited – even the crotchety ones – but I sure never lived in such a neighborhood and I didn’t know anyone else getting invited to neighborhood-wide BBQs.  I saw a neighborhood email this morning in which the neighbors with the persimmon tree said they couldn’t make it to the pot luck but was wondering if anyone was interested in doing a neighborhood garden coop in which neighbors can share crops.

My first thought was: I’ll never grow enough in my little garden to have enough to share.

But then I thought: sharing even small amounts of food with people creates a lot of good will and the good will of neighbors is exactly what you want when shit goes down.

Reciprocity is one of the most effective tools to bind people together in a community.

As canning and preserving is winding down I’m starting to turn my thoughts to starting a garden here (herbs, fruit, and edibles).  Even if we didn’t build any beds or re-arrange any of the existing plantings there are a bunch of bare spots out front where it’s sunny that can be filled in with edibles.  But we do have a plan to do some small raised beds.

I can’t live anywhere without planting herbs and edibles and flowers.  It’s what I do.

What’s growing wild in your neighborhood that you’ve got your eye on?