Also known as “lady fingers”, okra has always been a bit of a mystery to me. The texture, the sliminess, the odd shape? The first time I actually enjoyed eating okra was at an Indian restaurant in Ithaca, NY. Bhindi Masala. Yum! A few things I and maybe you didn’t know about okra: (1) it may/or may not (depending on your peer reviewed sources) provide some benefits for those with diabetes. “Okra has been used in some traditional cultures for generations to help stabilize blood sugar levels.” Curious… That being said, all the modern studies where the theory was tested on rodents used okra powder/seeds or soaked okra in water. Okra water? Eww. Ok, for another fun okra fact, (2) “in Louisiana, the Créoles learned from slaves the use of okra (gumbo) to thicken soups and it is now an essential in Créole Gumbo.” 🙂
Walking around the Durham Farmers’ Market it is evident that the peak season for okra in central North Carolina is right now. Every farmer and their neighbor is peddling lady fingers as of late. Last Saturday morning I gave in to the beautiful mixed display of green and red okra harvested from Ever Laughter Farm located nearby in Hillsborough, NC. The best thing about a mixture is the pretty purple brine the okra produces.
Two and a half weeks since I’ve canned and apparently I’ve returned to newbie status of breaking jars! Breaking the bottom off of quart jar is not only inconvenient in that you risk the loss of your pickled veggies, but also because this ill-fate forces you to dump your canning water before processing the remainder of your jars. So it goes… plus, it’s a good reminder that just because I can all the time, doesn’t mean I’m a canning badass that can rush or skip steps. On the topic of not canning for several weeks, comes the struggle of trying to keep up the local and in-season integrity of this here blog. If you’re lucky enough to live in a city with a year round weekly farmers’ market, awesome for you (cough… CA, MD… and all the other places I’ve lived). Here in seacoast New Hampshire, the local farmer association switches off the bi-weekly location of the market. With the holidays, snow, etc. I really haven’t had the access to local, fresh, and in-season goods.
This past Saturday, bright eyed and bushy tailed, we made it to the Exeter, NH location of the market. After several laps around the high school lunchroom, I decided these Brookford Farm squash and parsnips (recipe later this week) were good post-break pickle ingredients. I feel that with winter root (and non-root) veggies, that pickling flavors become a bit tricky. No longer does ones have access to fresh and local herbs/seeds. Last winter I put up some ginger pickled butternut squash, being somewhat un-familiar with squash varieties, Keith suggested that I use carnival squash as it exhibits a sweeter flavor than it’s butternut cousin. People always assume that I have a well-thought-out plan when thinking up recipes. Quite the opposite really, typically the way things go is 1) wander aimlessly around the market distracted by everything and everyone, 2) pick whatever is in season, 3) get home and muse over the ingredient for a day or two, 4) open the spice drawer, and finally 5) hope that the resulting canned good is amazing, which I confess isn’t always the case. I knew I wanted to do something sweet and spicy, yet simple, with these carnival squash. Garam masala + brown sugar + hot pepper = weirdly perfect. Enjoy these masala habanero pickled squash wedges as is or serve them as a sweet side to any Indian main dish.
Unless you’ve hung out with me for quite some time, you probably don’t know the extent of my secret second love: the game of cribbage (or should I say that game your grandp(m)a, old man on the corner, or old man in the elderly home used to play). When asked the random question of “if you could be anywhere, doing anything, what would it entail?”, my answer typically has something to do with 1) pickles, 2) the outdoors, 3) beer, and 4) cribbage. Come to think of it, some part of that answer probably can be attributed to the fact that when I originally learned how to play, all 4 of those items were involved.
You know those times when you go to your local farmers market, are minding your own business, and then all of a sudden you’re blindsided by a cute farmer/farmer’ess who convinces you to buy an abnormal shaped sugar pumpkin? I wasn’t planning to start pumpkin goods until after Halloween this year. Last Fall I played around with this sweet butternut squash pickle, actually I just ate up the last pint a few weeks ago. Without a particular recipe in mind, I decided to experiment with my Touching Earth Farm pumpkin in a spicy rather than sweet pickle fashion for this first run. Garlic, cinnamon, curry powder, and habanero peppers… if anything this spicy pickled pumpkin will be weird.
In other news, if you’re in or around Seacoast New Hampshire be sure to check out the upcoming permaculture workshop. “This two part workshop will focus on the fundamentals of the permaculture design process, observing and mapping a site. We will take you through creating a base map and the process of assessing and analyzing a properties many conditions.” For more information on the workshop be sure to head over to their Meetup site.
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