FROM THE GARDEN: Huitlacoche Quesadilla

In our garden we happily found huitlacoche (a fungus that took over development of an ear of corn). With it, we prepared in a quesadilla. So as to get a good gauge of this delicacy, we used minimal ingredients. In our tasting, we found the dark pasty part of the huitlacoche to have a nutty taste that is mild. Its texture is a very fine grain. When crushed between teeth, it has a tiny pop that is nice. The white membrane that encases the dark paste is airy and snappy with a fresh corn taste.

Huitlacoche has long been a delicacy in Mexico. In fact, corn truffle as it is also known also dates back to Aztec culture. What makes this a delicacy is rarity. The conditions that allow for this fungus to grow has to be particular. Rainy and weather is usually the key. Up until recently, in western cultures finding fungus in a corn patch was disheartening. Farmers and growers would call it corn smut.

Somewhere along the way, the secret got out. Corn fungus is tasty, unique, and contains amino acids that the body does not produce. The kinds of goodies that help fight infection among other things. Suddenly there was not corn smut to be found. Rather, there were harvests of huitlacoche and corn truffle.

FROM THE GARDEN: Oaxacan Green Tamale

Green tamale made with ‘Oaxacan Green’ dent corn. The red sauce includes paprika pepper that we grew and both dried and smoked. We were able to wrap a couple of tamale using the husk from the ‘Seneca Red Stalker’ corn. The husk has a dark red pigment and one can suspect that it contains lovely antioxidant compounds called, “anthocyanins.” In the steaming process, some of the compounds have infused with our tamale; giving it an even more interesting color.
When you unwrap a tamale, you unwrap much more than a delicious treat. As an outsider, you get to immerse yourself in cultures that date as far back as 5000 BC. This is a food that was developed in Mesoamerica long ago. The process precluded by breeding grass into the corn we know of today. Then came the development of the #nixtamalization of corn. Nutrition, food supply stability, abundance, and ease of preparation is the stuff that allows a civilizations to advance and thrive.
Following this long ago developed process, we turn our corn into masa by adding calcium hydroxide to a water solution, boiling our corn and allowing it to rest overnight. Nixtamalization increases the concentration of good things like calcium and niacin. It also reduces toxin as well as improve flavor and aroma. Lastly, it breaks the dried corn down so as to reduce the amount of labor required to prepare it. This is significant in its own right because it allows corn to be stored and used in the off season or years of scarcity.
From our 10 ears of corn, we were able to grind and turn it into about 4 pounds of masa. Which turned into about two dozen tamale.
This being Christmas time, we are reminded of how tamale is a festive food for many Mexican households. This is a time when many come together to take part in the process of making tamale together with family.
With that we have unwrapped a little bit of history, culture, and science. Please share if you have more to add.
Video recorded 2018, December 19 & 20.
Zone 10b / San Gabriel Valley / Los Angeles / Southern California / USA

2018 July 17 — Garden Update (Mini Watermelon + Corn Harvest)

One of the things we are doing this year is experimenting to see how early we can start our plants. We started many plants a month earlier than usual. In February we sowed plants like tomatoes, corn, and watermelon. Sweet corn usually requires warmed to sweeten up so we started with non sweet varieties first like ‘Strawberry Popcorn’ and ‘Seneca Red Stalker.’ Since these varieties are flint corn we had to wait until the plants dried before harvesting them. With them dried and the ‘Roma’ tomatoes ramping down in production, we took this time to clear and transition the beds to plant something else.

With the space, my son and I sowed seeds and are hoping to see 20 strong ‘Oaxacan Green’ dent corn plants.

As for the watermelon:
The ‘Klondike Blue Ribbon’ could have used a few more days to develop its exquisite crispy texture. Nonetheless, the flavor and sweetness was present. On the second tasting of a ‘Sweet Siberian,’ we find that the flesh is rather smooth and just sweet. Once again, the typical watermelon flavor is either non-existent or rather subtle.

Zone 10b / San Gabriel Valley / Los Angeles / Southern California / USA

Music: Dan Lebowitz, “Jeremiah’s Song”

2018 Tomato Growing: Ep 7 (First Taste) Druzba + Kellogg’s Breakfast

A couple of varieties new to our garden. This is our first tasting. These tastings are very subjective. Good tasting or not so great, I encourage you to grow and judge for yourselves.

Note on the Druzba: They taste much better fully fully ripe. Very ripe ‘Druzba’ has sweeter taste and flesh is not grainy.

Zone 10b / San Gabriel Valley / Los Angeles / Southern California / USA

Music: Dan Lebowitz, “Tipetoe Out the Back”

FROM THE GARDEN: Crab Ceviche

Today we prepare crab ceviche with ingredients we harvest from the garden; and direct to our dish.

Ingredients (to be adjusted according to your taste)
1 lb imitation crab
4-5 limes
1 bunch cilantro
1 medium to large red onion
1 1/2 lbs of ripe Roma tomatoes
1 Serrano pepper
1/2 cucumber (optional)
1 teaspoon salt

Zone 10b / San Gabriel Valley / Los Angeles / Southern California / USA

Cumbia No Frills Faster by Kevin MacLeod is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution license (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/)
Source: http://incompetech.com/music/royalty-free/index.html?isrc=USUAN1100275
Artist: http://incompetech.com/

2018 Tomato Growing: Ep6 Black Vernissage, Weissbehaarte, Roma, San Marzano, Sun Gold, & More

A look at and tasting of tomatoes we are growing for the first time:
‘Black Vernissage,’ ‘Weissbehaarte,’ ‘San Marzano,’ ‘Sun Gold,’ and ‘Sun Cherry Extra Sweet.’ ‘Roma’ is one we have grown for at least 8 years.

0:09 Harvest Montage
3:51 Harvest Overview
5:30 ‘Black Vernissage’
9:30 ‘Weissbehaarte’ (Special thanks to @realhensofoc for the seeds)
11:53 ‘Sun Gold’ (hybrid)
12:47 ‘Sun Cherry Extra Sweet’ (hybrid)
15:53 ‘San Marzano’
16:28 ‘Roma’

Music: Chris Haugen, “Ibiza Dream”
Zone 10b / San Gabriel Valley / Los Angeles / Southern California / USA

HARVESTING: Ox Heart Carrots

June 10, 2018. More often than not, I grow for the fun of seeing plants like these ‘Ox Heart’ carrots. The larger carrots weigh around 20 ounces (a little over a pound.) Carrots make good edible landscaping plants. Especially when the goal is seed saving. They can grown as ornamentals and in the process frees gardening space for other crops. Carrots are also fun to harvest and I got to share the fun with our oldest. Large harvest like these are rare for us these days as we have turned our focus onto very small and super fresh harvests. These ‘ox heart’ carrots were pulled to grow something else. We will be sharing this abundance with our rabbit, tortoises, and ducks (from carrot top to carrot bottom. The actual carrot itself will be given as treats.)

This carrot is one of the easiest carrots to grow– easy in terms of getting a straight and filled out looking carrot. As imagined, the flavor becomes more mild as they get bigger. This flavor profile makes them ideal for stewing and dishes that incorporate a lot of seasoning. While probably not a great one for the kitchen, they are excellent in permaculture soil breaking applications. ‘Ox heart’ carrots may be grown in compacted soil as a way to naturally loosen soil.

Special acknowledgement to Owen for his fine camera work in one of the scenes.

Zone 10b / San Gabriel Valley / Los Angeles / Southern California / USA

Music: Dan Lebowitz, “Parkside.”
E’s Jammy Jams, “Shine on Harvest Moon”

2018 Tomato Growing: Ep5 ‘Suncherry Extra Sweet’ 2nd Tasting + Update

After the last episode, more tomato samples were had from the plant in the greenhouse. The sweetness level did not change much. It is worth noting that allowing the tomato more time to ripen did increase the sweetness a bit.

In this episode, we sample from a different plant grown in a different part of the yard; in soil that is more established. The tomato test was allow to vine ripen.
Like the first plant, the tomatoes from this plant missed the expectation for the level of sweetness. Additionally, the peel is tough.

Seed packet description: Suncherry Extra Sweet is a leading variety in Japan. Colorful and sweet, these bite-sized, deep red cherry tomatoes can be harvested over a long growing season with steady fruit set. They resist cracking and are particularly disease resistant to fusarium wilt race 1 and TMV. The fruits are very sweet with a 9-10 brix degree in sugar content.

Additional remarks: in the video, I said that 36 cents per seed is expensive. I mean that in relative terms. Additionally, these being hybrid means that the seeds from these tomatoes may not grow into plants that produce the same fruit characteristics. This means that unlike heirloom varieties that allow us to seed save, hybrid seeds will have to purchased every time we run out.

Zone 10b / San Gabriel Valley / Los Angeles / Southern California / USA

2018 June 05 — Garden Update

Many of these plants were started much earlier in the year (early February) than last. The early starts is an ongoing trial to see how soon we can start our plants outside here in the Los Angeles area.