Tag Archives: how to use vegetables

Farm Fermentations: squash, beet and seaweed

I began fermenting back in July as a means of finding even more uses for the vegetables that I grow.  In the past six months, I have continued to explore ways that fermentation can be good for me, my farm, other farmers, and the entire community.  It continues to be a journey of discovering new things with each new ferment.

This past week I decided to continue to work with other farmers and their abundance.  It turns out that my quarts of fermented produce have become a wonderful item to barter with. Squash is the core of all I do, so squash is also the core foundation of my fermentation.  I have experimented with two varieties of winter squash, one variety of summer squash from my fellow farmer Lark, and pipinola.  Pipinola is what I consider a cousin of squash.  We have a unique name for it here in Hawaii, but it is more commonly known as chayote.

I have previously sung the wonders of pipinola on my webpage, but I would like to add that it is a good source of vitamin C.  Raw chayote it crunchy, and crisp, which are two great things for fermentation.  It is also quite neutral in flavor and color, making it my fill in for cabbage.  It also releases water quite easily when salt is added.

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I began my pipinola growing with green skinned heavily wrinkled fruits.  I found a variation that I liked which was a smoother, softer skinned fruit.  I selected these traits and gradually replanted the fruits that displayed this smooth skin.  Like any variation there are upsides and downsides.  The smoother, softer skin, makes the skin easily used in the kitchen instead of the tougher skinned ones.  The downside, is that they are much more susceptible to damage through bruising and nicks.  Pipinola/chayote is grown by replanting the fruits, and the one large seed within will germinate with a dynamic vine.

One you have your fermentation base vegetables, it is great to explore how new combinations can change it all up.  So this week, I investigated how other farm goods can be brought into the mix.  I have always loved root vegetables which are not easy to grow where I am farming.  Beets have come into season again here in Hawaii, so it was time to revisit the Bonk family and get my hands on some beets. Marlene was happy to take a quart of pumpkin/carrot/pipinola kraut, while I was excited to fill my bag with beets.

With each new vegetable, I create a series of ferments that are linked by that one new flavor.  If we were talking fashion design, my ferments would be a collection, so I will refer to them as such.  In the beet collection, I decided to marry the sweet with the heat of ghost peppers in another, as featured above, I threw it all in.

Each of us will like different combinations of vegetables, and as is the case with fermentation, you may like some fermented vegetables, that you do not like unfermented.  Fermentation transforms, melds, marries flavors into a complex profile.  So with the new addition of beets, we can look at how they shape the ferment in terms of nutrition, flavor, and color.    There is also the need to consider what is the limit of how much beet we can handle?  When is it enough? Experiment so to know the limitations of your ferments.  I love seaweed, known here as limu, but there is a point where enough is enough.  To much limu can make the ferment very salty, and very intense in minerals. It can pack a punch and “kinda levels” those not used to it.  I feel like beet could go the same route, in being an overpowering vegetable, where you need to understand how to use it as an accent, in a combination of flavors, and as a main flavor. As is the story of fermentation, time will tell. Longer fermentation time may make it mellow…or not.

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Above, locally sourced Ogo seaweed is busy making my ferments both intense and complex.

Repurposing found objects is also a great way to begin in fermenting.  I chose to repurpose a 4 qt crock pot crock and found a lid that would work with it.  Most of my ferments are done in one quart jars, but I decided to try a larger quantity of the “kitchen sink” ferment.  Quart jars were used for smaller volume experiments.

I’ll be keeping you posted on how the new farm ferment collection turns out, but until then, think in terms of abundance in your garden, your cellar, your farmers market, and region.  Abundance is a luxury as long as you do not allow it to overwhelm you.  Too much of a good thing can be stressful, and putting up a bushel of vegetables on your own, is quite a task.  I can honestly tell you that it does get easier to work your way through a volume of produce.  I think starting with what would roughly fit in a grocery bag is a good place to start.  So give it a try…and good luck!

Lima Bean and Pumpkin Chili

Maybe it needs a better name, but for now, it will have to do.  As I savor the last bite, I am filled and satisfied with this now much more nutritious dish.  Holiday visitors passed through the kitchen as I was making the chili, and it seemed to be an unlikely recipe to most.  My invented recipe intrigued an eight year old who dreams of being on a “kid chef” show on the Food Network.  He watched me like a hawk.  The recipe is made in a slow cooker, and can be adapted to all tastes.

This time of year, I often collect a nice amount of the heirloom Christmas lima bean.  I am frequently pressing these beans into the hands of school kids in hopes that they plant them here in Hawaii.  They should be grown in everyone’s home garden, school gardens, and on fences, banana trees, bamboo…you get the idea.  They are perfect for Hawaii’s long, come and go seasons.  It creates a pretty vine, and the bees love the delicate bloom.  I’ve sung it’s praises before, and I am at it again. Plus the bean is big and very flavorful.

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Above is an image that shows how they catch the morning light in the garden.  In the photo, they are covering an unsightly windbreak that I made two years ago out of bamboo threaded through shipping pallets that were placed on their side.  It has held up, and become a beautiful area that is also effective against the wind tunnel effect. I bought the first lot from  Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds three years ago, and since then, I have supplied half of the state of Hawaii with them, and also included them in many special meals.  It was the best $2.50 I have ever spent in the garden!

But back to the chili.  Lima beans make a lovely chili bean, especially these lovely burgundy speckled ones, and the spice of homegrown chili peppers mixed with sweet pumpkins is a wonderful, and thrifty match for my eat what you grow style.DSC_0400

So the concept is the take away here. Here is what I did:   I picked, shucked and rinsed the lima beans, harvested a few chili peppers and selected a nice aged pumpkin.  I soaked the beans for a couple hours, then decided just to cook them on low overnight in the slow cooker.  I could have added a wedge of onion to the water that covered the beans, but I forgot.  By morning, the home cooking filled my tiny abode.  I had 1/4 of the crock pot filled with dried beans and then filled the entire crock with water.

In the morning, I drained the beans, saving the cooking liquid on the side.  I did this by simply setting a colander inside a large bowl. I returned the beans to the 4 qt slow cooker, and added 1/2 a chopped onion, 2 packets of chili seasoning, 1.5 lbs of hamburger, one can of tomatoes, and a can of tomato paste, plus three cloves of garlic.  Then I chopped about 1.5 pounds of pumpkin, salt and pepper.  I also added about 3 cups of the bean cooking broth back into the cooker.  Normally, I would add my fresh chili peppers, but this one was made with little kids in mind.

When I make this again for myself, I am going to make a meatless version.  The lima beans and pumpkin make a satisfying chili, and the meat just isn’t necessary.  The beans were already cooked, so it was a matter of waiting for the pumpkin to cook.  This gave me plenty of time to shuck more beans for later cooking and planting, as well as give me some time to turn the home garden upside down section by section, in my December garden overhaul.

By 4 in the afternoon, I couldn’t wait any longer, and snuck a small sample bowl…and then another. I was waiting for the pumpkin to be tender. By this time, I was hungry, and this really hit the spot.  I could have easily added more of the bean broth to thin it out a bit.  I added some more salt at the end of the cooking.  I smeared it with some sour cream and piled it on top of basmati brown rice.  There were zero complaints about either the limas or the pumpkin.