July 5th, 2013

Do you know the difference between hay and straw?  (You horse folks can skip on down to the next paragraph – more hay and straw talk to follow)  I remember looking for straw for a Halloween costume/decoration in college and asking several folks working the Home Depot cash registers the difference and not getting a very sure response.  Later at the Rodale Institute, researcher Dave Wilson thought it important for us all to know.  So I’ll pass along what was imparted to me.  Hay is used for livestock feed, straw is used as bedding.  Hay is cut from a live plant – commonly alfalfa, clover, and young oats.  I just came across a website that goes into more detail on livestock and their eating needs/preferences – ex. the third cutting of alfalfa has very leafy growth which is higher in protein - great for calves, pregnant and lactating cows.  Straw is cut after the grain (commonly wheat) has been harvested.  Straw is the hollow shaft that’s left to dry, then it is cut, raked and baled.  It is great for construction – straw has got less weed seeds, and has a higher Carbon: Nitrogen ratio meaning that it’s harder to break down.

Why it matters to us? Mulch!!  A huge time, back, and knee saver.  The brassica block that we piled up with several inches of spent hay down the paths between kale, collard and broccoli plants on black plastic - has not needed weeding since!  Those hay bales sat out over the winter, allowing the weed seeds to germinate, grow a bit and then die back.  Perfect.  For the last several years we have used city leaf mulch to cover the garlic over the winter and help suppress weeds – usually a few weedings and we’re in the clear.  This year = a few weedings and then the weeds took off!  Seeing the success the hay had in the brassica block, we’ll look to do the same when covering our alliums this fall.  When the brassicas are finished, we've pulled the plants and plastic up, we'll till the beds incorporating the mulch, adding organic matter to the soil, feeding the microbes and adding tilth to the soil to better support and encourage the next crop's growth. A side note about the brassicas this year - this spring/early summer has favored this springs' greens considerably.  Looking at last year's notes, the last kale harvest was June 8th, the last collard harvest was June 15th!  

We pulled up the last round of garlic this week - which is currently hanging from the rafters for curing, trellised our third succession of cucumbers, and put in another round of green beans.  We're picking the first few cherry tomatoes and the bigger tomatoes look like they'll be turning in the next couple of weeks.  I hope you all had a Happy Fourth of July.  This year, we relaxed to celebrate the birth of our nation - and it was wonderful. 

Enjoy your produce!
Natalie and the Sugar Creek Crew

Savory Zucchini Bread (one of my favorites!!) from Closetcooking.com

1 1/2 cups zucchini (grated, squeezed and drained)
2 roasted red peppers (chopped)
2 cloves garlic (grated)1/2 cup feta (crumbled)
1 teaspoon oregano
2 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
1/4 cup olive oil
2 eggs
1 cup all purpose flour
1/2 cup whole wheat flour
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon baking powder

1. Mix the zucchini, roasted red pepper, garlic, feta, oregano, balsamic vinegar, olive oil and eggs in a large bowl.
2. Mix the flour, salt, baking soda, baking powder and oregano in a bowl.
3. Mix the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients.
4. Pour the batter into a greased 9x5 inch loaf pan.
5. Bake in a preheated 350F oven until a toothpick pushed into the center comes out clean, about 1 hour.

or a little Jamaican Flavor, from jamaicatravelandculture.com comes

Callaloo and Codfish

1/2 lb Saltfish (dried, salted codfish)
1/2 lb shredded callaloo
1 medium onion
1/2 tsp black pepper
3 tbsp of butter
1/2 a hot chilli pepper (ideally Scotch Bonnet)
1 sweet pepper
1 chopped tomato
1 sprig fresh thyme or 1 tsp dried thyme
2 cloves of garlic (optional)
4 Scallion (or spring onions) (optional)
6 Slices of bacon (optional)

1 - Cover the saltfish in cold water.  Let it soak overnight (min 8 hours) changing the water several times (this removes most of the salt) Same day method = put codfish in a saucepan with water and bring to a boil then drain.  Repeat 2 more times; drain, flake and set aside.
2 - Bring a pan of cold water to boil and gently simmer the fish for 20 min until tender.
3 - chope the onion, sweet pepper, chilli pepper and tomato while waiting for the fish to cook.
4 - Wash the callaloo in a pot of water and drain thoroughly.
5 - Remove the fish form water and allow to cool. Remove all of the bones and skin then flake the flesh of the fish.
6 - Melt the butter ina frying pan and add the onion, black pepper, sweet pepper, chilli and thyme.  Fry for about 5 minutes.
7 - Add the callaloo and half a cup of water, cover and steam for 15 minutes.
8 - Add the tomatoes and flaked fish and steam for another 10 minutes.
Serve with yam, green banana, fried dumplings and Irish potato.  This is also great over rice.

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