Sunday, August 04, 2013

Edible Enemies and Market Milestones

Corn smut, harvested
Remember the corn smut I discovered on one of my ornamental corn plants? As threatened, I went ahead and cooked up a fine huitlacoche burrito - a somewhat frightening but ultimately delicious new lesson in fungi cuisine. Sure, it looked hairy, scary and not suitable for consumption but the interwebs and Facebook friends assured me I had won some strange fungi lottery. (One bit of advice: "Jack up the price and sell it to foodies!")

Corn Smut Burrito - YUM!
I kept reminding myself the black stuff was not dirt but spores and threw 'em down on a pan of olive oil, garlic, onion, zucchini and lo! Total tastiness. The flavor invoked a corn-flavored mushroom, rich and earthy. Delicious. Of course, the cilantro-egg, cheese and hot sauce didn't hurt either.

Today, I found more smut on the same plant and was not the slightest bit upset, already plotting my next smutty meal. But a few hours ago, I received a phone call from a close friend, Bellina, who grew on a Kansas farm and offered her counsel. Evidently, the smut party is over and I need to nip these spores pronto before they spread to my Dakota Black popcorn which is NOT my wish. "Remove the stalk and burn it far, far from the other plants," advised my farmer friend.

Looks like our planned Wednesday cookout will now be renamed the 1st Annual Corn Smut Bonfire Celebration, 'cause I'm always up for a rebranding.


Tomorrow, I'll be heading down to Fargo to pick up Eleni Liberty Jacobson, SCRANCH'S first intern - so exciting! She is the daughter of my dear friends, Val and Jake, and for reasons still unclear, asked her parents to ship her northward in my general direction.

Eleni, Val, Jake and Cooper
When looking into flights into Fargo for the visit, her mother commented, "Day-um! They should call it 'Far-From'..." a corny joke which I have been quoting and stealing ever since.

Val, pampering me
'Cause here's the thing, folks often say, text or FB comment to me, "Would love to visit!" but nobody - with the exception of the super-sturdy-and-slightly-crazy Kirk - ever makes the trek. Why? Because as previously mentioned, it's FAR. My family doesn't even get here and have only the faintest idea what I'm up to, really. (Mom did visit last year but that may have been obligatory.)

Nevertheless, the Universe is gifting me with a bright, lovely young woman for a 5-day span and I truly hope she finds some value in the experience. If nothing else, I will feed her well while presenting ideas and scenery previously unknown. Plus, we're sure to laugh lots as I need me a dose of California Woman Energy. 

But I'm pretty sure, either way, it's going to be a trip Eleni will never forget. 


Sadly, we are experiencing a cold spell lately - quite unusual for August. Last year at this time, it was sweltering and my air conditioner got worked. Right now, I'm wearing wool socks. This is worrying for farmers and gardeners alike. Most crops need heat to ripen - corn, beans, sugar beets - and the threat of frost is ever-present. (Couple of years back, this region had a frost every single month of the year.)

DAY OFF: Pembina Gorge, about 15 mi. west of farm
Just today, Brent told me about one night not long ago, when a frost dipped down mid-summer and nipped 65% of his beans before it went back to the usual heat. "All it takes is one cold night and that's it, you're screwed for beans...." he said, shaking his head.

As for me, I've got at least 25 tomato plants that are craving heat so I hope the temps rise again soon.

I haven't given up on getting my SCRANCH produce into local stores. As much as I love the local Farmers Market, it's just not enough. So, while fetching Eleni down south (when you live on Canadian border, everything is "down south"), I'll be meeting again with Rex, the produce dude from Amazing Grains, and hopefully, selling him some shallots, basil, Lemon basil and cilantro.

Harvesting shallots
He'll pay me $3 per lb. for shallots but as I discovered today while shallot harvesting, it takes quite a few of them to make up a pound.

Unless there is something wonky going on with the scale, which is possible, I don't have near enough shallots. Anyway, since I sell these for at least $2 ea. (sometimes more, if they are big), it may - once again - not economically viable. I will probably do it anyway with a portion of my shallots, if only for the thrill of hitting that public marketplace milestone.

More importantly, it's another real-world lesson in that age-old question: How does an organic farmer make it all worth it? Really? And I'm not even certified organic, which another nasty bureaucratic ball of wax entirely...


And just to keep ya'll updated on my bug wounds, here's a recent double-doozy. First, the left eyelid swelled up, making me feel like a beaten boxer....

....and a week later, the right eyelid got it's own wound, because skeeters are democratic beasts, y'know?

Unattractive, yes, I realize that. Most people are striving to look their best online even as I flaunt my gruesome wounds, but, JAY-ZUS, look at that! Greedy little fuckers. They are my nemesis, especially when trapped in my bedroom at night with all their high-pitched stalking. Lordy, the deadly whacking and swearing that goes on; I'm sure they can hear me in Canada.

Anyway, it's just too gross not to share, ego be damned. 

You're welcome.


Maria said...

Better inform Eleni she has a strong precedent of past Heather Clisby interns to live up to

Heather Clisby said...

"I prefer the term 'sidekick'" - still my favorite quote.

quirkychick said...

Your shallots are gorgeous and if you lived near here we would be canning or preserving the corn fungus and selling it for $2 an oz. Too bad it'll take out the rest of your crop.

Your bug booboos are not so gorgeous - although it is kind of fascinating how BIG those bites got.

Have a blast with Eleni. I'm sure this will be, as so many adventures with Heather can be, unforgettable.

Heather Clisby said...

Okay, so it's good to know I'm not the only one who is fascinated by the bulk of my bites. I just keep looking in the mirror, "Wow!" and taking photos. These were hard to see out of though.

Camille said...

Hey squealer! I am so glad you got some help up there for a week...that will be different. Produce looks gorgeous and your injuries are righteous and impressive. Damn. Farm on, you inspire me!

Heather Clisby said...

Thanks so much, Camille. We feasted on more corn smut last night and still have some left over - will try to save for you. Will be in Denver in a few weeks.