In the spirit of Grist’s edgy-titled article that brusquely suggests sensible, consumer-based actions to promote a sustainable food system, I’m buying more food directly from farmers and ranchers while getting to know their names just like I do celebrity chefs. (Although I will always have a special place in my heart for Bobby Flay’s Throwdowns.)
Looks like someone else is enjoying my new container garden. I’m supposed to be digging up my first radish; not squirrels.
I found a burrowed hole in my pretty planted pot late last week, tearing up a few of my leek seedlings and a good portion of a somewhat well-developed radish. And while I may have a sense of adventurism in the kitchen, my budding green thumb lacks the backbone of experience and education that supports my culinary exploits. So I combed through the Internet and found potential remedies for invasive squirrels in the garden:
- Provide a feeding station to detract them; use peanuts or cracked corn.
- Sprinkle a bit of blood meal around any new plantings.
- Place 1/4-inch-wire-mesh cages over the plants. Cover spring bulb beds with fine plastic mesh and secure it along the sides of the beds with bricks, stones or lumber.
- Spray burrows and damaged plants with cayenne pepper or Tabasco; for a garden bed, sprinkle cayenne pepper around the border of your garden and up and down the rows. One recipe: combine one small bottle of hot pepper sauce, a gallon of water and 1 tsp. dish detergent. Reapply once a week and after it rains.
- Keep trees trimmed above fence lines and roofs since squirrels can travel via overhead highways in the tree canopy. By creating a break in their path, you eliminate the squirrels route into your garden. (Note the tree in the picture, below, loitering behind the deck by the containers…)
So while I ponder my next move to combat squirrels, I decided how I would use the mound of tomatoes on my countertop — some from Landisdale Farm, some a gift from our gardening neighbors (note to self: must inquire about squirrels), and some that ripened on my back porch. A Taste of Home recipe for baked ziti served as a catalyst for this tomato sauce; a meaty, chunky, substantial sauce that can stand on its own. I imagine this sauce can be made without the meat, but I had ground beef from Wholesome Dairy Farm, a local family farm raising pastured, grass fed cows; a recent purchase at the Skippack Farmers’ Market.
Cooking tomatoes enhances their nutritional value by increasing their lycopene and antioxidant content, so creating a tomato sauce is a great way to optimize this fruit’s health benefits. Thankfully, the squirrels have ignored these backyard gems… knock on wood.
Meaty Tomato Sauce
Adapted from Taste of Home’s Baked Ziti with Fresh Tomatoes recipe.
For more information on how to peel and seed a tomato, check out this pictorial. The original recipe asks for the tomatoes to be chopped, J is not a big fan of “chunks” in sauces and soups, so I did more of a mince. Notably, he gave this recipe a thumbs up.
- 1 pound ground beef
- 1 cup chopped onion
- About 6 cups / 15 tomatoes, peeled, seeded and chopped
- 1 clove garlic, chopped
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon dried basil
- 1/4 teaspoon pepper
- In a Dutch oven, cook the beef and onion over medium heat until meat is no longer pink; drain.
- Stir in the tomatoes, garlic, salt, basil and pepper. Reduce heat to low; cover and cook for 45 minutes, stirring occasionally.
- Remove from heat and enjoy as you’d like– use as a pasta topper, a base for your favorite chili recipe, or roll into a baked ziti like I did Saturday night to hungry (though frustrated) Penn State football fans. Very favorable reviews all around!
This past Sunday marked the second week I volunteered at the Skippack Farmers’ Market, collecting email addresses for the weekly newsletter and handing out recipes with a seasonal produce guide. By virtue of the word “volunteer,” I do not expect anything in return.
But I’ve found that giving a few hours on a Sunday morning, food and knowledge are your bounty. I come home with complimentary fresh olive bread from St. Peters Bakery, cheese from Goot Essa (Old German Weissa Kase), and discounted first-of-the-season apples and white peaches from Stauffer’s Fruit Farm. I learn that lettuce doesn’t like hot weather, and this summer has been challenging for the raspberry harvest — cooked by the sun before they’ve had a chance to be picked. Continue reading
Hard to believe I’ve been out of college for a decade. Seems like just yesterday I was pouring over Biochemistry text in between bottles of budget-friendly Boone’s wine. Fast forward to today, I’m pouring over Benjamin Moore paint colors while debating how to handle the small family of ground hogs cavorting under our backyard shed.
I went to college in Virginia at James Madison University. The campus felt like utopia the minute I set foot on the green grasses of the Quad, captivated by the gregarious tour guide with perma-smile and chivalrous behavior. I spent four incredible years there, studying dietetics while wondering where my passion for food and health would take me once graduation somberly set the wheels in motion. Continue reading