{the farmwives kitchen} american persimmon

IMG_8110The persimmons are ripening. Each day more fall to the ground and wait to be collected by my family or scavenged by the wild critters that I have to compete with for this very special wild fruit. The delicious American persimmon has come to be my favorite of all the native fruits. If you have never had one, I’m afraid to say that I wholeheartedly believe you are missing out. The trees are not at all hard to grow, and in fact can often be found growing at roadsides and neglected patches of ground, and of course in these eastern deciduous forests that I so happily inhabit. In fact, on the drive home from our vacation, we stopped at a gas station in Alabama and there at the edge of the parking lot was a laden persimmon tree. My family had a nice little snack before continuing our drive. (Should you be interested in trying to plant a persimmon cultivar, check out our nearby Hidden Springs Nursery.)IMG_8102Over the years, we have been selectively allowing wild persimmon saplings to take hold in our pastures. Not only will these trees provide shade for our livestock, they will provide food for my family and the domestic and wild critters that we share this farm with.IMG_8108One of my favorite culinary things to do with persimmons, aside from just eating them, is to run them through our small hand-cranked food mill. This separates the pulp from the seeds leaving me with a gorgeously thick, de-seeded pile of persimmon pulp that can be used in so many delectable ways. I will then put the pulp into containers for freezing and later use. Then, when the pulp is just starting to freeze but not yet solid, I will take a heaping tablespoon and add it to a mug or small glass of cream. Add a slug of maple syrup and a teaspoon of cocoa powder. Stir all of this together and enjoy an incredibly quick dessert. One that I’m pretty sure you won’t ever forget!IMG_8093IMG_8095We will also spread persimmon pulp on our sourdough pancakes and top with a drizzle of maple syrup for a supreme breakfast. (I’m really wanting to make acorn pancakes for this breakfast, but that is quite a process and will have to be in another post!) We have even made lacto-fermented chutneys by adding the pulp to chopped onions and apples! The persimmon-y possibilities are endless!!!IMG_8096After running the persimmons through the food mill, one is left with a pile of seeds that still have quite a bit of pulp adhering to them. Because this fruit is so precious to me, I cannot abide any waste! So I put the seeds into a large jar or crock, add some honey and water, and start a batch of persimmon mead!

So, friends, it is my supreme hope that you all have persimmon trees ripe and ready for the picking… if not, come on over! There’s a persimmon party just waiting to be had!!!IMG_8105

adjusting our local radar

IMG_7953Over the weekend, our compass pointed south and brought us here, to the beach. Our annual trek to the salty waters of the Gulf is always a welcome treat for the family, giving us a brief change of scenery and some time to recharge our batteries before fully delving into harvesting the fall storage crops on the farm. It’s a hard time to leave the farm, to be sure, as we love the autumn so very much. But any time is a hard time to leave the farm for some reason or another, so we go when it feels best and enjoy every minute.IMG_7954As it goes when we travel anywhere, packing our own food to bring along is what we deem most important. (Of course we pack clothes, too, but that’s a no-brainer… a bathing suit and at least one article of clothing that isn’t sweat-stained and covered with streaks of tomato vine resin.) So we loaded up a cooler with milk and butter and hamburger and bacon, baskets of potatoes, tomatoes, peppers, onions, garlic. And of course, some cast iron skillets. Eating road-food for any extended period of time is enough to give me serious anxiety, as I read the fine-print labels and wonder where in the world the ingredients come from and why on earth they are even considered food? Eeeeegads, we live in a strange time.IMG_7971{Supper last night… fresh salsa covered hamburgers on a bed of mashed potatoes with bits of bacon. Yum. We didn’t grow the tortilla chips, though.}

We stopped at a roadside stand for some local peaches as we neared the coast. The sweet old man at the stand had just harvested the peaches the day before and was ready to sell them all so that he could go fishing. We were happy to help him in his mission, so we added an entire box to the contents of the van and headed on our way.

And each year we make a little trade with Eric’s brother’s brother-in-law: some of our garlic for some of his beer. It’s a pretty sweet deal for us, especially since Eric’s brother brought the beer with him on his way down, putting it in the refrigerator so that it would be well chilled upon our arrival! Every beer I’ve tasted from Yellowhammer Brewery is a winner. If you find yourself in the Huntsville area, stop by the new biergarten for a taste. You won’t be disappointed. So as I sit with my toes in the sand, little people squealing in delight all around me, some knitting on my lap, and a locally-crafted cold one in my hand, I can sigh a real sigh of contentment.

Within a few hours of our arrival, Eric got a sourdough starter going to capture some of the wild ocean-air yeasts. Sourdough pancakes are on the menu for breakfast this morning… I wonder if we’ll be able to decipher any subtle taste nuances between our Bugtussle sourdough and the coastal version we got bubbling here. Topped with some of our own maple syrup, deliciousness is assured!

As you can imagine with my family, a trip to the beach also means saltwater fishing. Especially for my little angler, Ira. He’s obsessed with fishing as it is, but when there’s a whole slew of fish he’s never caught before… well, that’s pretty serious business. When the boy is ready to head out well before sunrise and without bothering to eat breakfast, you know he is fully in his element and loving it. His papa is pretty obsessed, too, so they make a fine fishing pair. And with Eric’s dad and brother here with us as well, there is quite a bit of Smith-family-fishing-energy floating around!!!IMG_7959{Eric’s first “sheepshead”. It was tasty, too…}

Arriving in any new locale, our internal weather-vanes have to readjust themselves as well. Yesterday on the beach, big storm clouds were brewing to the north across the lagoon, but the breeze was still southerly from the ocean. I tried to watch the clouds, but they seemed to be going in all directions, confusing my instincts a bit. However, seeing this black bank of clouds develop and intense lightning that went along with them, I quickly snapped out of my confusion and headed for shelter. What an intense storm!IMG_7961So even when we leave the comfort-zone of our home and farm, we do our part to adjust our local radars accordingly. Life is so much more interesting when you really dive into your surroundings!

which road?

While running an errand recently (in a vehicle with a functioning radio!), I caught the tail end of an On Point interview with Willie Nelson. Something he said really stuck in my mind: “There’s a lot of roads that lead to the same place.” In the interview, he was answering a question about his spiritual life but that simple and profound statement could be applied to so many areas of our lives. It’s a statement worth considering.

In my own personal life, I give considerate amounts of thought to food. I am a farmer, after all. I grow food to feed myself, my family, and other families. And I’m a mama that prepares a heck of a lot of meals and snacks each and every day for my beloved little ones. I came to this agrarian lifestyle by choice. Not only was I hoping to live a simple, sustainable life, I also wanted to live a healthful life. Eric and I each had a parent die from cancer when we were in our teens. (We didn’t know one another yet, but my father and his mother died just a few weeks apart.) At the time, I didn’t have a clue about the restorative, regenerative qualities of nutrient-dense food. Had I known then what I know now, however, I often wonder if I could have helped change the course of my father’s cancer. It’s difficult to think about.IMG_2813

My views on what I consider healthful have changed (maybe I should say evolved) a bit over the years. One road I chose for awhile was that of the vegetarian. Primarily because I was not growing or raising my own food at that time, and commercially available meat seemed the most susceptible to improper stewarding practices, I just opted out of eating it. I didn’t consider the impact that the growing of all the soybeans I was consuming for non-animal protein (in the form of soy milk) might have on the environment, and on my own health for that matter. It wasn’t until I started trying to raise a family of my own that I realized something was up. My very active, very physically fit twenty-something year-old body couldn’t maintain a pregnancy. I thought my diet and eating habits were pretty good, as well. My body was clearly telling me otherwise. I had no idea that soy products contain phyto-estrogens, and that as an infant fed soy-based formula, I would be particularly sensitive to excess estrogen in my diet. My hormones were just whacked out. After a few years of struggle, Eric and I stumbled upon the work of Sally Fallon, and her amazing book Nourishing Traditions. What an eye opener for me. The road I was traveling took a sharp turn.IMG_2729

By the time of this discovery, we were raising bigger and bigger gardens to grow more of our own food. We also decided to raise a batch of chicks to increase the size of our tiny flock.  As nature dictates, half of those chicks were roosters. What on earth were we going to do with all of those tenderly raised roosters? Well, the responsible thing… we were going to eat them.

So my road led me back to a diet that included much more in the way of animal products. And if not for continued searching and reflection about diet and health, I don’t think my sweet family would exist today. As you can imagine, I’m pretty pleased that they do.IMG_2783

(Please, don’t get me wrong here. I am not trying to convince everyone to sharpen their canines and eat a steak. That is not my objective. I respect each person’s individual choices and it is my belief that we all have to find our own paths, and live a life true to our own knowledge. I’m just sharing a little from the road that I traveled, and that I am still bumbling along.)

Life gives life. In order for one thing to live, something else must die to feed that life. There is really no way around this. Be it a head of lettuce or a hamburger, an egg or a nut: something that was alive or containing the potential for life is transformed into more life energy by something else.  Reflecting on what Willie said I really do see that there are a lot of roads that lead to the same place. And when I relate that statement to my obsession with high-quality food and conscious eating, my conclusion is this:  We all live. We all breathe. We all eat. We will all die. This evolving, revolving world is laden with choices. Let us use our keen insight to make the most thoughtful choices that we can. Let us shake off any complacency regarding food and seek answers to our questions. And let us respectfully educate each other so that every living being on this verdant earth is granted the opportunity to flourish. As humans, we share these roads. If I see you have a flat tire along the way, I will stop to lend a hand. I hope you will do the same for me. IMG_2091