rain, critters & food projects

It rained yesterday. The clouds hung low and thick for hours, obscuring the mountains that surround the farm in a nearly opaque fog. After helping out with my first CSA pick (salad mix, kale, collards, chard, zucchini, lemons, chamomile, fennel, white beets, onions, garlic scapes), we all retired to our respective quarters and relaxed/read/slept. I fought off sleep for a good two hours, nodding off and waking up and reading the same paragraph of The Bell Jar over and over again. I should have just listened to my body. There’s always next Sunday.

Last night, Quin and I canned homemade elderberry jam. I had harvested the elderberries with Justin a few days earlier from a tree on the property, and Quin and I spent the rainy afternoon removing the tiny berries from the branches, washing them, sorting out any subpar fruit, making the jam (4 quarts of crushed elderberries, 12 cups! sugar, 1/2 cup vinegar), and canning it. We boiled it down for longer than we were supposed to so it is super thick, but it has a molasses-y vibe that I kind of like. I had some for breakfast this morning with a gluten-free zucchini muffin made by Mano Farm’s CSA baker.

Today, while digging up roots and weeds from a bed that was full of fennel before CSA Sunday, I experienced two new farm creature phenomena. The first involved mice, and the second snail eggs.

I had just unearthed one rather stubborn fennel root when a mouse scurried out of the soil and ran off. Startled but thinking that no more mice would be birthed from the soil, I continued clearing the bed. But then two more mice scurried out, followed by a fourth and fifth. Finally, a little baby mouse that had miraculously survived my utter thrashing of the soil with the digging fork struggled out of the bed in search of its tribe. In retrospect, this mouse evacuation was pretty cute but as it was happening I couldn’t help but invoke my Haverford dorm-based fear of mice.

Now for the snail eggs. I found what looked like a clump of Israeli couscous and asked about it because I knew it wasn’t Israeli couscous. As it turns out, I had found a lump of snail eggs. Upon further research, I discovered that snail eggs are a delicacy. A French breeder named Dominique Pierru is the premier snail egg proprietor in the world, and his eggs are found in several restaurants across France, Japan, Belgium, and Australia. After the snails lay the eggs, he washes them and cans them in a brine with special sea salt and some rosemary. “It tastes like undergrowth after the rain,” he says. Um, a) what does that mean? and b) I’m not sure I want to know. (Information about snail eggs from this article.)

To change the subject to something a little more appetizing, here is a short list of some yummy things I have recently ingested, all homemade by the farmers and me with vegetables from the farm: zucchini & avocado hummus with lemon juice; parsnip, fennel, kale stir-fry with brown rice & kombu; carrot halwa. Tempura farm veggies and falafel night are up ahead. Currently revving up my fry oil engines.

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