Tag Archives: Barbara Kingsolver

pest or food: a snail story

We are living in a state of food excess on the farm, so much so that anything not being intentionally grown is destined for the compost pile. I have pulled a countless amount of edible weeds from the ground, leaving them to wilt and die in the path. We have probably gotten rid of enough lamb’s quarters to have as a significant portion of every meal for the past four weeks. Yesterday, I was weeding a bed of beets and uprooted two of the largest tomatillo plants currently on the farm. They were removed because that bed was for beets, not tomatillos. All of this unwanted biomass ends up getting turned into compost, but I really wanted to do something about it, however small. So, I ate some snails.

My progress has been discussed a bit here and there on the blog, but a quick recap: After collecting all of the snails, I had them on a diet of lettuce for about four days. I then switched their food source to cilantro, rosemary, Mexican tarragon (another farm “weed”), and leaves from a lemon tree to finish off their flavor for several days. Then, I cleaned them all and put them in a wooden box with a bowl of water for three days, changing the water and cleaning the box each day. Finally, this past Friday we cooked them.

After boiling the snails for five minutes, I pulled the meat out of the shell (a crazy, crazy sight) and removed a cartilaginous part that felt even less fun to eat than the snail slimefest. I heated up the wok, tossed in a lot of farm-grown garlic, onion, and cilantro, and finally added the snail meat. Justin had made tortillas, and snail tacos were served with a squeeze of lime juice, some fresh onion, and more cilantro.

I deem this project a success. Despite the slime factor of the snail meat, the flavor of the meal was pretty delicious and the people who ate the tacos are still alive. Also, I killed about 80 snails in the process and their deaths went towards feeding me, three others, and eventually the farm dog.

A few days later, I was reading Gary Paul Nabhan’s Coming Home to Eat: The Pleasures and Politics of Local Foods, which is a pretty interesting counterpart to Barbara Kingsolver’s Animal, Vegetable, Miracle: A Year of Food Life. While both are accounts of  local eating, Kingsolver moved her family away from Arizona for her project while Nabhan chose to embrace the local foods of his Arizona foodshed. If the O’odham Indians survived in and around Flagstaff, Arizona for centuries, Nabhan posits, surely the foodshed provides food worth understanding and integrating into one’s diet.

Anyway, he writes about the gathering and roasting some hornworms, and then seeing many of the worms in the beds of a small farm. He writes: “Should I think of them as part of the harvest or as a pest? I realized that most statistics defined agriculture’s productivity far too narrowly, merely measuring the yield of intentionally sown crops in a field, ignoring or even discouraging the rest of life that clusters there.” The farmers and I definitely recognize the tendency for more and more wildlife to find their way to the farm and become part of the micro-ecosystems of the individual beds, but efforts are still made to quell any population of weed or bug that is not being grown intentionally.

My snail experiment worked to alter slightly how I think about snails when I see them munching on the cabbage and beet greens–as an organism that is just trying to survive, and one that can provide sustenance as well.

zucchini glut

I have become privy to a perennial woe of summer farming: way too much zucchini. In her chapter “Zucchini Wars,” Barbara Kingsolver describes that the only time people lock her doors in her Virginia neighborhood is during zucchini season to prevent any unwelcome “gifts” of other growers’ zucchini. Steve Sprinkel, an organic farmer, author, and friend of Quin and Justin, wrote about zucchini season in Edible Ojai, mentioning that around July, he’d be at the farmer’s market with a pile of zucchini “melting” on him: “Of course you have too much zucchini. I have too much myself. Why did I grow it? Why did I yield to the siren song of summer squash yet again? After all these years, I go Groundhog Day with the zucchini and always get the same results.”

The past three Sundays, I have harvested the zucchini for the CSA. Last week and the week before that, each share was offered 3-5 zucchini, depending on size, but this week, we asked people to take as many as humanly possible. I have a feeling that we will be giving that instruction for a few more weeks to come.

Inspired by the insane amount of zucchini we have to go through this week (three leftover from last Sunday and about 20 beauties about the size of a professional wrestlers forearm), I made zucchini latkes the other day. We were not yet in the overload of Sundays zucchini harvest so I mixed the latke batter with shredded parsnip, onion, apple, and carrot (freshly harvested, archetypal carrots, no less).

Harvest Latkes
Serves 3 hungry farmers, or 6 people

finished latkes (applesauce in the background)

3 cups shredded zucchini
2 cups shredded carrot
1 cup shredded parsnip
1/2 cup shredded onion
1/4 cup shredded apple
2 eggs, beaten
2 tablespoons flax seeds, ground and soaked in 4 tablespoons water)
1 cup flour (any mixture of flours will suffice)
2 tablespoons curry powder
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1 teaspoon cardamom
1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 tablespoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground pepper

Mix all of the ingredients together. If it is too watery, add more flour. Heat a skillet with some oil and shape the batter into latkes. Cook for four minutes on either side. Serve with homemade applesauce!

P.S. Zucchini processing to come: Hot-Cumin Zucchini Pickle, Zucchini Bread-and-Butter Pickle with Ginger, frozen shredded zucchini (for future zucchini bread), dehydrated zucchini (for soups and to use as chips), and zucchini in every meal.

P.P.S. When I was finishing clipping the roots and stalks off of onions for the CSA, some members were arriving to pick up their share. One member came with a friend, this lovely woman who ended up being from Sardinia, my #1 place-to-go on planet earth (yes, it beat out Iceland). She was mentioning this zucchini pizza she made, and I think I’m going to get that going at some point. Zucchini (have more than anyone needs), fresh tomato sauce (will make once tomatoes arrive), fresh mozzarella (will make once I get some raw milk), olive oil, and some fresh basil sprinkled on top after it bakes.