Sunday, August 7, 2011

Eating Omily: Bovines and Nightshades

There wasn't much to write about concerning local/organic/sustainable food when staying with my family...other than complaints though, there is news from Saturday!


When I moved to New York, many natives of that area wanted to hear all about my childhood on the farm. They were sorely disappointed to hear of my suburban experience, but I'm now being redeemed by my father, who upon his divorce bought a charming little house sitting on a couple acres surrounded by legitimate farms. Case in point: the acres that back up to his own are the home of a heard of pastured beef cows owned by just the sort of salt-of-the-earth old man I was presumed to be related to. We had a wonderful time visiting with him and tramping over the acres in question, raising the alert posted by the bull on duty from amber to orange, I am sure, in the process. This was hardly a theoretical exploration: my dad is organizing a buying club to purchase one of these handsome, omega-3-rich specimens, and my husband and I are already on the list for approximately one-quarter of a cow! If you think seeing the cows in their natural habitat, happily living their lives, gave me any qualms about being the reason one of them will meet an early grave, you underestimate my moral comfort with my omnivorous diet.
Other than that adventure in mooing beef, we came home Sunday and enjoyed summer squash, sweet peppers, and onions over quinao for lunch. I used to be unsure of the combination of summer squash and sweet peppers, but it's a dependable mantra: "What grows together goes together!" The peppers brighten up the rather predictable taste and texture of the squash in a delightful way.

Still more interesting, the mystery plant I've been watering in the pot that held my now-dead peas has finally showed enough characteristics for me to track down its identity via internet database and some basic knowledge of botany terms: It's a black nightshade! This is not to be confused with this plant's cousin the deadly nightshade. Rather, confuse it with it's other relative, the husk cherry. The dark little berries ripening on my windowsill are edible, delicious, and happy to cook up into jam, although I don't think I'm going to get that kind of a harvest. There is a persistent myth that the black nightshade is dangerous, but it's widely eaten, ripe berries, leaves, etc., raw and cooked, in India, Africa, and rural parts of America, with no reported poisonings in hundreds of years. In fact, you can still find the seeds of this plant for sale in catalogs under the prosaic name, "wondercherry." This myth is based on the fact that in many circles, deadly nightshade is known alternately as black nightshade.

Eat Omily today, and tomorrow (or maybe Tuesday) I'll have the weekly update up.

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