Seeds of Hope

green bean seeds 6My 2017 garden has not been one for the record books. The main reason for this is the amazing opportunity my husband and I had to travel this summer, due to a generous gift of time and funds from the church he has led for over 25 years. Thirteen thousand miles and a thousand pictures later, our unforgettable summer has come to an end. But there is always next summer for the “garden of my dreams”.

green bean seeds 2One redeeming quality of my less-than-useful garden this year has been saving seeds for next year. My green beans in particular became overgrown, with bean pods ripening past the point of enjoyable eating. So I allowed the pods to dry on the plant until the beans inside were nearly bursting out of the pod. Then, after removing the dry pods from the plant, I pulled each one open and removed the dried beans, preserving them as seeds for next year’s garden.

The Seed Savers Exchange first opened my eyes to the benefits of saving seeds. The typical seeds you buy in a store are generally hybrid seeds, meaning the seeds it produces in its first harvest may no longer contain both elements of the hybrid, thus making it unable to reproduce itself the following year. Enter the Seed Savers Exchange! They offer fantastic resources on saving seeds, such as this award-winning book, The Seed Garden.  A few years ago I ordered several types of seeds from them. My green bean crop this year was grown entirely from seeds I saved last year, which was grown from seeds I purchased from a Seed Savers source the year before. Free seeds and free green beans every year sounds like a great plan to me!

green bean seeds 1This morning I enjoyed some quiet moments on my screened-in porch, listening to the birds sing while I pulled bean seeds from crunchy pods and dreamed of the 2018 harvest already in my hands.  My favorite thing about gardening? Hope. Hope that is found in something as tiny as a seed. Hope that keeps me going, that calls me to try again. Hope that is still present in something that seems as useless as a dried bean pod, telling me there is another season of harvest yet to come. Sometimes all we have is a tiny seed of hope – but that seed of hope can grow into something beautiful if we don’t give up.

Soup Season is Here! Homemade Vegetable Stock

???????????????????????????????There’s something about a bag of home-grown produce that makes me want to slow down and savor it all. Nothing comes pre-cut, pre-packaged or with cooking instructions tagged on it. Each veggie exudes a personality, a flavor all its own, and my job is to discover, or uncover, the best it has to offer. This takes time. The past few weeks, extra time is something I have had very little of due to a particularly busy schedule. I have missed my kitchen sessions where chopping, steaming, roasting and enjoying  new tastes has energized my body and soul. My Fresh Fork Market bag this week gives me a glimmer of hope as I foresee some free hours to be creative once again.

Before this last stretch of busyness,  on an unusually cool August day, I had time to prepare a recipe I have kept for years but never tried. The recipe is not a main course or side dish; rather, it is a pantry staple. This Rich Vegetable Stock is a full-bodied broth made without salt or other additives-just pure veggies. Stored in the freezer, this stock becomes an ideal base for homemade soups or cooked grains. You can even use it to steam vegetables for added flavor. Most of these ingredients came from my FFM bag. In fact, I plan to make more this week as I brought home a majority of these items in my bag again this week, with some to spare. I found the recipe in a book I read on vacation several years back, but unfortunately did not write the book title down. If anyone knows the source of this recipe, please let me know.  Here it is for you to try:

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  • 1 medium leek, white part only, chopped
  • 1 medium onion, halved
  • 3 cups (4-5 leaves) torn romaine lettuce  **I used kale instead
  • 2 cups coarsely chopped green cabbage
  • 1 1/2 cups chopped carrot
  • 1 cup chopped zucchini
  • 3/4 cup stemmed green beans, halved
  • 3 ribs celery, cut into 4 pieces each
  • 1/2 cup quartered mushrooms **I did not add these per my family’s tastes
  • 1/4 cup chopped celery leaves
  • 15 stems parsley
  • 1 1/2 cups canned whole tomatoes, with 1 cup of the liquid
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1/2 tsp dried thyme **I used dried basil
  • 1/4 tsp. whole peppercorns

In a large stock pot, place leek, onion, lettuce, cabbage, carrot, zucchini, green beans, celery, mushrooms if desired, celery leaves, and parsley. Add 12 cups cold water. Bring to a boil and simmer 30 minutes. Then add tomatoes and juice, bay leaves, thyme (basil) and peppercorns. Simmer for 30 minutes. Let stock cool with vegetables and seasonings. Strain and refrigerate for immediate use or freeze for later.

Confession: I did not read the directions correctly and added all the ingredients at once, then simmered them for an hour. The stock came out fine.  Also, instead of straining the cooled broth, I ran the broth through my Roma food mill– which I absolutely love! -in order to get as much nutrition out of the cooked veggies as possible.

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(Side note:  If you are looking for a Roma food mill and live in Ohio, you need to check out Lehman’s Hardware, in Ohio’s Amish Country. They sell this food mill at a very reasonable price and keep all the parts in stock if you need to replace anything.)

After putting it through the food mill, very little waste remained – in fact, all the leftover veggie scraps fit in a 4- cup glass container.

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The gorgeous golden stock nearly filled four 1-quart containers.  With very little work and minimal waste, I have a healthy vegetable stock ready for soup season to begin!  This recipe offers some flexibility in veggies and seasonings.  If you make it, leave me a comment and let me know what you tried.  I would love to hear from you!

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