This Week’s Share: Basil, Beets, Cilantro
Garlic Scapes, Kohlrabi, Lettuce, Radicchio,
Radishes, Scallions, Squash, Yukina savoy
We went to a local tavern to watch the US-Ghana soccer game a couple of weeks ago. We were the only people in the place watching soccer. As one of the men at the bar pointed out, “god gave us hands so why did someone make a sport you play with your feet?” Hard to argue with that, though it does make one wonder who gave us feet. In fact, it raises some interesting questions about human anatomy in general. Were various beings involved in the design? That would certainly help to explain some things about us. We definitely show signs of having been engineered by a committee. And I do not say that to praise committees.
Sadly, the men at the bar, an odd assortment of Monday night drinkers, chose not to pursue this line of enquiry, fruitful as it might have been. They had bigger fish to fry. Such as what has gone wrong with this country. That something has gone wrong is apparently a given. I didn’t hear anyone speaking up for the US. But what precisely ails this country? What has led us from the good old days, when a man understood the value of hard work, and decency ruled, to the sorry mess we see before us now? The culture of dependency, filth, disrespect, our standing in the world shot to hell, and a farmer can’t even make a living any more.
Well, what do you expect with those people in charge. The whole lot of them down in Washington. Moochers. Grifters. So much damn corruption. No idea what is going on the country. Or just don’t give a damn. And Obama, he just hates this country.
And what is the evidence for that hatred? Well, just look at what he does. Things the men at the bar don’t agree with at all. Like, well, slyly convincing a lot of Americans to support the incompetent things he does. Apparently if Obama liked this country more he would use his evil to make everybody see that he has set us on the wrong course. Fortunately for us, there are still a few guys out drinking on a Monday night who have resisted the evil magic, who can still see the truth and tell Patriot from foe.
There’s nothing wrong with sitting at a bar grousing with your fellow drinkers, and there’s no surprise that around here that grousing would be about liberals and their kooky desire the make society a little more just. But these men were not simply disagreeing with the President’s policies. They were declaring him un-American, illegitimate, other. And doing so in the name of patriotism.
Well, they have a point. In many places refusing to admit the legitimacy of your political opponents does count as patriotism. Places like Turkmenistan, which is certainly a country to emulate. People in Turkmenistan know what’s what. Well, that or are they are in jail, which is where people who don’t agree with right-thinking people belong. Actually, our local paper gets a number of letters to the editor suggesting Obama belongs in jail. I wonder if the writers are all Turkmen. But, no, I believe they are all ardent American patriots.
But perhaps as we go into our annual celebration of patriotism we might pause to reconsider the notion and recall that our system functions not simply because we have the right to believe those we disagree with are fatheads, but also because we accept the legitimacy of those fatheads when against all reason they win elections. No matter how unhappily, we peacefully transfer power to our opponents, even ones whose electoral victories seem a little dubious. We may spend their time in power opposing their policies, marching in the streets, burning draft cards and grousing about them in bars, but we accept that sometimes we must cede power no matter how unquestionably in the right we know we are, because they have as much right to it as we do.
It is a bit like my relationship with fennel. I don’t like fennel. I don’t like the taste. I don’t like the smell. Picking lots of it sometimes makes me feel a little queazy. I am not convinced it should exist. In other words, I ardently disagree with fennel. It’s a fathead. But other people feel differently about fennel. And while they may not convince me to like it, they do remind me that it has a purpose. So I put up with it. In fact, I continue to grow it because no matter how I feel about it it is still a vegetable and this is a vegetable farm. It is sort of my patriotic duty to accommodate the crops I don’t like, though I draw the line at okra. Picking it makes my arms itch. And who likes okra anyway? To hell with it.
Vegetable notes: I don’t know if you have found the previous vegetables this season at all mysterious. But here’s something that may stump some of you: yukina savoy. It is the rubber banded head of crinkly (savoyed) dark green leaves on crisp stems. Think of it as a bok choi with its own hip sense of style. In other words, its another sort of mustard green, a pleasant combination of tender sweet leaves and crunchy stems with a bit of that mustard bite. Steam it. Saute it. Stir fry it. Toss it in a soup. Put it in a vase.
For some reason, beets get bad press. I think in part it is because a lot of people first meet them as mushy canned vegetables with an odd, off flavor. That is a shame, because a good fresh beet is excellent. True, it tastes a bit like dirt, but really good dirt. And you can do all sorts of things with beets. They are good boiled, baked, roasted, even raw. You could just peel your beets and julienne them, dress them with some good oil, a little lemon juice, a splash of soy sauce and a healthy pinch of salt.
You could have your squash raw, too. I am not a huge fan of large chunks of raw squash. But you could cut it into pieces the size of thin french fries, salt it, and let it drain for a few hours. Then squeeze out as much moisture as you can and toss it with a garlic scape-basil pesto.
You could have your radicchio (the dense red head of leaves) cooked. Most people just add it to a salad. But you can quarter it, brush with oil and grill it, or cook it down like escarole (and add the beet greens too). It is good hot with some spicy sausage and garlic, maybe some white beans, and it is good cold with a splash of vinegar.