It's funny that I've lived in Madison almost half my life yet this weekend was the first time I've eaten fish out of the lakes. This is about the local-est source of protein I can imagine, and tasty too! My sweetheart Stanley is an avid fisherman, and he decided rather than buy dinner on Friday night, he would try and catch our meal. We went to this nice spot on Lake Mendota, and he proceeded to catch more than we could eat!

Here they are, chilling on ice. There were 13 or 14 in all - all bluegill. There is some concern about mercury levels in fish like these, but according to the Wisconsin DNR, it's safe to eat them for one meal a week.

Stanley did the dirty work, cutting off their heads, gutting them, and scaling them.

Here they are, clean and ready to go.

He dipped them in flour......

....and pan fried them in butter.

and here they are! There were some bones to contend with, but the fish was so white, flaky, and delicious that a few bones seemed totally worth it. We ate them with some local potato salad and a cucumber salad (yes, local cucumbers are starting to come in!). It made a wonderful Friday night dinner.

There were quite a few fishes left over, so I made a salad with them tonight and we ate it on top of lettuce from the garden and more of those delicious local cucumbers from JenEhr Farm. We've got so much lettuce and other greens coming out of the garden that I'll have to eat nothing but salad for the next few weeks if I have any hope of eating it all up. What a great problem to have!

Simple Fish Salad

6-8 small panfish, cooked and boned
Chopped walnuts
Chopped baby bok choy or other crunchy local vegetables

Combine all ingredients and stir well. This salad is delicious over lettuce!

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Pretty Pictures

It's harvest time! We're going to be hard pressed to eat all of the greens coming out or our gardens before they bolt. This kale and chard are from the backyard. They're from the very first planting in the cold frame we put up in March.

This lettuce was started from seed indoors way back in the early spring. It's making beautiful heads, and demanding to be eaten now.

These are the Canario beans at Quann gardens. The ground where they're planted is extremely hard, but somehow they managed to come up and they seem to be thriving.

The squash, corn, and bean experiment in our third garden plot is an early sucess! The squash is flowering and growing like mad. The beans have germinated and are shooting up fast, and the corn is already knee high when it's not even the Fourth of July yet!

Everything looks beautiful.

June is such a hopeful month.
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Food for Busy Times

It's been quite some time since I've posted about cooking, mostly because I've been too busy to cook elaborate meals. Between starting a new job, my brother/roommate having a nasty bike accident, and spending every spare moment in the garden; my afternoons spent cooking up elaborate local feasts have gone by the wayside - at least for now. When I have had time to cook, I've lacked the time to blog about it. I haven't left my local food ideals behind though. I've been making tasty, easy meals with local ingredients, just like always. They're just not as elaborate or exciting as they could be......

This dish is pretty representative of the way I've been eating recently.

I got these beautiful beets from the East Side Farmer's Market in Madison - from Blue Skies Farm in Brooklyn WI. I wanted to eat the greens as fresh as possible, so I saved the beets for later and chopped up the greens for dinner right after market. People should eat more beet greens. They're better then chard, but many people just chop them off and throw them away.

These are the first of the peas from the back garden. It really doesn't get enough sun back there for pea plants to thrive. They seem kind of weak, but they're still damn tasty!

The garlic scapes also came from the Blue Skies Farm. They've got a surprisingly strong, spicy flavor.

I cooked some Willow Creek Farm sausage with the scapes......

I'm not sure how I feel about these tomatoes. They're local, from the Co-op, but they're not real summer tomatoes yet, and they're not organic. I bought this one anyway, chopped it up, and added it to the pork. A few minutes later I added the beet greens and peas.

I mixed it all with rice and a tiny bit of heavy cream and topped it all with some yummy hard cheese from Monroe. Dinner!

Cheesy Sausage and Rice with Local June Veggies

Rice, cooked
Italian sausage
1/8 cup heavy cream
Seasonal vegetables (beet greens, garlic scapes, snow peas, tomato)
A hard cheese like Asiago or Parmesan

Cook the rice. In a cast iron skillet, cook the chopped garlic scapes (or onion or garlic) with with the sausage. Add the vegetables, in the order of their softness (hardest veggies first) until everything is cooked. Add the vegetables to the rice and stir in the cream and salt to taste. Top individual bowls with grated cheese.

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Food Gardens for Defense

I found this book at an antique mall in Monroe, WI. I happened to be there last weekend with some time to spare. I always love poking around antique stores, so I was delighted to find one on the main square in Monroe. I was even more delighted to find this book. It's quite a find!

It's quite old, published in 1942. The author is M.G. Kains, who has several titles listed under his name:

"Special Crop Culturist, US Department of Agriculture;
Formerly Head of Horticulture Department, Pennsylvania State College;
Horticulture Agriculture and Botany Editor, New International Encyclopedia;
Garden Editor, Pictorial Review and other National Magazines;
Lecturer on Horticulture, Colombia University"

That's quite a list!

It's basically a why and how-to garden guide for people planting WWII victory gardens. The victory gardens were encouraged by the government and were intended to take strain off the public food supply while at the same time boosting morale - It's got 29 chapters that instruct people in all the aspects of home food production:

1. Vitamins for Defense - The importance of vitamins to national health.
2. Vegetable Garden Planning
3. Vegetables for the Home Garden
4. Earliest Vegetable Garden Secrets
5. New Vegetable Flavors
6. Vegetable Gardens for the Summer Residence
7. Lengthening the Vegetable Season
8. Harvesting and Storing,
9. Home Fruits for High Quality
10. Dwarf Fruit Trees,
11. Fruit Tree Pruning,
12. Grafting
13. Grapes, Ideal Garden Fruit
14. Bushberries
15. Strawberries
16. Fruit Gardening for the Summer Residence
17. Bug and Blight Control
18. Weeds
19. Tools and Their Care
20. The Soil and it's Improvement
21. Drainage
22. Manures and Fertilizers
23. Liquid Fertilizers
24. Tillage
25. Water and Watering
26. Cover Crop and Green Manures
27. Cold frames and Hotbeds
28. Amateur Greenhouses
29. Seeds and Seedlings

All of this is followed by many wonderful appendices like a chart showing the vitamin profile of common fruits and vegetables, frost dates, how to store vegetables and when to harvest.... all in all this is one of the most plain spoken, easy to use guides to home food production that I've seen.

To make it even cooler, there's several ancient four leaf clovers and maple leaves pressed in the pages. The paper itself is old and in pretty bad shape. It's extremely yellowed and brittle - I feel like I'm going to break the binding it I actually read the whole thing. Regardless, there's something magical about it!

Somewhere over the years, some sort of bug tunneled into it in several places, leaving these very interesting holes.

I also found this receipt in it - I'm not sure if it's from 1942, but judging from the fact that the person bought something at Osco Drug for $0.01, I'm thinking it's pretty old.

I'm mostly fascinated by the content of this book. The parallels to today are unmistakable. This is from the Forward: A Word to Gardeners. forgive me if it gets lengthy, I think it's worth it.

"In recent years there has been a tendency to consider gardening as a hobby. We have tended to look upon such an activity as a luxury, and an expensive one at that. Even the folks in the lower income groups often failed to heed the necessity of having fresh vegetables and fruits in their diets. The more affluent found it all too convenient to stop at the corner grocery store, where a wide variety of fresh and canned vegetables and fruits were temptingly displayed. The can-opener was easy to use compared with the effort a hoe required. Gardening seemed foolish. Yes, an expensive hobby when one could buy carrots at five of ten cents a bunch."

"The wide variety of foods to be had without effort on our part seemed perfect. We had all that we wanted to eat. The National Draft Board took the smugness out of most of us. Their reports told us the great numbers of the nation's youth who could not pass the physical examination. It was incredible, and equally incredible the reason given - undernourishment. This was indeed a shock to a county that prided itself on having the highest standard of living of any nation in the world. Plenty of food and at low cost, but undernourishment."

"Gardening does have something for us besides exercise, something that seemingly does not come out of tin cans. Fresh fruits and vegetables - fresh from the gardens - have health-building and health-protecting vitamins and minerals that cannot be captured and put into tin. They may look the same when cooked, taste the same and smell the same - but are they?"

"A canner cannot always permit the things he puts into cans - fruits and vegetables - to reach that stage of maturity at which the most important vitamins are present in the greatest quantities. Then, too, some of the vitamins are lost in the canning process. Even the fresh vegetables on the shelves at the grocer's are not garden fresh. It usually takes several days - if not weeks - from harvest to market. Even then they probably were not picked at the most nutritive and palatable stage of maturity. Commercial growers must time their harvest according to when the vegetables will ship best and make the most attractive appearance on the display rack."

"A home gardener would be foolish indeed if he were to pick immure fruits for his family to eat. It is the same for the vegetables in his garden. They should be harvested when they are tender, full of flavor, and most nutritious."

"The Federal Government, faced with the reports of the draft boards, called a meeting of experts - health, horticultural, educational, etc. - to work out a program to meet this problem of undernourishment. That group, consisting of representatives of many public and private groups, recommended that increased emphasis be placed on gardens - fruit gardens, vegetables gardens, and flower gardens. Gardens in the country, gardens in suburban areas, and gardens in city backyards - wherever soil, experience and the available labor permitted and production of healthful, nutritious products."

"The program adopted at the Conference has been given wide publicity that our people might be healthier, stronger, and better fitted to meet the present emergency. You and I know that we as a nation should keep ourselves fit, strong, and healthy, able to do our jobs well during this emergency and afterwards."

He goes on to talk about how canning and shipping food takes a lot of energy that could be better spent on the war effort, then these two paragraphs, which I think are my favorite:

"There are concrete reasons why we, as gardeners, should do our part. There are still other reasons for us to do our part even though it does require more effort to wield a hoe than to open a tin can. there are contributions that are not so visible but nevertheless are just as important. The time spent in the garden, the few minutes in the morning before going to work, and the few minutes in the evening are the very best tonic for overwrought nerves. The pleasure obtained in making plants grow and produce - fruit, vegetables, flowers - is the best morale-builder that man can devise. You cannot buy it, but it is there. Yours for the taking

The contact with fresh earth, the feel of early morning sunshine, and the joy that comes from a productive garden make a better workman, one with stronger nerves, a steadier hand, and a spirit that will not bow down or bend under the pressure of the toughest kind of a job. These are some of the reasons behind our National Garden Program. It's up to the gardeners to do their part and to help others to join in raising standards of health and morale."

Wow. I couldn't have said it better myself! It's hard to believe that this is written by an agent of the Agriculture Department, and that this is the same government that 40 years later was claiming ketchup as a vegetable.
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