Spring Seed Starting
Turmeric is here!
Turmeric, a relative of ginger, is a key seasoning in Indian and other Asian cuisines, adding bright golden color and warm, earthy flavor to curries and more. In recent years, turmeric has been touted as a “superfood” with anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, and other purported health benefits (take it with black pepper to maximize absorption).
Turmeric is a tropical plant with a long growing season, so we harvest it when it is still young, before it has to face much winter weather. As with baby ginger, baby turmeric is more tender than the mature rhizome and lacks most of the outer cuticle, making it easy to use in a multitude of ways!
You’ve likely encountered turmeric mostly in its powdered form, but fresh baby turmeric is a treat! Fresh turmeric is a great addition to smoothies and juices. It’s an essential component of Thai curries, like the yellow curry in the recipe below. It is excellent pureed into soups, or even cut into pieces and added to a stir-fry. And you can use it pretty much anywhere you’d use powdered turmeric—substitute a tablespoon of grated fresh turmeric (about 1 inch of rhizome) for 1 teaspoon of powder. However you use it, be mindful that its vibrant color—sometimes used as a dye—readily turns hands, dish towels, cutting boards, and anything else into gold!
Store fresh turmeric wrapped in a towel in a bag in the fridge. You can also freeze it for long-term storage (to use, grate directly off of the frozen piece; it can turn mushy when thawed).
We’re enjoying playing with fresh turmeric, and we’d love to hear what you make with yours!
Thai Yellow Curry
This classic Thai curry is redolent with the flavors of turmeric, ginger, lemongrass, and chiles. Serves about 4. Recipe by Chef Kevin Archer.
Thai Yellow Curry Paste
This flavor-packed paste freezes well, so we like to make a big batch and freeze it in individual 1 ½ tablespoon portions for many meals to come. Recipe by Chef Kevin Archer. Yield: 1 1/2 cup
1 oz fresh turmeric, skinned and chopped
1 onion, chopped
1 1/2 oz ginger, chopped
1 oz coriander roots, chopped (optional)
4 cloves garlic, chopped
3/4 oz lemongrass, chopped
1/2 oz red chiles, chopped
3 tablespoons lime juice
1 tablespoon ground coriander
1 tablespoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon black peppercorns
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
2 tablespoons peanut oil
1. Place turmeric, onion, ginger, coriander roots, garlic, and lemongrass in blender. Also add chiles and lime juice.
2. Blend to a puree.
3. Add ground coriander, ground cumin, peppercorns, and sea salt. Blend again.
4. Heat peanut oil in heavy-bottomed sauce pan. Add mixture from blender.
5. Fry paste for 5 minutes or until fragrant.
6. Cool and place in a well-sealed jar. Keep in the refrigerator or freezer until needed.
Three Cheers for the Little Guys!
One of the great joys of the garden is watching all of the small life that inhabits that world and helps the plants thrive. The wide array of bees, butterflies, hummingbirds, and flies busily pollinating. The ladybugs, lacewings, and praying mantises helping keep pests at bay. The earthworms, beetles, and other invertebrates turning vegetable matter into healthy soil. Here at Dandelion Ridge Farm, we do what we can to support all of this vibrant life, including avoiding toxic chemicals, using integrated pest management techniques, planting flowers that support pollinators, and allowing for areas of wild space as wildlife habitat. We have been astounded by the number and diversity of bees and butterflies we’re seeing this summer, including a number of monarch butterflies using the milkweed we have planted as a host for their offspring. The sunflowers that line the garden are teeming with more species of pollinators than we can count! We are in awe of the array of small creatures who keep us all fed through their tireless work.
We are particularly grateful for the hum of insect activity because native bees and other pollinators essential to food production are facing enormous threats from pesticide use, climate change, habitat loss, and even competition from non-native honeybees (here’s a great short film on the topic). In fact, insect populations worldwide are rapidly declining—40% in the last 10 years—and up to 40% of the world’s insect species are at risk of extinction, according to a 2019 study. While insects are often framed as nuisances to human society (and it’s true, there are definitely some species I don’t appreciate so much…), it’s impossible to underestimate the importance of insects in ecosystems across the globe, and the worldwide ripple effect of these population losses.
But there are concrete ways we can each support beneficial native insects and other invertebrates. One of our favorite resources is the Xerces Society, “an international nonprofit organization that protects the natural world through the conservation of invertebrates and their habitats.” Their website contains a vast array of publications, videos, and other materials about these vital species and how to protect them and conserve the ecosystems they are a part of. They are hosting an ongoing webinar series on topics ranging from beneficial predatory insects to the affects of pesticides on pollinators to conservation guides specific to different species and regions of the country. Past webinars are also available online if you missed one. The Xerces Society has an enormous wealth of information, with many access points, including education, community science, habitat support, and advocacy. We urge you to support their work and get involved!
If you don’t have a garden to watch the mesmerizing dances of butterflies, bees, and others at home, we’ll share our pollinator plot with you. We like to watch this video on a loop as a bedtime meditation—we hope you enjoy it, too!
Now I’ll leave you with a celebration of the humble bumblebee by poet and transcendentalist Ralph Waldo Emerson.
Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803-1882)
Burly dozing humblebee!
Where thou art is clime for me.
Let them sail for Porto Rique,
Far-off heats through seas to seek,
I will follow thee alone,
Thou animated torrid zone!
Zig-zag steerer, desert-cheerer,
Let me chase thy waving lines,
Keep me nearer, me thy hearer,
Singing over shrubs and vines.
Insect lover of the sun,
Joy of thy dominion!
Sailor of the atmosphere,
Swimmer through the waves of air,
Voyager of light and noon,
Epicurean of June,
Wait I prithee, till I come
Within ear-shot of thy hum,--
All without is martyrdom.
When the south wind, in May days,
With a net of shining haze,
Silvers the horizon wall,
And, with softness touching all,
Tints the human countenance
With a color of romance,
And, infusing subtle heats,
Turns the sod to violets,
Thou in sunny solitudes,
Rover of the underwoods,
The green silence dost displace,
With thy mellow breezy bass.
Hot midsummer’s petted crone,
Sweet to me thy drowsy tune,
Telling of countless sunny hours,
Long days, and solid banks of flowers,
Of gulfs of sweetness without bound
In Indian wildernesses found,
Of Syrian peace, immortal leisure,
Firmest cheer and bird-like pleasure.
Aught unsavory or unclean,
Hath my insect never seen,
But violets and bilberry bells,
Maple sap and daffodels,
Grass with green flag half-mast high,
Succory to match the sky,
Columbine with horn of honey,
Scented fern, and agrimony,
Clover, catch fly, adders-tongue,
And brier-roses dwelt among;
All beside was unknown waste,
All was picture as he passed.
Wiser far than human seer,
Seeing only what is fair,
Sipping only what is sweet,
Thou dost mock at fate and care,
Leave the chaff and take the wheat,
When the fierce north-western blast
Cools sea and land so far and fast,
Thou already slumberest deep,--
Woe and want thou canst out-sleep,--
Want and woe which torture us,
Thy sleep makes ridiculous.
The Earth Knows My Name