Food Adventures with Connie

Archive for the month “July, 2015”

The Beauty of the Garden

I love working in the garden this time of year, whether weeding or scouting for insects and diseases.  Yesterday morning was particularly pleasant weather-wise, the pumpkins, watermelons, and cantaloupes are all in bloom, the aroma of fresh tilled soil was in the air, and a variety of pollinators were busy buzzing around.  I encourage you to take the time to experience a garden with all your senses, and share it with young people in your life.  It will feed your body as well as your soul.

Thoreau quote over cantaloupe flowers


Indian-Inspired Slow-Cooked Goat Stew

NIgerian dwarf buck

Figure 1. Nigerian dwarf buck.

I am the proud owner of one Nigerian dwarf dairy goat buck. His registered name is Stage Dragon SP Chardonnay but we call him Charlie. He’s a sweetheart and just a little “bucky” this time of year. Wait until fall and stand downwind of him and you’ll know what I mean. Anyway, owning a buck is not for the faint of heart, but my children raise 4-H dairy goats and if you want milk you have to breed the does to a buck so they have kids. (Artificial insemination is a little tricky in goats and so yes, it’s easier for me to house a couple bucks.)

Nigerian dwarf doe with three doelings

Figure 2. Nigerian dwarf doe and three newborn doelings.

The pairing between Charlie and my son’s doe, Dandelion, last fall resulted in 3 doelings (female baby goats) in April, but our previous pairing gave us a buckling (male baby goat). We didn’t need him as a buck so we castrated him and kept him as a wether to keep Charlie company.

When we moved to Nebraska this spring the wether went off to freezer camp. As a wether he was never registered and would have been a hassle (mostly monetary) to transport across state lines. After we moved we bought another buck to keep Charlie company and to use for breeding to Charlie’s doelings in the future.

That is the reality of livestock in the Fisk house and the children know it. We’ve raised and eaten rabbits, roosters, unfriendly chickens, and now dairy goats. Luckily my family likes to eat and I like to experiment in the kitchen.

I challenge you to try goat meat (it is the world’s most popular meat – check out this blog post if you don’t believe me). I’ve used ground goat in recipes that call for ground lamb like Shepherd’s Pie and as a substitute for ground beef in meatloaf. Tonight I decided to think outside the box and play with some of the spices in the cupboard as well as goat stew meat to come up with the following recipe. I hope you enjoy it as much as we did.

goat stew over rice

Indian-Inspired Slow-Cooked Goat Stew

Yield: 6 Servings

1 Tbsp ground cumin
1 tsp ground garam masala
1 1/2 tsp salt
1/8 tsp cayenne pepper
1/2 tsp ground black pepper
1 1/2 pounds goat stew meat, cut into 1 1/2-inch pieces
4 Tbsp olive oil, divided
1 large onion, finely chopped
3 carrots, peeled and chopped
1 Tbsp tomato paste
1 Tbsp dried red bell pepper
1 Tbsp dried green bell pepper
2 chicken bouillon cubes
2 cups water
1-15 1/2-oz can garbanzo beans (chickpeas), drained
2 fresh peaches, peeled and chopped
1-14 1/2-oz can diced tomatoes, undrained
2 cinnamon sticks
1 Tbsp fresh ginger paste
2 Tbsp chopped fresh basil

Mix first 5 ingredients in large zip top bag. Add goat, seal, and shake to coat.

Heat 2 tablespoons oil in large skillet over medium-high heat. Working in batches, add goat to skillet and cook until browned on all sides, turning occasionally. Add 2 more tablespoons oil to skillet between batches. Transfer goat to slow cooker after each batch.

Add onion and carrot to drippings in skillet. Reduce heat to medium and sauté until onion is soft, about 5 minutes. Add tomato paste, peppers, bouillon, and water and bring to a boil, scraping up browned bits.

Transfer to slow cooker and add garbanzo beans, peaches, tomatoes, cinnamon sticks, and ginger. Stir to combine. Cover and cook on low 8 hours, stirring occasionally.

Remove cinnamon sticks. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Top with chopped fresh basil. Serve over cooked rice or couscous.

How to Grow Bindweed (and what to do if you don’t want to grow it)

If you garden, chances are that you have encountered bindweed (AKA Creeping Jenny). You can mow it, pull it, and cultivate around your vegetable plants all season and yet every day seemingly find new bindweed plants. Have you ever wondered if your control strategies are actually helping the bindweed to grow?

The Plant

Penn State Extension (see Field Bindweed link below) offers a good description of bindweed: “A vinelike perennial, field bindweed belongs to the morning glory family (Convolvulaceae). Its slender stems can form dense tangled mats up to 10 feet (3 m) across, and climb by wrapping around nearby plants and objects.”

In case you’ve never seen bindweed before, here’s what it looks like. Notice the leaves shaped like blunt arrowheads and the easily severed taproot. This taproot may extend many feet into the soil and can survive soil temperatures as low at 20°F which means that it can come back year after year from the roots.

small bindweed plant showing leaves and taproot

Figure 1. Typical bindweed leaf shape and taproot (click to zoom).

This taproot generates many side roots extending one to three feet away from the taproot. These side roots produce buds underground that can develop into new plants. That’s right, if you manually remove bindweed plants as shown above, the side roots left in the soil are capable of becoming new plants.

If, rather than pulling weeds, you till between the rows in your garden every few weeks you may be chopping up these roots.  And root pieces as short as two inches can form new plants! (I learned that mistake the hard way managing a community garden in Wyoming.)

If the bindweed is allowed to grow to maturity it will produce white or pink funnel shaped flowers that bloom from June through September. Typical of species in the morning glory family, the flowers open during the early morning hours and then close later in the day.

I think the flowers are kind of pretty (plant nerd here), but if these flowers are left unchallenged, they will produce seeds. One bindweed plant may produce as many as 550 seeds that can remain viable in your soil for 20 years! So, in addition to controlling bindweed in your garden, you need to control bindweed around the garden, in surrounding fields and ditches, and along fence lines if you want to prevent the production and spread of seeds.

Bindweed is found throughout the United States in all kinds of soils, so it’s not picky about growing conditions. It is also drought tolerant and when water is limited it will outcompete most of your garden plants.

young bindweed plant much larger than other young weeds

Figure 2. This field was plowed two weeks ago. See the difference between the growth of the bindweed and other common weeds?

Controlling Bindweed With or Without Chemicals

Bindweed is sensitive to shade, so if you can manually remove it early in the season fast growing garden crops may be able to help suppress its growth. However, if the bindweed is more than a year old, with a well-established root system, shading won’t even slow it down. It will even grow several feet under plastic or landscape fabric to emerge from the holes you cut for your vegetable plants.

Effective non-chemical control requires a multi-pronged approach including:

  1. Disruption of carbohydrate storage by deep tillage of the root system (so unfortunately no till is not a good choice if you’re trying to control bindweed without chemicals)
  2. Competition for light from other plants (i.e. vegetable plants, cover crops, perennial grasses or forages)
  3. Prevention of seed production (mowing will not reduce bindweed infestations, but can reduce seed production if timed to prevent flowering)
  4. Constant manual removal of top growth (yes, that means getting on your hands and knees and gently pulling young bindweed plants before they have a chance to establish)

Chickens are another non-chemical control option. They eat bindweed leaves and stems and expose crowns and roots, further depleting root carbohydrate reserves. However, chickens will be just as happy to eat your vegetable plants and pose a food safety risk if allowed in the garden within 120 days of harvest, so they should only be used after you’ve finished harvesting your crops for the season.

If you’ve tried all of the above and still can’t seem to get your bindweed under control you may want to consider chemical options. Contact herbicides can kill back the aboveground growth (and may be useful for preventing seed production), but their effects are only temporary because the plant will just send up new shoots from the root buds.

Systemic herbicides are more effective as they are translocated throughout the plant. Systemic herbicides should be applied when bindweed is in bud or the early bloom stage because that’s when root reserves are lowest and translocation from the leaves to the roots is most active.

Unfortunately bindweed is a broadleaf plant like most of the vegetables in the garden, so if you decide to use herbicides you must be careful to avoid damaging your crops at the same time. One way to accomplish this is to place a rubber glove on your hand and wear a cotton glove or sock over it that you can spray or dip into a small container of systemic herbicide like glyphosate (Roundup) or 2,4-D, and then carefully wipe it on the leaves of the bindweed.  This procedure will need to be repeated about every 10 days until the bindweed dies.

Regardless of the herbicide chosen, chemical control is most effective when combined with the non-chemical control options described above.

For more information:

Bindweed Identification and Control Options for Organic Production

Field Bindweed

Field Bindweed Control Alternatives

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