By LYNNE IRONS
While sitting in bridge traffic waiting for yet another enormous sailboat to pass through, I was working on a pretty significant resentment against Mr. and Mrs. Gotrocks. Here I was, late for work, hot and feeling sorry for myself, and the boat people were holding me up on their way to a lovely day on the water.
Luckily, I started looking around and to my wonder saw several wild chicory plants in full sky-blue bloom poking through the crack between the sea wall and Beach Road. I started thinking about nature and not only is she remarkably forgiving but also relentless. How those plants can possibly grow there is way beyond my human ability to comprehend. No soil, no water, endless salt spray, and exhaust fumes.
If I had a computer, I would look up chicory and tell you all about it. I’ll just spill out what is in my mind instead. I know the root can be used for a coffee substitute. I think we are talking taste here, not the caffeine. I don’t drink the stuff for the taste but for the high. There, I said it! Barbara Kingsolver says, “Coffee can get you through times with no food better than food gets you through times without coffee.”
I do digress. Back to chicory. I love how it pops up with Queen Anne’s lace and orange butterfly weed. You couldn’t come up with a more pleasing combination.
Several weeks ago, we had a brief thunderstorm with quite a bit of wind. It flattened my corn which was just beginning to form ears. I guess it made it more convenient for the raccoons to strip and eat the about-to-ripen cobs. I loathe them! Next year I am going to lay the serious guilt trip on my sons and have them build some sort of cage in which to grow corn and tomatoes. I could see there was no hope for this year so I field-stripped several ears and ate them raw right there in the garden. It was altogether pleasurable, including wiping my face on my shirt.
I grow only the open-pollinated corn. If you will notice, in your seed catalog, that leaves golden bantam as your choice. It was developed by Burpee in 1902. Prior to its introduction, almost all cultivated corn was white. It became so popular, it changed the color preference of the entire country within a decade. I start it inside in huge plug trays and set it out after danger of frost.
Michael Pollan says in The Omnivore’s Dilemma that golden bantam was introduced before hybridizers figured out how to amp up the sweetness. The change in the genetics of corn in the industrial food chain happened so corn could remain sweet during its oil-gobbling trip cross-country. Corn, by nature, will quickly turn to starch, hence the old adage, “Put the water on to boil before heading to the field.”
In the early Sixties, the breeders added extra copies of the gene responsible for producing sugars. The kernels lost much of their creaminess and the specific taste of corn became overwhelmed with a generic taste. Michael says the industrial diet of easy sugars has dulled our taste for the earthy sweetness of corn, now that it has to compete with foods like soda.
Since I am writing this on Sunday, I am still looking forward to hearing Michael Pollan speak at the agricultural hall on Tuesday night. I am taking notes, so next week be forewarned.
Zucchini can get away from you in a second. I have tossed several to the chickens easily bigger than the business end of a baseball bat. I was able to sauté quite a few and put them into the freezer. They are not wonderful frozen but can be added to spaghetti sauce mid-winter. For years, I blended them for soups to hide their true nature from the children.
I ate pie for breakfast. I confess . . . I bought it. I wish my mother lived here. She makes the best pies ever.
Did you know that one and one-half billion gallons of oil could be saved yearly if we no longer put water into plastic bottles? It is someone else’s tap water, you know. There are no standards regulating it — not that the government regulations matter these days!