Meditation on Abelmoschus esculentus
The first okra harvest is always the hardest. The plants are short and your back is bent and the row is long. And it’s hot, of course.
This is the only time you wear gloves picking vegetables; the pair you found on the shelf are shriveled and hard, like dried banana peels. You rarely use clippers either and they feel like a blunt, slightly menacing instrument in your hand after holding a pen all morning.
Because organic okra seed is so expensive, you entice young kids to shell the dried up pods each fall. They enjoy it and now you have bags and bags of purple BB-like seeds. In the green magic of early spring you got a little carried away and planted six rows, each 250 feet long. Everyone survived infancy.
As you stare at this hardy regiment of floral soldiers waiting for your attention, you have to ask: What was I thinking?” The yellow hibiscus flowers that teased your eyes with their beauty have transformed into elusive “lady fingers” hiding under their big floppy leaves. Making matters worse, these adolescent plants seem to be leaning away as you loom over them, resisting as you pull their stems toward you. Their canopy is too big for their body, just like the hair on your 15-year-old’s head — unruly and thick — and you recall how he too pulls away when you reach out to touch it or threaten to take him to the barber.
In this earliest stage of fruiting, the okra is still trying to get it right. Their colors are off, too pale or mottled. So are their shape — oddly twisted or deformed. Some look like bullets instead of arrowheads, as if still experimenting, not sure who they are, and here again your son comes to mind.
Like with any first cutting, you’ve lost feeling for the mechanics and rhythm of flesh working with metal. Several long passes are needed before you start cutting confidently, without seeing, like a puppeteer’s hands working in tandem under the table. After a nine-month hiatus, your guiding hand and your cutting hand are finally working together like dancers amid stems and weeds and bugs in your face.
If there is one good thing about adolescent okra it is this: it’s leave are only mildly irritating at this stage. The fierce itch that comes later as its toxins mature in ever darkening reds and greens is now just a reminder of the misery to come. These teens will soon grow independent and proud for having survived all manner of assaults and won’t let go of their possessions without a sore fight.
In truth, the farmer and the okra plant need each other. Yours is a silent give-and-take relationship that deepens as the summer grows hotter and you both grow tougher. Your cut-and-come-again tactic forces it to keep producing until eventually it grows beyond your reach or gives out just about the time you do too.
Either way, it’s going to be a long summer. You’ll get sick of each other by mid July and need a vacation. But today, you are still enjoying an almost parental pride of having coaxed and cultivated these young plants into productive citizens of the farm. Today the harvest is too small for so much effort but now summer has officially begun and these sun-loving, heat-seeking plants will stand by you and faithfully deliver.
10 min prep, 25 min cook
- 1 medium zucchini, peeled and sliced, then measured 150g
- 1/4 cup + 2 tablespoons (120g) pure maple syrup
- 1/2 cup (128g) creamy roasted almond butter
- 1/2 teaspoon (2.5g) vanilla extract
- 1/4 cup (32g) superfine oat flour (see Note)
- 1/4 cup + 2 tablespoons (36g) unsweetened natural cocoa powder (not dutch)
- 1/2 teaspoon (3g) fine sea salt
- 6 heaping tablespoons (95g) vegan chocolate chips + 3 tablespoons (45g) for topping (95g)
- Spray a nonstick 9×5 loaf pan with nonstspray well on the bottom and sides. These will stick bad if you don’t spray the pan! Preheat the oven to 350 F degrees.
- Peel and slice the zucchini. Use a scale so you get the correct amount of moisture for the brownies, as all zucchini sizes are so different.
- Add the zucchini and all of the remaining ingredients, except the chocolate chips, to a food processor. Process until smooth. Scrape the sides and process for another minute. It should be very smooth and runny. Taste and you will see the batter is not very sweet, since there is chocolate chips added, but if you want the base sweeter, add 1-2 tbsp of a dry granulated sugar.
- Stir in the chocolate chips, but do not blend. Pour the batter into the prepared pan, making sure to really scrape out allll of that chocolatey goodness.
- Bake for 22-25 minutes until they have a dry/shiny look on top and have pulled away from the edges. The toothpick can have a tiny bit of sticky crumbs, but not super wet batter. I baked mine for 25 minutes and they were cooked the way I like, but still nice and fudgy. If you prefer a cake-ier brownie, cook a few minutes longer until the toothpick comes out CLEAN. Depending on whether you correctly measured your zucchini will affect the baking time, as less water from the zucchini means they will cook faster. Check the brownies at 22 minutes.
- Let them cool in the pan 45 minutes to an hour, no exception, or they will fall apart. These firm up a ton while they cool. Slice into desired size and carefully remove. Eat as is or with a delicious scoop of whipped cream or vanilla ice cream. I loved these with SoDelicious CocoWhip cream!
Come learn and play at our Kids Farm Camp this summer!
Summer Farm Camp at our award-winning certified organic farm provides your child with an experience like no other. Mornings are spent helping farmers and afternoons are a mix of play, games, learning, napping and independent exploration. There is something to do for every age and interest.
Children ages 5-15 can:
- -plant, harvest, cook -care for livestock (rabbits, chickens, goats, pigs, horse)
- -build treehouses
- -learn from local sustainability experts -play on our organic farm, just 8 miles east of downtown Austin
Help us spread the word about our Kids Summer Farm Camp, share our Farm Camp flyers: 2017 Summer FARM CAMP
2) Lettuce Mix
5) Purple Mustard Greens
7) Hakurei Turnips
8) Green Garlic
Blister beetles have been storming the river farm during this fine raining week. The beetles mutilated the chard, everything else is hanging in and growing big for a ride to your dinner plate. At the city farm we have a few new treats growing strong. Cilantro, collards, head lettuce, and golden frill mustard should all be making their way into the shares over the next few weeks. The squash is tapering out, enjoy the rest while it lasts. And if you are ever looking to get your hands on more of Green Gate’s rocking vegetables we are beginning to wholesale with Vinaigrette (http://www.vinaigretteonline.