We’re rejoicing in a week without a flood or tornado! Much easier to accomplish things when your work isn’t being swept away.
Your bag has new potatoes this week – while they’re useful in many ways, boiling them is a great way to appreciate the tender flavor of the first potatoes of the season. They were dug last night, and if you’ve never had really fresh potatoes you’re in for a real treat.
You have the last of the spring lettuce, it’s not a lot, but still pretty good. If you have a half share, you have the arugula that we couldn’t pick in time for you last week.
The weird curly thing is a garlic scape. This is the top part of the plant, which forms about a month or so before the bulbs can be harvested. Some farmers think that removing the scapes helps the bulbs get bigger, but whether that’s true or not, the scapes themselves are a a real treasure. They have a wonderful garlic taste, pretty strong, and you can use every single bit of it. You can also chop it and freeze it for later. Depending on which garlic variety your scape came from, you might have one with a slight curve, or one that’s corkscrewed like a pig’s tail.
You might have peas – I’m writing this before I head over to Judi’s, and we’re not sure if the irrigating last week at Yeehaw Farm moved them along fact enough. So I’m not sure yet if they’ll be in this week’s bags or not.
In your small herb bag, you have fresh stevia. This is amazing stuff – 30 times sweeter than sugar, does not spike blood sugars, raised, of course, completely organically! If you’re unfamiliar with it, start by nibbling the tiniest bit of leaf to get the sense of it.
I’ve shamelessly pilfered someone else’s words here to describe how to best use it. You won’t see stevia again for a few weeks, but we hope to have a good bit of it through the season.
The sweetness of the stevia plant lies in its leaves, and you can use it in a variety of ways. I’ve used a fresh leaf right off of the plant in a glass of tea, and it provided just a bit of earthy sweetness. However, the best way to get the most out of your plant is to dry the leaves and make your own powder.
Harvest all of the leaves from the plant and dry them. On a moderately warm fall day, your stevia crop can be quick dried in the full sun in about 12 hours. Just place the plants on a piece of newspaper in an area with good air circulation. A home dehydrator can also be used, although sun drying is the preferred method. I’ve even used the heat of my attic during the summer to speed up the job.
You can crush the dried leaves by hand using a mortar and pestle or using a coffee grinder. You can use the stevia in this powdered form, adjusting the amount you use to achieve the desired degree of sweetness. Keep in mind that stevia is 30 times more sweet than sugar and a general rule of thumb is 1 generous tablespoon is roughly equivalent to one cup of sugar in terms of the level of sweetness.
You can also make your own stevia simple syrup by adding a cup of warm water to 1/4 cup of fresh, finely-crushed stevia leaves. This mixture should set for 24 hours and then be refrigerated. It works perfectly for sweetening beverages.