Friday Farmgirl Gardening Series Week 4 (summer seeds and the four sisters)

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Four sisters?  All these years I have talked to you about beneficial and interplanting   The three sisters is my favorite way to bring it to life.  Many Native tribes planted corn with beans and squash.  The pumpkin (iya) leaves suppress weeds and deter nighttime corn marauders, beans (duya) grow quickly and happily up the stalks of the corn, and corn (selu) is an absolute staple, corn meal, boiled corn, and don’t forget popcorn!  (That colorful corn one buys every year for decoration at Halloween if not treated is actually popcorn…)

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The Cherokee have another plant that joins the group.  The sacred plant, agaliha, or sunflower.  The sunflower follows the sun, her head tilted towards it, just as the farmer.  It’s leaves when young are delicious in salads, the seeds are a great source of protein, and the flowers encourage beneficial insects.  The north and east edges would be planted with the three sisters and the fourth sister, sunflower, which is just what I did.

I planted four different types of pumpkin, because after all, I am still Pumpkin Hollow Farm even in a community garden, showy white Lumina, mini, small blue, and princess pumpkins will bring whimsy to the garden and sustenance to the root cellar…or apartment corner, whatever.  I planted early sweet corn, a 90 day sweet corn, and Calico, an heirloom Indian corn which will make cornmeal and popcorn for my kitchen.  Yellow Indian woman, Bolito, Cannellini, and Bird’s Egg beans, all heirloom, all grew in a garden of a pioneer woman or a Cherokee woman.  I hold the brave spirits of both.  And they will grow in my garden too.

The easiest way to plant long rows quickly is to lay the seeds out in a somewhat straight line then follow up with a covering of organic garden soil.  Bean, 3 inches, corn, three inches, bean, 12 inches, pumpkin, 6 inches, bean….

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I also planted okra, green beans, white string beans, zucchini, butternut squash, and soybeans.  It is not time to plant tomatoes, peppers, or eggplant yet.  I did place tomato cages where they would go for staging purposes.  The nights are too cold yet.  But, summer seeds are most welcome and will love the rain/sun mix we have right now.

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The peas are just beginning to show their sleepy heads, unfurling just so.  The mustard and radishes are filled with wonder, and other seeds are just germinating and showing their tiny heads above the soil to look about.

I hope you are joining me in the garden this year.  There is just nothing more therapeutic.

Sunchokes (food security,beauty, and preservation tips)

We were back at my beautiful great aunt Donna’s house gathering sunchokes.  I wrote about these gems last fall.  Their other name is Jerusalem artichokes.  I write to you seasonally so the last thing that was available and the first thing that is available seems to be sunchokes!

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These lovely tubers are much like potatoes with a satisfying jicama crunch.  They can be nibbled on plain, sliced and put into salads, or roasted along with carrots and potatoes under a whole chicken in a Dutch oven, which is what I served on Mother’s Day.

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This beautiful flower/food promises food security as well.  During summer and fall their sunflower heads show protectively and regally over the garden beds.  In the spring and fall they provide delicious foods at their roots.  In aunt Donna’s words, “You will never get rid of them!”  Oh, I hope not.  They are such a delight.

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Last fall when I wrote you about these vegetables I placed a few in a sandwich bag.  Then forgot about them.  They went from David’s house to our apartment.  From one vegetable drawer to another.  Seven months later I pulled them out and they are just as fresh and crisp as they were when I harvested them.

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So, to preserve (though I think you can store them in a root cellar just as you would a potato) scrub clean, place dry in gallon freezer bags and store in the refrigerator.  Then you will always have some on hand for cooking, mashing, roasting, slicing, and for summer salads.  Most certainly a great food for any homestead.