Snowball Turnip Photos

Today, I took the measurements on the Snowball turnips for the Seed Savers Exchange M-GEN turnip trial.

I have grown Snowball turnips before and liked them.  For the trial, I noticed that they have very high quality greens, besides having a sweet, round root.  Several heirloom seed companies offer the seed so if you want to try the variety, it’s not difficult to find.

I cooked the greens and will be freezing them to make this dip for Christmas.  It’s a family tradition to try out new recipes at Christmas — my brother used to save recipes from The Food Network and then make them all for Christmas when he had time to cook.  He would make anything that struck his fancy — I tend to cook based on what I’ve grown in the past year.

Here are the famous white roots of Snowball turnips:


Here are the greens before I cooked them:


Here are the whole turnips out of the ground:


If you want to grow turnips, I recommend this variety!







Black Walnut Cookies and Recipe

The whole reason we’re experimenting with black walnuts this year is that Tina had the following hand-written recipe for “Grandmother’s Ice Box Cookies” that she always wanted to try, but every time she looked at a bag of black walnut pieces in the store, she got sticker shock and didn’t make the cookies.
Here is the front of the recipe card.  We aren’t sure who “Grandmother” is as this card is old (probably from the 1950s with the mention of Crisco) and the recipes have been handed back and forth between Tina’s family for many years, but the family has felt the recipes were worth making and saving, even though they aren’t sure who developed them.

black%20walnut%20cookie%20recipe%20page%201[1].jpgHere is the back of the card:


And here are the finished cookies!  Tina says they are worth all the work to process the black walnuts, but we’ll see next Tuesday when we take another “crack” at it!









Purple Top Strap Leaf Turnip Photos

Purple Top Strap Leaf is the 2nd of the four turnips I’m growing out for the Seed Savers Exchange M-GEN trial.

Once again, this is a turnip that Google won’t help you find seed for.  I haven’t tasted it yet, but the quick Google search found some unhappy Alaskian researchers who found the turnips large, but pithy.  The ones I sliced open for photos looked okay so hopefully, it’s an extreme north thing!

Here are the sliced roots:


Here are the turnip greens:


Here are the roots and leaves, fresh from the ground:


The Milan Early Red Top Turnips tasted fantastic — sweet, bright and without a hint of sulfur.    These turnips look pretty conventional to me, but hopefully, they will taste better than the standard supermarket turnip.  At the very least, they are fresh!  As this variety produces a lot of greens, I bought some ham hocks to cook the greens with.  Stay tuned to see how they taste!







Milan Early Red Top Turnip Photos

Now that the frost has come, it’s time to make stew.  With all the turnips I did for the 2014 Seed Savers Exchange M-GEN turnip trial, it’s time to harvest those turnips, take some photos, then cook them in stews and eat them!

Since I never had it before, I decided to try the Milan Early Red Top Turnip first.   It appears to be so rare that I couldn’t get a commercial seed source on Google.  You’ll have to join Seed Savers Exchange to access this seed!

Here’s what the greens look like:


Here are the roots:


Here are the turnips fresh from the ground:


There are still plenty of Milan Early Red Top turnips in the ground.  If you want to purchase them or the Gold Ball Turnips which I planted just for fun and try these rare, but tasty varieties, just drop me a line!









Poblanos to Ancho Powder

I am not much of a hot pepper person.  Yes, the shapes and colors are lots of fun, but taste is often sacrificed for HOT!!!! which I don’t particularly enjoy.

The exception for me is when poblanos (the fresh stage of these peppers) are transformed into ancho’s (the dry state of this specific pepper), then ground into powder.  The result is smoky, sweet and just a bit hot — a complex flavoring that I enjoy adding throughout the winter to whatever I’m cooking.

The pablanos we grew this year looked like this:


Every year, I say I’m going to make chile rellenos from our poblanos, but the season gets away from me and I have yet to do so.

Every year, I do strip the plants of both red and green poblanos, put them in the dehydrator (When my supermarket dehydrator died, I saved up for an Excaliber dehydrator  [link here] and it has been worth the expense.), then whirl the dried pieces in the blender to make a course powder that I put in glass jars and use throughout the winter.

This year’s harvest is pictured here:


Many hot peppers aren’t harvested until they are at their ripe color, but poblanos are valued at both the red and green stage, so the resulting powder contains both colors.  The plants are so prolific that even when a decent number are red, even more green peppers are being produced.

If you haven’t tried fresh poblanos or dried anchos, they are both worth your time and culinary efforts.  Contact me if you’d like to try some from Hill Creek Farm!









Harvesting and Hulling Black Walnuts, Revisited

Since my first post about black walnut harvesting, I’ve learned a lot.

First and most important, I was wrong to store the whole nuts in the wire racks.  The hulls should come off immediately as when they decompose, the hull juices seep into the nuts and make them even more strong-tasting than they already are.

There are many, many websites that talk about how to remove hulls from black walnuts.  Most of the “professional” sites (no one can make a living from black walnuts, but some people have professional-level experience!) sneer at the old-fashioned way of running over the nuts with your car.  ” Too inefficient” they say (if they are dedicated) or “too dangerous” (if they are cautious).  Both agree that you have pieces of hull and walnuts flying everywhere and it’s a bother to pick them all up — or can be embarrassing if the walnuts and/or wet, slimy hulls hit someone.

The most accepted method is what I call “The Booted Foot.”  Mochachino, the barn cat, is supervising me as I execute this procedure:


I have a box of walnuts on the right, put six of them on the driveway macadam, then put my work-booted foot over each one and press into the macadam.  The hulls slip off and then I toss the hulls into the box on the left and walnuts into the bucket beyond the box.

We used this method during a Tuesday Night Potluck and Weeding Session and it worked well even with Tina and Sue wearing sneakers.  About 10% of the walnuts wouldn’t press out fromt the sneakers and I had to re-press with my sturdy work boot, but we managed to hull all the nuts in a reasonable amount of time.

You do want to wear gloves when hulling black walnuts; however, no matter what type of glove I wore, my thumbs were dyed brown from the nuts.  A friend suggested putting Vasoline on my thumbs and then wearing the gloves which I may try in the future.

The Web is divided about composting the hulls — some say that if the composting is done completely, the juglone from the black walnut which inhibits the growth of other plants, will be broken down and gone, while others say to simply put the hulls somewhere to break down where they won’t interfere with beloved plants.  I used them to fill in some sunken areas around the farm, away from crops I care about.

The other widely endorsed manner of hulling black walnuts is to put them in a cement mixer with water and a handful or so of grit and let it rip!  I am SO haunting Craigslist next year if this year’s crop of black walnuts is worth spending the cash for my own “home-sized” cement mixer!  The best of the articles I read on harvesting/hulling black walnuts (and includes the proper ratios for the cement mixer method!) is here:

The other advantage of the Cement Mixer Method is that the walnuts are nicely washed and hulled with this method.  Most sites recommend washing the remaining walnuts in a wire basket with a power washer to remove sticky hull pieces and remaining juices.   The rinse water is brown, brown, brown with juglone, so do this in a spot you aren’t picky about what does (or in this cause, doesn’t) grow there.

Next, the walnuts are laid to dry in a protected (so the squirrels don’t find them!), but airy place for a month to six weeks.  This gives you time to find a vise to crack them (no kidding — Frank wanted a vise and it took us trips to several stores to find a sturdy one!) because everyone agrees that not only will a regular nut-cracker not crack a black walnut, but black walnut crackers listed for sale on OTHER websites won’t do the job either!

Right now, I’m still at the harvest, hull and cure stage.  Check back in 6 weeks when the Tuesday Night Potluck and Weeding Crew tries to actually crack the black walnuts and extract the nuts so that we can all have black walnut cookies for Christmas!





Black Walnut Harvesting

Like many farms in Pennsylvania, we have many black walnut trees that grew up on their own.

You don’t have to have a farm to have harvestable black walnuts.  As a child growing up in Pittsburgh, my mother would harvest nuts from trees in the neighborhood.

Personally, I like English Walnuts and find Black Walnuts too strong and astringent.  Mom, however, loved black walnuts, as does my brother.  They would get together and harvest the nuts, then put them in their favorite white cake recipe, Texas Sheet Cake, and eat the whole thing themselves.  I’m obviously missing a gene here — not only do I not like black walnuts, I’m not too fond of Texas Sheet Cake, either.  My brother loves Texas Sheet Cake so much, he had Mom make it for his wedding, but the community garden didn’t have black walnuts, so his guests were spared the “nut addition.”

Whatever.  Like many PA farmers, I was inclined to “live and let live” on the black walnuts and pretty much just ignore them.  But a “find your local farm” listing asked me to check off if I had them (which I do) and I’ve actually received calls from that listing!  Then one of my Tuesday NIght Weeding friends had a Christmas Cookie recipe that takes black walnuts.  Then, my brother did me a professional favor.

So, now I’m out there picking the black walnuts up from off the ground as pictured:


The husks need to dry before we can shell them, so I’m storing them in racks left over from the garlic harvest:


This isn’t the only season for black walnuts.  While the mature walnuts are prized (by some!) in baked goods, the immature walnuts are used in Italy and France to make liquors.  You can find the recipes here and here.  The blogsphere raves about how good these liquors are and I do enjoy making liquors, so maybe I’ll try them out next year and blog about it.

If you’re interested in mature black walnuts for baking and/or immature black walnuts for liquor making, we have plenty!  You are welcome (e-mail me first!) to come and harvest what you can use, then simply make a donation to Hill Creek Farm.