Backyard Feast: Introducing home and locally grown food into your life
By Joshua McNichols, co-author of the Urban Farm Handbook
There are some among us who believe this local food obsession will die out when we all get jobs. The garden will go to seed when our free time disappears. We'll return to McDonald's when we can suddenly afford to. Bah! Did my grandfather, who lived through the depression, ever allow himself to spend more than a dollar on a cup of coffee? No! Over half a century later, he stubbornly remained in the car grumbling about highway robbery while my mom ran into Starbucks for a $4 latte. The lessons we learn in times of financial strife stick with us. Many of us began gardening because we were feeling thrifty. Others, for the taste. But whatever brought us to this place, many of us will stay. The memory of a backyard tomato does not fade. In fact, it expands in the mind, like an unstaked tomato plant in late summer.
In this column, we'll explore how you can fit home grown and locally sourced food into your busy life on a budget. And we'll expose new interests you didn't even know you had: from gardening to cooperatively purchasing a cow to fill your freezer, from grinding local heirloom grains to bartering, from foraging to chickens. Reader, we will go there.
So let's begin. It's just about time to harvest this year's first crop of basil and it's not too late to plant a fall crop. I'm going to end this column by breaking the rule that says you can't make pesto in a blender. In defense, I offer only this retort: Bah!
Sacrilegious Blender Pesto
In the bottom of the blender, pour 1 and 1/2 cups olive oil (or a mixture of 1/2 olive oil and another oil), 3 to 9 cloves of smashed and peeled garlic, 2 ounces grated parmesan cheese, 1 t salt, a handful of smashed roasted almond pieces (we couldn’t afford the pine nuts), and 3 T of white vinegar. The vinegar will keep the pesto looking bright green, at least that portion of the pesto not exposed to oxygen. Blend into this as much basil as you can, feeding it in a bit at a time. Eventually the mixture will become so thick it will stop spinning like a whirlpool and start burping “glorp, glorp, glorp.” You can keep feeding in basil if you open the blender and reinvigorate the whirpool with the end of your spatula (don’t go too deep or you’ll hit the blade). At some point, you just won’t be able to force any more basil down the blender’s throat. I can force about a cubic foot of loosely packed basil leaves (removed from the plant) into a cup and a half of oil. Scrape into 3 to 4 half-pint jars and freeze. To serve, thaw closed jar 30 minutes in a container of lukewarm water. Toss pesto with cooled pasta or it will quickly turn brown.