Of Corn and Blueberries

You would think, living in western Washington, that the growing of corn was only for fall corn mazes. The kids'-amusement version of growing corn for ethanol. We tried growing some one year in the front yard, and it was pretty much a total failure.

NOT what the front yard looked like. [Photo by  Glenn Carstens-Peters  on  Unsplash

NOT what the front yard looked like. [Photo by Glenn Carstens-Peters on Unsplash

Thankfully come of our farmers get a little more solid sunshine and actually manage to grow very tasty sweet corn, which hopefully we will find this week at the Market. We are ready. Ready for plain boiled corn, grilled corn, corn salad, and corn cakes.

Real Simple's Corn Cakes (August 2004)

Combine 1 cup cornmeal, 1/2 cup flour, 3/4 tsp salt, and 3/4 tsp baking soda in a large bowl. In another bowl, melt 2 Tbsp butter and whisk in 1 egg and 1 cup buttermilk. Combine wet and dry mixture and stir just until combined. Then stir in 1 cup cooked corn, 1/2 cup diced onion, and 1 cup shredded cheese. (I used half cheddar, half pepper-jack.) Heat a little oil over medium heat in a skillet. Drop the batter in, 2 Tbsp at a time, and fry a couple minutes on each side until browned. Keep warm in a 200F oven. Serve with sour cream.

We've had these corn cakes a couple times, only seasonally, with fresh corn, and they are devoured! We had kebabs alongside, but everyone's favorite was the corn cakes. And my oldest daughter didn't even pick out the onions.

The other big item on this week's shopping list would be blueberries. It's that blueberry-pie making and blueberry-freezing time of year, folks.

[Photo by  veeterzy  on  Unsplash

[Photo by veeterzy on Unsplash

And if you don't use them all up in pies and freezing and eating out of hand, give this quick dessert a try, now that the heat has let up a bit and we can turn the oven on:

Blueberry Pudding (from an ancient Bon Appetit)

4 cups blueberries
scant 3/4 cup brown sugar
1 Tbsp plus 1 cup flour
1 stick butter, diced
1 cup milk
1 egg
2 tsp grated lemon peel
1/2 tsp vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 350F. Grease a 9" pie dish. Toss berries with 1/4 cup brown sugar and the 1 Tbsp flour and spoon into dish.

In a medium bowl, rub remaining 1 cup flour with diced butter until it forms coarse meal. Mix in remaining brown sugar, milk, egg, lemon peel, and vanilla. Blend and pour batter over blueberries.

Bake pudding about 55 minutes, until top is golden and the center isn't jiggly. Let cool 10 minutes and then serve with ice cream.


Smoke Gets In Your Eyes

We spent the last week in California visiting family, and the drive down I-5 gave us a boots-on-the-ground perspective on this smoke situation. The hazy conditions had drifted all the way down past Mount Shasta, and even Redding was a little gray, but California was throwing in its own wildfires for good measure. By the time we were headed back up yesterday, Redding was definitely in the gray. I don't think Bellevue bears much resemblance to Beijing, air-quality-wise, but maybe we were gone for the worst of it?

Smoke map for Aug 8, courtesy of NOAA

Smoke map for Aug 8, courtesy of NOAA

Since fire is such a bummer for air quality and homeowners in risky areas, I thought it might be helpful to remember the bright side, according to the Pacific Biodiversity Institute:

The ecological benefits of wildland fires often outweigh their negative effects. A regular occurrence of fires can reduce the amount of fuel build-up thereby lowering the likelihood of a potentially large wildland fire. Fires often remove alien plants that compete with native species for nutrients and space, and remove undergrowth, which allows sunlight to reach the forest floor, thereby supporting the growth of native species. The ashes that remain after a fire add nutrients often locked in older vegetation to the soil for trees and other vegetation. Fires can also provide a way for controlling insect pests by killing off the older or diseased trees and leaving the younger, healthier trees. In addition to all of the above-mentioned benefits, burned trees provide habitat for nesting birds, homes for mammals and a nutrient base for new plants. When these trees decay, they return even more nutrients to the soil. Overall, fire is a catalyst for promoting biological diversity and healthy ecosystems. It fosters new plant growth and wildlife populations often expand as a result.

Happy news, as we reach for our inhalers.

But there's more good news. Some plants that love fire are also good in the food department. Think of morel mushrooms, which thrive a year or two after a fire.

You'll love me, in 2018-2019

You'll love me, in 2018-2019

Or what about the classic fireweed, which we enjoy, after some bee-processing, as fireweed honey?

Nature's food processor, at work on a fireweed blossom

Nature's food processor, at work on a fireweed blossom

And, finally, both blueberries and lingonberries "will readily resprout in less severe burn areas," according to a news article from the Peninsula Clarion.

In the meantime, skip the strenuous outdoor activities that will have you hoovering up pollutants, and keep the exercise mild. A leisurely stroll through the Market this Thursday ought to do it, until the rain comes again.