Give-Away Food Garden, and Fermented Tofu (Chao 酱豆腐, 腐乳)

Just though I’d hook you up with a photo of last year’s garden watermelon. I forgot how beautiful and sweet it was. We decided not to grow melons this year. This photo may change my mind.

Last night we picked up organic, non-GMO seedlings (Bonnie Plants is producing them this year!) for what we’re calling this year’s ‘Give-Away’ food garden. We’re totally invested in our Asian food gardens this summer, but we share lots of our garden food with friends, neighbors, and the local food bank, all of whom would probably think that Mizuna, Tatsoi, Thai Pink Egg tomatoes, and Komatsuna are a little far out. So, we’re growing the familiar foods for these good souls.

For the Give-Away food garden, we bought Brandywine Yellow, German Queen, and Cherokee Purple tomato seedlings, all big, beautiful, prolific, heirloom, indeterminate tomatoes.

There are two kinds of garden tomatoes - determinate and indeterminate. The determinate variety gives one big yield of tomatoes all at once, typically in August here in Zone 6. Indeterminates give an ongoing yield, beginning in July and continuing through early October.

I always grow indeterminates. I think determinates are great if your reason for cultivating garden tomatoes is to make a big batch of tomato sauce at the end of summer. But if you munch tomatoes in salads and sandwiches every day, then you’ll want them coming in all summer long. You can still gather some up over the course of a couple of weeks and make fresh sauce.

We also bought a bunch of red pepper seedlings. I’ll eat some of those myself. I love sweet red peppers. We also got habanero and Santa Fe hot peppers, Straight Eight cucumbers, yellow squash, and Japanese eggplant (friends won’t know they’re Japanese). And that does it for the Give Away garden.

Last night, I gave all the new seedlings a deep feeding of nitrogen and magnesium. Today, it’s going to reach 95 degrees, so they’re out back, in partial sun, soaking up the summery weather. They’ll go into the ground this weekend.

I also meant to pick up more sunflower seeds, but the nursery was sold out - in May! I asked the nursery manager if this was a mistake, and he told me no – that for some reason, sunflower seeds are hugely popular this year.

The individual mind is part of one great consciousness – don’t doubt it!

So, I’ll order Franchi seeds, unless Franchi is also sold out. There’s going to be lots of sunflowers everywhere this summer. How amazing is that?

This weekend, I’m starting, for the first time, a batch of Chao, or fermented tofu. Also called aged tofu, Chao (the Vietnamese name for this regional food) is hugely popular in Southeast Asia. Like hot dogs in America, Chao is found everywhere, from roadside vendors and restaurants to people’s homes. I never tried it during my stays in Korea or China, but I’ve always been curious.

It’s not difficult to make, so I’ll be picking up some fresh, firm tofu from Garden of Light tomorrow. We already have the other ingredients – rice wine, chili pepper flakes, pink or black salt, black pepper, and coconut sugar.

It takes a few weeks to ferment and keeps for a couple of weeks in the fridge. It’s often fried in sesame oil and served with daikon, fresh ginger, and greens, or added to Miantiao sauces. Fermenting makes it silky smooth and buttery, but it’s said to have a very potent fragrance and taste. I’ll keep you posted on progress.

Politics rarely makes its way to this blog, but this morning’s news feed has me livid, and I must speak my truth.

As a lifelong news journalist of the Woodward and Bernstein tradition, I’m taking deepest offense to reports that President Trump wants reporters who probe Comey’s memo on the Flynn investigation to face arrest.

This is a danger flag of epic proportions. Any attempt to silence the press is a totalitarian maneuver that threatens our First Amendment protection of free speech, symbolic speech, and free press. Criticism of the government - political speech - is a constitutionally protected right.

This is ‘The Red Pencil’ - the despotic censorship of Imperial and Soviet Russia. We’re approaching something grave here. If you’re not worried, you should be.

Lastly, I got word this morning that my autosomal DNA test is now in the Ancestry.com laboratories being processed. One step away from finding out what I’m made of! Couldn’t be more psyched.

Live in peace.