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Posts Tagged ‘Sadie’

The skin of a mature luffa just peels right off.

The other morning, Sadie the farm manager was peeling the skin off a long, green, slightly lobed vegetable that looked like a cross between a cucumber and a pumpkin. Underneath the skin was a tangled mass of fibers, and it didn’t look edible at all. “You can try to eat it, but you won’t get very far,” farmer Margie commented. I was looking at a freshly picked mature luffa (or loofah). Sadie shook and squeezed out large, pumpkin-like seeds lurking inside channels that ran the length of the luffa. They will be dried and saved for planting later.

Luffa vine climbed from the wire fence (background) up into an avocado tree.

Loofahs are a member of the squash family, and grow on a long, slender vine that will take over any fence or support you give it. The gourd itself grows to about two feet in length. When they are small, they feel spongy when you squeeze them, and are said to be edible. As they grow, they feel quite heavy and solid. The older they get, the more fibrous they become.

Sadie checks the big loofahs every day as she passes by. “Then one day, magically they feel light, and that’s the time to harvest,” she explained. (You could wait until their skin starts to dry out and turn brown, but you run the risk of the whole thing starting to rot on the vine.)

Peeled luffas soak in the deep sink. They are weighed down with a concrete block.

Inside is a “vegetably slimy flesh on the fibers,” Sadie explained, and the only way to get it off is to let it soak. Peeled luffas sit covered in water for a couple of days, held down with a weight to keep them from floating to the top. The slimy flesh ferments off (and I suggest you do this in a well ventilated place because they stink). Then the fibrous luffa is rinsed, soaked in a mild beach solution (also weighted down), rinsed, and air dried.

The end result is a long, pale mass of tangled fibers that’s the vegetable equivalent of a scouring pad. Ones with coarser fibers work well to scrub a non-stick skillet or barbecue grill, and the ones with thinner, softer fibers are great for the bath. Rise your luffa thoroughly after use and let it air dry. It will last a long time.

Look for whole, dried luffas at the Bee Heaven Farm tent, at the Pinecrest Gardens Farmers Market, starting on Sunday, Nov. 20th. 

Nick Pikarsky of Bee Heaven Farm with organic luffas

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Chewy dried bananas

Bunches of blotchy and bruised bananas.

Sadie was working in the barn the last Saturday when I came to pick up my summer fruit order. She was sitting at a table with several bunches of blotchy bananas. They didn’t look very good, but when Sadie peeled one, the flesh was perfectly ripe and ready to eat. Because the skins weren’t pretty enough, the bananas would be used in another way.

The drying rack filled up with sliced bananas as Sadie cuts up more.

Sadie trimmed bruised spots, and cut thick slices, almost a half inch thick. Those were laid on a dehydrator drying rack spaced about an inch apart. When the rack was full, it went inside the large dehydrator humming in a corner. It already held several racks of bananas and star fruit in various stages of dryness. The fruit will take several hours to dry. Then it will be put in the Fruits of Summer dried fruit mix that Bee Heaven Farm sells at farmers markets in the winter.

Sadie showed me a plastic bag full of dried banana slices and offered me some. “I think it tastes like banana bread,” she said. The thick slice was chewy and sweet and had an intense flavor. “I like thick ones. Thin slices dry up too crispy,” she continued. I reached for another slice and chewed slowly. Yeah, it tasted something like banana bread, only better — there weren’t all the other ingredients to dilute the flavor.

If you have a dehydrator, making dried fruit is easy to do. All it takes are a few hours or overnight. Dried bananas and other dried items keep well sealed in a plastic bag and refrigerated.

Halfway dried banana slice hot out of the dehydrator.

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