Oh, my little Peppers, how I’ve missed all of you! Tollgate Farm just hasn’t been the same without my bright little friends helping out. I was ever so glad to see so many new faces today! I love my old Pepper friends, but making new friends is my favorite pastime.
Oh, but excuse my manners. I forgot to introduce myself. It’s me, Murphy, your Tollgate Farm calf correspondent, reporting from smack-dab in the middle of Spring Break Camp. The first day back is always a busy one. Everyone is meeting new friends, catching up with old friends and anxious for the day’s activities to begin.
The Peppers took turns introducing themselves and played a few ice-breaking games to get the day rolling. They had a jam-packed schedule to follow today; it was all about seeds. Every kind of seed you can think of (and even some you can’t), starting with sunflower seeds.
The first segment of Garden Kitchen was Mr. Alan’s favorite: making sunbutter! The Yellow Peppers had the chance to experience the wonder that is Garden Kitchen first thing this morning. Some Peppers were puzzled. “What is sunbutter?” Laura asked. It’s a heavenly spread unlike anything else on this earth! Well, maybe it’s a little like peanut butter. Okay, it’s a lot like peanut butter, except it’s made from sunflower seeds instead of peanuts! The Yellow Peppers look turns grinding the seeds in the food processor. They screamed when the loud machine first turned on and I could hear their shrieks all the way out in my barn!
“It looks like dough,” Alayna first exclaimed. All the sunbutter needed was a little drop of olive oil and it was finished!
When the sunbutter was nice and creamy, the Peppers began making the perfect accompaniment. Jam! This jam included two delectable berries, the strawberry and the blueberry. The Orange Peppers each took five strong mashes and before they knew it, the jam was ready to go! Perky Peppers sat eagerly waiting to try their homemade snacks. Several commented on how well the two treats went together. Takumi said, ‘It’s still kind of warm. That’s because it’s sunbutter!” He’s got a point there!
After cleaning up a sticky and buttery activity center, the Peppers went to the Volunteer Center to plant some seeds. The Yellow Peppers jumped right in! They began mixing some nutrient-rich soil and a little water in a large bucket. They had so much fun getting dirty in that mushy, gushy soil. Each Pepper grabbed a handful to fill up their cup. Once cups were full, campers were able to decide what kind of seeds they would like to plant. Several Peppers chose catgrass and spinach. Both are great choices! The Peppers labeled their pots and got to take a little piece of Tollgate home with them.
After a quick hayride…oh goodness, I meant straw-ride (Hay is what I eat, straw is what I lay on. Silly, Murphy!), the Peppers were ready for some relaxation. Miss Mandy picked out two wonderful stories for the Yellow Peppers. My favorite was the one about seed dispersal. I learned so much about how plants are planted naturally a lot of the time, either by the wind or insects or smaller animals. It was wonderful!
The final activity of the day was a good one. My adventurous little Peppers made salsa! And not just your average, ordinary salsa either. This salsa was inventive! It had the basics, like tomatoes, peppers, onions and garlic, but it also had some different, sweeter ingredients. My Peppers added peaches and honey to their salsa. How cool?! The sweet peach flavor combined with the hotter jalapeno and the two flavors danced perfectly on those Peppers’ tongues! I wish I could have tried some myself!
I am so proud of my little Peppers today. They were so courageous and brave. They tried new flavors, new foods and some campers even gave old foods a second chance. Michael loved the onions in the salsa and Takumi said he didn’t like salsa. Then he tried the Garden Kitchen salsa and stated, “This isn’t bad!” Needless to say, he asked for (and ate) seconds.
It was a wonderful day of learning and growing. Learning about all kinds of different seeds, how they grow, and how we use them every day. I can’t wait to learn and grow with my Peppers tomorrow!
See you then!
Murphy the Calf
- 4 cups crushed strawberries, blackberries or blueberries (about 1 quart)
- 8 cups sugar
- 2 packages of powdered pectin
- 2 cups water
- Sort and wash the ripe berries. Remove caps and stems and them crush the berries. You can also use frozen berries instead (like we did), just make sure you let them thaw a little bit before you try crushing!
- Place prepared berries in a large mixing bowl. Add sugar, mix well and let stand for 20 minutes, stirring occasionally. Dissolve pectin in water and boil for 1 minute. Ad pectin solution to berry-and-sugar mixture; stir for 2 minutes.
- Pour jam into freezer containers or canning jars, leaving a half inch headspace at the top. Close covers on containers and let stand at room temperature for 24 hours.
- Store uncooked jams in refrigerator or freezer. They can be held up to 3 weeks in the refrigerator or up to a year in a freezer. Once a container is opened, jam should be stored in the refrigerator and used within a few days. If kept at room temperature they will mold or ferment in a short time.
- 3 cups sunflower seeds
- Food processor
- Process into a fine powder consistency.
- This is where many people trip up when making sunbutter. Do not add olive oil yet, or you will end up with a mealy, grainy, unappetizing mess. Sunflower seeds need to process for quite a while, about ten minutes. The reason being that they will eventually begin to release their oils. This will turn your sunflower powder into sunbutter. So after about five minutes, your mixture will start to get a teensy bit moist, but still crumbly.
- Keep processing it. Soon it will release more oil, and get a sheen to it, and look more moist. At this point, add a teaspoon of honey because the flavor is nice, but you don’t have to. Keep processing and watch as more oils are released, until it starts to resemble peanut butter. Now have a taste, so good, right?!
- Think about what consistency you prefer your sunbutter to be. While the processor is running, drizzle olive oil into the mixture until it reaches the consistency you desire. Enjoy!
- 1 peach
- Half of a red bell pepper
- Half of a sweet onion
- 2 tomatoes
- Half of a jalapeno
- 1 clove of garlic
- Half of a lime (juice)
- 2 Tbsp honey
- Dice the peach, peppers, onion, garlic and tomatoes into tiny pieces, or your desired size.
- Combine chopped fruits and veggies in a large mixing bowl.
- Add your honey and lime juice and mix ingredients.
- Serve with your favorite chips, crackers or tortillas! It’s that easy!