Garden gold: Hungarian hot peppers

I just ate a Hungarian yellow-orange hot pepper fresh from the garden. Slightly sweet, with just a smidge of pepper bitter, and a beautiful midrange mouth heat. Within a minute, I felt perspiration rising on my face and upper body.

I had been working in the gardens, yanking spent broccoli plants and choked tomatillo vines and tossing them on the compost pile. I had earned a little sweat, but the pepper gave it a boost. Then, two minutes later, the heat faded. I jotted a quick reminder on the kitchen chalk board — “salsa with Hungar. pep, garden tomato & onion/ salsa verde with tomatillos.” All it needed was a little tomato tangy sweetness to send it into summer bliss.

At long last in this cool summer, I’ve got some garden produce. I’ll be sharing some tasting notes and quips from “the field” on our 75 x 150-foot city lot as flashes of inspiration occur to me.

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Duluth Dish welcomes food farmer Janna Goerdt

I’m pleased to announce that Northern Minnesota journalist-turned-farmer Janna Goerdt has agreed to contribute writing to Duluth Dish.

Janna runs a small food farm with her husband in Embarrass, a remote hamlet nationally notable because in winter, it’s often the coldest spot in the lower 48 states. Here’s how good she is: she has had ripe tomatoes for weeks now.

Between bouts of weeding and harvesting, Janna will chronicle her experiences and musings about what it means to grow food in this time and place.

Her first piece should be up in a day or so — just wanted to let you know so you don’t miss it!


Nokomis Chef’s Garden

By Nokomis

This year is the first year we have attempted a Chef’s Garden. We have 3 raised beds and are growing an assortment of herbs, edible flowers, different radishes, some squash for blossoms as well as the vegetable, and (if it ever gets warm enough) French green beans.

We have two excellent volunteer gardeners, Cherie Pettersen and Daphne Steele. Our thanks to them for all the weekly tending.

We are learning a little too. Next year we will probably do a greater quantity of fewer items, either that or expand the garden space.

Our current dilemma is whether or not to fence the gardens. We love the way they look from the dining room without a fence, but we are worried about feeding the rabbits and deer before we can feed our diners.

Wine Tasting

By Nokomis

Going to Wine School was a wonderful experience, and the continuing practice is an occupational delight. We thought we already appreciated wine, but school taught us a deliberate, thoughtful method for tasting wine that has added to our enjoyment.

When you taste a new wine, you should follow 3 steps: use your eyes to determine the visual characteristics, use your nose to determine the aroma characteristics, and finally taste using all the regions of your tongue and mouth.

Visual Characteristics:

• This will give you information on the age and the condition of the wine. Be sure you have a clean glass. (True believers then condition the glass by swirling a bit of the wine around the inside of the glass and then discarding it.)

• Pour an ounce or two of wine into the glass and tilt the glass away from you. It helps to have a clean white background behind the glass – tablecloth or napkin or even a piece of paper.

• Look for clarity – is it clear, cloudy, have visible sediment? This will tell you whether the wine is filtered or unfiltered. Both are delicious, but it is nice to know.

• Look for brightness – is the wine star bright, day bright, bright, or dull? Brighter is better.

• Look for color. This can give you a clue for the age of the wine if you don’t already know that. White and blush wines tend to darken with age, and reds tend to lighten. Young whites can have a green or silver tinge.

o Whites can range from watery, to straw, to yellow, to golden brown depending on the grape variety and the age.

o Red wines made from nebbiolo, tempranillo or granache grapes can throw an orange cast

o Red wines over 10 years of age may show separating pigments and tannins making some sediment. These wnes should be decanted to avoid getting sediment in your glass.

• Look for “legs” or “tears” of viscosity. Swirl the wine in the glass and watch to see how fast the legs or tears flow down the side of the glass. The bigger and slower the legs, the higher the alcohol content.

This seems like a lot of things to look for, but once you understand the list, the assessment takes only seconds.

Nose Characteristics:

Smell is 85% of taste. Humans can smell 10,000 distinct aromas but only taste 5.

Some small percentage of wines develop flaws. Smell can help you identify wine that has gone bad and should be sent back. Flaws detected with the nose include if a wine has TCA or in common terms “is corked”, or if it has oxidized due to age or poor storage, or if it has volatile acidity and is moving toward vinegar, or if it has excess sulfur (that rotten egg smell). As your server to smell also, and never hesitate to send back a bottle that is “off”. The restaurant can usually send it back to the distributor for credit.

Once you know the wine is not spoiled, smell for 3 things, fruit, earth and wood. Depending on the type of grape and wine, the fruit aromas can include stone fruits, citrus, berries, flowers, spice, herbs, and even vegetables. Earthy smells are prized by those who love European style wines and can include damp earth, mushrooms, dirt, even barnyard. Wood aromas from cask storage include vanilla and coconut.

Taste Characteristics:

Take a sip and roll it around in your mouth and throat. Professional tasters then spit. Some of the rest of us swallow.

You will detect whether the wine is sweet or dry with the tip of your tongue, and earthiness in the middle of your tongue. The acidity of a wine can be judged by whether and how quickly the wine makes your mouth flood with saliva. Tannins feel like little “PacMen” nibbling at the edges of your tongue.

Feel the weight of the wine in your mouth. Is it light, medium, or full?

Taste for fruit, earthiness and wood. Does it match what your nose told you? Or is there a change?

After you spit or swallow, pay attention to the “finish”. Does the taste linger in your mouth for a long finish? Or does it dissipate quickly. Longer is better.

You are the Boss

Wine tasting is individual and the wines you like may be different from the wines your spouse likes. You are both right. The whole point of thoughtful tasting is to enhance enjoyment. Over time you build a mental library of how certain wines taste and can compare them. And there are always days and wines when just quaffing it is what you want. You are the boss; just enjoy.