Today I did the dirty deed.
Yes, that kind of dirty deed.
Already. Before 6am.
In the backyard.
Even worse, though, is that it involved squash.
And no, I am not talking getting dirty from doing plain old gardening.
Artificial insemination, baby!
I took matters into my own hands. While I have very prolific kabocha squash plants, I have yet to see any squashes. Lots of blossoms but they seem to wither away. Further investigation told me that squash plants have two different kinds of blossoms: one male and one female. The one with a plump mini-squash is the female flower and needs to be fertilized by the male flower. After some careful examination, I quickly realized there are way more male to female blossoms. Only 2 open blossoms were female, whereas I have at least 20 male blossoms.
I did not want to leave it to the birds and the bees. I took a stick and wiped a male blossom to get the pollen and smeared it into a female blossom. Cross your fingers for me, ok? Hopefully they aren’t as complicated as humans, which have an abysmal 20% fertility rate.
Apparently once you have a few growing squashes, you don’t need the male blossoms anymore. This is what people eat when you see “zucchini flowers” for sale. Dispensable, edible male parts.
My zucchini plants are much smaller and only have a few male blossoms, but I may need to give them a hand for reproductive success, if only to make sure we don’t end up with mutant kabocha-zucchini hybrids. ;)
I should be telling you about how I fried up some squashes flowers, but I am paranoid. I am keeping the males around until I am certain I have lots of kabocha squashes. Maybe in a week or two, I will give you an update?
In the meantime, I have been cooking up a lot of quick, simple meals, like this asparagus and tempeh stir fry. Pick your favourite vegetables and fry up some tempeh in a simple Asian sauce with garlic, ginger and fermented black beans. The fermented black beans add a very authentic salty dimension to the dish. Enjoy!
Asparagus and Tempeh Stir Fry
Adapted from Vegetarian Times
1 8-oz. pkg. tempeh, cut into ¾-inch cubes
1 tbsp low-sodium soy sauce
1.5 tbsp fermented black beans, rinsed
4 cloves garlic, minced or pressed
2 tsp grated fresh ginger
1 tsp toasted sesame oil
1/2 cup vegetable broth
1.5 tsp rice wine vinegar
2 tsp vegetable oil
3/4 lb. asparagus, cut into 1-inch pieces
1 red bell pepper, cut into 1/4-inch strips
3 oz. shiitake mushrooms, stems removed, caps sliced
1. Place the tempeh in a microwave-safe dish with half a cup of water. Cover it with a lid and microwave on high for 5-6 minutes. Drain any excess water.
2. Meanwhile, whisk together soy sauce, black beans, garlic, ginger, sesame oil and 1/4 cup water. Add to the drained tempeh and allow to marinate for at least 10 minutes.
3. In a separate bowl, combine the broth and vinegar. Set aside.
4. Heat a large wok with the oil. Remove the tempeh from the marinating liquid, and reserve the liquid. Add the tempeh to the wok, and sauté for 3 minutes or until the tempeh is lightly browned.
5. Add asparagus, bell pepper and mushrooms, and stir-fry 3 minutes. Add tempeh marinade and stir-fry 2 to 3 minutes more, or until vegetables are crispy. Pour in broth mixture, and cook 1 minute more. Serve over hot, with rice, if desired.