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Make some zucchini or almond milk

Out in the backyard I, Ted, am not looking for a four-leaf clover, a rabbit’s foot, or a horseshoe. I’m in the garden where opportunity not only knocks, but also grows. Speaking of knocking, I recall a radio program during my younger years that delivered its own style of knocking.

By the way! Have you ever made zucchini milk or almond milk? I’ll tell you how! Although I’m a singer, I neither sing in the bathtub nor in the shower. Sufficient to say I’ve been known to practise my yodelling trills while singing: “O It Must Be the Tomatoes,” my song for men’s prostate health, wellness and awareness. This is more than enough to fill my Singing Gardener page.

A TOUCH OF RADIO NOSTALGIA

As mentioned in a previous column I was once upon a time a disc jockey. Does anybody within my family of Grainews readers recall a CBC radio program called “The Happy Gang?” It aired for over 20 years every weekday Monday through Friday during the noon hour.

“The Happy Gang” went off the airwaves in 1959 and by that time had produced nearly 4,900 programs, averaging about 200 broadcasts a year and they were all done live. Bert Pearl was “The Happy Gang’s” founder and its longest-serving MC and host. He was known as “that slap-happy chappy, ‘The Happy Gang’s’ own pappy.” He planned programs in detail to avoid any unexpected surprises. Each broadcast opened with the sound of audible knocking, followed by the question, “Who’s there?” The response was: “It’s The Happy Gang!” That signature double knock was made by Blain Mathé, who would get close to the mike and rap twice on the back of his violin. Bert Pearl then invited the gang to “C’mon in,” and the program began with the entire group singing their theme song, which Pearl had written. There were cheerfully blended skits and comedy routines. The show always featured plenty of songs, many of which became familiar to listeners. During the Second World War, they performed the iconic “There’ll Always Be an England” every day. Kay Stokes was the organist and I’ve sometimes wondered if she’s related to any of the founders of Stokes Seeds at Thorold, Ontario.

Of special note was the presence of the Happy Gang at the official launching of CBC’s 50,000-watt radio station CBK in Watrous, Sask. On that particular occasion the Gang actually did its broadcast in the evening rather than at its regular noon hour slot. Among songs aired for this special commemoration was a tune they called “The Barrel Polka” (note the word “beer” is missing). That’s because it was forbidden to say or sing “beer” on air at that time. The Gang closed that special broadcast by singing a tribute song titled: “Saskatoon, Saskatchewan.”

I, Ted, listened a lot here in Manitoba during an earlier time to CBK at 540 on the AM dial. Between programs there was a 20-seconds station break when the announcer would say something such as: This is CBK Saskatchewan with transmitter at Watrous and studios in Winnipeg. Later, CBK studios were opened in Regina.

Most “Happy Gang” broadcasts were performed before live studio audiences in Toronto but the group also toured Canada in 1947 and then again in 1951. During the show’s heyday, some two million listeners tuned in to “The Happy Gang” daily. Here’s something almost unheard of way back then. “The Happy Gang” was also carried for a time on the Mutual Network in the United States.

MAKING ZUCCHINI MILK

Although it’s called milk, it’s actually more of a purée. Peeling zucchini isn’t necessary unless you don’t want a yellow or green-tinged concoction using the entire courgette. Cut zucchini into small chunks and remove large seeds but leave the centre pulp. Liquefy zucchini pieces in a blender or food processor. Freeze in empty juice cartons or glass jars without overfilling. If you’re among the folks with allergies to dairy products, zucchini milk is an excellent alternative especially in recipes.

If you’re short on freezer space large-size, mature zucchinis will store for months. Wipe the outer skin clean with a cloth dipped in a mild dishwater solution. Place zucchini without touching each other on paper in a cool, dry spot. Turn them weekly for air circulation. You can then make zucchini milk as needed. I’ve kept zucchini in good condition for many months this way. Garden folk hate to see anything wasted and are very clever at using zucchini in multiple ways from breads, cakes and muffins to casseroles, soups and stir-fries.

Here’s one example. To make a zucchini sauce, add three cups of peeled, chopped zucchini into a saucepan. Stir in 1/2 cup of apple juice or apple sauce (or a combo of both). Cook until tender and mash. This sauce may also be used in cookies, quick breads and pancake recipes. The sky’s the limit! Has any Grainews reader successfully made yogurt using zucchini milk? If so, let’s hear about it. Any extra zucchinis on hand are well loved by chickens and make a good source of free-range food for egg-laying cacklers.

ALMOND MILK

… and fresh raw almonds can be purchased but both are pricey. If you choose to make your own, try the following. Start with a small batch the first time. A general rule of thumb is to use three to four cups of water for each cup of almonds. This can be adjusted to suit how thick or thin you want it. You’ll also need a kitchen blender, a nut milk bag or jelly bag and a touch of pure vanilla added at the end. Soak almonds in water for at least six hours or longer as this step results in better extraction. Place almonds and water in the blender. Let the machine do its thing until a nice milky-looking liquid is observed.

Place the nut bag or jelly bag in a deep container securing the top with clothespins. Pour in the liquid and let it gradually seep through. Or, to hurry things along you can squeeze the bag time and again until all liquid is removed. Think of it as though you are milking a cow. This isn’t fast food. It takes time. Once you’ve extracted all the almond milk, keep refrigerated and use it up within a couple or three days.

EVANS SOUR CHERRY TREE

… was developed in the 1950s and introduced out of Edmonton to Prairie fruit growers. It’s known for hardiness and abundance of good-quality fruit. The outer skin is a sparkling deep red with bright-yellow interior flesh. Although a bit tart, Evans fruit is excellent stewed and makes wonderful cherry juice. Some concentrated juice from cooked beets can be added to produce a deeper cherry juice colour. If sweetness is desired, add powdered stevia leaf available at health food stores. A glassful of cherry juice daily may help ease arthritic joint pain and related discomfort.

FROM CARSTAIRS, ALTA.

Irene Rowntree writes: Hi Ted — You did an article in an April Grainews edition on how to keep deer out of a garden. Right now we are desperate. I cannot believe I sent my edition to my friend without copying it. To our horror the moose or deer ate most of the peas and corn a couple of nights ago. It is time to deal with them. Perhaps you can tell me how to retrieve it. Thanks Ted, keep up the good articles and I will not give away something that I feel will be beneficial.

Ted’s reply: The deer control method Irene refers to appeared in the Grainews, April 15, 2013 issue. Here’s the information again and already sent to Irene.

“We had about five deer in the yard waiting for the corn to get big so I fixed that by putting Mig welding wire around the garden about three feet high. I tied the wire to conduit pipe posts used by electricians. Or use small stick posts about one inch square and three to four feet long placed 50 feet apart. The deer come up to it and when the wire touches them they jump back as they can’t see the wire. I’ve done this for five years now and so far no deer in the garden. They used to use piano wire for the fence but you can buy a small roll of Mig welding wire at Peavy Mart, Princess Auto and all welding stores. It is very fine, making it hard to see. Pull the wire as tight as you can. George McKenzie, Brownvale, Alta.”

More recently, George wrote the following: “I had a problem with ravens coming in my big drive shed and crapping on my equipment. I spent hours trying to clean up the mess as it is hard on the paint. Then I thought if I put a radio in the shed they would think someone is in there. Well that was the answer; no more birds even after three months. Now it is four months and not a bird in the shed and when the neighbours come over they think there are some people in the shed. NO! Just a radio. Cheers. — George McKenzie.”

About the author

Columnist

Ted Meseyton

This is Ted Meseyton the Singing Gardener and Grow-It Poet from Portage la Prairie, Man. I salute all gardeners and farmers who help make our world a little safer and more ecologically balanced, and who toil to provide health-giving produce to others who cannot produce their own. It takes all sorts to make a world. One half of the world doesn’t know how the other half lives. The best physicians are Dr. Diet, Dr. Quiet and Dr. Merryman.

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