This is what happens when you give Frances a free afternoon to play with food

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I could write a book about this lunch, each ingredient with its own chapter.For now, I’ll just give you a taste. I’m in Ames, Iowa, visiting my uncle Steven and aunt Ethy, where they have a spectacular garden. They are both botanists and are growing many unusual legumes and leafy greens, all varieties of corn, herbs, and fruits.

The stories:

The sauteed greens are amaranth, that beautiful red plant that so many Iowa farmers call their weed enemy, and the leaf of the cowpea, which is grown in abundance in Africa for its protein-rich leaves.

We discovered the oyster mushrooms on a neighborhood stump on our way to a unicycle outing.

The basil, heirloom yellow tomatoes, sungold tomatoes, and yellow squash come from their garden.

The eggs, goat cheese, and habanero sauerkraut, and acorn-ed prosciutto are from local farms.

The pickled asparagus I picked up at a roadside pickle stand in Nebraska on my road trip East.

Steven and Ethy pickled the turnips, or are they rutabagas?

I made the pesto with horseradish, basil, chives, savory, sorrel, cilantro, and parsley from the garden.

The pine nuts have no special story.

The tofu is simply because Steven studies the molecular genetic composition of soybeans. (I’m sure he would phrase that in more succinct scientific terms).

The beverage is grape and elderberry syrup they made last season, with lemon, mint, and carbonated water.

buen provecho!

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