Tag Archives: local food

Love Apples

IMG_4158_1_1Over the weekend at the farm stand, I was gifted with a bagful of lovely little apples. “They make the most delicious sauce with ginger, cardamon, cloves and cinnamon,” said the giver. She tried to dash away without anything in return. So she’ll receive this little study, when it drys.

Immediately afterward, a bag of satsuma plums appeared. They are already baked into a free-form cornmeal galette.

After that, I met a man that has been a camper at Camp Winamac in Bennington New Hampshire when I was a counselor there in 1973 and ’74. He found me through Facebook. I love my life!

Now, to make some applesauce!

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We’re back

The week begins our first week back to work. We will deliver to restaurants and attend the Friday morning farmers’ market after a three-week break.

And yes, I learned, as the farmer and I prepared the list of produce to send to our restaurants, we have a lot in the fields, even this time of the year. Highlights include a beautiful mix of colorful chicories including castel franco, various shaped red and green radicchio, escarole, frisse and treviso (a pointy radicchio). The red is truly burgundy, almost black/pink/red; painters: think cadmium red deep with a little viridian. The leaves are thick, deeply-ribbed, slightly bitter. We also have broccoli di cicco, a small headed variety cut with long stems and lots of leaves. I like it much better than regular broccoli because of I love the stems and this has more stem.

These are typical cool weather crops, winter fare for Northern California. Greens like kales, chard and collard are hardy enough for this time of the year as well. With roots like beets, carrots, celery root, parsnips and rutabaga, and/or some storage crops like winter squash and onions, stews are quite nutritious and varied.

Holidays

This will be a painting soon.

What a whirlwind these last few weeks have been. Cooking, visiting, show and tell, so many stories, so many kissed cheeks, new stuff, old stuff. I look forward to getting back to a routine, I am not really sure why. Being with family that I spend too little time with, is ALWAYS a treat, a potential memory, something that lasts. Sustainable. Better than a good meal. Better than painting? Yes, even that.

Yesterday, we all visited Jacobsen Orchards, the orchard that provides most of the fruit and some of the more esoteric vegetables to the famous French Laundry in Yountville. We met Peter Jacobsen and his wife Gwen, the hardworking couple who plant the vegetables, feed the soil and care for the trees. It was impressively compact, surrounded by homes and thoughtfully designed. The Jacobsens moved in 27(?) years ago. The orchard was there though they have replaced many of the trees. They grow many small patches of unusual vegetables; white and purple carrots, white beets and white strawberries, Jerusalem artichokes, cardoons, a white wormy-like tuber that I can’t remember the name of.

I think what strikes me now about the visit was their relationship with the restaurant. They take care of the farming. The restaurant takes care of the harvest. Chefs come and get what they want for the day. (They are just a few blocks away.) They have crafted a contract that works for the both of them. I’m inspired by the clarity and ease of such a deal. It is something for which to strive.

Chilly

Wow. Not something we are used to in “these here parts”. Down around 20 degrees this morning. Many things have gone brown overnight. I’ve had a little fire going most of the day. Lucky me. Stacked some firewood on the front porch. Then wandered around to the back of the garden and noticed there was still ice in the birdbath at 3:30 pm. Look closely at the photo to see the ice under the water in the middle.

What’s happening at the farm?

I just sent a list to the restaurants. I had to delete many crops. Broccoli, cauliflower, chard, chives, thyme, Yukina and the green tomatoes, all gone. Yesterday they picked the rest of the fennel crop. We should have a more reasonable presence at the farmer’s market this week.

I do love to see this change in the season, to allow the farm to slow down and regroup. From the earlier night, to the dark, cold mornings, everything feels still and quiet.

Olive time

Beautiful olive

The trees outside the windows are loaded. Some are black ripe and others smaller and green. The most compelling olives are turning color. I hate to let them all go to the birds. There are more this year than last. And last year we tried several methods to cure them. They were delicious and we’ve eaten them all up.

Olives in lye bath reflect olive trees.

We had time Sunday and combed a bucketful off the most laden tree. They have been through two lye baths and are now in the rinse cycle; sitting in water, which is changed at least 4 times a day for 3 days. Next they go into a brine solution for at least a week.

And there are so many more on the trees. It is fun to see the birds peck at them.

Early Morning

Not that most mornings aren’t early. But today is Friday and Friday is our morning market. We load our trucks close to the marketplace and leave the loading dock around 8. The market officially kicks off at 9. On top of that, our delivery truck makes its rounds to the restaurants around town. That truck loads up shortly after we leave for the market. The farmer always helps to load the trucks, making sure that everyone gets what they need. He is ready, at “the shop” by 7:30.

That’s not so early, you may say. And you are right. But this morning he had a crew of 4 ready to plant more garlic plus transplants of rainbow chard and kale. The crew starts at 6:30 this time of year, soon it will be 7:00,  and for a while even 8:00.  And the field needed its final prepping before the planting could begin. The farmer left here at 6 to groom the chosen spot, running through with a tractor mounted tool that drops organic fertilizer and marks the rows into which the crew will plant. Garlic is planted in rows 16″ on center for later cultivation. Kale and chard get a more generous 24″ with 4 foot aisles that are mowed instead of cultivated. The reason for this is the number of times the crop will be picked and the subsequent mud and compaction created by bare ground through an entire winter and rains.

The California Early White garlic has prompted an experiment. Turns out this garlic, which we counted on for seed (the cloves are called “seed”), is infested with some kind of mite. Rather than tossing it, planting it with the mites or trying to get our hands on some cleaner seed, we decided to try to damp down their population. A little research lead us to putting all the garlic into a large tub to submerge it in a mixture of water, soap and mineral oil. Everything is heated to 120-130 degrees for 15 minutes. Then the wet, hot garlic is planted. We hope for the crop pulls through. We’ll see by next spring.

Customers were faced with a dizzying aray at our loaded market stand. We featured the last of the raspberries and the first of the brussel sprouts (roasting in the oven right now). By far, the most questions from the burdock. Yes it is a little bit of an oddball item, but what a beautiful plant and, living in the wine country, it’s a great idea to sell a liver tonic plant! Additionally, two types of kale, collard, chard, little gems, our infamous salad mix, arugula, savoy cabbage, outrageous, perfect, carrots, celery and celery root, parsnips, kohlrabi, watermelon radishes, turnips, onions, peppers (even padrons!) tomatoes, shallots, garlic and winter squash. Even the last of the melons. We sure eat well. I am so lucky.

And it’s almost 7 pm and the farmer is at a meeting. Still working, 13 hours later. Well, it’s warm in here and there is beer and a good dinner ready. We’re happy. And will certainly sleep well tonight.

Looking Toward Spring

When daylight comes up slowly then drops off quickly at 6, and a cozy fire is needed most nights, we know things will slow down soon. But until the fields are drenched and too wet to walk through without major compaction, planting should be done to have something to sell next spring. What can be planted at this time of year?

This is the most difficult time of year for consistent germination. Cold soils are part of the problem, but more importantly, the shorter day length smothers the seeds’ efforts to grow. Even though they are a bit of a gamble, the farmer bets on chicories. Today he planted open-pollinated radicchio and treviso, castle franco and even some escarole. And he planted peas, super sugar snap and Maxigolt, an English pea. (Favas could be planted, but we already have enough in the ground.) All these crops planted with a push seeder.

field footprints

Tell-tale footprints, after a field is seeded with a push seeder.

The chicories are a hearty family. They tolerate cold stress and the brute force of a sharp hoe to separate them when the time is right. The air space does them good. Their growth may be stunted, but they will grow. Lettuce, even though it likes the cool weather, tends to mildew in the winters, possibly because of the denseness of the plantings. It is not planted here from October through half of January.

He prepped fields that were growing mache that had become so weedy that they were a lost cause. All too often, he plants hoping the crew will have time to weed it allowing early harvests. Unfortunately, during the summer months, keeping a crop clean, that isn’t needed for sale now, is often let go.

This year we are growing more in the greenhouses to be transplanted in the field later. Little Gem lettuce, Rainbow Chard, Mache and even kale. Giving these crops a headstart on the weeds is the reason for planting “indoors” and making sure they are kept with the right soil moisture for months. When they are big enough, probably in late January or early February, they will be planted. The trick is, waiting for the right field conditions. These crops will be sold to local restaurants and on the farmers’ market stand in the spring.

Yesterday two guys planted 12 240 foot rows of garlic, Chesnok Red and California Late White. It took them ½ a day, to plant the 100 pounds of cloves. Garlic can be sold early, as green garlic, then it bulbs up, dries and we sell it through next year.