Our New Tomato System and Linguine with Roast Heirloom Tomatoes

Tomato_Pasta

What a difference a year makes. Twelve months ago we were struggling through the most horrible tomato season imaginable. (It’s here: My first ever post!) This year it’s a whole new story. Now we’re swimming in tomatoes, like Scrooge McDuck backstroking through his big vault of money. I can’t believe how well they’re coming and how good they taste. What’s more, we’re selling out every week at market. It’s great.

I’d like to take all the credit for our turnaround. And I’d like to blame all of last year’s crappiness  on environmental conditions. It’s been a long season. I deserve the props and could use the validation. So I’m tempted. But that wouldn’t be true. We made plenty of mistakes last year. We deserve as much blame as does the weather. And this year the conditions have been much better, granting us a natural advantage. That being said, this year we’ve done a lot to influence the outcome and improve our results.

Tomato_Heirloom

Continue reading Our New Tomato System and Linguine with Roast Heirloom Tomatoes

Kale Chips

Kale_II

If I’d posted about kale chips two years ago I’d have been very cool; a tattooed, Chuck Taylor wearing, longboarding to the vegan deli, kind of cool. A year ago, I’d still have been sort of cool, like seeing Dennis Kucinich on a city bus. Now? Now I’m just a sad forty-year-old, bald, pot-bellied doffer, hanging around the pedestrian mall in Bermudas. Trying to look young. Trying to look fresh. It’s painful just thinking about it.

That being said, almost everyone I know is making kale chips these days and it sounds like they’re all using a different recipe. They share their recipes with me at market. Some call for vinegar. Others have garlic. Some are made in a dehydrator instead of an oven. One lady I met sundrys hers. They’re all different and they all sound great. So many people experimenting with so food is very cool. On the other side, my day job is at a large natural foods store. We just added our third retail brand of kale chips. Each brand has a half-dozen or so flavors. There are almost 20 options in kale chips on our shelves. 20 choices at the grocery? There’s nothing cool about that.

Kale_Chips_Two

Continue reading Kale Chips

Baby Beets - Balsamic Glazed Tops and Bottoms

Beets_whole

The standard line for growing beets on a small farm is this: plant dense, thin for greens, harvest  young for baby beets then harvest old for storage. One planting, three crops, three meals, it sounds perfect. And in practice it’s pretty good. It’s a scheme that’s served us well for eons, but it’s not perfect. The problem is the storage piece at the end.  Beets are best when their small. Golf ball size is ideal. At this size they’re sweet and tender. They pickle well, clean up well and  you don’t have to cook them for hours. But as they age, they get woody and woodier.  Around baseball size their quality really starts to decline. They get bland, are no longer much good served raw and really should be peeled before cooking.

Beet_seeds

(A quick observation: beet seeds might be the coolest things in the garden. They’re a bone yard. They’re Kuiper Belt refuges. They’re rubble in the wasteland. They’re fantastic!)

Unfortunately, large beets are very common, especially at big grocery stores. Most grocers buy produce from big farms and most big farms grow their beets big. They want them large because they last longer. Big beets can sit in boxes, on trucks and on grocery shelfs much longer than small, tasty ones can. It’s about serving a distant retail customer and it’s a crying shame. Baby beets are so much better.

Beets_bowl

Continue reading Baby Beets – Balsamic Glazed Tops and Bottoms

Defending Kale - Sesame Kale

summer_kale_up

Sixteen years ago, after more than a decade working in restaurants, I punched out from my last kitchen shift and took a job running the deli in a natural foods grocery store. The place was adorable. Our produce was 90% organic. (It was also 90% ugly and bruised but that’s what you got with organic back then.) We sold nuts and grains from huge, bulk scoop bins. We sold herbal cures and tinctures. All our meat was 100% hormone, steroid and anti-biotic free. And my deli? We served some good food (house made gravelax and pate spring to mind), but ultimately we were as crunchy as could be. We served hippies and the hippies loved us. They wrote songs about us! They named their bands after us! Really, they did. It was incredible.

The store and my deli should have been a haven for all things kale. But it wasn’t. We ordered exactly one case per week and we used it exclusively to garnish platters in the deli case. We never cooked it. We never served it. We never ate it and nobody ever asked us to. I don’t think I even realized it was edible.

Continue reading Defending Kale – Sesame Kale

Pickled Garlic Scapes

scapes-jar

Scapes are the flowering stems that grow from hardneck garlic. Around here, fall planted garlic usually emerges in mid-April.  By early June it’s growing great and as the days get warmer the hardnecks bolt, sending up tender, delicious scapes. The scapes bend and curl as they grow, wrapping around and through each other like frisky boa-constrictors playing Twister. Unfortunately, as they curl, they become much less tender, replacing what was once a fantastically satisfying crunch with a woody chewiness. So it’s important to harvest scapes early, 180-degrees of curl is a good rule. (The scapes in these pictures are a bit too curly and thus too woody. But I suppose tender treats are the price one must pay waiting to make a picture.) It’s this need to harvest, to beat the woodiness,  that makes scapes such a fleeting, garden treasure. They arrive from nowhere. One day there are none and almost literally the next day the whole garlic bed is in scapes. From there, it’s two weeks, maybe even 10 days, maybe even less before they’re past their prime. Asparagus is known as the archetypal fleeting vegetable and it’s season is four or five times longer than garlic scapes’. Even fennel pollen, my absolute favorite garden delight, lasts longer than scapes. Garlic scapes are momentary. Pay too much mind to the rhubarb and you may well miss them.

scapes-cut

Continue reading Pickled Garlic Scapes

Spring Radishes

rabe-pasta

Give this post a quick once over and you’ll probably notice that despite its title, it’s not really about radishes. Instead, at least on the surface, (and to the deep consternation of the Google search algorithm I’m sure) it’s about broccoli rabe and a cool pasta recipe. But, it’s not really about broccoli rabe either. It’s really about surrender.

For a while now, radishes and I have been fighting. Last week we harvested the first of our season and they were fantastic; the best I’d ever had. They were easily good enough to cloud my reason. Maybe once or twice a year I eat something really memorable, something that changes how I think about food. These radishes fit that bill. They were fresh and yummy and satisfying, like none I’d ever had before. They were so good, I fell instantly and deeply in love with home-grown radishes. But as is often the case with impetuous love, it’s brought nothing but trouble.

rabe-garden

It began in a particularly damp and gungy corner of my sub-conscious where I decided I’d rather possess (eat) the radishes than sell them.  As a result, I sent them to market with an absurdly high price. Of course, just as my grungy sub-conscious had intended, we brought most of them home. They filled my fridge for a week and on some level I’m sure I was thrilled. Then the real trouble began. Over the next week, I nibbled radishes. I pickled them. I ate them on salad. And I tried and tried to post about them. But it just wasn’t happening. Nothing I tried was working. The pictures were bad. The text was worse. Radishes just wouldn’t give me a break. I fought it for more than a week before giving in and changing course. And it was there, awash in the calming waves of surrender, that I found broccoli rabe.

Continue reading Spring Radishes

Scones

scone-new

Last week, Adam attended a fundraising dinner held to benefit The Boulder Valley School Food Project. They’re an organization working to improve the quality and nature of food served in local public schools. It’s good and necessary work. If people knew what their kids were served at school there might be an uprising. I imagine Victor Hugo-like barricades in the streets, molotov cocktails and gangs of people marching with torches. (Of course that’s ridiculous. Most folks have way too much going on to worry about school food.) The sugar, fat and salt found in most school food is horrifying. So it’s good to see organizations like the School Food Project working to create change.

Continue reading Scones

A Simple Lunch with Spinach, Vinaigrette and the Boy

spinach-2

Yesterday the boy and I took lunch in the garden. (We have a son. His name is Milo. He’s two, though if asked he’ll tell you he’s sixteen). We sat in straight-backed chairs beside the nursery hoop, overlooking the chickens. We ate a spinach salad with balsamic and rosemary vinaigrette straight from a huge, stainless mixing bowl. We shared a sparkling water, from a single tall glass with lemon and ice. It was a simple meal, no more than ten minutes from field to plate. And it was perfect. Lately, between soil prep, spring planting, grow room work, raising the boy and working my regular 50+ hrs/wk at the store I’d been running it a little thin. I was needing something simple and lunch in the garden with my son did the trick. It was one of the best meals I can remember.

Continue reading A Simple Lunch with Spinach, Vinaigrette and the Boy

Fall Planting Comes Good and The Last Soup Post for a While

garlic-sprout
We planted most of our garlic, onions and leeks way back in October (last year), just a few weeks before the first hard frost. Now, after a long winter of waiting, the fall planting is finally coming good. The garlic and onions are thriving and last week we transplanted leeks that we’d originally put out over six months ago.

Continue reading Fall Planting Comes Good and The Last Soup Post for a While

The Nursery Hoop, Cuban Black Beans and Escabeche

black-bean-rice

Our tiny 1/4 acre farm is three blocks off main street. The land is zoned residential. We have neighbors living across a six-foot cedar fence. Out my window right now I see lights on inside the church across the street. This is not a traditional agricultural setting. There isn’t an open vista with great views of the sunrise. There isn’t an old barn or broken down tractor (or these days a cell  tower or gas well head) anywhere on the property. Instead we’re surrounded by homes, kids, traffic, churches, schools and people just trying to live their lives. I love our little farm. I need and want our neighbors to love it too. I want to be nothing but a welcome addition to the neighborhood.

Continue reading The Nursery Hoop, Cuban Black Beans and Escabeche