Thursday, March 25, 2010

March Showers Bring....

A great article/blog entry by a young lady I had the pleasure of meeting a few weeks ago.

She is right on as far as my vision of local and farmers' markets are concerned.... Dallas, can we do this?

Just a quick update - the lettuces are looking absolutely beautiful - which is good since the mesclun mix looks pretty ragged after such a hard winter. More flowers than leaves right now - although those are pretty and pretty tasty, too!

I'm going to Terrell this afternoon to see about the broccolli that Harmony Harvest left behind. We'll see if there is anything else to harvest - its us or the critters that get it!

We still have another round of green cutting onions that should come out this week, the Brussels sprouts are teeny tiny but I see them! And there is more pac choi, and lavender this week.

It may be a small harvest, but we're still planting, too. Kale, more mustard greens, radishes, carrots, collards - these are in the ground. The warm season goodies are just staying warm in the greenhouse waiting for the right moment to go out.

I hope you all enjoyed your shares last week - James shared this thought with me;

We enjoyed some of our 'take' in salads over the weekend. It sure makes a difference having fresh greens. Very tasty.

Neither Vicki or I had ever eaten mustard greens before. We really like the taste. Vicki is somewhat of a mustard/vinegar addict. The taste of mustard in the green was great. Adding mustard greens to our diet really make the farm special to us.


You are absolutely welcome! Thank YOU - for without your support, we couldn't have these tasty and healthy foods growing right in our back yard on this farm.

I hope for more sunny weather so things will fill out more and our harvests will increase as the weather gets more favorable.

Liz wanted to share a few more recipes with everyone;
Several recipes: mustard greens are pretty much just like green mustard greens, except they have a pretty red tinge to them. Baby mustard greens are fabulous in salads, and the red ones add a lovely hue. When cooked red mustard greens lose their distinctive color as well as the sharp edge of their flavor. As with green mustard greens, you can mellow the flavor by blanching them in salted boiling water for a minute or two, draining, and then using. Or saute as is for a sharper, but still mellowed, flavor. Longer cooking leads to an increasingly mellow flavor. MustardYoung, raw red mustard brings vibrant color and heat to salads, slaws and sandwiches. Steaming, wilting and sauteeing curbs the burn, but leaves plenty of rich flavor. Combine mustard greens in medleys with spinach and kale, or stir them into soups and stews.Tip: Do not cook red mustard or any mustard greens in aluminum or iron: It will affect the flavor and color.

Thanks all - keep the sunshine coming!

Till next time -

Eat Your Food - Naturally!

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Planting and Picking

Well yesterday was warm and sunny, breezy and overall, quite pleasant. I hastily harvested everyone's salad greens, knowing what was in store for the morning weather. I managed to squeeze in getting some rows ready for onions and potatoes and once Liz arrived to help out, we got most of the rest of the week's share harvested and did some planting as I wanted the rains to water in these already late plantings. Seems we just can't get dry enough for very long! But, we're almost all in for onions and potatoes now; we'll just have some come off later and perhaps smaller than we'd like.

When I awoke this morning after having stayed up enjoying the last of the warmth rinsing and drying in our handy salad spinner, (although, I do suggest you soak and spin again before eating to rinse out any remaining "grit".), the promised cold wind and pouring rain had arrived. One brave solider showed up to help on this frigid morning - thank you, Paula, and we sorted and bagged, harvested some more and rinsed and distributed. What a day for being outside! Brrrrr to say the least. If I had lights outside, I'd have harvested the rest in the dark while it was still nice and warm out last night. Sorry Paula! We dodged the rain though and pulled up some of the farm with your onions and saw signs of brussles sprouts so i decided to leave them to see if they'll mature rather than just harvest for greens. (they taste just like cabbage leaves)

I came in for lunch after 1 to ponder what to make for my dinner after I ate up the last of my home made lasagna for my mid day meal. I knew I'd want something just as hearty after making the Green Spot delivery later on. Cold weather seems to make me hungrier.

I turned to my trusty Eating in Season cookbook by friend and fellow farmer, Carol Ann Sayle of Boggy Creek Farm in Austin. And wallah! I also found some of her great recipes for some of the yummies you all took home today. This cookbook is sold out now, and in for a revamping, so I'll have to share some of them here on line until she finds time between seasons to do some writing - and in Austin, where they really farm all year round, I suspect that won't be easy to do. In 14 years, Carol Ann and her husband Larry have only had 2 Saturday markets that they didn't open, and that was due to snow - in Austin. They grow a ton of food! And, here is what Carol Ann has to say about those incredibly beautiful red mustard greens and such....

All greens in all stages of growth can be eaten raw. Some she says, are mild and sweet some are cantankerously hot, and some are bitter. I think the red mustard falls into that 2nd category!

If you want to eat them raw, try taming them with a sweeter dressing, maybe a touch of honey to a vinaigrette, or add some citrus, cheese or another more mild lettuce. But, she reminds us, the bitterness is the sign that the greens are doing their job!

To cook them, and not to kill them by boiling the life out of them, she suggests chopping up some onion and garlic with some olive oil and just as they finish the saute, toss in some chopped up greens. Cook them just a bit though, not till they've lost their color - or they've also lost most of their flavor and much of the nutrition. She goes on to say you can add these sauteed leaves to lasagna, fresh pasta or even tacos. I'm going to be adding mine to some soup later on tonight!

Many of us aren't used to eating fresh greens, myself included being from Midwest and not the south, but I've learned that they are soooo good for us and in the winter when we need them the most. So be sure to "eat your greens!" and share some recipes with us if you have them.

Here is one for the pak choi you can try;
Baby Pak Choi
1-2 T peanut oil (I'll use olive)
2-3 cloves of garlic (peeled and crushed)
salt (to taste)
pak choi (stem removed, cleaned well and chopped up into 1 inch pieces)
1T water or vegetable broth

Stir fry the garlic about 30 seconds. Add salt and pak choi and stir fry about a minute. If note enough liquid, add the water or broth. Stir fry for 3 more minutes and the sever with rice or hot pasta. If you were lucky enough to get one with some pretty blooms, toss those in raw or just warm them up - but yep, you can eat that part, too!

Sounds good to me!

And don't forget, when you do some stir frying, clean and chop up those onion roots - Wendy Akin from Akin Farm says a chef told her they make good eatin', too, and I've not tossed any roots from my green onions since.

The weather has really played havoc on some of the crops this winter. The cabbages won't head up, but seem to have just as much flavor, and the salad mix is having a ball bolting - that means, it is starting to flower and go to seed, ending its life cycle. But, we have no control over the ups and downs of the winter, and when it drops as cold as it did, even a warm up to our normal winter sends false signals to some crops that their season is over. (that is why they start to put out flowers and go to seed.) You can try braising some of those greens as well as enjoying them as salad mix. We cut them pretty tight so it may be a week or two before they grow enough to cut again. I'm hoping that one of the 3 varieties of lettuces we have in will be close enough to ready to harvest next week and we should be able to get some broccoli - hopefully enough for us all to get a nice head each - from another farmer who moved away. We'll see. Her dad is overlooking the gardens from a distance....let's hope not with his fork too handy.....

It's been tricky, but you all seem to "get it" and we'll keep planting and loving on the gardens in hopes that the harvests will grow bigger as the weather warms up. And don't worry, I haven't put in any tomatoes or peppers yet.... it isn't even Easter! We'll generally get one more good snap of winter that week and I'm not that brave without the hoop house covered and the soil warmed up yet. They are still cozy in the greenhouse getting more leaves on them.

The melons and cucumbers were peeking up out of the soil this morning, too. Ahh, spring can't be too far away - can it?

Stay warm and make it a great day!

Eat Your Food - Naturally!

Sunday, March 14, 2010

From the Front Lines - In the Strategy Room

The Mouthwatering Scene as We Visited

Boggy Creek Farm in Austin, TX

As I sit this morning listening to the woodpeckers happily hammering out a Morse code of sorts and while the plethora of other morning birds join in with their songs, I am taken back to my childhood, waking up those early, crisp mornings at camp in St. Charles IL as a Girl Scout where my love for the outdoors was nurtured. I don’t recall hearing roosters back then, though it is now a comforting reminder of my home, of which I am thinking fondly.

This year's grower’s symposium has been very good and it reunites old familiar faces and like-minded individuals who are all passionate about the same things – growing clean, good, healthy food in safe, sustainable and practical ways in order to make a fair, honest living. It is a gathering of ideas, information, hopes and fears about our livelihoods.

When Judith McGreary of FARFA took the mike during lunch yesterday to update us on the recent machinations of the DC Legislature, I was saddened to hear that our own two TX senators were not looking out for the best interest of their home state small business owners that happened to be in the business of growing food. Here we are in the trenches growing the best, most nutritious food on the planet, and we have no support from our own Senators to do so.

It seems as though either they’ve not had time to really read the bill, (gee, wouldn’t that be a surprise?), and see that the government intends to over reach its stretch by meddling with small business' practices or see that many portions of the bill are left way too open to interpretation, i.e., the whims of individual inspectors who likely have zero experience in farming, or any aspect thereof – except perhaps for their small home garden or the eating of the end product.

This, being eaters of food, is where every single person in America is affected by this proposed new policy because it will ultimately limit their options of food, both where they can get it and how it is grown.

It will, in fact, give the FDA the power to dictate to a farmer how he or she grows food and runs their farm – can you imagine the government telling Mattel how to assemble its latest toys on the assembly line? Or laying out guidelines to a business as to what kind and many sinks they have to have in the restrooms at the factory? Oh, I guess the unions probably deal with that. But then, that brings me to my next point, we are talking about local food….shouldn’t its producers fall under local jurisdiction?

If Farmer Jane takes the grown produce from her family farm of say, 25 acres, to the local county farmers’ market, or better yet, sells them at her farm's produce stand on the roadside to her neighbors, why should the FDA care how many stainless steel sinks she has or whether or not they wore rubber gloves to harvest? Do you wear them when you select them from the basket at the stand?

Trying my "hand" at leading Layla down an unmarked field with

a cultivator attachment..... Get in the hole Layla!

Or better yet, if a deer, rabbit, coyote (or your trusty Halflinger) happens to wander across her spinach patch, probably grazing it along its way, why should she be forced to tear out and destroy all of the rows of crops, her very livelihood, within 30 feet of the tracks? Do deer, rabbits, cats and dogs really have that kind of trajectory?

Even for those who choose to jump through the many hoops of the USDA’s certification manual so they can use the now regulated “O” word, (and I bet Oprah thought she had the corner on that one.), there is the likelihood that layering of additional regulations not yet covered in that pack of regulations.

(After later hearing the process which farmers have to follow in order to be granted permission to label their foods with by the modern day word used for the age old practices of farming passed on by many generations before them, made me even more convinced I was not interested in pursuing that avenue.)

My current customers all know, and new ones come to know, that I wouldn’t use synthetic pesticides or fertilizers on their food or intentionally use unsafe practices, pass along dirty or contaminated foods or do things that would likely contribute to the risk of making an inherently safe thing, fruits and vegetables, unsafe to eat. And they also come to know that I care at least as much, if not more, about the condition of my land and those who work with me as anyone of the other farms who have felt it an advantage to pay the government to tell the world they do. Not only that, I was saddened to find that no where in the requirements for being certified organic, were there any real provisions for the well being of the folks who do the work. (At least, not that was discussed anyway.) And that is the true spirit of organic farming.

The spirit of organic farming, to my understanding and how I choose to interpret it in my work, is about stewarding the land for future generations, replenishing it as it is used to keep it healthy and viable, and to restore that land which has been neglected in the past, to heal the land so it will grow food that contains the most nutrition possible. It is about growing cleanly, sustainably, safely and practically while treating any of those who help to do so, in a humane, fair and fairly compensated manner, so they can live in a reasonable lifestyle.

The scene at our host farm, Home Sweet Farm, included veggies that were bursting from the greenhouse just waiting to get into the soil after a record breaking wet and cold winter for Central Texas.

Way too many of the guidelines of the USDA’s certification process, seemed to be very much like this proposed S510 bill; way too open to the opinion, discretion, understanding and interpretation of the process’ guidelines by the field inspector and his ability to convey the information to his or her certifier, who never steps foot on the farm or probably ever speaks to the farmer, applying for the coveted right to call their products what they are – organically raised.

And to top it all off, this bill doesn't do a thing about food safety in meats where safety regulations are already in place. Perhaps they just need to enforce the ones that are already there and focus on these food factories where there are literally tons of food being dumped together from countless large scale farming operations from all over the world, and being handled by hundreds of pairs of hands on conveyor belts - rather than the one place where to our knowledge, NO known widespread outbreaks of national health threats have ever come from.....the local family farm.

No thanks, you can keep your regulations and I’ll keep growing clean, nutritionally dense, sustainable food with common sense and good farming practices, take care of those who help me, and call it REAL food. Want some?

See you Wednesday at the Balch Springs Library on Elam Rd. @ 635 for Farm Day and the free screening of FRESH! at noon.....

Eat Your Food - Naturally!