From the Farmer

Week 2 – 5/20/2013

Potluck Fun and Week 2

Welcome back, it’s Week 2. Thanks to all of you who made the potluck – the weather cleared, lots of kids, and we had a great spread. Many of you meeht the goats – you are their first social interaction. I herd they hammed it up, see picture below. This one and other pictures are up on the Willowsford Farm Facebook group page. We had a great time and hope you did, too. Save Sunday, September 19th for the next one. 

We’re still hanging on waiting for strawberries to ripen, but we have a nice spring share for you this week. Your greens are collards or kale; if the leaves are smooth and rounded you have collards, if they are somewhat red-veined and lobed, they are kale. Kale and collard greens are closely related and similar in taste and texture.  They are a cool weather crop and one of the crops that benefited from last week’s frost, which turned them sweeter than before.

Perpetual Ocean Garlic Mystery and Question of the Week

You’ll also see what looks like two large scallions. This is spring garlic. Remember, garlic is planted in late fall and comes up in spring as a sturdy little shoot, a strong leaf that can push through mulch and soil to find sunlight. That old garlic in the pantry next your old onions, the one with the green shoot coming out of the top?  That’s what we’re talking about – that garlic clove is an energy-pack for next year’s plant to start out eating until the soil warms up and its new leaves start photosynthesizing. It grows up in spring looking like the plant in your box.  Soon it will start bulbing at the bottom and then it will send up its flower stalk, its scape, which we also like to harvest. All this time days are getting longer until the summer solstice, when it starts to dry down, the bulbs separating and each leaf becoming a layer of skin that will need to be peeled.

I’ll admit I hesitate to harvest spring garlic this early. Not because it doesn’t taste good – this might be my favorite garlic, it’s earthy like ramps, and doesn’t have the kick it has when more mature. It’s versatile, too; the leaves, while fibrous and not something to eat raw, can be cooked down to add flavor to a soup or stock. More that I like the payback on a mature head of garlic: plant one clover, get eight in return (plus the scapes!). 

But there’s a little mystery in the process and it’s worth witnessing. The magic here is the bulbing and drying process: I see when the bulb gets big, and the cloves start to become distinct. If you slice open the thing in June you can see them, they look like eight ocean gyres on the NASA “perpetual ocean” video. The center of the gyre is next year’s shoot. But how does a shoot get there? How do the peels evolve? How do the leaves become a wrapper for each clove? So to share the wonder of the mahna mahna, there is spring garlic in the share this week. 

(Farm Question of the Week: who first performed the Phenomenon song? Hint: you have to go back to Sesame Street for this one.)

Mushrooms and Radishes

Mushrooms are also in your box this week. We have our own shitake logs growing at the farm, but these come from the growers at Tuscarora Organic Growers cooperative in southern Pennsylvania. Mushrooms are amazing creatures, remarkably good for us, and can taste great. I like cooking them in butter and then adding them to a dish. I know they can be an acquired taste, but they’re one of those things we should be eating a lot more of, so it’s worth learning how to sneak them into dishes. One of the farmers here, Peter, doesn’t like mushrooms, but his girlfriend cuts them up into small pieces, adds them to dinner and then tells him later. 

Let us know if you like mushrooms. We plan to raise more of them but they are a long-term crop, and in the meantime we will work with the folks up north to have them at the Farm Stand. 

And radishes. Radishes were domesticated in Europe long before the Romans set about conquering the place.  They are in the Brassicaea family and cousins to kale, broccoli, cabbage, arugula and turnips. “Radish” comes from the Latin radix for “root,” and their genus name, Raphanus is Greek and means “quickly appearing” – we named our cat after them. 

We grow several different varieties: small round ones, long French breakfast radishes, and, in fall, Daikon radish. These last ones are the easiest to use for your Noche de los Rabanos figures. Radishes are rich in vitamins like B6, riboflavin, and ascorbic and folic acids, and in nutrients like potassium, magnesium and calcium. So they’re good for you. And they have a great crunch and spicy flavor – if you like it, slice them up in a salad; if you don’t, try cooking them in butter or oil and eat with ketchup or bbq sauce, like a spicy french fry. And they’re great for pickling. 

At the Farm Stand this Saturday: Pantry Must-Haves

Bonnie Moore, Culinary Director at Willowsford, will be available throughout the market to answer questions about kitchen basics. At 11:00 am and again at 1:00 pm Bonnie will be demonstrating and sampling a few simple recipes to help everyone make the most of the fresh spring farm fare. She’ll talk about the flavor secrets behind every great dish and make suggestions for how to stock your pantry with staples to make seasonal cooking a snap.

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41025 Willowsford Lane, Aldie, VA 20105

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