From the Farmer

Week 4 – 6/3/2013

Plant parts and what’s in this week’s box!

Guest Vendor of the Week: Trickling Springs Creamery

Meet Your Farmer: Deb Dramby

Lot of greens in last week’s box, no?  There is a biological reason for that.  It’s still Spring (though last week challenged a lot of plants) early in the year, when most plants are still growing in the vegetative stage.  Remember biology class?  Plants start as a seed, germinate, they start growing roots and leaves and they begin photosynthesizing.  They grow more leaves, gain and store energy then hit puberty, flower, pollinate/get pollinated, fruit and then senesce and die.

Thought it might be useful to include definitions of plant-parts and plant-foods:

  • Roots – some plants store nutrition and energy in enlarged roots, like radishes, carrots, beets, turnips and rutabagas.
  • Tubers – tubers are fleshy underground stems that have eyes for buds from which leaves and flowers grow.  We’re talking potatoes and sweet potatoes.
  • Bulbs – true bulbs have layers of food-storing scales surrounding the central leaves and flowering stem.  Think onions, shallots, leeks and garlic.
  • Vegetables/Leafy greens – Lettuce, spinach, kale, collards, Swiss chard, dandelion greens… anything that looks like a leaf, feels like a leaf and tastes like a leaf is a leafy green.  Packed with chlorophyll and nutrition.  These are good for you.
  • Flowers (or buds, just before opening) – flowers are the reproductive organs of plants.  Its main role is to produce seeds; its color or fragrance is a reflection of its need to attract different kinds of insects, birds or animals which will pollinate them.  Some are showy, some simple; kind of like people.  Broccoli (the “leaves on the tree” are flower buds just about to open) and cauliflower are flower buds we eat, for broccoli raab we actually let them start to blossom.  Others are edible, too: day lilies, squash blossoms, flowers of borage, nasturtium (spicy!), bachelors buttons, calendula, dill and cilantro, even sunflowers.
  • Fruit – Botanically, a fruit is a ripened ovary of a flower.  Some “fruit” as we call them aren’t botanically fruit – rhubarb, for example.  And strawberries – the red part we call strawberries are actually “fruit accessories”, we eat a tasty stem that’s attached to the ovary.  Otherwise, we’ve got tree fruits, small fruits, nuts (dry fruits with woody shells) and “veggie fruits”.  At least, that’s what I call the things we consider veggies: corn, tomatoes, cucumbers, peas, peppers, eggplant and beans.
  • Seeds – seeds are plant embryos that come with a supply of nutrients to support those new roots and shoots that emerge from the same package.  These can be anything from a tiny amaranth seed to a coconut – whatever size they are, they are living, breathing things.  You know them: sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds, etc.

In many cases, people have bred the parts of plants we like the best, that are interesting, have good texture, and above all are nutritious and taste good (these things are connected).  You can see how it can be a matter of survival for people to eat different parts of plants – in spring, when no plants have gone all the way through their life cycle to start fruiting, we eat roots and leaves.  And it adds variety to our diet, which assuredly is good for our bodies.

In the box this week: French breakfast radishes, broccoli for as long as it will produce, tender Swiss chard, strawberries, and two herbs: fennel and a few first leaves of basil to chop thinly or to add to a stir-fry (try basil with a simple peanut sauce to cook tofu or meat).  That other thing that you will not recognize is kohlrabi.  Kohlrabi a member of the cabbage family.  Kale was bred for its leaves, broccoli for its buds, cabbage for its tightly wrapped leaves, turnips for their roots, and kohlrabi: well, kohlrabi is actually a flesh stem.  Europeans are brilliant people.  Kohlrabi tastes great and has a nice, crunchy texture.  When they’re young they can be eaten raw – either sliced, diced or grated.  Steam or cook them as you like – they even make a great ingredient in mashed potatoes.  Some people eat them like apples, skin and all; might be a little thick now, but certainly not bad for you.  Irregular rain can cause them to grow in spurts, thus some scars; these are superficial.

Trickling Springs Creamery is this week’s Market Guest, Saturday 10 – 2.  Got Milk?

Milk, cheese, yogurt, butter – we think that the way cows are raised affects the quality and nutrition of dairy products.  There are very real differences in how and what animals are fed, the space they have to move, their overall quality of life.  We think milk from grassfed animals is better for us, reflects better farming, and tastes the best.

Trickling Springs Creamery uses milk from local, family farms that take the best care of their animals and land, to produce small-batch, organic and all natural dairy products for our region. The cows graze grassy pastures and are not pushed in growth or production by synthetic hormones. Local Sales Representative, Jeff Miller, will be offering samples at the Farm Stand from 10:00am-2:00pm and on hand to answer any questions you may have about their products and practices.

Meet Your Farmer: Deb Dramby

I’ve come to realize that a good team has complimentary parts, that everyone has a role, and that while everyone may be able to fill in as needed, people have different skills and talents. I maybe didn’t used to think that the ones that I don’t have are all that important.  I think I get it now.

Deb Dramby came to the farm last summer as a part of farm crew.  She has since taken over.  Not only is she the face you see at the farm stand each day, owner of all things Garden and Farm Stand, she is also our inventory tracker (I get invoiced for the whoopie pies I sneak), picture taker, get-the-word-outer, Kombucha-finder and Ralph (owner of MTO Kombucha) snuggler, keeper of overheard one-liners, artesian well of energy, waterwings of team morale, and, apparently, Jedi.  Or Klingon.  Either way, she somehow convinced me that goats are a necessary component of the farm. 

Get to know her and be great,

Mike

all about deb

Hi everyone.

First off, I am thrilled to be a part of the farm team and to have the unique opportunity to connect with our CSA members at market, where I present all the beautiful roots, plants, fruit, bulbs, tubers, leafy greens and flowers Mike grows with the skills and talents I deeply admire.

When I came to Willowsford Farm in 2012, after studying Sustainable Agriculture at the University of Maryland's Institute of Applied Agriculture, I realized how so many of my classmates, who grew up in 4-H and on farms, had such a strong handle on soil science: a farmer’s education takes place outside and over the course of a lifetime.

At College Park, I learned that building a community garden requires far more than a desire to grow basil and that loving goats means giving up the snooze button. I learned how to use every kind of saw, what to look for to diagnose diseases in plants and small ruminants, which bugs are good, which are bad, and how our systems for growing and distributing food have evolved. Here at Willowsford, I’m learning that there are tons of people who, just like me, are hungry for a reconnection with land and nature through food.

My hope for this year – and many more – is to nurture that swell of enthusiasm for real food and happy farmers. With guidance from Mike and Culinary Director Bonnie Moore, I’m working to make the Farm Garden and Farm Stand a meeting place for local food-seekers, gardeners, chefs, community members, nature-lovers, lawyers, real estate agents, directors, accountants… everyone. We all need real food and sunshine!

So beginning Thursday, June 20th, please join me for a weekly “Happy Gardening Hour” (Farm Garden 4:00pm-7:00pm). I’d love to give everyone an opportunity to work in the garden, get their fingernails dirty, talk about what’s growing at the farm and how, swap recipes, connect kids to the plants producing their food, and invite everyone to enjoy my favorite thing: feeding, snuggling and tucking-in the goats at dusk on the farm.

Ah yes, the goats. Four of the ten wethers (goat lingo for former-bucklings) have been named since their arrival at the farm in April. There’s Bruce, the black LaMancha who thinks he is a Black Labrador. Augustus, who is very friendly and loves a fresh pasture so much he’ll eat and eat until he falls asleep. Sparkle Works, the only Nubian (long ears) in the herd – his name was chosen by my niece. And Spot, an easy goat to identify while walking the Farm Loop, was most recently named.

Thankfully, my time and experience with Eco-Goats, environmentally friendly, problem-vegetation control (a mobile, prescribed grazing company based in Maryland) helped me convince Farmer Mike that we needed the weed-eating talents of goats on the premises. Well, that and nightly emails, text messages, images, YouTube videos and conversations. Once these kids are old enough, we will encourage them to pursue career paths close to nature and eating locally. In the meantime, I’ll try and convince Mike that Bruce R. Goatling and his friends should publish a calendar for 2014, and a comic book, and be on t-shirts and mugs.

See you at the Farm Stand and hopefully on June 20th for the first of many Happy Gardening Hours!

Goatspeed,

Deb

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