Saturday, February 28, 2009

Market Sunrise

A benefit of being present at the back parking area of the Ferry Plaza building where the Saturday market takes place at 6am is that one is ensured a weekly sunrise if at no other time in the week. Lee and I were forced by nature to take multiple time-outs this morning in order to attempt to photograph the best of possible moments as the sun came up through the clouds, bridge, city and bay views. We turned our backs in envy of those who were able to sit and watch the show in peace as we resumed our job of unpacking and creating a presentation for the customers to come. A growers life and decisions are usually dictated by weather and environment above all else, but a high sales market must be factored in to make a living of it.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

In the Greenhouse-Seeding has begun

A brand new greenhouse has been under construction for the last few months now, upgrading the capabilities and efficiencies of the farm inevitably. With seeding time suddenly upon us, the greenhouse is still being built and equipped with it's heating and watering systems. All the same, seedling trays are moving in on any and all available space.

Your 2009 chiles, tomatoes, broccoli, lettuces, onions, herbs and more are on their way to infancy. Quantities are being calculated and recorded in order to serve all customer and market needs. Working with seeds is one of the greatest pleasures to a blossoming grower such as myself. I am lucky to learn and grow alongside Lee in the greenhouse this season. See below for some of the initial seedling sights of the new season.

Tomatoes are dancing to life in their new home that includes optimal light, soil, water and temperature needs in order to thrive.
These tiny onion sprouts are planted with the intention of serving your fall onion needs. Onion sprouts send up a single shoot, like a blade of grass. People in the plant world call these monocots.
Baby broccoli, cabbage and cauliflower supplies the greenhouse with it's first flush of green growth.
Seeding indoors is a labor of endurance and detail. I'd rather be doing this than sitting in a cubicle any day. In this image Lee carefully places a few seeds in each of these cells in order to ensure germination. Later, any excess seedlings will be thinned out and the strongest plant will be left to survive the length of the growing season.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Vegetable in Season: Celeriac

'Tis the season to be enjoying celery root, or celeriac (however you prefer to refer to this flavorful root). As a component of the winter CSA box this week and a popular item at the Ferry Plaza market the last few weeks, many Tierra customers have had the chance to enjoy this ingrediant already this season. Don't stop there! It is celeriac season and we are lucky to have such unique and flavorful ingrediants coming out of the ground fresh and local during the depths of winter. Celeriac is a very long season crop. This means that the seeds were planted almost a year ago in Lee's greenhouse and the plants have undergone care including watering, transplanting, weeding, taking up precious growing space in the fields for all these months leading up until now during their abundant harvest when much else has frozen away. It is foresight like this that keeps you supplied with year-round local veggies.

Here is a great article by NPR for additional information and ideas about how to prepare celeriac.

Before missing this seasonal opportunity to enjoy the celery flavor in your favorite winter and root vegetable recipes, consider all the TLC-from seed to harvest-that has gone into bringing you this beautiful and delightful bowling ball of a root.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Growing and Grinding Corn

This week's winter CSA box will include a 1 pound bag of corn meal (choice of blue or yellow). Previously, the CSA was given popping corn and hominy to enjoy. Back in the middle of summer, sweet corn was on the menu, with or without a few corn worms to work around.

Tierra grows a variety of corn types. The wide world of corn includes sweet corn (what we are used to eating fresh), flint corn (the native varieties, a little difficult to process), dent corn (bred for good flour and polenta processing), flour corn, parching corn, popping corn, and many more categories exist. In 2008, Tierra grew sweet corn for fresh eating, popcorn for snacking, a yellow dent corn for flour/polenta/cooking, a blue flour corn for similar purposes, and a red flour corn called Bloody Butcher which was the first to sell out this season. This grand selection of local corn products will only expand in seasons to come.

A flour mill was purchased last season, expanding capabilities to produce corn meal and additional grains in the future. Weekly corn grinding is head-splitting event as the machine is quite loud. Wayne takes on the job with ear plugs and endurance.
From this point the corn meal is weighed and bagged fresh for market. Lee has made corn muffins, breads, polentas, or corn meal mush. We have added chiles to the muffins and used our chile jams and Tierra-produced honey for toppings. Customers have raved about making corn meal pancakes. The uses go on and on.

Enjoy your freshly ground corn meal this week and as long as it is available. After handing out over 100 pounds to supply the CSA, supplies will be short until next seasons rolls around.

On a nutritional note, consider the benefits of your fresh and local product versus the commercially processed standard. The corn meal produced by the farm has not been de-germed prior to grinding. Therefore, you are being offered a product in it's whole grain form with maximum nutrition and flavor. Typically in the production of corn meal, polentas and grits, the germ is removed like other grains long before ever making it into our kitchens.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Seasonal Product: Dry Shell Beans

Tierra Vegetables grows quite an array of beans. All summer long as our favorite and traditional farm stand produce like strawberries and tomatoes are hauled in from the fields for immediate consumption and enjoyment, beans continue to mature out in the fields. Some varieties grow in bush form, others are partial runners, and some are pole beans that fulfill their annual growing cycle using the sunflower stalks for vertical support (what a smart trellissing idea!).

When harvest season is upon us in full force at the end of summer and there is never time to harvest and eat all the bounty of the season, the fresh and dry shell beans demand their harvest time as well. The beans are then threshed mechanically (thank goodness the farm was able to invest in this equipment after years of stomping the beans out of their shells which is more charming, but certainly not the most efficient technique), bagged, weighed and stored carefully for our winter enjoyment of fresh and local goods.

As time permits and farming begins to slow down (it never really stops for a moment) the beans are cleaned by hand. Many of us have contributed to the bean cleaning effort this season in order to offer the most desireable product to customers. Cleaning beans isn't all that tough if you had to do it yourself, but as consumers we are not accustomed to purchasing beans prior to this step in their processing.

Now that the beans are finally ready for purchase, it is impossible not to appreciate the colorful array of types and to discuss what we can and will do with all of them. I recently took on a personal farm research project in order to help answer some of these questions. In order to learn more about each of the beans Tierra offers this season, come by the farm stand or the San Francisco Ferry Plaza Farmer's Market on Saturdays, linger a few moments over the bean pots and read the detailed descriptions available. The beans are often unique to any that you would ever find in any super market. A majority of the beans were actually passed down from a bean grower from Oregon whose intent was to share them in order to keep the heirloom varieties available. Others, like the Badda Bianca and Negra were brought back from Italy following a Slow Food event.

Mrs. Keeney's Pink bean is as unique as they come. Passed down from the pioneer days in Oregon, this bean was a woman named Mrs. Keeney's favorite, a large and hearty bean with a beautiful pink blush to it.

Baddas Negras have their origin firmly rooted in Sicily where they may be more commonly found. Thanks to the Tierra Vegetable crew you may now obtain this famous pasta e figiole (pasta and beans) ingredient right here.

My final comments on this lengthy appreciation for beans as a mid-winter seasonal favorite is regarding their freshness. Beans store pretty easy. Those of us with a few bags of old beans in the cupboard that we need to get through before we can buy more know this too well. The longer beans store, the dryer they get. This season's fresh bean harvest is the best product when it comes to cooking. Minimal time is needed for soaking prior to cooking since the beans have just been recently harvested, rather than questionably sitting on shelves for years. Enjoy some beans each week, there are many to chose from and so much you might do with them. Only now are some types beginning to run out of supply for the season. Ask Lee, Evie, Wayne or myself which these are when you come by to purchase some so you get a chance to try them all.