Friday, October 30, 2009

Strawberry Lantern Jam

New Jam Flavor!
We have here the Paper Lantern hot chile, hot in the same family as the fruity and sharp Habanero. A new sweet and spicy jam mix has been created this season that consists of a fusion of the two key ingredients you see in the above photo. This is similar to the Strawberry Chipotle recipe, but lacking the smokey flavor found in the chipotles and emphasizing more of a fruity spice. You all must make your way to a sampling table to try, of course.

These are some extra tiny Paper Lanterns that hang down off the top of the plant. This is the prime moment in the season to gather up lots of small and hot chiles like this for drying and storing as they have reached their maximum maturity level prior to any frost hitting our area and destroying them for the season.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Tepary Beans

Origin: The name Tepary is said to come from the Sonoran Desert Native American word pawi, meaning ‘bean.’ Papago tribal lingo would use the phrase t’pawi, meaning ‘it is a bean.’

Cooking: Whether brown or white, the Tepary is sweet and delicate. Try them both, compare. The beans are small, but lend themselves well to any recipe where more commonly known beans are specified. Try using in soups, make refried beans, salads, try them on their own…beware although the bean is small, it does not necessarily cook quicker than other dried beans, allow a reasonable amount of cooking time.

Growing: Famously drought tolerant and early to produce amongst native tribes, these beans were one of the first crops to produce each season, making them of paramount importance. Please help keep the heirloom strain alive.

Read more about Tepary beans in this classic article, published in Mother Earth News in the 1980s.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

A Sea of Brassicas and Brussels

Brassica is a genus of plants in the mustard family. The members of the genus may be collectively known either as cabbages, or as mustards. Crops from this genus are sometimes called cole crops, which is derived from the Latin caulis, meaning stem or cabbage...this description is credited to Wikipedia and I include it now because I often use this word as I seem to enjoy the way it rolls off the tongue.

When walking the fields these days, it is not summer anymore. It is fall, coming close to winter. You must see beauty of farming beyond the thought of tomatoes, corn, beans, cucumber, melons....all of which, while still alive and well as we have not had a frost in Sonoma County yet, but have long ago started going over the hill for their season. When I observe the current state of what is happening on the farm, this is what I see. An up and coming glorious section of the farm covered in a sea of healthy brassicas including brussels, broccoli, cauliflowers, cabbages, etc...

The variety available in these plants is much more than you might imagine. You have mostly all seen orange and purple cauliflowers by now. Don't forget your savoy cabbages, napa cabbages, red and green cabbages (sauerkraut too). There is the Purple of Sicily cauliflower to look forward takes a long season to mature, but once it rolls around mid-winter it is cauliflower heaven on earth. All of these treasures are tucked away within this one little sea of green in the northwest section of the field.

The brussels are admittedly my personal favorite. I feel proud of them as a grower, intrigued by them as a viewer and satisfied by them as a consumer. Brussels are just neat and I hope anyone who does not consider them might think twice. They carry us with a regular harvest during the cold months with flavorful little green bursts of sweet cabbages. The plants look like some fantastic creature I cannot identify. It is one of those veggies I think it could benefit to take the kids out for a look and see how it actually grows, maybe take a picture of the kids next to a monstrous brussel plant that is the same size as they are.

Additionally, if the standard variety of brussel is not interesting enough, the purple brussel is on it's way this season. I have been following this crop closely since we seeded in months and months ago. Here it finally is setting some sprouts, harvest is not so far off. It will be time for a taste test of brussels sprouts colors and colorful brussel dishes.

Looking forward to the season of brassicas in addition to all the other fall and winter crops including parsnips, sunchokes, celeriac, beets, rutabaga, carrots, a plethora of dried shell beans and more. If you haven't already resigned yourself to a local and seasonal diet, consider giving up grocery store bought tomatoes this winter....try eating with the seasons and locally, there is so much food that is grown right here and Tierra stays open all year long to accommodate you being able to do so!

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Peanuts and Garbanzos

Gophers in the peanuts....this is an occasion to monitor the progress of a subsurface crop if there ever was one. I had to pull up a few of the nutty legumes to check on what the actual peanuts are looking like at this time in the season. Especially before the gophers get them all...

Here is what I found upon investigating underground. Since the last post on the peanut crop, the plants have flowered and sent their reproductive parts underground where the familiar little nodules of crunchy snacks we know so well are forming, growing and thriving. Don't forget, if you want to see this in action, you must walk all the way to the back of the field. It is worth it.

Now here is another unique leguminous crop (pea family, nitrogen fixing). The garbanzo beans in the Tierra Vegetable fields come in 2 colors. Traditional white/beige beans and a more unusual black version of the garbanzo you are used to finding in a can or dried and packaged in a plastic bag. Fore-go canned goods, plastic wrapped and distributed beans from unknown sources and come to your local farm for these ordinary and entirely out of the ordinary culinary ingredients.

Black Garbanzo Beans! Another example of the diversity of vegetable ingredients constantly surprising us with something new and different. These beans are a little smaller than your traditional garbanzo and ought to be fun to experiment with in comparison.

And I leave you with the garbanzo bean. It is really not a huge crop of any of these legumes I have listed here, but they were tried and seem to have succeeded to some extent. See if you might find them for sale as the winter months come on.

Saturday, October 3, 2009

More on Corn Meal

The dried corn harvest is now and nearly complete. This means that the 2009 corn meal selection will be available from here on out....until it sells out. Be creative, colorful, plan some special uses for the holidays or just incorporate locally grown corn flour into your daily and weekly uses. Access to such a fresh and sweet product like this is not so common, take advantage and tell your friends!

Here are just some of the harvest bins full of dried corn. In the background are the Hopi Blue flour corn, quite a successful crop this season. There is more blue corn than last season and the quality is near perfection. See, there are many moments of success in farming! In the foreground on the left is Hopi Pink. Proving less perfect than the blue variety, Wayne admitted to having to sort through this one a bit. The kernels often did not come out as pink as one might hope and a lot of white was mixed in, washing out the beautiful colors that the variety had been selected for. On the right are many of those cobs that had cross bred or come out with inconsistency.

Note how the blue kernels somehow cross-bred their way into this (I think it was supposed to be Hopi Pink) cob. Perhaps images like this will make you think about what your corn meal looked like prior to processing...cross breeding colors like this may or may not produce an aesthetically pleasing flour for a consumer. Ah, more of the trials a farmer faces.

Here is the Hopi Pink, after sorting out the less pink colored cobs that slipped in. It ought to be beautiful to work corn muffins and bread, pink grits, why not? It would be nice to wait until Valentine's Day for an occasion like this, but I predict this color will not make it to February before being sold out for the season.

On the other hand, there is a lot of Hopi Blue it seems. That is a good thing because it proved to be a great corn meal last season. I have memories of the toasty brown crust on the outside of a blue muffin with chile flakes inside that Lee made last winter. Notice the size of these cobs. Notice how uniform the kernels grew. Wayne was showing me a technique of counting the rows of kernels that the field manager, Pablo, uses to judge a great cob of corn.

Finally, here is the Oaxacan Green. It is simply blue and yellow makes basic as learning your primary colors. I'm looking forward to observing this one post-milling in it's green flour form. It also leaves me inspired to mix blue and pink to make purple. Why not?

This harvest season at Tierra you may find corn meal in a grand variety of colors (variety is unavoidable at this farm) from yellow to blue to pink to green and whatever you might mix and create in between. Enjoy!

Friday, October 2, 2009

New Hot Sauce Variety

Oh so much work goes into developing and producing new and unique products in order to appeal to customers and make use of what is grown at the farm. This season the hot sauce line is expanding when possible....the product development is seasonal along with everything else at the farm. A grand array of chiles are available NOW for fresh consumption, processing of the famous chile jams, drying and smoking chiles for powder and dried chiles and chipotles later on, and the hot sauce. This opportunity dies with the frost, colder mornings are already upon us.

The hot sauce will last until sold out and often they go quick. Take a sample or two at the farm stand or Ferry Plaza. Grab a bottle or two for use now or after fresh chiles are a thing of the past. Thank goodness for sugars and vinegars to preserve the flavors of our fresh food. Tierra is a master of preservation in my perspective whether it been jam making; fermenting pickles or sauerkraut; dehydration; crop selection like popcorn, corn meal or dried beans. A lot of thought and experience has gone into providing for us all season long creatively and with a continual diversity of flavors, colors and textures as our palates desire.