Monday, February 22, 2010

Asparagus and Romanesco

An idyllic image here contains what we all hope to find when walking in to our local farm stand. First of the season (in fact, bonus really early because of perfect weather) asparagus in the foreground. Eggs from Wayne and Evie's chickens flaunting their myriad of colors in the background. These are the precious and hard to find items, much as we'd like to have enough for everyone.

When do you come to find these specimens of perfection? Usually, the target time for the harvest to come in out of the field is 11am, when we open. It seems from then on for another hour or two, some of the harder to harvest or less efficient items start to dribble in to the stand. Things like first of the season asparagus, or last of the season fennel. Whatever the customer has come for and cannot find upon arrival.

And I got Lee to stop in her tracks this week while she was packing the CSA boxes for delivery for a momentary photo opportunity. I had her pose with the precious asparagus first, but then she and I agreed it was something of a meager pile of vegetable to feature. Much more abundant to celebrate this week was the Romanesco broccoli/cauliflower. This seasonal veg served the winter CSA for the month of February on Friday and supplemented the purchases from most farm stand customers.

Cauliflower season is now thoroughly upon us. It seems to correspond with the mustard blooms out there in the fields that surround our green and misty county. Similar plants to the mustards, many of the broccoli, kales, brussels and cauliflowers from the fall planting get closer to setting flowers and seeds as the spring weather pressures them to do so. Hence, flowering cauliflowers seem to kick in right alongside the mustards. This is my annual observation and it seems to make sense with some variability, I'm sure.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Why Tierra?

Sometimes we make assumptions that people know why what we do is special. Just in case you did not already know, here is my overview of those themes I am continually trying convey to some unknown audience though this blog forum.

Grains. While only scratching the surface of this array of possibility, Tierra has expanded to produce somewhere near 20 varieties of dried beans and 3 varieties of corn for corn meal and polenta. Lee and Wayne are interested in expanding and diversifying the grain component of the farm as land, specialized equipment and demand motivate that evolution.

100% from the farm-local. This is at least one place you go where you do not have to wonder where you food has come from. Emphasis on the farm stand and CSA as distribution locations ensures your vegetables have gone no further than from the farm to your table. There is no supplementary product brought in from distributors or other local farms even. Tierra produces plenty of food on their own and has creatively found ways to expand the season of production in the form of hearty varieties, storage crops and value added products.

Sweetest carrots and strawberries in town. This is the truth and if you do not believe it is worth it just to come shop from us for these items, you are invited over for a sample. Fertile soils and expert growing experience has ensured you will encounter the highest quality of product with character unique to this farm. These are not just carrots and strawberries, but Tierra Carrots and Strawberries.

The vast array of chiles and chile products. Undoubtedly one of the farms specialty crops, Tierra grows chiles and peppers of all sorts with origins and traditional uses that are scattered across the globe. Not only will you find these unique items in fresh form during chile season only (approximately late July-early Nov), but creative methods to store these crops have resulted in a diversity of products all year long including dried chile powders, chipotles, hot sauces, jams and more.

That is all. Tell your family and friends. The farm looks forward to another busy season as the start of spring is now upon us all.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Cardoon Update

Well we started harvesting the cardoon this week after all! Above is Jesus, the youngest of our field crew, harvesting away so that plenty of nice, tender cardoon hearts would be ready in time to pack the van for the market in the city. Additionally, these items are always obtainable at the farm stand, right at the farm where they are grown.

Many brave customers took on the cardoon challenge yesterday and I hope for a few more today. I personally prepared a few in my sautee pan last night and have concluded there is a little bit of bitter taste (but not bad!) and certainly an artichoke flavor, celery texture, and the strings are not bad or bothersome whatsoever. I think these stalks can be managed a variety of ways depending on the size and maturity and how you want them to end up on your plate. Gratins are the thing to do, I hear.

These got trimmed back a little more post harvest as the outer stalks were quite large a bulky to pack off to market. This is a great first of spring fresh vegetable to add to your mix right now. It is a little early for asparagus and artichokes, but cardoon, cauliflowers and large roots are still in ample supply.

Monday, February 8, 2010

The big plants out front that look like artichokes

This is cardoon. Most of us are used to artichokes around here and all over the nation. What do we do with cardoon? You tell me. I know we eat the stalk of the plant leaf and it is much like celery. I know you can removed the strings, or not, for a more rustic attempt at preparing the unique winter vegetable.

Tis the season of cardoon. When spring comes around it will flower in it's second year of life. And from what read about growing this thistle-like plant, it could easily spread and take over if the flowers are left to their own devices. This story had been confirmed by a Geyserville family who informed me that cardoon was growing wild all around their local area.

Up close and personal and from a distance, the plant has a fascinating foliage. Silver and fuzzy, looks nice on display even if not on our cutting boards.

I have reached out a few meager attempts to find recipes and uses for cardoons. Like many vegetables, it seems you can do a variety of vegetable type things with it. Add it to all the other recipes. Mostly, you have to decide how much prep work you want to invest into your cardoon. Long strings are present along the edible stalk and for the best digestibility these ought to be removed.
So I have seen basic blanching and serving, gratins and an especially interesting recipe for a salad where the cardoons were dressed in a honey herb mixture which sounds great to me and I think next week I'll give it a try. My take on this veg is that it is a good option for some winter variety to add a unique texture to some of the greens and roots were are relying upon this time in the season. While we are not actively harvesting and displaying this item for sales, it sits there in the front of the field like an elephant in the field and is certainly available to those who want to give it a try. Just ask! I have seen knowledgable couples come in and do just that, delighted in their discovery of fresh cardoons to add to their home menus.

Yet again a testimony to the diversity that is Tierra Vegetables.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Rain or Shine

Rain or shine, we'll be open. Evie writes this in her email, I think. Most Farmer's Markets try to be open each week, the Ferry Plaza in San Francisco is among them. What does this mean? A year round farm never really gets any time off. Lee trucks her product to market in the white van every Saturday, rain or shine, besides once or twice a year when she takes personal leave to visit her folks in Oregon. The farm stand is ALWAYS there, all year, rain or shine. That is what is so great about it, it is dependable as much as a farm can be. You know you can come and expect carrots and beets each week and maybe run into some things you did not expect as an added surprise.

But it is hard! It is hard on you, the customer, because who really wants to go out in the wet, cold mess that is a rainy day. It is hard on us, keeping dry things dry and dealing with the wet things as they get wetter and muddy. Lee is frantic to keep her awning and tents perfectly placed so as to not drench her dried chiles and beans while placing them out for sale to make her trip worth everyone's time. It is hard on the harvest crew as they slosh about in the mud to uproot our winter soup staples for the week, projecting in their minds the days ahead with little to do as we all wait for the soils to dry out. We go to this trouble to serve one another. We hope that in the end the efforts of each of our roles will be the means to an end.

I will go tomorrow to the farm stand and hope that you will come and greet me because this is why I am there, no matter what the weather brings. We are community bound by our local food source, our farmers and our need for flavor and nutrition to enhance or existence. Please don't leave me waiting in the rain alone! And remind your friends too!

Lonely scene looking out from within the farm stand on a rainy afternoon. Don't be shy about shopping when the rain kicks in....your vegetables are still right here waiting for you.