Saturday, May 30, 2009

Spring Meals!

I've been in a bit of a culinary rut. The limited variation in spring vegetables, combined with an exhausting work schedule and a general cooking malaise has led to some very uninspired dinners around my house. Recently, however, I've been inspired by my sister and her boyfriend, who have embarked on an experiment with the 'raw diet.' As you probably know, raw foodists don't eat anything that has been heated in any way. No bread, cheese, or beans, three of my favorite things ever...sounds pretty terrible, right? Well, I can't say I'm planning on 'going raw' anytime soon, but the creativity required to maintain such a diet and still take in a healthy level of nutrients has inspired me. Ron and I enjoyed a (primarily) raw dinner the other night, celebrating what's in season and (of course!) some good wine thanks to Once Upon a Vine.

Recipes for this simple, fresh and (mostly) raw meal...

Spring Slaw

2-3 Carrots
4-5 heads baby pak choi
1 bunch white or pink Japanese turnips
A few radishes
1 apple (or 1 pear)
1 Tbsp. currants
1 Tbsp. grated ginger
Olive oil
Red wine or cider vinegar
Salt & pepper
4 leaves (or so) finely chopped fresh basil

Grate carrots, turnips, radishes and apple/pear. Finely chop pak choi, and mix with all grated ingredients. Add currants, basil and ginger. Drizzle with a good amount of olive oil and a few dashes of vinegar. Add salt and pepper to taste.

Slaw is a great way of enjoying all these spring veggies, especially if you're sick of sauteing. The ginger is key here, as are the currants. This was really good, and would also make a great filling to stuff squash with. I do recommend doing all the grating with one of those disc-like food processor attachments. We don't have one, and this did take a while to do by hand.

Strawberry Shiso Salad

A bit of explanation here. Shiso is a most wonderful asian herb with a very distinct flavor, useable in place of basil in salads, salad dressings and on pizza. The botanical name of Shiso is perilla -- check out the wikipedia article on this plant. I ate green shiso (青紫蘇 or aojizo) all the time in Japan, often wrapped inside makizushi or as a salad dressing, and came to love its unique flavor. I'm not sure if it's for sale in Tan-A or other asian grocery stores, but of course I prefer the idea of growing it myself so I've got lots in the garden. Honestly, I couldn't begin to describe the'll have to taste it for yourself sometime. Suffice to say, it is vibrant, green and unlike anything you've ever tasted. Worth pursuing, definitely, for those (like me!) who sometimes get into cooking ruts, or are constantly searching for new flavors.


1/2 pint chopped fresh strawberries
Mesclun mix (Amy's Garden sells great blends! I mix and wash them myself.)
Roasted walnuts
3-4 shiso leaves
Chevre cheese (I have been getting mine from Lovingston Dairy, a new vendor at the South of the James market)

Olive Oil
Cider Vinegar
Herbs (anything goes here...basil, thyme, oregano)
Dollop of grainy mustard
Lemon juice or orange juice

Place mesclun mix in a bowl and top with other ingredients. Salad dressing should be a 2:1 ratio of olive oil to vinegar, then however much you want of the other ingredients. Shake well and drizzle over the top of the salad.

Strawberry Toast

Norwood Cottage bread
Twin Oaks herbed tofu
Fresh strawberries

This is just a good way to get some protein along with all the veggies. Ron is always focused on maintaining a good protein intake, so we always have some tofu hanging around, though I am a bit dubious about the hormonal effects of eating too much soy. I do love tofu though. My dad used to make it from scratch, and ever since then, I've been hooked. This herbed tofu from Twin Oaks is great sliced thin and served as-is on bread. If you haven't eaten uncooked tofu before, you should; it tastes amazingly fresh and clean.

Wine: Friuli Pino Grigio 2007. Some random Italian wine they had available for tasting at Once Upon a Vine that we ended up liking. It's cheap and I'm really into whites lately.

Living healthy with Tricycle Gardens

I am really excited about this workshop hosted by Tricycle Gardens:

June 4th, Thursday, 7-9PM

Living Healthy in a Toxic World

Clinical Nutritionist Kia Sanford joins Tricycle Gardens' Director Lisa Taranto to show participants how to negotiate their way through the modern American food supply in an understandable way that maintains health. Learn how various foods get to your dinner plate and how they effect long term health so you can make informed choices for yourself and your family. Join us for an evening of in-depth discussion and real-life take home ideas and skills to apply right away.

LOCATION: Tricycle Garden's Office (211 West 7th St)
COST: $20, 25 spaces available

For more info on classes at Tricycle Gardens, check out their site.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Opting out

There is an e-mail going around now trying to encourage people to not buy anything made in China for one month running from June 4th to July 4th. The buying freeze includes all products but the author of said e-mail chose to focus on food products. I will say that I have been surprised by what seems to be an increasing number of food items that come from China (or maybe I've just be paying closer attention.) Anyway I am here to encourage the one month experiment if for no other reason than reading labels will raise your own awareness. I went for just over a year with out buying anything made in china... in the end I had bought 6 items that were made in China. All of them were low price widgets. Still, you've gotta trust me that going a whole year buying only six items that were made in china is both difficult and surprisingly easy at the same time. First of all "Everything" is made in china. Secondly, 95% (guesstamation) of the stuff you actually need can be found, often of higher quality, at a reasonable price, made somewhere else. One of the real advantages of my own one year experiment is that even though the things I did buy were often more expensive, I ended up saving money from all of those cheaper impulse buys that were off limits.
Once I started reading labels I discovered all kinds of interesting things... and found some happy surprises... Many Gap jeans last year were made of fabric from the USA that was assembled in Mexico.... At the same time I realized how many of the Full Circle Organic products are made in china . USA stills seems to hold a strong market in greeting cards, paper products and those plastic Adirondack chairs. Whatever you think about the whole China debate, when it comes to your food I think this month long experiment has value, and at a time of year when fresh local foods are so abundant why not?

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Hard work And Inspiration

So I had the day off from work today, and in between the laundry and vacuuming and cleaning all those strawberries! and picking up my chickens from Avery's Branch and taking my dog to the vet...well you get the idea... I had a multitude of plants that still needed to get into the ground. Trouble is I don't have much cultivated ground left, and as a full time gardener I was a little grumpy by the end of the day from all that gardening! Not that I'm complaining! Sometimes though I just need a little reminder I why I love what I do, or why I do it at all.

I came home and found that in addition to watering in my new plantings I had also watered two whole unopened packs of beet seeds. The time I spent forced to put out these seeds left me doing a quite chore at a beautiful time of day. So I stoped and took notice of how nice even the faded chive blossoms look mixed up with the bronze fennel.

I also realized it was time to harvest some of my radishes from the front two 'fancy pots' at the entrance to my garden. These early summer pots are the perfect example of how to get the most out of a small space. Each tall pot contains two Red Leaf Lettuces and Two Butter head Lettuces. In the center of each I seeded in some radishes knowing that just as the lettuces started really filling in the space, the radishes would be ready to harvest. The radishes, which put up longer stems and then leaf out atop the lettuces are the perfect companion. I love it when things like this work out.

Finally, as I was photographing the lettuces and such ( having decided a post was in order) I glanced down at our pet dinosaur in his prehistoric succulent garden. It turns out that for a long time the people who lived here or in the adjacent property buried their trash in the yard...... or perhaps just some wacky kid who liked to bury his toys and the kitchen plates.. either way this little dino is one of many things we found while making our garden.

Not food related I know, but I couldn't resist. So now revived, by the results of work days past I feel ready for tomorrow... another day in the garden.

Under heading Interesting Inspiration

Our friend Jonah sent us a link to the "Yes We Can" website.. a pun on the traditional and or Obama based slogan, this site is out to inspire you to..well, can. A work share canning operation using an industrial style public cannery on Sundays, this California program is aiming to make the abundance of summer available year long to a wide range of people. Check out their site Here.

The Berry Patch- Strawberry Picking and Farm Stand

This is the final week for strawberry picking at most u-pick farms. Call and check with your favorite farm for availability for any day this week or this weekend. Yesterday morning my friend Liz and I went to an East End farm called The Berry Patch near Standston Va. For $2.16? (I've already forgotten) per pound you can pick two different varieties of strawberries. In the end I picked about 8 quarts or about 10lbs of strawberries for $23. (on average a quart weighs about 1.25lbs) We called ahead and they warned us that the plants were fairly picked over and no longer setting much fruit, but with a little extra time spent picking we did alright.
Once I got home I found This good website called The website covers the whole of the United States, plus Australia and a few other countries, but The link I provided here is within their Southeastern Virgina site and contains a number of u-pick farms, a seasonal availability chart, information on how to pick, preserve, and prepare your freshly harvested fruits and vegetables. Links to sites for purchasing canning equipment and books on the subject and more. I learned that I made one fast mistake by washing my strawberries right away. The site says you should not wash the berries until you are ready to eat them, because the washing will make them spoil faster. I've have learned that blueberries have a protective coating (that slightly white and waxy looking outer layer that should not be washed off until your ready to eat them, and of course fresh farm eggs as well... so why not strawberries?)

You can contact The Berry Patch at 804-795-9979.
I am gearing up for Blueberry season just a few weeks away! This year we have found an organic farm that has U-pick Blueberries....very exciting! Stay tuned.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

In My Father's Garden

A one hour long, fourteen year old Documentary film called In My Father's Garden, is still getting mention and so I thought I should take the time to mention it to you. This documentary that follows two very different stories of farm and family first aired on the Sundace Channel in 1995 to acclaim. Intermingled, are the story of the film maker's father who suffered the effects of heavy chemical use in his Florida Orange Grove, and the story of a man who returns to his father's troubled farm and turns it around by transforming it's operations from the conventional to the sustainable. You can check out the website for this film Here.

Michael Pollan on Steven Colbert

Last Wednesday Michael Pollan was a guest, for the second time, on Steven Colbert. Although Michael was of course unable to really get out any information, the interview is entertaining.
You can Check out the short clip Here.

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Strawberry Mania!

You think I am exaggerating, but after months and months of standing in my pantry, wondering what I should do with beans for the 43rd time in a row, I had nearly forgotten about the abundance of the growing season. When Natalie showed up at my house the other day with a three gallon bucket full of organic strawberries, I got so excited, I think I actually did a little dance. This is how I like to cook- inspired by the beauty of food in its season.
Now, what to do with all of those strawberries? Here's how much I love you- I measured for you. This is not my usual procedure in the kitchen, but I wanted to be able to give you some ideas of what to do with all of the strawberries that I am hoping you have!
Strawberry Salsa from my friend Janet Allen (my friend Sarah said that this is so amazing, you might just not be able to leave the table! Consider yourself warned...

Makes 6 cups
6 T. olive oil
2 T. white balsamic vinegar
½ tsp. salt
2 pints fresh strawberries, coarsely chopped
8 green onions, chopped
2 pints cherry tomatoes, chopped
½ cup chopped fresh cilantro

Whisk together first 3 ingredients in a large bowl; add strawberries and remaining ingredients, tossing to coat. Chill at least 1 hour. Serve with tortilla chips.

Strawberry Custard Tart with Shortbread Crust
I am giving you the recipe for the crust, because it turned out well- I will continue to experiment with it- Next time I will substitute almond meal for some of the flour. Alas, my custard did not turn out very well. Use a recipe for the custard from someone you trust. Put sliced berries on top- lots of 'em.

Put in bowl of food processor:
1 1/4 C Flour
1/3 Cup Powdered Sugar
1/2 Tsp. Salt
1 Stick (cut) cold butter
1 egg yolk

Process until mixed. Pour into 10"tart pan. The mixture will look like a pile of crumbs. Press them into pan. Chill for a couple of hours. Cook 15-20 minutes in 400 degree oven. Let cool before filling with custard.

Strawberry Rose Ice Cream
Place in bowl:
2 cups sliced strawberries
2TBS honey
1 tsp. Rose Water

Stir and let sit for a couple of hours. This brings out all of the sweet juices that will make your ice cream the loveliest shade of pink.

2 Cups heavy cream
1 Cup whole milk (I use raw milk, which is really fatty, so you could also use Half and Half)
1/4 Cup sugar

Blend milk, cream and sugar with juices from macerated strawberries. Freeze in ice cream maker, adding berries in the last few minutes.

Got other plans for your strawberries? Let us know!

Friday, May 22, 2009

Tomorrow At St. Stephen's Market

Just a little heads up from the Market at Saint Stephen's Church....
"This week at the Market: Come early this Saturday- Graduation at St. Catherine's School, our neighbor across the street, takes place this Saturday at 10:30 a.m. If you live in the neighborhood, you may want to walk or bike to the Market this week. Regardless of whether you walk, bike or drive, come early to avoid parking issues. We'll reserve some spaces,but early arrival is recommended.
Here are a few of the things you can expect to see at the Market this Saturday:
turnip greens
assorted lettuce
Swiss chard
spring onions
free-range chickens
And of course, there are other goodies as well...homemade pasta and sauces, granola,biscotti, muffins and other baked goods, coffee, freshly-squeezed limeade, handmade soaps and lotions, crafts and gifts and much more! Remember your reusable bags,cash and checks (not everyone takes credit or debit cards)."

I vistied this market on it's opening day (watch for our upcoming podcast) and it was great to see shoppers, many of whom seemed to be new to the blossoming Richmond Farmers Market experience! Same was true for the West End Market at Ridgefield Pkwy. If you live near these markets be sure to them out. People have worked very hard for many months to bring fresh, locally grown produce , pastured meats, and the full market experience to your community.
It was fantastic to see families walking their dogs, and pushing strollers to the Market at St. Stephen's on its opening day. I didn't witness this at the Far West End Market on it's first day, but friends who live near there say that since this market has opened, more and more people are actually walking to the market! I find this very encouraging. To me this is evidence that the value of a market far exceeds the wonderful foods it offers.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

True Cost of Food" Program & Panel Discussion

Here is info. from The Center for Rural Culture...
"On Thursday, May 21st, from 7:00-9:00pm. the Center for Rural Culture and the Friends of the Goochland Library will provide a program to teach people about the value of local, sustainably produced, organic food.
Beginning with the Sierra Club's "True Cost of Food" 15 minute DVD, the program will offer a moderated Panel discussion that will educate people about their food choices.
Panelists include farmers Jo Pendergraph from Manakintowne Specialty Growers, Molly Harris, owner of Edible Garden Restaurant and local food activist, and Cyndi Watkins of Ellwood Thompson's Local Market.
Fresh, local, seasonal foods will be provided courtesy of EllwoodThompson's.
$5.00 coupons will be provided to each attendee. These coupons are redeemable at the Goochland Farmers Market for tokens at the Center for Rural Culture booth. The tokens are worth $1.00 each and can be spent at any vendor booth at the market, just like cash.
Pre-registration is not required. However, as space is limited, please let us know you are coming by emailing: admin@centerforruralculture.orgor call 804-314-9141.
If you have a special physical or communication need that may affect your use of library services, please ask the librarian or call Fran Freimarck, Director at
(804) 365-6211.
Cost: FREE
Location: Goochland Branch Library 3075 River Road West Goochland, VA23063Directions: Take Patterson Avenue (Rt 6) about 30 miles west of Richmond to Goochland Courthouse. The Goochland Library is on the left,just before the light where 6 intersects with 522. Alternatively, take64 West to the Gum Spring Exit. Turn left and go approximately 9 miles South on Rt 522. Turn left at the junction of 522 & 6. The library is on the right.
Lisa Dearden Executive Director Center for Rural Culturewww.centerforruralculture.org804-314-9141"

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Market Manager Wanted

The Goochland Farmer's Market has sent out an e-mail notifying us that they are in need of a new Market Manager. No more Cricket at the market? Well, if you are interested and think you have the know how, here is the information....

Our Market Manager has received an offer for a full-time position as an Organic Inspector and will be leaving us the end of May. If you, or someone you know, may be interested in this position, please contact usas soon as possible. Please feel free to distribute this:

The Goochland Farmers Market is seeking a new Market Manager. Must have prior project management experience, strong organizational and interpersonal skills, and be able to work independently, prioritize tasks, and meet deadlines. Must have strong computer skills. Marketing experience desired. 15-20 hours/week annually. Saturdays required May-Oct. Some work from home. $12-$15 per hour, based on experience.Send resume with 2 employment and 3 personal references to: Center for Rural Culture P.O. Box 639 Goochland, VA 23063, or Job description:

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Seven Springs Farm CSA and Organic Farm Supplies

Thanks to Ron for sending us the link to this Farm. Seven Springs Farm is in Floyd County Va and has been in operation since 1990. They supply all manner of "conventional organic" farm supplies from back pack sprayers and dormant oils, to poultry manure and sea kelp based fertilizers. They also sell organic cover crop seed with a separate page on their site dedicated to cover crops. It looks like this Floyd County Farm has been making a business of supporting organic farming for almost twenty years, however my only knowledge of this farm is what I have picked up from their website.
I decided to pass the link to this farm along here primarily because of some interesting and possibly inspiring elements to their CSA program. Thir Vegetable CSA operates from May 12 through mid December providing 32 weeks of produce and what seems to be a tremendous amount of flexibility. In that 32 week period they allow each member 3 weeks "off" from their CSA for travel etc. They do half and full shares. They also offer the option of Working and Non-Working Shares for both Full and Half, with the number of work hours required (16 hours per season) cut in half for a half share. On top of all that they have the option of an additional Herb CSA for those who like a bundle of several different culinary herbs added to their box. I feel a little tired just reading all these options, much less managing them all!
Finally, and here is the most interesting part, they have lower income CSA options. One paragraph on their CSA page reads "LOW INCOME SHARE FUND – Through the generosity of CSA members, we have established a fund that allows us to give discounts to families on limited incomes who want to participate, but cannot pay the full price. If you are interested in making a donation to this fund, please indicate this on your sign-up form. If you would like to apply for a discount on your share, please check the ‘apply for a low income share’ box."

The issue of affordability for those families who have no financial wiggle room is always out there and this farms small scale, and possibly unsustainable, approach is thought provoking.
Not only the issue of those who cannot afford to buy fresh and healthy produce, but those who can afford to grow it! Seven Springs Farm's Payment information reads " If you can pay the full price of your share upon sign-up, please do so. Pre-payment provides the working capital needed to purchase seed, supplies, etc., and pay employee salaries for work that begins months in advance of the first vegetable distribution.If you cannot pay the entire amount at sign-up, you may use an installment plan... We offer a sliding scale of prices. You may choose what you will pay within the range of prices given. The low end of the scale is designed to cover the estimated budget for the year. That budget allows for a yearly salary for the farmer of only $18-$20,000. Since it is so difficult to make a living wage farming, the sliding scale allows for those with the means to help subsidize the farmer’s income modestly and also to make a contribution to the low-income share fund. All money collected that is over the minimum price is distributed 80% to Polly’s salary, 20% to the low-income share fund." Interesting stuff, and I would like to find out more about how it really works.

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Morels and Asparagus

I have been wanting to learn to 'hunt' morels for a long while. These wild mushrooms come up in the early spring, between the blooming of the Redbud trees and the time the blossoms fall from the Dogwoods- a fairly short window. My friend Dick Fowlkes goes hunting morels and asparagus in Rockbridge County. Since I could not accompany him, he was kind enough to write and send photos of his adventures. I must say, his life in the country sounds positively dreamy. Here is his tale of the hunt.

Sorry you couldn't make it for the morel and wild asparagus hunt last weekend- the Richmond Forum needed your expertise. I climbed up and down a mountain for two hours to find not even a glimpse of a morel, I was perplexed. It was hot and dry so I wasn't totally surprised, but usually find some evidence of morels. I decided to give up and run over to The Herbery and get some Thyme plants. The owners Stephanie and Pete Louquet, said that they had seen some morels nearby. Pete and I trekked over to the spot and low and behold was a white morel the size of my fist. I was shocked- and not far from that one was another nice sized morel. My hips and knees were killing me from my earlier hunt, so I headed home with my dinner sized portion of morels. On my way home, I stopped at another friend's home who bakes their own bread for a local CSA. I needed to pick up the bread I had ordered. In our small talk, my friend Mary mentioned that she had seen some morels in a clearing on her driveway. She said to check it out on my way out. There in the clearing were three nice large white morels. I had hiked all over for two hours and here were morels right outside the car!

On my way home, I stopped at my favorite asparagus patch and found about twenty wild asparagus. They were so tempting that I munched on-two of them as I harvested. Happy with my "catch", I went home.

I took a shower and came downstairs to prepare the morels when the phone rang. It was my bread friend Mary. She had stopped by and left me a bag on the back porch. Inside the bag were about 25 white morels. I could not believe it. She said that she and her husband Gary had checked the clearing out and in about ten minutes had found these morels. What a dumb bell I was to have missed them. Mary said to come back in the morning to look for more, and I would. The next morning, I stopped by Mary's and found another thirty or so morels right there in the same spot. It was like an Easter Egg Hunt !! I had a blast with my pocket knife carefully cutting the morels to leave the "root system". I then tap the morel to release spores for next year. This is very important to leave spores behind so that they will procreate.

Even when I clean the morels, I rinse them in a bowl of water and pour the water out in our garden so that the morels will come next year !! I hope you will make it on one of our excursions soon. Good luck on your inauguration of your new Farmers Market at St. Stephen's Church this Saturday!!!