Monday, June 29, 2009

June Greens

It's getting warm, but that doesn't mean you have to stop eating salads! Lettuce gets bitter and bolts when the weather heats up; ditto for spinach. However, there are plenty of delicious alternatives to your basic salad greens, most of which have delicious, unique flavors. You can always buy your salad pre-washed and mixed at the farmers' market...Root Force Collective Farm, currently vending at the Bryan Park and South of the James markets even sells a blend that includes borage, fennel green and edible flowers. If you've got a bit of dirt available though, why spend all the money when you can grow it yourself? Just direct seed any of the following varieties of greens, and you'll be cutting salad in no time.

The ultimate green. Spicy and unique, prolific, a perfect companion to salads with fruit, nuts and creamy cheeses.

Pak Choi (small varieties)
A great salad base, this asian green has a very mild and slightly sweet flavor. The stem is pleasantly crunchy and slightly juicy, reminiscent in texture to celery, though not as aromatic. Make sure to buy a small variety, as the large ones can get big like swiss chard and are really not suitable for salads.

Osaka Purple Mustard Greens
Any variety of mustard greens will hold up just fine, but I love the Osaka purple jsut makes me so nostalgic. I love Osaka. Southwestern Japan will always hold a special place in my heart. Nandeyanen...anway, I also just love the color and the intense spicyness (similar to horseradish -- a completely different sense of 'spicy' than you find with arugula). Be careful with this one if you've got a sensitive tongue. I recommend chopping it and just adding a little at first.

This Asian green competes with arugula for my favorite. It looks like spinach but tastes better...very vibrant and almost citrusy. The stem is also crunchy and pleasant.

I will also note that the best thing about these salad greens is that every one of them doubles as a sauteing green. They all hold up amazingly well as parts of soups or curries, on pasta or rice, on pizza, or anywhere else you might use a denser green! Seeds for all of these are available from Johnny's, and they ship fast. Summer greens are the perfect filler for a space in the garden where you've harvested overwintered veggies like garlic and onions. They are also really easy to plant: just throw some seeds down. You could thin later if you like, but honestly, you don't really need each individual plant to get that large if you're planning on eating salads. I sowed these greens in my median garden about a month to a month and a half ago and they are ready to go. You could even just toss a bunch of seeds together and sprinkle them in a big patch, then just gently clear-cut with a pair of clippers. They will flush back out as long as you don't cut down to the base.

Any summer salad greens I'm missing? Don't hesitate to let me know!

Charlottesville Farmers Featured

This weekend my driver's license expired and I was forced to spend 2.5hours navigating the DMV in order to get one of those creepy new facial recognition IDs. The secondary result was a big chunk of time to spend reading magazines. I happened to grab a Southern Living Magazine and discovered a six page feature on Charlottesville farmers an it's own strong local foods movement. The article provides a brief profile of individuals like John and Nancy Hellerman from Goodwin Creek Farm & Bakery, Cheese maker Gail Hobbs-Page and her goat farm Caromont Farm and more. Page got her goats from Dave Matthew's own farm named Best of What's Around. How cool is that?! Check out the article in the July issue of Southern Living or check out their website where now even they have a guide to farmer's markets in the south at In addition it appears that each month, at least during peak season, Southern Living will be featuring a different local foods community from various southern states.

The Buzz from Horticulture Magazine

My Mother in law gave me the gift of a one year subscription to Horticulture Magazine for my birthday this weekend. I just couldn't resist passing on two things from their June issue that I thought you might like to check into. They are really focusing on their on-line offerings starting with a request for your stories. Specifically they want to hear from anyone who is working to make their own community better via gardening! If you volunteer your time for a school garden, work a median strip, or grow food to share with those in need they want to hear from you. Send them your story at While your at it send us any similar info at our email address to share with your local richmonders. Everyone can use a little extra inspiration.

They also did a quick piece on what you can do to support our native pollinators. They discuss mason bees (Osmia species), Leafcutter bees (Megachile species), and Bumblebees (Bombus species) specifically. They also mention some of those other little thought off pollinators, bats, hummingbirds, beetles, moths, wasps, and flies. For more information check out their "Dig deeper" on line info. at

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Cooking demos online

I just found these cooking demos on You Tube. The videos are quick, simple, seasonal and fresh. Check out the Farmers Market Cooking Series, and learn what to do with the veggies you see at the farmers' market!

Erin's Top Five at the Market- Late June

Here are my favorite items right now from the Market at St. Stephen's:

1. Cheddar biscuits from Capital Coffee and Desserts- buttery and crumbly
2. Tanzanian Peaberry Coffee from Blanchard's Coffee Company- $10 from each bag goes to Light in Africa, a non- governmental organization that cares for sick and orphaned children and other unsupported people in Tanzania
3. Flowers from Eli's Greens- happiness, pure and simple
4. veggies from Peasant Fare- you have got to love buying from a woman who bags herbs and veggies together in one convenient package, who also sells worms and their castings, and who snacks on Nasturtium flowers,
5. eggs from Kilravock Ranch or Providence Farm- the yolks are neon orange, which means happy chickens.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Adventures in these parts

Check out the sweet article my friend Mary wrote on Mount Olympus Berry Farm and Farmer's Markets close by. Her site is always great fun and loaded with ideas for adventures!

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Yard Share

My father loves to work in the yard. He is the reason why I'm a gardener. He quickly filled our own yard with a million azeleas, maples, and fish ponds, but still that was not enough. He also wanted to grow vegetables, and as his towering oak trees shaded out his own lot he turned to his long time next door neighbor for help. She never spent time in the yard and welcomed my dad's proposal... He would plant and maintain a vegetable garden in her sun filled yard and in return she could simply take what produce she needed. This offer was made over 10 years ago. At the time I thought he was pretty forward to suggest such a thing, now it's becoming common place. Just this spring my own next door neighbors offered up their fenced in portion of full sun yard to my husband and me. We haven't it touched it yet, finding it hard enough to keep up with what we've got already, but what a neighborly thing to offer!
It turns out that now there is a whole grassroots effort to unite gardeners in need of ground with land owners willing to share their space for a cut of the crop. Following in line with older efforts like City Farmer, this new wider effort is called simply Sharing Backyards. you can visit their website Here. The idea is that you enter your city and state or full address and a map of people looking to garden or share land pops up. Richmond's map.... void of all offers! For inspiration check out the Map for Vancouver BC! you can hardly see past the mass of spots identifying land givers with potential gardeners!

Food Inc. The Movie!!!!

So it's finally here. Well, almost. The long anticipated film Food Inc. Will be in Richmond at the Movieland Theater on Boulevard on July 10th. You can check out the film's website, reviews and watch a trailer for the film Here. Interviews with Michael Pollan, Joel Salatin and Eric Schlosser, the author of Fast Food Nation, fill out this impressive looking film. Check out the companion book "A Participant's Guide" that contains Essays written by Marion Nestle, Anne' Lappe', Joel Salatin and more.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009


Sometimes it is difficult to follow through. And really, having fresh food comes with a certain amount of maintenance- eat it before it would better benefit your compost pile than you. For example, this morning I found that all of my milk had gone sour. Delightful! So in a fit of grave responsibility, (which I had no business acting on as my morning coffee routine had been thwarted and I was clearly not thinking clearly) I thought, well, I should make yogurt before the milk goes totally south.

Yogurt is so simple and yet, honestly, kind of persnickety. Natalie often has trouble getting hers to yog-(it is too a real word- look it up!) and the milk has separated into curds and whey the last two times I have tried making it, which is exactly what happened this morning. What is supposed to happen is so simple- heat the milk slowly (I think this is my problem, there is very little I do slowly) while stirring (also a problem for a morning which requires multitasking) and when it has reached 180 degrees, take the milk off the heat, let cool until the temp reaches 110 degrees, add a tablespoon of cultures (I use yogurt) and keep in a warm spot for 8 hours. Viola!

Unless, it is not. I felt so defeated when I had to got to the grocery store for milk and yogurt that I bought myself a frozen pizza (my all time favorite food- I know, it makes no sense). I know I should have felt all kinds of things, but I really just felt lucky- lucky to be able to feel sure what my breakfast would look like tomorrow. It is all an adventure, really.

Monday, June 15, 2009

New CSA in Richmond

April Muniz , the Operations Manager for Horse & Buggy Produce, a Local Natural Foods Cooperative, located in Charlottesville, VA, wrote the other day, letting us know about a new service they will provide with Ellwood Thompson's.

They are expanding their services to the Richmond area (one drop spot per week)

She writes:
Our season in Richmond will run from July 2nd – Nov 19th and we’ll be set up in the parking lot of Ellwood Thompson’s Local Market in Carytown on Thursday evenings from 4pm – 7pm. We offer the following subscriptions:

· Local Fruits & Vegetables
· Pasture-Raised Hens’ Eggs
· Pasture-Raised Meats (Beef, Bison, Pork, Lamb)
· Spring-Raised Trout
· Bread and Granola
· Pasture-Raised Chicken

The farmers that we work with in the Shenandoah Valley and Central Virginia have more produce that we can distribute to our current drop spots and we’ve had numerous request to expand our service area. We know that there is more demand than supply of local foods in the Richmond area and are hoping to work together with some of the existing farm businesses to help address some of this need.

To learn more about Horse and Buggy, click here.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

The Group is Called Chickunz

Truthfully, I am fascinated about where this will lead us. What if your neighbors had chickens? Would it drive your dog mad? Would it really be so different than having a dog, anyway?

In any case, I am all for conscious freedom. And, I am all for having well looked after animals. There is a petition going around to legalize laying hens in Henrico. You can sign the petition here. Chickunz also has a Facebook page.

Every little bit helps choke the machine of industrial agriculture. Too bad I can't have both dogs and chickens...

Monday, June 1, 2009

Woody Food Plants

I've just acquired some new food plants that I plan to grow in containers on the back deck. I am so excited by the possibilities they offer...once they have gotten big enough to provide a harvest. Here is a small tour of my burgeoning collection, for your inspiration:

Tea Camellia

As you may know, tea leaves come from the plant camellia sinensis (herbal teas, or infusions, are a different thing altogether.) Black, green and white teas all come from different ways of harvesting the young leaves of this plant. I'll need to wait for this little camellia to get bigger before I start harvesting leaves, but in a couple of years I could be making my own tea. This plant is supposed to be hardy to zone 8, but I may bring it inside this year, since I experienced a few deaths this winter of 'hardy' plants I had in containers. Plants this size are available from Edible Landscaping, out in Afton, VA. Shipping is available but expensive, so I recommend heading out there on a weekend and visiting some wineries on the way (White Hall and Barboursville are always excellent choices).

Bay Laurel

Otherwise known as laurus nobilis, the bay laurel is the source of culinary bay leaves. this is also a small specimen, meaning I won't be harvesting leaves for a while. When it's big enough, I'll be able to go to this plant and pick a leaf of any size and throw it right into my soups and sauces. Bay laurels are evergreen and can grow up to 40 feet tall! Mine will not ever get that tall because I'm growing it in a container. A Thyme to Plant at Lavender Fields carries bay laurels if you'd like one of your own.

Kaffir Lime

This is such a beautiful plant. Glossy green hourglass-shaped leaves, compact and carrying the thorns typical to most citrus plants, it is an intriguing part of my back-deck display. Kaffir lime leaves are used just like bay laurel leaves, tossed whole into a dish and removed before consumption. Instead of richly flavored Italian style sauces and soups, the kaffir lime is a common flavor in Thai and other southwest asian dishes -- particularly curries. The rind of the small fruit can used as well, though the intense astringency of the juice makes it suitable only for use in medicine (particularly Indonesian medicine) or insect repellents. My plant is already big enough for me to use leaves, though I love it so much I am afraid to damage the plant, and I haven't had a chance to cook curry at home yet. I also got this plant at A Thyme to Plant at Lavender Fields.