Saturday, September 26, 2009

Organic Asian Pear Orchard

I had a friend telling me just the other day about this amazing Asian pear orchard near the Natural Bridge in western Virginia. They swore the pears pick from this orchard were the best they had ever tasted. Although they couldn't remember the name of the place a quick online search came up with the Virginia Gold Orchard. Apparently they were just featured in Southern Living Magazine. Now I am not suggesting that Richmonders need to drive all the way past Lexington to find good Asian Pears, but perhaps if your looking for a nice day trip or a weekend get away in the area this would be a great place to check out. Also I hear the bridge is nice.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Apple Abundance

October is Nearly upon us and that surely means an abundance of apples. Apple varieties like Gala started popping up at the markets in mid to late august and more and more varieties have become available as the weeks have gone by. One of my favorites the Honey Crisp started showing up a few weeks ago right along side the Asian pears. Don't let all this deliciousness pass you buy. Shop the markets or make a day of it and plan a day trip to one of the areas pick your own apple orchards. Look for apples that feel firm and heavy for their size with a rich color.
Today at the market I discovered a new variety of apple that Thistledown was carrying. It's called Piney River Gold and was created and grown by Saunders Brothers Orchard in Nelson county Virginia. Click the link above to check out the chart of all the peach and apple varieties they grow. It's interesting information, but I believe they only supply wholesale and do not allow u-pick. However, they do sell their own apples at their on site market.
Here are links to a few local apple picking sites

Graves Mountain

Carters Mountain (one of the closer orchards Carters Apple Harvest Festival is held over the next two weekends Oct 3,4 and Oct 10, 11. This by no means indicates their apple picking season.)

Dickie Brothers

If you are at all interested in apples you should check out the Vintage Virgina Apple Farm. They specialize in preserving vintage varieties of apples for the Virginia area and have their own large festival on November 7. Here you can taste fun old varieties like the Abemarle pippin. They grow over 200 varieties of apples and offer a range of educational programs from to aid those interested in growing their own apple trees or preserving older trees to making apple products like cider.
Check out these apple recipes Natalie offered up after last years apple picking excursion.
Here is our post from last years apple picking at Carter Mountain.

Here is my Apple Crisp recipe from last year. It is so very easy. If you used it last year you may notice a couple of changes. First I made a point of saying that the apple mixture should be slightly tart. Also, this year I have been adding a 1/4 tsp ginger to the apple mixture, and 1/4 cup finely chopped walnuts to the topping.

In searching for more information about National Apple Month (It's actually a three month long industry designated period comprising September, October, and November stretched from the original 1904 designation of a national apple week.)I found this interesting website
called Months of Edible Celebrations. Apparently today, September 26, is Johnny Appleseed Day. The day is set to mark the birth of Johnny Appleseed, although I don't think anyone actually knows when he was born. None-the-less, the Months of Edible Celebrations blog did a great job of putting together a chart of different apple varieties. Each variety listed has a corresponding recipe to match it's best culinary use. Very nice.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Viewing of FRESH Tonight at Edible Garden

Don't forget tonight is the first of three special viewings of the film FRESH, hosted by Edible Garden in Goochland. Start time is 7:30pm. The Edible Garden website states that a $10 donation is suggested. For more information see Erin's original post here, or check out the Edible Garden's website.

Getting the Most Out of Your Meals

NPR has been devoting a good deal of attention to food related issues this summer. One piece on the July 27th broadcast of Morning Addition discusses the need to incorporate fat into your vegetable dishes in order to absorb the nutrients contained within. It also holds some surprising information on microwaving. Click Here to read the transcript or Here to take a listen.

The above story was followed by one one on the issue of food safety that starts off with the startling statistic that 75 million people are made sick by contaminated food each year with 5,000 deaths resulting. Focusing on the FDA's inspection of imported foods, ( They inspect 7,000 of 190,000 imported products each year), as well as the need for at- home vigilance when preparing food. This particular piece emphasises safety practices like cooking all meat and eggs thoroughly, and rewashing salad greens, and so doesn't directly raise questions about the potential benefits of stepping outside of the industrial food system, but instead focuses on safer ways to work within that system. Click Here to listen.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Crowder Pea 'Stuff!'

This year, we're selling beautiful pints of in-the-hull crowder peas at our fall markets. These delicious members of the cowpea family are closely related to black-eyed peas, and are a key component of soul food. According to Wikipedia, they are one of the most important food crops in Africa, southern Europe, and Central and South America. Most people in Richmond seem not to have heard of them -- though those who do recognize crowder peas often remark that they ate them as children and adamantly request to buy a bushel or two.

Since market shoppers are often tentatively interested in the idea of trying something new, one of the most common questions I encounter in the crowder pea section is, "What do I do with these things?" I admit they can look intimidating, with long, thick, reddish-purple pods. Hulling them is the first step: sit on your front porch and lazily shell out your own bushel in the fading Virginia light, just like they did in the olden days. Watch out for worms -- you may find one nestled inside the pod, munching away at the side of a bean. Rinse the shelled peas when you're done, making sure to remove grit and dirt.

Now, get into the kitchen and make my delicious recipe for Crowder Pea 'Stuff.' Some explanation here: I have taken to bestowing the title of 'Stuff' on any unidentified combination (usually as a saute) of vegetables and beans, frequently using tomatoes as a base. Usually these are thicker than soups, curry-like in appearance but lacking curry spices, and wetter (usually with tomato juice) than a standard saute or stir-fry. 'Stuff' can be used in any context -- plain, served warm; topping pasta as a chunky sauce; atop rice, like a curry; sometimes (if it's not too wet) rolled up in a tortilla with salad greens and cheese; or even atop a toasted slice of crusty bread. It's weekday cooking at its best: improvisational, versatile, hearty and usually quite satisfying.

I based this 'Stuff' on a recipe I saw in Edible Chesapeake for vegetarian Hoppin' John -- a traditional southern dish consumed on New Year's Eve for good luck. That recipe purported to take hours to cook (lots of simmering and cooking down), but mine only takes about 45 minutes. When you're making my version, make sure to add lots of fresh thyme. It's an important aromatic and it made this dish shine, though the crowder peas are really the star of the show.

Crowder Pea 'Stuff'

2 cups fresh hulled crowder peas
4 cups water
1 bay leaf
1 large onion, chopped
10 heirloom tomatoes (any variety), skins removed, coarsely chopped
1 red pepper, diced
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 tbsp fresh thyme
red pepper flakes
olive oil
salt and pepper

Place crowder peas, water and the bay leaf in a 4-quart saucepan. Bring to a boil then reduce to simmer and cook until peas are al-dente. This may only take 15-20 minutes -- it depends on the age of your peas. Check them periodically to make sure you don't overcook.

Meanwhile, saute onions on medium-high heat in olive oil, caramelizing them as much as possible before you start to get impatient. For me this is about 10 minutes. Now add the red peppers and saute for a few more minutes. Throw in the red pepper flakes too -- as many as you like to add a little kick to the flavor of the dish. Add tomatoes and continue to cook mixture on medium heat until crowder peas are ready.

Strain crowder peas and add them to the tomato mixture, along with the bay leaf and the garlic and thyme. Continue to cook on medium heat, stirring occasionally, until the tomatoes have reached the consistency you like. If you just cooked this for 10 minutes or so at this point, it would almost be a soup. I wanted it to be a bit thicker, so I continued for 15-20 minutes more. Tomatoes take a long time to reduce, so there was still some nice, flavorful tomato juice in this when I was done. Serve over brown rice.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Need some inspiration?

I had the most fabulous cross season market haul today- peaches and apples, figs, kale, tomatoes, okra, corn, butter beans, arugula, hakurai turnips, potatoes, kabocha squash and shiitake mushrooms. It is going to be a very busy week at my house, trying to eat or preserve all of this goodness. Some of the fruits and veggies are going to be used in the trail recipes for the next time the RFC appears on Virginia This Morning, October 7th. This time, Shannon will be on talking about apples! Very exciting.
While I was searching for some inspiration and new recipes for my haul, I stumbled upon Sunday Suppers, a gorgeous website that captures the beauty of food, its components and manifestations, and the fellowship that results if you are indeed so lucky. Check it out, especially the fig and sesame tart recipe- don't you wish you were there?

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

He's on our side! Sort of.

So after I posted about James McWilliams' new book Just Food, I happened to listen to a podcast of the radio show Think on KERA, during which McWilliams was featured in an hour-long interview including call-in questions. I still haven't had a chance to read the book, but I realized McWilliams' views parallel my own in many ways.

Contrary to the hype, McWilliams is not against locavorism in all ways, shapes and forms. Instead, it seems that his primary argument for what locavores have 'got wrong' is the practice of buying unsustainable produce or meats locally, instead of more sustainably produced items from afar. He points out that buying local industrial beef makes a much larger carbon footprint than ordering a grass-fed steak from some distant locale. Food miles, he says, are not the only factor we should take into consideration when determining how to eat an ethical diet. I myself also espouse this view, and this season I have been disillusioned by all the 'EAT LOCAL!' hype surrounding produce at both Ukrops and Ellwood Thompson's from a local farm that uses plenty of pesticides, chemical fertilizers and other (in my mind) suspicious and unsustainable practices. I would like to join McWilliams in stating the importance of really knowing where your food comes from, and not taking local food at face value.

I admit, McWilliams also won me over by espousing one of my most strongly held views: that, in order for our food system to become more sustainable, we must point-blank stop eating so much meat. I believe that the quanity of meat consumed by Americans on a daily, weekly or monthly basis is outrageous, unhealthy, and completely unsustainable. Industrial beef is one of the biggest American institutions contributing to carbon emissions. I'd like to quote Bill Maher here: "It's better to eat a salad in a Hummer than a hamburger in a Prius."

Third, McWilliams also addresses some of the propaganda surrounding organic agriculture. He rightly identifies the fact that many organic farms are not even close to using sustainable practices, and are flying under the radar as they contribute to carbon emissions, nitrogen runoff and soil erosion, looking pretty as they complete USDA requirements but ignore the moral dictates of conscientious farmers. I will say I had a major departure with McWilliams when he made the statement here that he believes crop yields are lower in organic agriculture than in conventional. The subject of crop yields is much more complicated than the picture painted in the interview I listened to. A snapshot in a given year of an organic farm versus a conventional one may indeed yield a picture favorable to conventional agriculture. However, a study that stretches over a much longer period of time will show that crop yield in conventional agriculture declines sharply without a drastic increase in fertilizer applications. In comparison, organic yields on a sustainably managed farm maintain or grow, as soil fertility increases in response to wise management practices. Now, even over ten years, it may be possible to get consistently higher yields from conventional fields, by adding increasing amounts of fertilizer, but there will eventually come a tipping point when these fields are simply, like it or not, utterly barren and incapable of growing plants. So it's not a simple choice between medium and high yields. It's a choice between an endless source of medium yields or a temporary source of high yields that ultimately burns itself out. And once again, I have to go back to the original point and say this only applies to those farms that are managed conscientiously.

McWilliams also effectively said that we are not going to just transform agriculture overnight, and so we should be, instead of just 'jumping on the organic bandwagon,' encouraging conventional growers to use better practices. Some of his suggestions were kind of vague here, and again I'd probably be served well by reading the book. Now, regardless of what anyone says, I believe sustainable organic practices can and will feed the world, once we have experienced a radical shift in our understanding of what we like and want to eat. I do believe we need to negotiate with conventional farmers, but I think negotiations should be pointing them in the direction of organic and sustainable practices, not encouraging them to use weird new technologies. USDA just put out an organic initiative to provide funding to farmers who agree to put into place organic practices, and research is ongoing in no-till and other agricultural concepts that are beneficial to soil erosion and fertility (two concepts that will become increasingly important as we are approaching the limit of available agricultural land on the planet). This is not to say USDA is a reliable champion for these issues, but that we should be doing more of this kind of thing.

I did feel a major departure when the discussion arrived at the subject of GMOs. McWilliams supports the idea of using 'humanitarian' GMO crops, those that are developed to be drought tolerant or high-yielding, to provide extra food for starving populations in places like Africa. Now, I am very aware of the plight of some of these rural peoples, but I must say I am very wary of the effects of such crops on the global ecosystem. We need to put grant money and research efforts into solving food distribution problems, not creating fantasy crops that will solve inevitable farming problems like variations in weather and pests. By that same virtue, the coming population spike necessitates a major reevaluation of the world's food distribution system along with its system of production. We also need to, as McWilliams mentions, take back the American Midwest from CAFOs and feed crops and put it into food production for all these new humans.

Based on this interview, I felt that McWilliams has taken a very intense and realistic look at modern agriculture and global food distribution. I didn't agree with all of the conclusions he drew, but I did agree with many of them. He is clearly applying critical thinking to many of these problems and is, as I am, wary of absolutes. Look for another rant-happy post on this once I have actually read the book.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

I love Northside.

Lakeside has gotten lucky. We have the best Indian food in town (yes, I said it) and the best in locally sourced fare. New India is a family owned, cheerful place on the northern end of Lakeside Avenue, with the most amazing Indian food I have ever had. I even took my father there, who is,( I don't think he'll mind me saying,) a total snob when it comes to Indian food. Even he could not stop gushing about it. It is that good. Get there.

I have been to the Fat Goat now three times. I had been to Zed often, and was quite enamoured of its commitment to sourcing their food locally. But the Fat Goat surpasses the ideas of Zed, gracefully and finally.

My first visit, I had the date, apple and arugula salad and the four cheese flat bread. The individual components of each dish were gorgeous on their own, and they fit together so well. I loved the food so much that I went back the very next morning for brunch. We were greeted by flat bread dough which had been deep fried and sugared and called something delightful like Zappoli. These were followed by the best omelet I have ever had, with fluffy eggs, chives and local goat cheese. Plus, there were sweet potato fries- so very right.

Tonight, we closed the place down. After swooning over the possibilities on the menu, I had the beet salad with blue cheese dressing and the oyster mushroom flatbread. We were so inspired, we stayed for dessert- white peach cheesecake with local goat cheese. Very, very, delicious.

Support your local restaurants- they are so worth having around!

Eat, Drink and be Merry with Tricycle Gardens

Tricycle gardens announces the First Annual Harvest Dinner

October 3, 2009

Location: Church Hill’s Historic Robinson Theatre
Q Street at North 29th Street
Saturday, October 3, 2009

Tickets: $50

Tricycle Gardens is partnering with several Richmond chefs from the city’s top eateries–Kuba Kuba, Millies, Kitchen 64, among others–to prepare in-season, local menu items for a huge buffet dinner celebrating our community and urban agriculture. There will be a cash bar, sustainable agriculture speaker Bev Eggleston, founder of EcoFriendly Foods and music for entertainment and dancing.

For more information or to buy tickets for this fabulous event, go to the Tricycle Gardens site or write

Friday, September 11, 2009

Celeriac rhymes with maniac.

Ah celeriac, troll of the root vegetables. You are a gnarly thing. What is so funny is that celeriac is one of the most well behaved plants I have ever grown. I planted a crop in early spring, and harvested them this past week. The roots would have gotten larger I am sure, but I needed the space they were in to plant some greens. All spring and summer, these lovely upright fountains slowly grew- I nearly forgot about them! They got no fertilizer, were not marred by pests, never drooped and now have graced us with our first root vegetable of the season. In case you were wondering, I recommend growing them. You may have to start seeds indoors, but these lovely plants can go out rather early in the spring.

So far, I have made only a cream of potato and celeriac soup with my new favorite root, though I am sure you could treat it as any root vegetable. (If you want to try, follow my potato and fennel soup recipe, substituting celeriac for fennel.) Just cut away the thinner, wild looking roots as well as the outer layer, and roast, bake, puree away! I even saw a recipe on a raw food website for celeriac 'risotto'. Celeriac is related to celery, so it has a faint, though sweeter resemblance in taste. I am not aware of anyone selling these little monsters at the markets, but if you ask, maybe someone will put it in their plans for spring.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Anti-Locavore Book...

James McWilliams has come out with a book lampooning 'eat local' activists and proposing a solution to our food system crisis that includes the use of pesticides and genetically modified crops. I haven't read this one yet, but let's see what some of the critics have to say...


'“The locavore approach to reforming our broken food system has serious limits-limits that our exuberant acceptance of eating local has obscured,” McWilliams writes. In their application of a simplistic valuing methodology (judging food purely by how far away from one’s plate it originated), he claims, these 100-mile dieters could potentially do more harm than good, if they succeeded in their apparent mission to force the entire world’s eaters to choose food grown within a short drive of their kitchen table.

The problem with this argument is its irrelevance. The few truly orthodox locavores who presumably exist (do you know even one?) aren’t close to persuading the world to eat the way they do. To devote an entire book to debunking the impulse to eat closer to home doesn’t address the points raised by food and farm activists. At their most relevant, today’s alternative eaters illuminate the systemic problems created by industrialized food provisioning: negative impacts on the global climate as well as significant deterioration in water quality, soil quality, local economies, worker justice, and human health.'

Reason Online:

"[McWilliams] makes it clear, as diplomatically as possible, that the idea of using organic methods to feed the world's population—projected to peak at nine billion in the second half of this century—is a pipe dream. More like a nightmare, really, given how much pristine land would have to be plowed under to compensate for the lower yields of organic agriculture and how many megatons of manure would have to be trucked hither and yon. McWilliams boldly but ­correctly calls for "dispensing with the organic/conventional framework" altogether and ­instead focusing on the costs and benefits of specific ­methods and technologies."

Amazon Online Reviewer:

"Just Foods is an important book in the continuing (and continually escalating) debate over how we should grow our food and what we should eat. Environmental historian and reformed locavore James McWilliams, invites us to think logically and dispassionately about some of the most important food issues of our time--and of the future. Having read two of McWilliams' previous books, I expected a controversial, detailed, and well-documented discussion. I wasn't disappointed."

So, while we are all tempted sometimes to spend our days only watching MSNBC or Fox News, of course we all know it's best not to immerse yourself only in media that supports your current belief system. I'm curious to hear McWilliams' point of view, and to draw my own conclusions about whether or not he is making a valid argument. Anyone who has read this book, let me know! I do want to point out that I do not believe in the 'population crisis' argument -- that GMOs, pesticides and other artificial means will be necessary to feed the skyrocketing number of people on this Earth. We are already in an extreme state of overproduction, growing plenty of food to feed, in the very least, our own population in the US. The problem is that all of it is feed corn for industrial beef, and those who are starving, regardless of how much food there is in the world, will continue to starve because they have no means to access that food.

Still, I haven't read the book. As a final comment, it's kind of funny that there are people out there arguing against locavorism, since overall it tends to be such a benign, feel-good movement out to make people happier and healthier. And I do have doubts about these arguments (like the one behind this NPR article) that attack certain movements or ideas for little more than not doing 100% of what they are purported to accomplish. Locavorism may not be perfect (for example, as the Grist author mentions, we can't feed everyone on an orthodox locavore diet) but does that mean the idea as a whole is pointless, irrelevant, or actually damaging to the earth and human society? Obviously not.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Polyface at St. Stephen's

Check out this article in today's Richmond Times Dispatch on Polyface Farm and the Market at St. Stephen's.

"The Grove Avenue church's market is the only one in Richmond to carry Polyface's goods. In addition to purchasing the farm's goods without ordering them in advance, shoppers can learn about Polyface's unconventional farming methods.

Wright says Polyface, famous for its sustainable agriculture stance, was a natural addition, as other vendors like Frog Bottom Farm make up this rapidly growing market, bringing fresh produce to town with the support of the community.

"Polyface has great products, samples are given and they let people know there's a difference in flavor and consciousness," Wright said. Up to 25 vendors participate on any given Saturday, and as families and neighbors come on foot to mingle and buy, the market has become a weekend family outing.

Polyface is known for its unwavering defense of local farming against industrialized farming practices, even sometimes refusing to ship their products for ethical reasons. You won't find just eggs, bacon and chickens at Polyface, but also educational materials to encourage awareness of the source of their products, the farm and their buying clubs."

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Meet My Farmers

Check out this gorgeous article from Serious Eats on Lisa and Ali Moussalli of Frog Bottom Farm, then come see them at the Market at St. Stephen's or South of the James every Saturday through October.

My favorite parts:
Your farming philosophy: Our approach is to grow honest, delicious food—to provide folks with lots of staple vegetables and enough diversity to keep it interesting. We are committed to low impact, ecologically sound growing practices. We're also committed to complete transparency about these practices—we love questions and farm visits.
We believe that good food, carefully grown and creatively shared, is a powerful tool for cultivating strong family and community connections. We want our farm to be a place of real welcome and look forward to integrating education and outreach programs.

The future for good food? I'm nothing but optimistic. It's a real movement, this return to producing delicious food on a small scale for people who live nearby. All kinds of artisanal and farmstead foods are available: fruits and vegetables, meats, eggs, dairy, breads and pastries, grains, beer, preserves, vinegars, oils. And it seems like new ways of producing this food (farms, backyards, community gardens, rooftops, truckbeds) and distributing it (farmers markets, CSAs, co-ops, online buying clubs, home delivery services) are emerging all the time.

And in tough economic times, farmers are still often producing more than their customers can eat. Most farmers' markets and many CSAs partner with community organizations able to get this fresh food to more people who need it. I'm particularly excited about the trends in urban agriculture and community food security. I want everyone to be able to eat food that tastes this good. Perhaps even more importantly, I want everyone to have the chance to feel connected and cared for. I think the best part of this whole movement is the way it makes us need one another again—the way it makes us feel not alone.

Fresh, the Movie

This just in from the Center for Rural Culture:
Edible Garden Restaurant will be hosting a series of screenings for FRESH, a film by ana Sophia joanes

Wednesday, September 23rd, 2009 7:30pm
Wednesday, October 14th, 2009 7:30pm
Wednesday, October 28th, 2009 7:30pm

FRESH celebrates the farmers, thinkers and business people across America who are re-inventing our food system. Each has witnessed the rapid transformation of our agriculture into an industrial model, and confronted the consequences: food contamination, environmental pollution, depletion of natural resources, and morbid obesity. Forging healthier, sustainable alternatives, they offer a practical vision for a future of our food and our planet.

LOCATION: Edible Garden Restaurant 12506 River Road West Richmond, VA 23238 (804) 784-2011
COST: $10 Suggested Donation. All proceeds benefit the Center for Rural Culture!
FOOD: Cash Bar available and locally produced appetizers will be served.

Heritage Harvest Festival

The Heritage Harvest Festival is this weekend. I have never been able to go since Saturday is market day, but I have heard it is amazing. The early morning seed swap is legendary, and the classes sound fantastic. Patricia Stansbury of Epic Gardens is teaching a class on Edamame- she is a wonderful person, and really knows plants- especially soybeans!

Get more details from their site.

Sunday, September 6, 2009

My Love Affair With October Beans

I work for an organic farm. I handle and eat more produce in a week than most people do in a year. I snack daily on raw sweet peppers, fresh-picked asparagus, thousands of cherry tomatoes and every kind of melon. And yes, this is a kind of foodie paradise. I am lucky and I give thanks every day. Still, I have reached a point in my life where it takes a lot for a vegetable to thrill me. Most of what we grow on the farm is comforting and familiar, but sparks no longer fly when I fix a fresh salad, roast new potatoes or sample an heirloom tomato. Sad, cynical? Yes, absolutely. So as the 2009 season went on, I desperately needed to light a new fire in my culinary soul. My cooking was tired, and I was curling my lip at all the tomatoes. Finally, I had a brief fling with a new melon variety in July. Succulent, green and extra-sweet, that melon left me slavering for more.

When the october beans started coming out of the fields, I couldn't help but notice their mottled cream and pink shells. The color itself was enough to intrigue me. The beans themselves match their lovely pods, and emerge slightly shiny, smooth and medium-sized. After a couple of weeks, I finally managed to snag a bag of extras. Fresh beans can be treated like lentils: after hulling, place them in a nice big pan with a 1:2 ratio of beans to water, then bring to a boil and reduce to a simmer for about 30 minutes. Taste for texture -- they should be al-dente, and the color will have transformed into a pleasantly light tan hue.

The first bean was transcendant, and it wasn't just a crush -- I was in love. It was rich, earthy and full of flavor, tasting of autumn and carrying a depth and roundness that compelled me to eat them plain, warm and lacking even a hint of salt. The freshness, I learned, is the key to this robust depth of flavor. Most beans have been dried or canned and kept for quite a while before they are consumed. Flavor and complexity are muted. Not so with these little gems of the field. You'll never want another bean.

A bit of research on the internet yielded confusing results. October beans may either be related to, or the same thing as, borlotti beans, 'French horticultural beans' and cranberry beans. All beans of this type are pink and white, and must be hulled. They can be planted any time from late May through August and take 10-12 weeks to reach maturity. Amy tells me the plants are prolific, but of course it takes a lot of land to grow enough beans, especially these, since you will want to eat them every day. Ask around at the market for october beans instead. They can be a bit pricey ($5 / pint), and are not always available in abundance. However, farmers always appreciate a discerning customer, and if you express an undying love for a particular item, they may take the trouble of putting it on the truck just for you.

How to use them? Beans so delicious can be added to everything. Fall greens are just coming in; why not try an october bean and arugula salad? Check with Cabbage Hill Farm, the booth right next to Amy's Garden, for micro greens and a nice bag of salad mix. Make the most of what's left of the summer as the season begins to change. October beans, tomatillos, apples and walnuts on arugula and mixed asian micro greens made a delicious combination last night, dressed with a simple blend of olive oil, cider vinegar, salt and pepper and chopped fresh basil. The less messing around, the better. You could also saute some onions and garlic, then toss them with the beans and add salt and pepper or other spices, then throw them on rice (long grain wild rice would be beautiful; brown rice, I think, is too similar in color and earthiness to the beans themselves).

While you're at it, check out this episode of Splendid Table, my favorite podcast. The first interview on the show is with Steve Sando, the proprietor of Rancho Gordo, and the author of a book called Heirloom Beans. Now, this blog is all about local eating, but I can't help but be tempted by some of the beans offered by Rancho Gordo online. There is a whole world of beans out there we're missing out on with our plain blacks, pintos and cannellinis. When will there be bean tastings? I'll be first in line.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Erin's Appearance on Virginia This Morning


Thanks to Virginia this Morning for having us on, to Warsaw Plants, Frog Bottom Farm, Amy's Garden, and Victory Farms for their generous donations of tomatoes, to Erin's mom who went to the market when Erin could not, and to Shannon's folks who recorded VTM shows to enlighten us. We are so grateful to our community for all of their good work- thank you so much!