Buy Local * Eat Fresh * Live Well

The Alleged Farm is located in the Town of Easton, in the rolling hills of southern Washington County, New York. We farm on fields under continuous cultivation since 1788 and take our stewardship of the land seriously. For us, that means a commitment to sustainable practices such as crop rotation, controlled grazing, minimal tillage and the use of cover crops and compost in order to promote and maintain the health of the earth.

We are also committed to growing tasty and healthy crops. We believe that fresh local produce tastes better and that crops grown without the use of synthetic fertilizer and pesticide are better for you and for everything that lives on our farm. We do everything we can—from choosing varieties to choosing when to harvest a crop—to ensure that our customers receive the best possible produce.

If you want to try some of our produce—and we grow everything from artichokes to zucchini–you can join our CSA or visit our stand at the Glens Falls farmers' market. Individuals and businesses can also contact the farm to arrange purchases.

Thomas Christenfeld
The Alleged Farmer

The Alleged Farm News – 3 November, 2016

Thank you for supporting the farming this season and giving us time to grow your food and think our thoughts. We have enjoyed doing both, and we hope you have enjoyed the food from our farm.

_______

This week’s share: Bok choi, Napa cabbage, Carrots, Garlic, Kale, Kossak kohlrabi, Leeks, Lettuce, Onion, Peppers, Hot peppers, Rutabaga, Sage, Green tomatoes, Tatsoi, Winter squash

_______

I got an email yesterday from a yoga studio about their post-election meditation program. We like to think of our democracy as perhaps our defining national trait, but what could be more American than turning months of ugly campaigning into a marketing pitch for a self-improvement program? In some strange way it almost gives me hope.

And, to be fair, meditation might not be a bad idea. No doubt, we could all use a little quiet time when this is over. Not that we will get it. There is no quite time in this country any more.

Apparently, as soon as we have the ability to do some something faster we cannot resist. Speed has its advantages, particularly, say, if you are running away from a bear, going to fight a fire or steaming some fresh peas. It is a big help to have a barrel washer that significantly reduces the time we spend cleaning carrots, and the water wheel transplanter helped us get in six beds of garlic in surprisingly little time. In the past few days that has meant we spent a lot less time being cold and wet, which we appreciate.

But microwaveable scrambled eggs? Sure, only a fully developed, wealthy nation has the time, infrastructure and knowledge to come up with and market microwaveable scrambled eggs. So I guess we can be proud of ourselves. But honestly, why? Even if you shave 30 seconds off the time it takes to make scramble eggs out of eggs, in return you give up flavor, texture and any real say in what goes into your food. Can a little bit of your time be worth that? Some things are better done a little slower.

Such as expressing one’s opinion on current events. Maybe when something happens you have an instant reaction, a sense of disgust or anger or disappointment, or maybe you are just tired and hungry or stubbed your toe a moment before. Whatever. That feeling you have, you can attach blame and send it out to the world right away. Why wait to see if it passes? Why try to understand the context? Or hang on for further details? Or question the source? Or question yourself? Or stop and wonder why anyone else needs to encounter your every emotion?

I admit some events seem to call for swift condemnation. This, one says to oneself, this cannot stand. But will a few minutes of contemplation really diminish the force of that condemnation? Have you failed somehow while you sit there quietly getting your thoughts and facts and grammar straight?

It seems the answer for a lot of people is yes. Because a lot of other people have used those few minutes to get their reaction out ahead of you. You have lost the race. Yes, those instantaneous reactions are illiterate, illogical, ill tempered, but they still beat your thoughts out into the world.

I know we highly value competitiveness, but why don’t we ever compete to see who can thoughtfully enlighten other most effectively, who can best resist rising to an insult, who can quell their anger and calmly get on with something useful? Just getting somewhere first, that usually only matters in meaningless endeavors. Say you are going to fight a fire. Yes, response time matters, but rushing there in your pajamas while the slow poke members of the fire company collect their gear, that does not make you a winner or a hero or particularly useful in any way. It makes you an idiot.

Well, we have people all over this country running unprepared to perceived conflagrations, and it turns out all they can do when they get there is jump up and down and yell about how they feel. That has really been a big help.

One of the pleasures of real cooking is the way it makes you take your time, makes you build up a dish slowly, going patiently through the steps in a sensible order, intentionally melding disparate ingredients, working thoughtfully towards a composed, balanced, satisfying result. Cooking well requires preparation, patience, practice, knowledge, common sense, taste, discretion, generosity, effort. It speaks to our admirable desire to be productive and engaged and to our ability to find satisfaction in doing.

For me, farming simply grew out of cooking. I wanted fresh produce, and while I was at it I figured I might as well share the crops with others because that is what you do with food. Plus it seemed way better than having a job. In essence, growing your ingredients is just an extension of cooking from the finished dish back to the earth. And like cooking, farming’s satisfaction lies mostly in the doing, in the act of working towards making something.

And like cooking, farming takes time. There’s efficiency, but not haste or instant gratification. We don’t give in to passing whims, lash out at every frustration, vent and cry and stomp our feet each time the world reminds us we are not entirely in control. Which is perhaps why so many in the modern world view farmers as slow, possibly stupid creatures. No doubt, we often look that way out there in the field, plodding along in the rain and wind, quiet, absorbed, determined.

But what the world seems to have forgotten in its haste is that it is in just such conditions that actual thought thrives. Sure, we have fatigue and back pain and wet sock. A passing angry cloud can unleash destruction. Deer and bugs make it there business to thwart us. Farming is not designed for comfort and ease. But it is designed for reflection. The pace, the simple physicality, the repetition, the quiet, they all provide ample time and space to think things over. Out in the field, with your hands engaged, your knees on the earth, birds calling to one another from the hedge rows, you can play around with ideas, find intriguing connections, discover the humor in things that merely irk others. You can go at a thought or emotion from every angle, prod it, shake it about a bit, discard it silently.

I expect the modern world would say” so what? Where does that get you? ” But maybe the modern world should stop for a moment and take a look at itself and wonder if just maybe it is missing out on something. Like a little quiet time and a proper home-cooked meal.

 

_______

Vegetable notes: Kossak kohlrabi was bred as a large storage kohlrabi. So you can put yours away for a while if you want. But it also happens to have particularly good eating quality. It stays crunchy even at a large size, and I think it’s a bit sweeter too.

I really don’t understand what rutabagas want. We have had little success with them in recent years, but for some reason they liked this hot, dry growing season. That is not what you expect from a hardy northern storage root crop. Or maybe it is. When my English relatives visited in the summer they always wanted to go out and sit in the sun on the hottest days. They burned themselves quite pink, of course, but they could not resist. So I guess those northerners just crave warmth. As for what you want to do with a rutabaga, you can chop it up and roast it, or mash it with a little cream and sage and nutmeg, or grate it with other root vegetables and make a sort of latke.

Tatsoi and bok choi (the dark and light banded greens) are closely related. You could certain cook them together. Or you could act like a fancy chef, give them different treatments and plate them up as Asian greens two ways.

The Alleged Farm News – 27 October, 2016

This week’s share: Broccoli or Chinese broccoli, Cress, Daikon, Garlic, Lettuce, Onion, Peppers, Hot peppers, Pie pumpkin, Bel Fiore radicchio, Shallots, Sweet potatoes

_______

I feel like it may be time to talk about the pie contest again.

Time in the sense, sure, that it will take place less in than two weeks so it is a topic much on people’s minds. Indeed, one might even say we have become a little fixated by it, obsessing over the smallest details, trying to finder deeper social meaning in every nuance, going over the potential ramifications of every outcome. So, yes, it is a timely topic.

But let’s take a step back and grapple with a more fundamental question. Why have a pie contest at all? What’s the point? Surely we could skip it, carry on as we have in recent times, and life would be fine, or good enough anyway, which is maybe as much as we ought to hope for these days. These contests, potentially so useful, so essential even, they just seem to get out of hand in the current cultural climate and bring out the worst in people. Maybe we should just try to like everybody’s pie equally.

 

And who really benefits from the pie contest anyway?

Well, I can answer that one easily. The farm crew. As the pie contest judges, we get to sit around and eat pie. True, we have to pay a little attention, enough to pass some semblance of judgement. But mostly we just eat pie. Which may sound a tad unfair, but let me point out that if you want in on this gig all you have to do is come work on the farm for the season. Yes, it is really that simple. It is surprising more people don’t avail themselves of this opportunity.

Actually, the winner of the pie contest benefits too because there is a prize. And I would like to think everyone who enters a pie benefits at least a little from having taken on the challenge. Plus, everyone else at the event gets to eat pie too. The judges try every pie, but we only have small slices so there is plenty left for all the noncontestant/non-judge attendees, who are free to pick and choose and savor their pie selection as critically or uncritically as they want. In fact, the only people who don’t benefit are the ones who don’t turn up.

But why pie? I am tempted to answer that with the question, why not pie? That strikes me as a much harder question to answer. I certainly don’t have an answer. As for why pie, well for a start I like pie. But more importantly, it seems like quintessential farm food to me. This view is largely shaped by being told when I was quite young about a family friend’s childhood on a farm in Indiana, where she and her mother made two pies every morning for breakfast. At least, that’s the story as I know it. Since she may well be reading this right now–she has won the pie contest multiple times–she may want to offer corrections. Not that it will matter. Having carried around this image happily for 45 years, I am not about to let facts get in the way.

It is slightly possible that this story even played a significant role in my decision to become a farmer. Who would not consider taking up a job that involves fresh pie for breakfast every day? Even if the pie were mediocre at best it might be worth it, and having had Jan’s pies many times, I know that farm baked pies are not mediocre. You can put up with a lot of frustration and pain in return for a regular supply of three berry pie.

I just forgot to marry someone raised on a farm and it turns out those pies don’t magically appear once you start plowing. I have had to make my own pies, but what with farming and all, I don’t have time to turn them out at nearly the rate I had hoped for, and never for breakfast. So I have had to come up with other ways to make pies come to the farm. Such as holding a pie contest.

To really live the dream, I ought to hold the contest at around 10 in the morning (while that might seem late for breakfast, keep in mind that in order to fully enjoy a farm breakfast you have to do a couple of hours of chores beforehand), and give extra point for people who supply a mug of good hot coffee. But I am a semi-reasonable man. I know that is too much to ask. By which I mean I might not get any entries in the contest at that hour, so what is the point? You don’t have to be a farmer to know that it is far better to have pies later in the day than no pie at all.

_______

Vegetable notes: All right, so I lied. Not only is not all kale for the last few weeks, but you don’t even have any kale this week. But you do have some Upland cress. It is related to water cress, but as you might guess from the name, does not grow in water. Like its aquatic relative, Upland cress has a distinctive peppery taste. You can add it to salad or add some leaves at the last minute to soup for a mildly crunchy accent, or puree it in chicken stock with some lemon juice and garlic.

You can use your pumpkin purely for decorative purposes if you wish, but it is a pie pumpkin, which means it was bred to have tasty flesh suitable for use in, um… well, something.

I have only grown sweet potatoes twice before, without much success. But they did a little better this year, so for the first time ever we get to hand some out. We have been curing them for a couple of weeks to bring out the sweetness (uncured, they are bland and starchy), which seems to have worked.

Some of you have normal head broccoli. I am confident you can figure out what to do with it. But some of you have Chinese broccoli, a bunch of thick stalks with blue green leaves and little florets. You can steam the whole thing, add a dash of soy sauce, a few drops of sesame oil, maybe a bit of chile oil, some crushed garlic. Or chop it and add it to soup. Or stir fry it with a lot of ginger and garlic and some thin slices of chicken or pork, perhaps some strips of pepper.

The daikon is the large white root. It is a giant Japanese radish. You want to peel it. The flesh is crisp and milder than a regular (from our perspective radish). You can just eat it raw or grate it and make a salad or steam it or pickle it.

The Alleged Farm News – 20 October, 2016

This week’s share: Beet greens, Carrots, Garlic, Kale, Lettuce, Onions, Parsley, Peppers, Hot peppers, Radishes, Green tomatoes, Delicata and Jester winter squash

_______

We have a farm worker in the house. I am not sure if that sounds like some sort of modern lifestyle boast or a call for an exterminator, but Alex has come for the last two months of the season and we had to put him somewhere. The only other immediately available option was our tiny trailer, and Alex is 6’5″. Putting him in there seemed cruel and maybe even physically impossible. So we took on a large just 21-year-old Texan roommate. Given that when Sam is home we have a large 20-year-old roommate, it has not felt too odd.

Well, probably odder for poor Alex, who has taken on two middle aged roommates rather set in there ways, one of whom also happens to be his boss. Of course, being 21, Alex is probably more adaptable. Not that it always feels that way when you are 21. While you have had less time to develop habits, you often feel more passionate about things. You will look back thirty years later and wonder how you could possibly have gotten that worked up over over matters that turn out not to matter, how you could have been so sure about your answers to unanswerable questions, how you could have believed so firmly in your understanding when everything around you reminds you how little you know. But at 21 you don’t know that.

 

Actually, Alex seems pretty flexible about life. He is willing to take chances, such as moving from Austin to live with old people and work as a peon. But he did arrive with certain habits. Well, some habits, a few books, a guitar, cooking pots, the clothes on his back and a lot of mason jars. He makes his kefir and kambucha and green tea in his jars, all part of his effort to eat properly. He avoids soy beans because they contain estrogen-like substances, cooks most things in duck fat, won’t eat commercial mayonnaise, and most notably, prefers to cook everything very slowly at a low temperature. His crock pot gets a lot of use. About once a week he will stick a chicken in the crock pot and cook it for a day or so (this past weekend he actually cooked one for three days).

Alex’s cooking led me to suggest to him the other day that he open a true slow food restaurant, an establishment at which you would place your order and then have to come back the next day to get your meal. It is a ridiculous idea, of course, but one that might work in certain cities. It has, at least, the merit of making diners give more serious contemplation to the work involved in producing their food.

Even elaborately composed plates in top restaurants, plates covered with splashes and slashes and dots of different reductions, with foams and delicate geometric constructions, with micro greens and petals arranged just so, plates that proudly speak of the care and effort the kitchen has taken on your behalf, even these plates don’t really tell you just how much work went into the food. While they trumpet the particular artistry of the chef, they tend to say little if anything about the guys up at dawn to prep everything, to peel and clean and simmer and skim and skin and scale, not to mention the people scrubbing and scraping and degreasing–deliberately not to mention because who wants to think about dirty dishes while eating an expensive meal.

So that suggestion (or even proclamation sometimes) that your meal was made from scratch to order just for you, it’s not entirely true. If it were, if nobody even touched an ingredient until you placed your order, you would be waiting a lot longer for your food to come to the table.

Or, more precisely, you probably would not be waiting. You would go to a restaurant that had done lots of the work in advance so you could get fed quicker. It is all well and good as an ethical and political principle to make people aware of all the work that goes into the food, but it is maybe not the greatest business plan. You would have to be strangely committed to your beliefs to run your enterprise that way.

Of course, as it occurred to me after joking with Alex about his alleged slow food restaurant, that’s how I run this farm. You pay me for fresh produce, and then you wait while I choose the seeds, wait while I start the seedlings, wait while a plow the fields, wait while I plant, wait while I weed and trellis and mulch and prune, wait until finally months later the crops have grown and ripened and finally we hand them out to you.

I sure hope you were not sitting there at the dining table the whole time wondering when you will be fed.

_______

Vegetable notes: As promised, here is some kale. And some other stuff.

I know I said it would all be fall crops now, but we have managed to keep the peppers going under a row cover and there were still some tomatoes in the field house.

Not a lot of ripe tomatoes, obviously, but by this time in the season the ripe ones have started to lose their flavor anyway. Eating them just becomes a sad reminder of how they ought to taste. We actually pulled two of the tomato rows the other day even though they had survived the frost because there’s not much point in keeping them going longer. But they still had a lot of green fruits on them, so we picked those. Think of them as a different vegetable, something related to tomatoes, but not actually tomatoes.

I would recommend cutting them into thick slices, coating them in cornmeal, and frying them. You could serve them with a mayonnaise into which you have blended a roasted, peeled NewMex, a clove of garlic, lemon juice and parsley. You could also make a pureed salsa with them, which would be rather like a tomatillo salsa. Or you could slice them up, cover them with hot, spiced vinegar, and let them sit in that for a few days, and you will have some pickled green tomato that would go well with cheese or grilled meat.

The Alleged Farm News – 13 October, 2016

This week’s share: Chard, Dill, Eggplant, Leeks, Lettuce, Highlander and Red Marble onions, Peppers, Hot peppers, Nicola potatoes, Sage, Tomatoes, Squash, Acorn winter squash

_______

We spent all Monday preparing for the first fall frost. That involved taking in the last of some crops that would die in the freeze and protecting others from the cold. In other words, we were both preparing for and delaying–at least for a little while–the end of the summer growing season.

Which is an accurate reflection of a farmer’s feelings about that first frost. You put a lot of work into your crops and you want to keep them going as long as possible. But you put a lot of work into your crops and you would not mind a break, especially from picking squash. So you have to choose what you really want to protect, and what you can give up on. Or sometimes you split the difference. For instance, we picked the eggplants down to a size we normally would not just in case, and then covered half the patch to see if we could keep the plants going long enough to size up all the fruit too small to pick, but we had a lot else to do before dark that seemed more important than trying to save all the eggplant so we left the other half to fend for itself.

 

While we worked to protect a lot of plants from the frost, we did nothing to help a lot of others. In fact, we looked forward to the freeze doing them in. I am talking, of course, of the squash. Well, them and the weeds. We still have a lot of fall crops out there, and when the frosts come and kill the weeds they do us a great favor.

Not, sadly, that all weeds are frost sensitive. But they certainly notice the change in weather. And most of them rush to produce as much seed as possible, knowing they will be out of luck if they put off that task any longer. They are certainly not bothering to grow much this late in the season. In fact, they have pretty well shut down for the year.

Except chickweed. Apparently at some point in its evolution chickweed looked around and noticed that all the other guys quit around the beginning of October and saw a nice opportunity for a low growing plant willing to put up with the cold. So now as the other plants drop their leaves and sunlight starts to filter through to the ground again, chickweed is there to make the uncontested most of it. It seems like a risky strategy, lurking about during the growing season while everyone else prospers in the long days and warm soil, just so you can have the bitter short days of late fall to yourself. But it works. And with a good root system in place from the late fall growth and a remarkable indifference to cold, chickweed’s also ready to grow earlier in the spring than almost anyone else. It will often carpet whole fields in March, long before even the dandelions have dared to pop up.

I find the chickweed incredibly annoying. Just when I think I am finished with weeds, it starts to spread, and if you let it go it grow into clumps you have to dig out with a shovel. It has a particularly fine time in the greenhouses, where it can grow all winter, and sometimes I have to tromp out through the snow (at least in winters when it snows) to go weed, which just seems wrong. But I also admire it’s guile. It’s hardly a prepossessing plant, and it lacks the brute force of pigweed or thistles. But it has found a simple trick that allows it to flourish: just sit and wait. It’s nice to see patience and modesty rewarded sometimes, and nice to see that someone else does not believe the growing season has ended just because some cold killed your summer crops. The chickweed just carries on, and so, for the moment, do we.

_______

Vegetable notes: This is the last summery share of the season. Not that it is sumer any longer. But these summer crops in your box managed to hang on until now. After this it is all kale, which I guess actually does not sound like a threat any more. 10 year ago people would have groaned about having to eat this odd hippie roughage. But kale is having its day, and its imminent arrival might actually be cause for celebration in some households.

Well, it won’t actually just be kale for the rest of the season (the rest of the season being the next three Thursdays). We do have other fall crops, some of which may have fans of their own.

I am not sure we have had really heavy rain since July 1st. For the most part this has not been a huge problem. In fact, it is possible a lot of the time to forget just how dry it has been this season. But we are reminded from time to time. Such as when we dig potatoes. The plants managed to make a more or less normal number of tubers, but without much moisture those tubers never sized up. Not that Nicolas are huge potatoes, but they should not be this small. They still taste good (I think Nicolas are particularly tasty, and they have an excellent firm texture), but the yield is pretty poor.

Fortunately the peppers have not minded the lack of rain at all. I have been putting whole peppers on the grill to char the skin and then sticking them in a sealed contained in the fridge (where they keep for a couple of weeks) so that any time I feel like adding roasted pepper to a dish I can just pull one out and peel it and use it. Plus it is an easy way to deal with a pile of peppers if you are not sure what else to do with them.

The Alleged Farm News – 6 October, 2016

This week’s share: Carrots, Cilantro, Endive, Fennel, Lettuce, Onions, Peppers, Hot peppers, Radishes, Shallots, Tomatoes, Delicata winter squash

_______

Sometimes I get a paragraph or two into a newsletter and encounter the distinct feeling that I have already written more or less the same thing some previous year. A sense of deja ecrit, I suppose.

Naturally, given my propensities, having written down the phrase “deja ectrit”, I now find I cannot shake the feeling that I already put it in a newsletter at some point. Fortunately, however, I am reasonably confident that I have never before mentioned a feeling of deja ecrit about writing about having a sense of deja ecrit, otherwise I might get stuck in some kind of endless loop.

Whether or not I actually repeat myself–and if I were deeply enough concerned about it I could go back through old newsletters and check, which would provide me with an excellent excuse to procrastinate, but usually just seems a little too tedious–I do usually try to find a more or less new topic. The themes, I admit, tend to reappear. Bad weather, bemusement, funny amphibians, pain, frustration, dirt. But I feel like that’s what themes are supposed to do. Otherwise, they would not really be themes.

There’s one topic, however, I know I repeat year after year, and not just because writing more or less the same newsletter saves me a little effort at a point in the season when my energy has been sapped. Each season I take this opportunity to tell you about Landscapes for Landsake, the art show benefitting the Agricultural Stewarship Association, which takes place this weekend in Cambridge, because I think as supporters of a local farm you might be interested both in seeing a good art show in a lovely setting in the rural county where your vegetables are grown and in supporting an organization that shares your interest in helping to sustain local agriculture.

ASA holds conservation easement on farmland (including all of The Alleged Farm) in order to protect it from development and ensure that we maintain our agricultural land base in this region. Farms around here survive and thrive for a number of reasons, many of them particular to the farm, the method of farming or the product farmed. Perhaps it is business acumen or a deep understanding of animal husbandry or mechanical genius or marketing skills or management techniques or work ethic. But whatever else farmers need in order to succeed, they cannot do so without good dirt. And while there’s a lot of dirt in the world, good dirt is a limited vital natural resource. Especially good dirt in regions with a reasonable growing climate, a workable topography, the infrastructure needed to support farming, access to good markets and a strong farming tradition.

Washington County has all that, and for the moment farmers still use a lot of the good dirt around here to produce food. But there is no replacement for that dirt and no easy way to go back once you have built on it, so we need to protect it. And that is what ASA does. It works with farmers and landowners to remove the development rights from parcels of good agricultural soils in order to preserve that land for farming for good. That does not guarantee that all the farms around here will prosper, or even necessarily that this will remain a farming community. But it ensures that an absolutely basic requirement for farming success and sustainability remains available.

And that is good not just for farmers, but also for the people we feed, the people we employ, the people we buy from, the people who live around us and the people who come to see this beautiful place.

_______

Vegetable notes: there were times this season i thought we might never have carrots. I have been seeding them all along, but a number of the seedings failed when we had no rain at all, and the ones that did come up mostly came up sparsely and have grown slowly, their development not at all aided by the deer who come and browse on the tops at night. I had not precisely given up on them, but I had stopped paying much attention. It seems neglect suited them. Maybe I should stop paying attention to a few other crops and see what happens.

Actually, I have not paid the peppers much heed recently either, and they have done well too. In this case, however, I left them alone because we had done a lot for them early on in the season and they were happy and healthy enough not to need any more help from me.

The assortment of hot peppers in your tomato bag goes potentially (different bags got different mixes of peppers) from fairly hot Jalapeños to extremely hot habaneros (shiny yellow, orange or red) to potentially lethally hot Bhut Jalokias (crinkly red/orange). Keep in mind that however hot the pepper is, it is less hot at the tip and much hotter up at the stem end, particularly around the seeds.

You can, of course, do what you want with your Delicata squash. but I think the easiest way to cook it is to stick it in a 400 degree oven whole and roast it until it is completely soft. It steams itself in its skin and then you can just scoop at the flesh.

 

The Alleged Farm News – 29 September, 2016

This week’s share: Bok choi, Shell beans, Cabbage, Garlic, Onions, Parsley, Peppers, Hot peppers, Squash, Tomatoes

_______

In case you are wondering, I do not spend a great deal of time thinking about what vegetables feel like.

Well, I suppose I do in a way care about their well being. Whether they are the warm enough, well fed, properly hydrated, have enough space, are safe. But I don’t know that I would actually talk about their well being in terms of feelings. I don’t spend much time worrying about their emotions. For all I know, our tomatoes feel grumpy and resentful all the time. But as long as we get decent production and good flavor and can keep the diseases at bay well into the season I don’t care.

 

It’s funny that having put that in words it almost sounds cruel. How can I be so indifferent to the emotions of all these plants under my protection, plants that are only on the farm because I forced them to be and that put all their effort into serving me? The relationship sounds a little abusive. My stated indifference sounds maybe a tad uncomfortably reminiscent of the sort of thing plantation owners used to say.

Except that I am talking about vegetables. I do not doubt there are farmers who actually talk seriously about their vegetables’ emotions, who believe some kind of universal spirit courses through all living things, who hear mother earth crying out in anguish over what we do. But, as you may have surmised, I am not one of them. Are plants more sophisticated than we think? Certainly. Is mankind’s existence tied to other living systems around us? Unquestionably. Do my tomatoes have emotions? No, they do not. As I like to remind my crew from time to time when things go wrong or they get too caught up in some task, these are just vegetables. You don’t have to take them that seriously.

All of which is one giant aside since what I meant all those paragraphs ago is that I don’t devote much of my day to contemplating the textures of my produce. I don’t sit around running my fingers over the various crops, admiring the rough skin of a melon, the smoothness of a pepper, the slight fuzziness of turnip leaves, the ridges on chard stems, the papery outer layer of onions. Not that texture is unimportant. In fact, in some crops it matters as much as flavor. But for the most par the texture just comes as part of the crop. All we can really do is mess it up by picking a crop at the wrong time or failing to cull the mutants or storing it improperly. If we decided we wanted a crunchy tomato or a lettuce with a pulpy interior we would be out of luck (or at the very least in for years of bizarrely selective breeding). We are pretty much just trying to let the vegetables be themselves.

I save most of my worries about texture for the soil. Soil texture matters a lot, and it is something I can affect, for better or worse. More often for worse, I fear, but we keep trying to improve (the soil and ourselves). We have had the greatest success in the field houses, where we have dug in huge amounts of compost and have irrigation so we can keep the soil moisture from going too far in either direction. All that organic matter and steady moisture help promote soil life, which is crucial.

Good soil texture is a little harder to achieve out in the fields. We have to deal with a number of soil types, with drainage issues, with shallow bedrock, with inconsistent rainfal–this year has gone from more or less nothing for weeks at a time to five inches one afternoon and then back to almost nothing, with odd winters, and with our own growing needs, which do not always coincide precisely with the right moments to work the soil. Work clay ground or till through a wet patch at the wrong moment and you will end up with some awful lumps for the rest of the season. We have some lumps.But we keep trying, keep putting in drain tile, keep adding compost, keep turning in cover crops, keep hoping we will at least make things a little better.

I dream of acres of dark dirt that feels soft and little springy when you squeeze it in your fist, almost like a sponge, but crumbly too, and loose enough that you can plunge your hand into it–loose enough that plunging your hand into it feels good. Find a patch of dirt like that and you will probably find a farmer there down on his knees just running the dirt through his fingers, staring blankly off into the distance, smiling a little.

_______

Vegetable notes: Shell beans are dried beans that have not dried. Well, that or they are green beans that have gone too far. The point of green beans–from the bean’s perspective–is to provide a place for the plant to form seeds. Wait long enough and any green bean will turn from a tender. juicy vegetable into a leathery pod full of seeds. Leave it even longer and the pod and seeds will dry out and be ready to wait until the right conditions arrive for sprouting. Or for being cooked, which takes a while because the beans have dried out and don’t easily soak up moisture again (so they don’t rot before they have a chance to sprout). Pick the pods, however, when the seeds have formed but not dried out, and you have shell beans, which take a lot less time to cook and have an excellent texture that’s hard to get with dried beans in less than half a day in a slow oven. To cook your beans, take them out of the pods and cook them in well salted water at a gentle boil for about half and hour until just tender (you can vegetables, herbs and/or spices to the cooking water–such as garlic or bay leaf or hot pepper–as you see fit). You can eat them as they are or add them to a soup or have them cold. I like them best cold in a salad with a lot of onion, some garlic, some roasted pepper and parsley.

The large green pepper in your share is either a Newmex (paler green and pointy) or a Poblano (dark green). In your tomato bag you have Japaenos and a Biquinho, a very mildly spice, fruity Brazilian pepper.

The Alleged Farm News – 22 September, 2016

This week’s share: Arugula or mustard, Celery, Edamame, Lettuce, Onions, Peppers, Satina potatoes, Squash, Thyme, Tomatoes

_______

Well, I have covered taste so it must be time to move on to another sense. How about sight?

Does it really matter what your food looks like? Well, we obviously care about it. In fact, we seem to care about it a great deal. The food industry spends a huge amount of time and effort and money on appearances, everything from worrying about irregular tomatoes to finding the proper placement of pepperoni on frozen pizzas to the minute tweezered readjustment of flower petals on a plate of crudo as it makes its way to the restaurant patron. Food stylist is an actual career choice, and food scientists work as hard on the look of what they engineer as they do on taste and texture and aroma. Food shows and magazines, unable to convey other aspects of their subject, more or less fetishize the look of ingredients and dishes. At my mother’s suggestion, I watched a piece the other day about a leading French chef who at the height of his career gave up on cooking flesh in order to concentrate on fruits and vegetables. I saw a lot of beautiful dishes with fanciful names and sometimes surprising combinations, and a lot of flawless produce being handed over to the chef, and I heard a great deal about the chef’s passion for the right gesture in the kitchen (like many things, it sounds almost compelling in French and slightly ridiculous in translation), and I learned more or less nothing about how any of the food in his restaurant is actually made or what it is like to eat it.

A great deal of this effort is carefully designed to shape our habits, to incite a deep irrational desire to consume one product or another. Hyping the look of food and creating standards for how things should look serves the food industry well. But it would not work if it did not affect us. The food industry may have done a lot to direct our responses, but it did not create them. It has simply played on our existing instincts. We may not fully agree from one culture to another what looks good to eat, but I have yet to hear of a culture that could not give a damn about the appearance of its food.

There are solid reasons to care about the look of your food. An accurate recognition of what will nourish you and what kill you is certainly useful. Recognizing ripeness and rot matters. In practical terms, certain shapes and sizes are just easier to work with, and some degree of uniformity increases efficiency–and efficient food production makes life a lot easier and frees us up to do all those things that cows, having to chew all day to live, just can’t find time for. In addition, the senses tend to commingle in our brains, and thus aesthetics can enhance the dining experience. We take greater pleasure in our food when eating something of a pleasing appearance.

So we have a natural interest in how our food looks. That’s fine and good. But when our notions of what counts for good looks are shaped by others we ought to wonder a little about their motivations. Does the food industry have our best interests in mind when it chooses how to lay out those pepperoni slices, when it defines how a tomato should look, when it tells us what luxury looks like? Well, to be fair, I don’t think the industry wishes us ill. That just happens as a side effect of the way they do business. It’s nothing personal.

I think by now most of us have some idea that plenty of dubious substances can go into processed food for reasons that make absolute sense in terms of marketability, transportation, shelf life and cost, and a lot less sense in terms of health (human and otherwise) or taste. And a number of those additives are there for broadly aesthetic reasons.

But there’s another aspect to the food industry’s aesthetics we tend to think about less: uniformity. We have been well trained to expect things to look the same very particular way all the time. Surely one of the appeals of nationwide chain restaurants is their predictability. Same decor, same menu, same shape, same everything no matter where you are. Apparently, we find comfort in such predictability.

And the same predictability has for the most part applied to produce too. Your basic grocery store produce section offers what seems like a wide array of choices, but in fact it is a shockingly narrow selection, and it’s pretty much the same narrow selection everywhere across the country, which is odd given that this is a huge country with a wide range of growing conditions and traditions. There’s no reason every tomato should look the same in every store.

They should not even all look the same in one store. And I don’t just mean that you should have a range of varieties to choose from, though you should definitely have that. Even your basic medium sized red tomatoes should vary a little more from one fruit to another, as they actually do on the farm. Yes, big tomato farms (J.G. Boswell grows around 20,000 acres in California) get pretty decent uniformity with growing techniques and plant genetics, but the uniformity we encounter is most fully achieved in the packing house, where huge sizing and color sorting machines ensure that we never have to encounter the vagaries of nature. And that’s an operation you can only run when you produce on a vast scale. The produce you see in the grocery store–the produce we have been trained to see as looking the way produce should–is a testament to the scale and industrialization of farming in this country.

Small growers simply cannot afford to sort and cull that way in order to create that level of uniformity. And frankly I am fine with that. If I wanted industrial uniformity I would be manufacturing something, not growing food. Sure, I prefer to have good yields of good produce, but even when I do my job well and the weather and deer cooperate, there’s still variability in our tomato patch. Of course, that has something to do with us growing about 50 different kinds of tomatoes, but also has something to do with the nature of tomatoes. This has been a good year for tomatoes not because they have all come out the same size and shape, but because tomatoes taste better in hot, dry years. The weather has helped concentrate the flavor or varieties that we chose in large part for their superior flavor. For their looks too, but for the diversity of their looks, for the fun of discovering the broad range of ways a tomato can be a tomato.

So does it matter what food looks like? Yes, of course it does. But we should figure out precisely what matters and why for ourselves. Having someone else shape your preferences for their own benefit ought to leave a bad taste in your mouth.

_______

Vegetable notes: A quick edamame refresher course. To prepare the edamame (the small, hairy pods in the bag), just drop them into well salted boiling water for a few minutes, until the pods are just tender (not crunchy, but still with some solid texture). After that you can just pop them out of their pods and snack on them, or maybe shell them and toss them on a salad.

Satina potatoes have a dense flesh that is excellent roasted or pan fried, and works well for potato salad (it does not crumble when you dice it). You could roast and peel some peppers and grill an onion, dice them, and toss them with the potatoes, some thyme and a mustardy vinaigrette.

Or you could cut your peppers into thin strips, sauté them over medium high heat in a good amount of olive oil until they start to brown a bit, then turn the heat to low, add a thinly sliced onion, salt, pepper, lemon juice, thyme. maybe a dash of smoked paprika, and let the mixture cook until the onions are almost starting to melt. It is good hot or cold.

 

The Alleged Farm News – 15 September, 2016

This week’s share: Beans, Cilantro, Escarole, Garlic, Lettuce, Onions, Peppers, Hot peppers, Squash, Tomatoes

_______

We were talking about synesthesia the other day, and trying to imagine–unsuccessfully–what it would be like to hear taste. To us that seemed the hardest conjunction of senses. Which in a way is odd because taste certainly seems to overlap with the other senses fairly easily. To smell taste, of course, is simple. Indeed, it is hard to separate the two. And when you do you discover how limited and unsatisfying taste alone can be. To feel taste is not much harder. It has definite textures. To see taste requires a little more of an effort, though think of the vibrant green of a fresh salad leaf or the rich orange of a sweet potato and you realize perhaps it is not so difficult after all. But to hear taste? What would a lime sound like? How does the sound of a fresh carrot compare to the sound of a roasted one?

There are specific sounds that go with foods. The distinctive crunches of that fresh carrot and a potato chip, the sizzle of meat on a grill, the snap of a bean. These sounds may help bring tastes to mind, but they are not actually related to taste so much as to texture and temperature. You only get from the sound to the taste via another sense. Taste itself seems to remain pretty quiet.

In fact, though, the world these days is full of the sound of taste. Or at least some attempt at the sound of taste. I am talking about all the food verbiage. Yes, I understand that we do not generally think of words and sounds as the same thing, and the link between a word and a sensation is complicated. But I also spent long enough in school steeping in a cauldron of French literary theory–or was I the cauldron of liquid and the theory the agent supposed to flavor me? And if so, which part of me is vessel and which liquid? And does this image of infused knowledge suggest a passive approach to learning or is it merely a playful reminder of my English heritage? Such are the puzzles with which we literature majors wrestle. But I digress– to understand the culturally systematized randomness of language, the fragile and fraught link between the sound of a word and the thing it is supposed to mean.

When a restaurant critic waxes eloquent about some overwrought fish appetizer he has encountered at the chic new farm to table small plate Asian inflected Ecuadorean gastropub, he is trying to find the word sounds that will somehow transport the delicate and surprising flavor of that dish to his readers. And these days our culture seems to be awash (again with the liquid imagery) in such attempts to convey flavor through words, with everyone capable of sharing restaurant reviews, innumerable TV food shows and herds of chatty celebrity chefs and food activists loose on the land.

With all that going on, you would think we might have found a way to convey taste in words. But I feel that if anything we are getting worse at it. With all the competition, people are finding every more eloquent ways to talk about food in order to make themselves stand out. But the result, it seems to me is mostly just noise, noise that tells us a fair amount–usually something less than entirely flattering–about the pretensions of the writer and little about the food. At best, food description engages in a sort of triangulation method, throwing out a set of comparisons–it is south of mozzarella sticks, west of fried chicken, and just over the border from a dorito–and leaving you to try to figure where in this uncertain terrain the food might lie.

Perhaps we all need more practice talking about food, more time to develop an accurate vocabulary. And perhaps we all need more time to practice tasting, to really think about what we are sensing to we can find the right words for it. But maybe it’s a hopeless effort and there is no good way to convey tastes through some other medium.

And maybe it is a pointless effort too, since we can convey tastes by offering people the food itself so they can experience the taste directly. I don’t really feel the need to write poems about tomatoes so you can experience their pleasure in allusive words. I prefer just to give you some tomatoes that I have chosen to grow and let you actually eat them. I think this is partly what makes sharing food so powerful, that it is the only true way to communicate with one another about something so crucial and enticing. It’s like singing in a group or holding hands or looking at a sunset together. So maybe sometimes we could all shut up about the good food we are eating and share it. That would really say something.

_______

Vegetable notes: Once again you have an extra crop in your box, either artichokes or husk cherries or edamame. We do not grow large quantities of any of these. The deer love edamame (they mowed down half the crop this year, even after I sprayed in with repellant twice) and they are a little finicky anyway. Husk cherries grow wild in the field so they should thrive in this climate. But they don’t always thrive, and some years we get hardly any fruit. As for artichokes, well, they don’t really belong here at all, and the deer will eat them too if they find them. It would probably make more sense for us not to grow these uncertain crops. But we like them, and growing them on a small scale amuses us. And it amuses us even more when we have enough to hand them out to you.

As for everything else in your box, it probably looks reasonably familiar by this point in the season and I have no great new ideas about what to do with any of it. But if any of you have come up with exciting new dishes that you would like to share, please let me know. Or to put it another way, I start to run out of energy around this point in the season so if you would like to help me fill up this space that would be great. Not as great as having you come and help weed the carrots, but I have learned to be realistic about what farm tasks people are likely to want to do.

 

The Alleged Farm News - 8 September, 2016

This week’s share: Chard, Cucumber, Dill, Lettuce, Onions, Pepper, Adirondack Red potatoes, Shallots, Squash, Tomatoes

_______

Maybe having both kids in college has turned my thoughts to my own undergraduate career. Or what I can recall of it. Which is not intended as a less than totally subtle comment about my wild college days. I just don’t remember a lot of it. For instance, I cannot account for nearly a quarter of the classes I took. And by cannot account for them, I mean I have no memory of them whatsoever. Not even the course title or the area of study, let alone what I might actually have learned. As for the ones I can bring back to mind, there’s often little left of them. My class on Russia has been pared down to the facts that they had small domestic animals they could keep in the bottom floor of their houses to help heat the house, that the temperature zone and fertility zones don’t overlap in ways conducive to feeding the population, and that they had some internecine struggle, though who precisely or when or why I cannot say. My course on justice, if I remember correctly, centered largely on the question of which track workers the conductor of a run away train should hit. And all I can come up with from the psychology class I took–was it on personality?–is an anecdote the professor told about a psychologist convincing his son to jump off a chest of drawers trusting that he would be caught, letting the boy fall, and admonishing him not to trust people. It is a good story, but I cannot help feeling that we may have covered other topics too in the course of the semester.

So much knowledge lost (note that I am giving myself undeserved credit for having gained it in the first place). Not that much of it had a direct application to what I do most of the time. The loss probably does me little professional harm. But still, it is nice to know things, even when they have no purpose. In fact, sometimes that just makes the knowledge more satisfying. You come out with some odd but pertinent fact and somebody asks, “how do you know that?” and instead of tediously explaining its application to your work, you can just shrug modestly, suggesting that you know all sorts of things just because.

I don’t mean to say there’s no point in knowing things for work. I really prefer to deal with people who know what they are doing, and ideally care enough about it to have a deeper and more engaged understanding of it than strictly necessary. And that applies to pretty much every job. Obviously, someone designing a bridge should have a solid grasp of structural engineering, and someone working on your brain should really know anatomy and surgical techniques. But I also prefer car mechanics who are really into engines, hardware store owners who ask what I am trying to do help me figure out which fasteners I actually need, bee keepers who are passionate about insect behavior, carpenters with an architectural sensibility, welders who enjoy building equipment, seed dealers who breed their own varieties.

I even, I now know, want suit sellers who take their work seriously. I had to buy a suit the other day. No, I have not changed the dress code on the farm. I need it for a wedding (of a former farm worker). I do not like shopping or suits so I was really looking forward to the outing. I told the woman helping me what I needed, she immediately pulled a jacket off the rack that fit, and then pants that fit, and a white shirt that fit, all the while chatting pleasantly, no choices offered or needed, everything on sale, and in less than 15 minutes I had escapes with exactly what I had come for. In a few seconds she had gauged my size and temperament and found the clothes and demeanor to fit them. I would not say I enjoyed the experience–after all I had to spend money and ended up with a suit–but I deeply appreciated her craft.

Still, there’s only so much I want to know about suit or bolts or intake manifolds. To make that suit shopping truly enjoyable would have required something more than professionalism and pleasant chat. The suit lady might, for instance, have recommend a book, leading to a discussion of modern novels, leading to a discussion of the publishing industry and then perhaps the history of printing, including some observations about its role in Moorish Spain, leading to a chat about Arab influences on Europe, leading to various Balkan recipes, leading to a discussion of Slavic history and then of the teaching of history and the quality of history text books in this country, and of books in general, leading to a book recommendation. Then she would have rung up my purchase and sent us on our way with a suit and some interesting new knowledge.

But perhaps I am inclined to this view simply because almost everything I was ever taught has little to do with what I do. I took biology 35 years ago, and while a remember understanding photosynthesis, I can’t explain it now. And since them I have taken not a single class related to my job. No plant physiology or soil science or engine repair or construction or meteorology or mechanical engineering or marketing or management.

And what I did study hardly makes for a coherent body of knowledge. High school was the usual array (minus chemistry, thank god, and plus a certain amount of extra English). College veered from the novels of Defoe, Richardson and Fielding (don’t bother) to African history to American architecture to the symphonies of Beethoven to Shaw to the history of Darwinism to the history of the history of Literature (yes, you read that correctly), to, well, whatever those other classes were that I took. I know bits and pieces about a random assortment of things.

Would I be a better farmer with a well schooled understanding of agriculture? Probably. If I were a better farmer would I have gained a more coherent understand of what is going on out in my fields? Certainly. Do I wish I spent more time thinking about my work? Good god, no. There are so many other interesting things to ponder. Why would I give them all up to think about fertilizer, kohlrabi and oil changes?

And anyway, the ability to keep yourself amused while you toil is a fundamental skill in farming. A hell of a lot of what we do is remarkably tedious. If, like some agricultural yogi, I actually lived in the present all the time on the farm I would probably have to give it up. Thinking about other things is what allows me to get through weeding the carrots. If I thought about weeding carrots while weeding carrots I would plow them under. So maybe college did prepare me for farming. That would be good, I never have figured out what else it prepared me for.

_______

Vegetables notes: That’s it, summer is officially over. Time to hand out the rutabaga. But hang on, the peppers just decided to start ripening and we have more tomatoes than ever. I guess we will put those rutabagas away again and stick with summer a little longer.

Speaking of tomatoes, I thought I would introduce you to some of the varieties we are growing this year. Well, perhaps introduce is the wrong word. I don’t want to make it awkward for you to eat them because you have been introduced. I’ll just offer a brief description of some of them. Brandywine: large, flattened pink. Cherokee Purple: same shape, but purple. Cherokee Green: same shape again, but (you guessed it) green. Large Barred Boar: largish red with metallic stripes. Pork Chop: largish, flat yellow with stripes. Solar Flare: largish red with yellow stripes. Green Zebra: small green with yellowish stripes. Carbon: medium, slightly flattened, dusky pink. Chef’s Choice: medium small, round, bright orange. Japanese Black Trifele: medium small, pear shaped, brown. Valencia: largish, flattened, orange. Pink Beauty: smallish, round, pink. Carolina Gold: medium, round, deep yellow. Black Prince: small, round, brown. Marbonne: medium, ribbed, red. Pink Berkeley Tie Dye: largish, deep pink, metallic stripes. That is not the complete list, but those are the most notable tomatoes

Your potatoes are red all the way through. They are pretty much general purpose, though I think they are particularly good roasted. But the current weather does not perhaps make roasted potatoes seem so appealing. You can wait until summer actually ends, and in the meantime make some more potato salad with dill and onion.

The shallots are the small red onions. Well, actually, they are the large (by shallot standards) red shallots. But they look like onions, and more or less taste like onions, except they are a little milder and have an excellent, somewhat more complex flavor. They are an excellent addition to salad dressing or, softened in butter and salt, an omelet.

You have an extra crop in your box. We had a mix of smaller quantities of various odd things so everyone got one of them. In some cases it should be easily identifiable; in others, perhaps less so. If it has a papery husk covering a small yellow berry it is a husk cherry. Just pop off the husk and eat it. If it has a slightly hairy pod containing a few green beans it is edamame. Shell the beans, steam them briefly and toss with salt. And if it looks like an artichoke, well it is an artichoke.

 

The Alleged Farm News - 2 September, 2016

This week’s share: Basil, Bok choi, Eggplant, Leeks, Lettuce, Candy onions, Parlsey, Pepper, Hot pepper, Squash, Tomatoes

_______

I think we can agree that we do not live in a perfect world. Even here in America we fall a little short of perfection. Sure, we have some amazing stuff: monster trucks, stuffed crust pizza, an entire tv channel devoted to bass fishing. But there’s always room for improvement. Even some of the good stuff in this country could be better, and I am not just talking about those pizzas. Our air traffic control system desperately needs updating. Thousands of bridges require repair or replacement. And we still have a lot of lead pipes delivering drinking water.

That’s just the obvious stuff. And when I say stuff, I mean actual stuff, because in addition to all the physical needs, there are the intangible social problems: inequality, injustice, intolerance. Once again, we have a fair amount to brag about: a well crafted, stable constitution, a functioning legal system, fair elections. But once again, we can do better. We could, for instance, actually give all children–who by and large have simply chanced innocently into their advantages and disadvantages–a roughly equal shot at thriving.

 

Woe betide, however, the NFL quarterback who dares to raise the topic of our imperfections. At least, the quarterback who does so by refusing to stand for the national anthem. As everyone who cares a whit about this country knows, you have to stand for the anthem before a preseason football game. What’s more patriotically American than enforced expressions of obedience at overhyped football practices? Well, maybe complaining about the lack of patriotism of those who use those moments to express uncomfortable opinions and the inevitable suggestion that anyone who finds fault with this country should go live somewhere else.

I always find the “America, love it or leave it” view puzzling. It suggests there’s nothing more American than not trying to make things better. If you have a problem with something then walk away. If you have an opinion, don’t express it. If I disagree with you, shut up. There’s no room for improvement here.

I am thinking of applying this principle to the farm. The whole farm. Not just the people, but the animals and plants too, and maybe even the dirt. I have had workers from time to time suggest ways we could do some task better. Well, off to another farm with them. And crops that have some problem with their growing conditions? Why don’t they just pull themselves up by the roots and try growing in somebody else’s field. Soil getting all hard and lumpy when we work it a little too wet? Yeah, try being soil in Baton Rouge, buddy. And the next time those donkeys start braying piteously because we are not bringing them treats from the field house, they are out of here.

I actually mean that last one. Does anyone want a couple of donkeys?

_______

Vegetable notes: Candy might be an overstatement of the sweetness of these onions. Which is a good thing. I don’t want an onion that tastes like candy. But they are fairly mild and tasty. Excellent for an onion sandwich. Yes, you read that correctly. An onion sandwich. I have mentioned it before, but it is worth promoting again. Sprinkly a piece of good, crusty bread with vinegar, salt and pepper, give it a light schmear of mayo, and put on a layer of thinly sliced onion., and voila, the onion sandwich. If that seems a little too pure, add some slices of tomato.

Finely, we have some peppers. The plants actually look really healthy, but they are taking forever to produce ripe peppers. The colored one is sweet. Any other pepper is hot. The larger ones are either a Newmex (paler green, long and pointy) or a Poblano (dark green). Neither is usually particularly hot, though the occasional one surprises, but they both taste good. Anything smaller is hotter. The jalapeños have been surprisingly strong this year. Maybe taking forever to size up has concentrated the heat. You will have a sense of just how powerful the pepper is when you cut it open and smell it (carefully).

You could make a nice cold caponata with grilled eggplant, zucchini. onion and leek, roasted and peeled Newmex or Poblano, and tomatoes. Dice the lot, add some finely chopped hotter pepper and parsley, olive oil, vinegar (a good amount of vinegar) salt and pepper, and let it sit for a couple of hours to let the flavors blend.

The Alleged Farm News — 25 August, 2016

This week’s share: Lemon basil, Celery, Chives, Garlic, Endive, Lettuce, Melon, Walla Wall onions, Blue Gold potatoes, Squash, Tomatoes

_______

That part of the season has arrived when I really start to wonder if I know what I am doing. Our work has become not so much a well rehearsed operation as triage. The weeds have had time to contemplate the shortening day length and come to the conclusion that they had better grow like crazy before it is too late. In a matter of days, crops that looked like they might eventually need a bit of weeding have vanished in a thicket of pig weed, lambs quarters, galinsoga and grass. Spots that might successfully have been hoed last week now just need to be mowed.

In fact, the mower is looking like the most useful tool on the farm right now. I am fighting down the urge to go out there and mow everything. It would look so neat when I had finished, and I do like a neat farm. Not that I have ever had one, but I have seen them, and they look great.

And depress me a little too. They remind me how messy things can look in my own fields. Do look in my fields. The whole crew could–probably should–weed full time right now. But we don’t have time. We have all that other farming to do too. Only, the longer we wait, the worse the weeds get, and the worse they get the longer it takes to deal with them. It feels like we are stuck in some downward weed spiral, and soon enough the weeds will have taken over entirely and the whole farm–crops, barns, house, donkeys, even the silo–will have vanished in the mess.

Not that it is actually that bad. Well, parts of the farm might be. But there are some crops that look quite good–and that you can see look good because there are no weeds in the way. The eggplants, for instance, which we mulched heavily early on, and the last two planting of zucchini, which I have managed to cultivate several times. And we have made inroads into some of the weed patches. We recently excavated part of two carrot beds, which actually seem to be thriving (though we have made it easier for the deer to find the carrots). And then there are some spots where we really don’t care about the weeds at this point. We are pulling the last of the onions now so we can just plow down the whole patch in a few days.

And even the weedy parts are not necessarily a mess. Sure, there are practical reasons to want to get rid of the weeds. They compete (successfully) with the crops for nutrients and water and light, and a spot that is weedy this year will be weedy next year, meaning we will have the same problems all over again. If we somehow–presumably with the use of powerful magic–managed to get rid of all the weeds in our fields for several years we could reduce the weed load to the point that weeding became easy.

But my objection is not purely practical. There’s an aesthetic component. It looks bad. Note that I keep going on about the weeds, not the crops. Maybe because that is mostly what I see when I look out over the fields, but maybe that is mostly what I see because that is what catches my eye. I crave order, but the weeds insist on disturbing the order I strive to impose out there. A bunch of hooligans.

Except that they are just doing what they do. For a weed, this is the order of things. The days get shorter and they buckle down, get to work producing as much seed as they can before the frost comes. It is actually fairly neat, the process going on out there, time and energy focussed on a simple task rooted in the basic rhythm of the year and this strange urge life has to go on. Like my crops, only more effectively, the weeds are just taking advantage of all the remarkable opportunities I offer, the open space, the loose earth, the enhanced fertility. Take a look from a weed’s perspective, and I am the problem, the plant dictator, the madman trying to force everyone to live by my misguided rules, brutally punishing the disobedient.

Well, tough. This is my realm, and I say the weeds must go. Begone. Vamoose, Scat. Shoo. Go.

But no, they are still there. Damn weed, they never listen. It is my fault. I should have dealt with them when they were young. Now I have lost control of them and all my dreams of a neat farm will have to wait for another season. Such as winter. Everything looks a lot more orderly buried in snow.

_______

Vegetable notes: I usually don’t grow stalk (as opposed to root) celery. In fact, I can only think of one other time I have tried, and there was nothing about that experience that suggested I should try again. To grow well, celery needs extremely rich soil–black dirt–and plenty of regular moisture. Plus it is susceptible to various diseases and deer like it. But I have rarely met a vegetable I can resist planting at once in a while. So here is some celery. It is a little lacking aesthetically, but I think you will find that it actually tastes good. Which is to say, it has a distinct flavor, something that the more attractive celery one finds in grocery stores often lacks. You can also use the leaves as a herb. They will add good flavor to stock, or you could just mince a few and toss them in a potato salad or a marinade for chicken or, for that matter, anything you want to toss them in.

I figured at some point at least one of the tomato plantings would actually start producing. For the greenhouse tomatoes, that point came this week. It is about time. In fact, it is about three weeks past time. But in this case certainly better late than never.

The Blue Gold potatoes have firm flesh and good flavor and you cook them just about any way you want.

 

The Alleged Farm News - 18 August, 2016

This week’s share: Genovese basil, Beets, Cilantro, Eggplant, Garlic, Lettuce, Melon, Mustard greens, Walla Wall onion, Squash, Tomatoes

_______

This will be brief because I am at a rowing regatta. And for the first time in 31 years, to race as well as to watch.

What, one might fairly ask, would cause a farmer to take up arduous aerobic exercise? Well, as I have already indicated, I have not really taken it up, just returned to it. Though that just avoids the real question. Certainly, I am not returning to some earlier triumph. I had one of the least distinguished rowing careers possible. Nor am I trying to make up for past failures–and even if I were it is frankly quite unlikely I would succeed.

So why do I get up insanely early three mornings away to mess about in boats before a day of farming? I blame Liz. She started it. She joined the team last year and I never fully learned to sleep through her departure. I figured if I was going to wake up at that hour anyway I might as well get something in return.

Though clearly I should have sought something good. Something like a decent croissant, a good mug of tea and a challenging crossword. Instead I have ended up with 75 minutes of strain and frustration, plus the occasional blister, which is an odd way to start your farming day since a farming day generally just consists of another eight to ten hours of strain and frustration, plus the occasional blister.

I am beginning to wonder if maybe I just have a taste for strain and frustration. That would certainly help to explain both rowing and farming. Or maybe I just like blisters.

The Alleged Farm News - 11 August, 2016

This week’s share: Genovese basil, Beans, Chard, Dill, Eggplant, Leeks, Lettuce, Cabernet and Walla Wall onions, Red Maria potatoes, Squash, Tomatoes

_______

I feel like I had completely cleared my head of any thoughts regarding Tim Tebow and now he has popped back up. Someone ought to stop this guy, but he’s like a horror movie creature that keeps climbing back out of the grave just when you think everyone’s safe. We need some sort of magical incantation to rid ourselves of him.

For those of you lucky enough to have forgotten him entirely or, even better, somehow never to have noticed him in the first place, Tim Tebow is the overtly Christian college football star who proved just as devout but a lot less talented in the NFL.

And for all of you wondering why I ever thought about Tim Tebow, I really don’t know except that he was unfortunately unavoidable for a time, and somehow stirred up strong feelings, possibly because he suggested that his god took a strong interest in the outcome of his football games. Mostly I recall yet another obsessive athlete blessed with unshakeable self-confidence, a guy with all the qualities you would look for in a college football star and none of the ones you would seek in a dining companion.

That self-confidence, or what I believe coaches often refer to as character, and dedication to his sport, or what I believe rational people refer to as monomania, served Tebow well in college, but turned out not be enough for a professional career. Though he kept trying. And trying. And trying. Until it got a little embarrassing. Embarrassing to watch, anyway. As for Tim Tebow, he seems perhaps a little less easily embarrassed. Because, having failed to make it in the NFL despite all the predictions of glory, he has now announced that he would like to play professional baseball.

To which his former NFL coach responded “good for him.” But is it? It seems far more likely to be bad for him since the chance of him outcompeting people who have practiced baseball as intensively for the past 10 years as he applied himself to football is slim. He will have our attention, which he obviously craves to what seems a slightly unchristian degree. But attention for failing publicly once again. I suppose one could admire his grit–and grit is all the rage–but it seems like misplaced grit. He has been trained to strive athletically, but I would like to see him–if I have to see him at all–strive for something else.

I would be far more excited if Tim Tebow announced he had decided to become the best damn math teacher you have ever seen and then set about applying all his considerable determination to that task. We could use more great math teachers, and certainly more people employing their celebrity to promote the value (and the difficulty) of teaching.

I might be even more excited if he also announced that he was going to make sure he had some free time to read a few good modern novels, improve his bread baking skills, get together with friends, learn to play the oboe and sometimes just lie in the grass and stare up at the night sky.

Maybe it is just me. After all, I am not much of a specialist. I cannot even settle on one variety of red potato. But something about single-mindedness makes me uncomfortable. I have a job that takes up a lot of my time and most of my energy and regularly works its way into my dreams (I have the most boring, realistic farming dreams). But as I remind the crew, we just grow vegetables. We would unquestionably get more done–would farm better in a sense–if we focused our lives entirely on the farm, but at a serious cost to our lives, a cost that strikes me as unwarranted. So we try to do the best we can within reason. There are always more things to do on the farm, but at some point we have done enough. Knowing how to walk away is a valuable skill too, especially if you have something else valuable to walk to. And you are far more likely to have that when you let your mind go in multiple directions.

_______

Vegetable notes: I recommend cutting the leeks in half lengthwise and then into one inch pieces, boiling them in salted water for several minutes until they soften, and then mixing them, still, warm with oil, vinegar, salt, pepper, a touch of hot pepper and a decent amount of Dijon mustard. Let them cool in the vinaigrette, and then you can use them as something between a condiment and a vegetable, or mix them with cubes of boiled potato and/or beans and perhaps a little dill, or toss them with cubes of grilled eggplant and squash and a few cherry tomatoes.

Even if you don’t use the potatoes with the leeks, I would recommend boiling them. They are not bad roasted, but because of the texture of their flesh they are best boiled.

I would not say the tomato season is off to a rip roaring start, but at least we finally have some to hand out. I don’t think I need to tell you what to do with them, not at this point.

 

The Alleged Farm News - 4 August, 2016

This week’s share: Genovese basil, Bok choi, Cucumber, Eggplant, Fennel, German Red garlic, Lettuce, Walla Wall onion, Radicchio, Squash

_______

People tend to think of farmers as plant whispers, able to coax tender life from the ground and make it blossom. Or maybe plant gurus with a deep mystical understanding of nature and the circle of life. Or just plain experts on growing, steeped in the vast accumulated knowledge of what plants truly want in order to thrive.

We do know something about plants and what makes them grow, some of us because we have grown up on farms, some because we have studied it in school, some because we have paid careful attention over the years to what has works and what failed and we have honed our craft. And then there’s me. But I digress.

Obviously our aim is to produce food, to take seeds and cuttings and tubers and bulbs and somehow turn them into a bounteous harvest. And to do that we have to grow our crops. I could just hand out the potatoes and garlic I plant. But I would either have to hand out very little or buy a lot more–and neither would count as farming or make any business sense. What does is putting them in the ground–ideally in the right ground at the right time and right spacing–and then tending to them while they multiply.

But it’s that tending to them that makes one wonder if we are really at heart growers. I was weeding the carrots yesterday, a task that provides plenty of time for though, both because it takes a long time and is in itself insanely boring. With a little more skill and luck (just a few rainy days, for instance, in the past couple of months) more carrots and fewer weeds would have emerged. But these are hardly unusual carrot beds. And it was hard not to notice that there were a lot more weeds than carrots. So the couple of hours I spent farming those beds, while it will help the carrots grow, mostly involved killing plants.

In fact, I spend a lot of my day killing plants. Whether it is weeding or hoeing or cultivating or flex tining or plowing or tilling or laying our biodegradable plastic or putting out hay mulch or flaming, many of my tasks directly involve killing plants. Even some of the planting I do is intended to kill plants. Among other things, we use cover crops to suppress weeds–with suppress meaning to outcompete for resources and cause to wither away in the shade and die.

Growing is actually the easy part of my job, if by growing you mean sticking something in the ground and getting it to turn into a harvestable crop. The relatively easy part. I can sit on a stool in the greenhouse and listen to music while sowing trays of seedlings. Pushing a seeder up and down the rows does not require much time or effort. Our water wheel transplanter makes putting the seedlings in the fields a simple task–and one done sitting down.

Sure, things don’t always germinate as well as I hope (those carrots, for instance) and sometimes crops take far longer to mature than they should (still waiting for those tomatoes to ripen; I have been giving them quite severe looks but they don’t seem to notice) or some problem with the soil stunts part of a row. I have to think about soil moisture and fertility and temperature and crop rotation and planting depth and tillage depth. But if growing were all I had to do–if I could just make wise choices about what and when and where to plant, prepare the soil well, stick seeds in the dirt, pray for decent weather and walk away until harvest–I would have plenty of time for hobbies.

Unfortunately, there is all this other life out there bent on undoing my work. Viruses and fungi and beetles and gastropods and quadrupeds and avifauna. It’s a jungle out there. Or it would be if I just walked away and played at my hobbies. Everything I worked on would disappear into the bush and soon enough there would be gibbons swinging from towering Lamb’s Quarters where the carrots should have been.

The only way to keep that at bay (though the idea of gibbons holds a certain attraction) is to kill a lot of stuff. So that is what I do instead of hobbies. Whether or not that counts as a deep mystical insight into the nature of things I am unqualified to say. What do I know about insight? I am just a grower.

_______

Vegetable notes: We mostly grow German Porcelain garlic. It has proved more reliable than other varieties and it tastes good (not that I have ever grown a variety that tastes bad). But we keep trying other varieties every year. It seems like a good idea to have a little diversity, and I keep hoping to find a hardy type with more cloves per head. Unfortunately, most of the varieties we have tried have proved disappointing. They don’t size up. There have been years we haven’t even bothered to pick them they are so small. This year (well, we planted it last fall, but we picked it a couple of weeks ago) we grew German Red, which is what you have this week. It certainly did not get as large as the Porcelain, but the plants were reasonably vigorous and they made it through an odd winter. It might be worth trying a second time, but only if it passes the kitchen test. So let me know what you think of it. Mostly likely you will think it tastes like garlic, but sometimes different varieties have notably different flavors.

To really get a sense of what the garlic is like you should really eat a piece raw. But if you do you may just make everything taste like garlic for a day or two. Here’s another idea. Put your eggplant in a hot oven (stick it with a knife in a few places) and roast, turning occasionally, until the skin has blacked and the flesh is very soft. Scoop out the flesh and mash it with lemon juice, olive oil, basil, salt, pepper, perhaps a little hot pepper, and a generous amount of crushed garlic. Stir in some diced onion and let it sit for an hour or two so the flavors blend well. That should give you some idea of how pungent the garlic is, and you get some tasty eggplant mush too.

As for your fennel, I recommend you ask someone else what to do with it. I am not a huge fan and Liz hates it, cannot even abide the swell, so I pretty well never bring it into the kitchen.

The Alleged Farm News - 28 July. 2016

This week’s share: Genovese basil, Cabbage, Cucumber, Eggplant, Garlic, Lettuce, Onions, Parsley, Potatoes, Squash

_______

A guy I knew with in middle school recently friended me on Facebook. Now I have learned that he runs a lot–or at least dresses like he runs and hangs out with similarly dressed people, went to Italy some time recently, maybe keeps bees, likes soccer (Italian, not English), has a son in college and more facial hair than he did in sixth grade, and teaches medieval history at Tulane. It’s like the last forty years melted away and we are still hanging out eating his mom’s lasagne and talking about the Mets.

Actually, he does not seem to mention the Mets anymore. Which is fine because I stopped following baseball about the same time he moved away, back when the Mets were in their second period of incompetence. Instead, he seems to use Facebook surprising frequently to ask quite specific questions of is fellow medievalists. Things like, what was the Christian symbolism of the raven in Italy around 1430? Which is a tough one, I must say. If he had asked about some time later in the fifteenth century, well piece of cake. But 1430 has me stumped.

 

In this vein, he also recently posted a long piece by a Norwegian medievalist attacking Stephen Greenblatt, the Shakespeare scholar, for the silly views of the dark ages in his book The Swerve. I hate to be the one to break it to you, but apparently Greenblatt has seriously misled us about the middle ages. He has presented us with a “histrionic cartoon” relying on long debunked myths about intellectual stagnation and self-flagellation. It is an academic outrage, and to make it worse he is outside his specialty, he just won a huge prize in Norway, he teaches at Harvard and his book was a best seller. Now if that doesn’t make the blood boil.

There are moments when certain types of people I tend to sympathize with reveal their pomposity and pettiness and I say to myself, “ah, so that is why people hate…” I had that feeling when a historian published a complaint that the musical “Hamilton” had failed to deal with the man Hamilton’s difficult relationship with race. Oh dear, a hip hop musical on Broadway hasn’t tried to present every single aspect of the life of its title character. Here’s another tack you could take, one was a little tempted to respond: get down on your knees and thanks the show for making anyone think about Hamilton at all.

I had the feeling again reading this lengthy screed about the misdeeds of Stephen Greenblatt. I don’t necessarily disagree with the Norwegian’s complaints about Greenblatt’s arguments and it is delightfulI that she has a more nuanced and generous view of medieval history. Plus she is of course right that these sorts of books that claim world history hinges on one thing tend–who’d have imagined?– to oversimplify a bit. All human achievement does not depends solely on salt or the cod or the rediscovery of one infrequently read Latin poem.

It should have been easy, however, to make those arguments without resorting to professional petulance. Should have been, but wasn’t. However much Greenblatt’s methods and argument irritate her, she sounds far more aggrieved about a non-medievalist horning in on her specialty. As much as she claims to worry about us being misled by Greenblatt, she cannot help revealing her patronizing belief that us common folk are too ignorant and credulous to resist the lure of a well crafted story. And then her professional envy just gets the better of her, and leaves her sputtering about Greenblatt’s success, as though it were proof of his deviousness or, worse, shallowness. The whole performance reminds one why so many novelists cannot resist writing academic satires.

It made me wonder if farmers behave in more or less the same way. Do we overstate our importance, engage in vicious internecine warfare, let our learning turn us into killjoys, disparage the untrained masses? Well, it would be odd if we did not do all that at least a little. We are people too. But it is hard to bring the same passion to these tasks when you have the feeling that just about anybody else could do what you do because once upon a time just about everybody else did do what you do. A hundred years ago, the average dairy herd in Washington Country was five cows, which tells you something about how the dairy industry has changed, but also suggests that a lot of families had their own private dairy herd of one cow. Plus their own laying hens, pigs, vegetable garden, apple orchard. They made their own tomato sauce, their own hard cider, their own bacon. But they probably did not write their own medieval history books.

Not that most people produce their own food any more. Or could produce much of what we eat without significant advanced training in various forms of engineering. But lots of people could start growing at least some of their food again–and without being specialists in anything.

And should start. I recognize it is not in my business interest to say that, but it is true. Like our electrical grid, our food system would be better off getting away from centralized mass production. There are good reasons to have some farms–solar, wind, vegetable–where the conditions are just right, and not all of us can grow avocados and limes, and I would be sad without them.

Producing food, unlike the law, say, or surgery or food science or academia, has no formal barriers to entry. There’s no requisite degree, no arduous exam, no period of formal training. You can just walk out into a patch of dirt, like I did 21 years ago, and stick some seeds in the ground and see what happens. Chaos, actually, and a lot of weeds and frustration if I remember correctly (not that I need to remember because I still have all that now). But also food. Real food, just like us fancy professional farmers grow. And we know that, which helps stop us from makings pompous asses of ourselves too often.

_______

Vegetable notes: The timing of a number of our crops seems to be a little off this year. I am still waiting for someone to convince the tomatoes that it really is summer. Maybe the eggplants, having only just caught on to that fact themselves, could pass along the message. They could tell the peppers too, though in the peppers’ defense, they were set back somewhat when the deer ate the tops off them.

Now that you have an eggplant, you should fire up the grill. You can do lots of things with an eggplant–there’s a Turkish dessert made with eggplant–but it is probably best grilled. Plus I assume you keep your grill outside, so cooking on it won’t heat up your house, which is a good enough reason right now to use it. Cut the eggplant into thinnish slices and brush it with oil and cook it until it has good grill marks on both sides. It will go well with your grilled squash, topped with oil, vinegar, lots of chopped herbs and a healthy dose of garlic.

While you have the grill going, you could throw your quartered cabbage on to give it a little smokiness and char. Then use it to make cole slaw.

If you have a nice, smoky grill going you could put the potatoes on too–either straight on the grill or in a cast iron pan with a little oil and a lot of salt. The idea of a smoked potato may seem odd, but it tastes good.

The Alleged Farm News - 21 July, 2016

This week’s share: Genovese basil, Beets, Broccoli, Cilantro, Cucumber, Kohlrabi, Lettuce, Onions, Radicchio, Squash

_______

People in the Adirondacks sometimes get a little grumpy that they cannot have everything we flatlanders enjoy. Like hospitals and prosperity and Walmart. It is a reasonable gripe. Well, mostly. I don’t know why anyone would actually long for a Walmart at any altitude. But I guess getting one somehow symbolizes that you matter in the modern world. What hope is there for a place that does not even merit a Walmart.

Plus pointing out that you don’t have a Walmart is a way to complain about the injustice of land use rules in the Adirondack Park. It’s the heavy hand of government that squashes economic development. Free the people and Walmart will come.

Putting aside the question of what sort of freedom involves the arrival of a Walmart, it is unlikely that regulations keep big box stores away from these northern mountains. I suspect the sparse population has more to do with it. Parts of the Adirondacks make Alaska seem a little crowded. And the population density has to do with the climate and terrain. Letting people build whatever and wherever they want does not change that.

We tend to forget the extent to which topography and weather shape our lives. We have come up with lots of ways to insulate ourselves from the limits they impose. But of course we have come up with those ways in part because we live in a country with vast amounts of space that make life relatively easy. Millions of acres of flat, fertile land, of manageable climates, of easy access to basic resources. There are all sorts of reasons life is as good as it is here (and despite the current angry gloom, life for the average American right now is about good as life has ever been for a human being), but it seems pretty clear to me that we would have had a much harder time achieving what we have in a harsher environment.

I thought about this when we went to Costa Rica this spring. It is a country of happy, helpful people who have chosen to put their money into education rather than an army. It has large coffee and tourism industries, a growing tech sector, high literacy, a good climate, considerable sustainable energy infrastructure and a stable government. But half of this small country (one third the size of New York) is also pretty mountainous. Mountainous enough to make many forms of human development incredibly difficult, especially in a country without huge financial resources. Tourism has been a great way to use this terrain to Costa Rica’s advantage, but the main route to one of the top destinations is still a 20 mile cliff-hugging narrow rough gravel road that makes you contemplate your mortality.

If Costa Rica were flat as Kansas it would no doubt still have its share of challenges. indeed, it might have more since its colonial past would have been different, more intrusive. But those mountains do get in the way.

We are a clever species, what with out freeze dried foods and rockets and Twitter accounts. We can build highways up and through mountains, terrace fields on steep slopes, move everything through the air when moving out the ground is too hard. But we do not have infinite resources, infinite will, infinite care. We thrive in the places it is easiest to thrive and then we are not always eager to share our toys. So where life is harder, it tends to stay harder, even when we have the means to overcome whatever obstacles the environment presents.

I am not advocating for human suffering, but it is not altogether a bad things that the earth sometimes makes our lives difficult. Perhaps in recognizing that not all things are possible–let alone desirable–in a norther mountain range, we will recognize how our environment helps shape us, and maybe even remember not just the limits it sometimes places on us, but also the opportunities it offers. Perhaps we will gain a little humility and gratitude and remember that we do rather rely on this planet we have to live on, and so maybe it is worth looking after it.

_______

Vegetable notes: I feel like by now many Americans have encountered radicchio. That was probably not true when I started growing it. In fact, we could not even get reliable seed. Most of it bolted early or formed strange loose heads. It was a new enough and unpopular enough crop that nobody had bred better varieties. Not that it has become a staple of the American diet. As far as I can tell the USDA does not even bother to track radicchio consumption. But it turns up in a lot of salad mixes and it has a certain gourmet cachet. If you do add it to your salad I suggest using a slight creamy, richer dressing to balance the bitterness. You can also use the outer leaves as serving containers. Or you could cut the whole uncored head into quarters, dunk it in salt water, brush it with oil and grill it until it has some char marks and has wilted a little.

I doubt I really need to tell any of you what to do with a cucumber. But here’s something you might not have thought of using it for: a cocktail. Peel and seed the cucumber and puree it with basil, the juice of two lemons, a little simple syrup (or just use sugar and make sure it dissolves well), gin and, if you have it, a splash of Pimms Cup. Let it steep for a couple of hours and then put it through a fine sieve and serve over ice.

The Alleged Farm News – 14 July, 2016

This week’s share: Genovese and lemon basil, Napa cabbage, Dill, Escarole, Garlic, Leeks, Lettuce, Snap peas, Potatoes, Squash

_______

Small potatoes are increasingly big. I know, kind of a lame joke. But it is true. In a couple of ways actually, now that I think about it. Literally, for instance. The small potatoes on our potatoes vines are getting big. Or at least bigger. To get really big they would probably need somewhat more consistent rain, rather than, say, getting almost nothing in June and then 4 inches the afternoon of July 1st. Still, they are definitely growing.

But what I really meant is that the market for small potatoes has increased significantly in recent years. Increased from essentially nothing to now making up 12% of potatoes sales. In the old days, by which I mean maybe a decade ago, potato farmers generally regarded small potatoes as an annoyance. They were just potatoes that had not amounted to anything.

 

For a seed potato grower small potatoes have some use since they make good seed stock. You don’t have to cut them before planting, which makes them far less susceptible to rot than than the normal cut seed pieces. But they were viewed as having no real culinary value–possibly because you cannot make french fries from small potatoes. I don’t know what potato growers did with their small potatoes, but it would not surprise me if they just threw them away.

Now they stick them in mesh bags and sell them at a premium as gourmet spuds. And to be fair, there are good reasons to prefer small potatoes. They cook faster and more uniformly, and they look nice. But I think a lot of people assume they are also somehow not just fancier (for some reason very small or very large often equals fancy for produce), but also fresher. After all, they must have been picked as babies so they are young and fresh–those new potatoes, whatever that means, that you see mentioned on menus.

Well, they could be, except that you see those bags of small potatoes in the store year-round, plus potato plants make a lot of tubers, and not all of them size up. A potato plant dug long after it has died (I would say of natural causes, but in fact most big potato farms kill their vines with herbicide at some point in order to have a more predictable harvest date) will still yield some small potatoes. That is just how potatoes work.

And while it is true some potato packer has bothered to sort out the nice little ones just for you, they do that anyway. They have just run all the potatoes through grading machines on the packing line like they always have. All that has changed is that they found a clever way to sell the little ones they used to grade out.

That is not a bad thing. In fact, it is good. Good for the potato farmers, who have found value in something that previously had none. Good for the planet because it reduces food waste. And good for people who like small potatoes and would never had found any in a grocery store before.

The only slight concern nagging at me is the trend, of which these small potatoes are certainly part, to bring modern American marketing to the world of produce. Not that marketing has played no role before now. People would hype new crops–broccolini, for instance–and new varieties–the Uglyripe tomato. But by and large they skipped all the suggestive aspirational lifestyle ploys used to sell soda and chips and all those other foodish edible objects that take up the vast majority of our stores and diets. Vegetables, being so obviously just themselves, don’t easily lend themselves to that sort of thing, and anyway there’s just not that much money in produce.

But now eating well, eating local, eating fresh, these have become more culturally meaningful. Now a vegetable is not just a vegetable. What you buy in the produce section can tell people something about you, about your values and sophistication and skills and knowledge and wealth. And once that happens the marketers have something with which to work on you.

Which, I suppose, could be great if it just serves to make more people eat vegetables. But that kind of marketing has a way of twisting things into new shapes, of making people think drinking soda will turn them into fit, fun-loving beach-goers when they are far more likely to end up as desperately ill diabetics. One of the attractive things about vegetables–at least to me–is that they are what they are. Unlike, say, a frozen pizza, they aren’t good at lying. You don’t need any marketing suggestions to figure out what is good. Just have a small sense of adventure and use your senses and you will know what is good.

You may even be able to tell which potatoes, such as the ones in your box this week, are actually new. New meaning early season, dug while the plants are still alive, before the skins have set. What really makes them special is that they are the first potatoes of the new season. Well that and the fact that they actually taste like something: a potato.

_______

Vegetable notes: Lemon basil, as one might expect, has a lemony as well as a basilly flavor. You could chop it up finely with garlic and some hot pepper, mix it with olive oil, salt and a little lemon juice or vinegar and have a nice sauce for grilled fish or steak or squash. You could make a lemony pesto, which would be good on some steamed potatoes or sautéed squash. And best of all, you can steep it in simple syrup and mix one part syrup with one part good bourbon over lots of ice and enjoy the Alleged Farm cocktail #1 (more on cocktail #2 some other time).

You can use Napa much as you would normal cabbage, or stir fry it (its tender texture lends itself to quick cooking) or you could carefully remove the outer leaves and steam them until the ribs are pliable and use the leaves as wrappers for spring rolls or stuffed “grape” leaves or whatever else you think might be good wrapped up in a Napa cabbage leaf.

These little leeks are fairly tender so you could grill or broil them and marinate them overnight and they would be good with cold grilled squash or chopped up and added to a potato salad. Or you could just cook them with the escarole and a lot of garlic and finish it with some Genovese basil. I would point out that you could add some chunks of potato and chicken stock and make a nice hearty soup, but it is way to hot to think about that.

The Alleged Farm News – 7 July, 2016

This week’s share: Thai basil, Chard, Kohlrabi, Garlic, Lettuce, Onions, Snap peas, Radishes, Squash, Turnips

_______

My farm is teeming with immigrants. From South America and China, India and Europe, the Middle East and Mexico. These aliens have turned up on our shores with their own sometimes peculiar tastes, odd looks, distinct habits, special needs. Some of them are full of vigor and set about outcompeting the natives. Others require constant care to survive at all. They have been here for years or only just made it to our shores. Some have entered our culture easily, some have had to work their way in, some linger on the margins, never fully accepted.

Have they wrecked our country, caused us to slip from our former greatness, debased our purity, taken opportunities from those who belong here? Maybe we should we pack them all up and send them back to their own lands.

 

Call me crazy, but I think not. Far from wrecking anything, these immigrants have added enormously to our lives, adding variety and complexity and real economic benefits, and just generally making things more interesting. Plus it would be really tough to round them all up and send them home, and if we somehow managed to do that we would quickly find that we missed them.

Just in case anyone thinks I have opened a refugee camp, let me clarify that I am talking about vegetables. I am tempted from time to time to take in some family fleeing one horror or another, let them pursue their agricultural lives in peace. For the moment, however, and rather less nobly, I have just taken in their crops: beets, tomatoes, garlic, kale, potatoes, broccoli, lettuce, parsley, carrots, onions, cucumbers, peppers, eggplant, radishes, rutabagas, cabbages, peas, turnips, dill, currants, leeks, kohlrabi, cauliflower. Actually, it would be easier to list the crops that don’t come from elsewhere. It is a short list. Squash and pumpkins, beans and husk cherries, sage and… well, that may be it.

It is not that there are no other edible natives. People lived here for thousands of years before the cucumber showed up and they must have had a few green things to go with their giant ground sloth. If you want to get some idea of the variety out there, take a walk around the farm with Sean, who spend many evenings gathering wild crops from the woods and streams and hedgerows–and even some of the weeds from our fields.

You might be surprised how much is out there. Young cattail shoots and day lily roots and ramps and hickory nuts. Though you might also be surprised by the effort required to get enough of these crops (well, other than the edible weeds, which we have in dismaying abundance) to make anything like a meal. An evening of foraging will net Sean a small bag of goodies. I can pick enough lettuce for all of you in half an hour.

I suppose there is something attractive about the idea of making do with what you find right around you. It sounds sustainable and simple and natural and balanced, a sort of ideal self-sufficiency. But what’s wrong with a little help from others, especially when that help tastes as good as a tomato or garlic. And anyway, this idea of things belonging immutably to a particular place–of true natives–is nonsense. We have all been moving around for eons, peoples and plants and microbes sweeping across continents, changing what they encounter and being changed by it.

Of course, Japanese eggplants and Peruvian tubers coming to live in my Easton fields causes fewer social problems than, say, thousands of Syrians fleeing through Europe. But this vegetable melting pot I call a farm does remind one that things tend not to stay put, for which we human beings bear a huge portion of the responsibility, and that we have consequently benefitted as well as suffered. Choosing a moment in time and declaring it the point of equilibrium may impose some desired order on the chaos we inhabit. But it is a fiction, and most often told for no good purpose. Better, it seems to me, to accept the change as generously as possible, set aside a little ground to give the newcomers a place to grow. It will cost space and time and effort, but it may well improve your life too.

_______

Vegetable notes: As always, I make my plea on behalf of your snap peas. Do not cook them for more than a couple of minutes. They just need to turn bright green. Nothing more. Well, a little salt. But that’s it. Cook them longer and they turn from snap peas to mush peas.

As you can see, the squash patch has hit its stride. Opinions vary about whether or not that is a good thing. You may start to get tired of them in a few weeks. We, most likely, will get tired of picking them. But they are a versatile vegetable. I think of them as sort of vegetable pasta. They go well with all sorts things. I think, though, that they may be best grilled, marinated (olive oil, vinegar, smoked paprika, basil, garlic, salt and pepper) and eaten cold, in particular as an addition to a sandwich. Just about any sandwich. Maybe not peanut butter and jelly (I dare some one to try it).

Thai basil can be used in place of the more familiar Italian, and obviously it goes well in Thai dishes. It’s also good in various desserts or infused in simple syrup and mixed into various drinks (try it with bourbon for a start).

As many of you may recall, we had a terrible garlic crop last season. I am happy to say this year’s crop looks much better. Well, you can see for yourself. Right now the heads are uncured (we dug these bulbs a couple of days ago), which means the cloves are a little milder and a lot juicer. The garlic would go well with some sautéed chard.

The kohlrabi (round green object) is, I think, best just peeled and sliced up and eaten raw so it is still crunchy. But if you don’t like crunchy you could cut it into chunks and steam it.

On a general note, any pockmarks you might notice on your produce are the result of the hail we got last Friday. As hail goes, it was not bad, but ice pellets blown into vegetables at 50 miles and hour do tend to leave a mark.

The Alleged Farm News – 30 June, 2016

This week’s share: Basil, Beets, Garlic chives, Dill, Endive, Kale, Koji, Lettuce, Scallion, Squash

_______

As a rule I strongly approve of those who widen their taste in vegetables. I like to hear from members who have happily discovered a new vegetable or even found that they like something they thought they did not. My own wife believed she disliked beets until I started growing them and she learned that fresh beets bear little resemblance to the things she had been served at her grade school cafeteria. And while my older son is a reasonably accomplished guy and soon to be 20, I remain particularly proud of the time when he announced at the age of three that he likes turnips (and I don’t think he has gone back on that opinion since).

I have an obvious commercial interest in people eating a wide range of vegetables (I am assuming such people also end up eating more vegetables rather than just having increasingly small portions of more and more different crops). But I like to think I am in favor of broad vegephilia for other reasons too. Such as the feeling that an openness to new things suggests a more tolerant approach to the world, and god knows we could use a little more tolerance. Or that an enthusiasm for discovery suggests an active mind, and it seems we could certainly have more of those. Or that the ability to take pleasure in something as simple as a vegetable suggests an aptitude for contentment, and we could all learn to be a little more content with our lot.

But more than any grandiose dyspeptic social theory, it really comes down to the fact that I like eating all sorts of vegetables, even sometimes fennel. That is why I farm, and farm they way I do. Liz tells me from time to time that I ought to pare down my crop list, concentrate on a few crops well suited to my soils. But what crops would I jettison? I have tried a pretty broad range of crops over the years and I can think of four that I don’t plant any more. I cannot even make myself stop trying to produce artichokes, despite the obvious difficulties of that undertaking. It may not be fully efficient, but I like having a wide array of crops. And I like giving them to people who feel more or less the same way about them–and if giving people a wide array of crops helps them to discover a taste for a wide range of crops that is particularly satisfying

Given all that, I suppose I ought to feel rather pleased with the deer around here, who have decided this year to start eating all sorts of crops they normally would not touch. For 20 years they have had fairly consistent preferences: chard, beets, lettuce, endives, carrots, soy beans. And when they cannot get at those (because we have moved those crops into field houses or put up electric fence or sprayed repellant) they will eat dill and parsley and beans and peas and celery and artichokes, And in the late fall as they run out of other things they will browse on radishes and pumpkins and maybe even the occasional zucchini.

But this year they have, so far, eaten the tops off about a third of the outside tomatoes, browsed the ends of the potato rows, had a go at some pepper plants and even snacked on a few onions. Well, bravo deer. You have really expanded your palate.

I cannot help wondering what has come over them. Tolerance, curiosity and contentment no doubt. But I feel like something else must be going on too. Are these different deer? Has some new herd moved into town, immigrant deer with their own peculiar eating habits? Or just a new generation, hipster deer caught up in their own foodie enthusiasm for everything fresh and local, snapping pictures of the tomato plants on their cell phones before tucking in. Or have they started to sense the change in the climate? Perhaps the weird winters and increasingly violent storms are starting to freak them out, and they realize they are going to have to change their habits to adapt to whatever exactly this is.

That or, being deer, they are just looking for new ways to irritate me. Sure, digging up carrots and destroying row covers may still get a rise out of me after all these years, but if you keep going back to the same tricks they start to lose their power. So they have decided to mix things up a bit. If deer can chortle, that is what I would hear them doing in the dark as the ravage the tomato rows. And I seriously doubt they even like tomato plants. If I looked around carefully enough I would find where they spit out the plants.

Which is why I am less than chuffed about the deer broadening their diet. Trying new things is good, but ideally you try them and like them. And if you don’t like them at first, sure, try them again once, maybe even twice more. But at some point, move on. There’s no shame in discovering that you dislike something. Just don’t wreck it for the people who do. That’s just rude. Clearly, I am going to have to be quite stern with these deer. Well, that or just start spraying more deer repellent and hope they develop a taste for something else. Such as weeds.

_______

Vegetable notes: Koji, the head of crinkled dark green leaves and crisp stems, is a new variety somewhere between a bok choi and a tatsoi. You can eat more or less the whole thing, and you can cook it whole. Just steam the whole head until the stems are slightly tender (you don’t want to lose the crunch entirely) and pour over a little chili oil, vinegar and soy sauce and some chopped garlic chives. Or you can cut it apart and add it to a salad, or you could cook it with your beet greens.

As for the beets, you can boil them until a fork slides in smoothly or bake them or roast them or eat them raw. I know most people don’t think of eating them raw, but you can grate them into salad or cole slaw and have the texture of carrots and that good earthy beet flavor.

The head of frilly leaves is frisee endive. You can cook it, but it is really meant as a salad green, especially the paler central leaves. Because it is a bitter green I like to adjust the dressing a bit when I use it, maybe add a little cream or some bacon or even a touch of something sweet to balance the flavors. I know a lot of people choose to accomplish more or less the same thing by not using adding the endive in the first place, but I think it makes salad a little more interesting.

 

The Alleged Farm News – 23 June, 2016

This week’s share: Basil, Escarole, Lettuce, Mustard greens, Onion, Savory, Hakurei turnips

_______

Surprisingly, I have little taste for haute couture. I know, I know, you would never guess it when you see how I choose to dress myself. I guess some people just have a natural sense of style.

But it’s true. No matter how hard I try, I just cannot make myself care about the way certain fabrics drape or learn to appreciate really fine stitching around a button hole or give a damn about a playful reinterpretation of some hemline from the 1960s.

All right, maybe I have not tried hard enough. Maybe with more study I could learn to see the value in crafting obscenely expensive, deliberately non-utilitarian clothes that only look good–or at least remarkable–on women with the alien body types in order to impress the famous and wealthy.

 

But wait, fashion’s defenders say, it’s not just about some pointless self-referential world of privilege and luxury. Fashion trends trickle down and turn up in the most ordinary places. Oh goody. We common folk get to be cajoled into buying clothes we don’t need in a vain attempt to achieve some low budget version of the lives of the fabulous.

Fortunately for me, I do not have to think about high fashion often. Every now and then I flip through the New York Times fashion section to pop up my blood pressure a little, and we do occasionally discuss creating a wedding dress out of various farm materials–row covers and bug netting and the like. But for the most part fashion tends not to intrude into the life of the farm. In fact, I generally only think about clothes at all because I am wet or cold or have torn large enough holes in my trousers that they are in danger of coming completely apart.

So if I am not thinking about haute couture, what am I thinking about? Well, I do spend some time thinking about food. Which ought to be quite different from high fashion. And mostly it is. I have begun to notice, however, an unsettling trend in cooking. There has always been fancy cooking for rich people, who were after all until quite recently the only people who could afford not just fancy cooks, but also meat and sugar and multiple cooking pots and enough cooking fuel to create multi course meals. And for a long time now there have been little jokes and surprises–one thing disguised as or hiding inside another, daring or challenging combinations, and show stopper dishes. But the food itself was still for the most part just food, and it was made by people who were just cooks.

Now the top chefs are stars creating dining experiences for an insular international foodie elite that demands something new all the time and is willing to pay astronomical prices and travel across oceans for it. Colors and textures are splashed around for effect, the lights dim, scented smoke wafts about, restaurants are done up like sets, people make pretentious statements about time and sex and beauty, celebrities appear in the best seats, and something we all need is transformed into an object designed only to satisfy the wants of those who want for nothing. It all sounds oddly familiar. Haute cuisine has become haute couture.

The most sensible reaction would be to ignore this. If these people want to sit around in the dark savoring gelatin olives on scented pillows, let them, and let the rest of us get on with our simple lives of getting dressed and eating. Leave them alone.

But they don’t leave us alone. It seems that roughly half the fun of inhabiting such an exquisite realm lies in making everyone else envious. How else do you really know it is such a great place to be? Especially since the clothes are ridiculous and the tiny portions of foam and powder and scent leave you hungry. Plus, exciting our envy creates sales opportunities, and what, in the end, could be more fun that making us pay for their unattainable lives?

Unfortunately, one of the flaws of our species is the capacity to slavishly obsess over the lives of the rich and famous, a flaw our culture has learned to exploit masterfully. We are as awash in plutography as we are in pornography.

What to do? Well, short of rounding up the foodies and fashionistas and sending them to some remote island with no cell service, we can try to remind ourselves that sometimes just sitting on a rock watching the sunset or having a slice of good bread and a fresh tomato is not just good enough, but plain and simple good.

_______

Vegetable notes: What made the turnips turn white? Well, that’s a little complicated. Naure? Genetics? Turnip breeders? Probably all of the above. A better question, though, would be why more people don’t eat these white turnips? If they did, the turnip’s reputation would surely soar. You don’t even need to cook them. And the greens are tasty too.

I understand that some people don’t like bitter greens as much as I do, but one should make an exception for escarole. It is too good. And if you steam it first and wring out the moisture it loses a lot of its bitterness. Plus you will find it a lot easier to sauté it properly with olive oil and garlic once you have done that. Just be sure to leave some over to have cold on a sandwich the next day with some roast meat grilled sausage or mozzarella and thinly sliced onion.

The mustard greens are best raw. Add them to a salad. or just make a mustard green salad with a ginger-honey-soy-sesame-rice vinegar dressing.

The Alleged Farm News - 16 June, 2016

This week’s share: Arugula, Beet greens, Dill, Garlic scapes, Lettuce, Onions

_____

A couple of weeks ago we cleaned out the winter kale patch in one of our greenhouses. The kale, inspired by the lengthening daylight, had given up on leaf production and sent up tall spikes of yellow flowers (quite delicious, and sadly rather too delicate to send out in the share). We yanked the plants out by the armful and started tossing them over the fence to the donkeys, who had come to see what treats we had in store for them.

We clean out plants from the greenhouses fairly regularly during the season. We try to keep the houses as full as possible. That quarter acre of soil in the houses–irrigated, protected and heavily amended over the years with tons (literally) of compost is our most productive ground–and our most expensive too, of course, given the cost of the four structures covering it. Making sure we keep those houses full of crops ensures a steady supply of high quality produce and justifies the cost.

 

So we are often in a house cleaning out some patch to get it ready for another crop, pulling up weeds and stems and bolted plants. And a lot of that material gets fed to the donkeys. Maybe we should compost more of it, turn it back into soil and put it back in the houses. The circle of life and all that. But to do that properly, to create excellent compost rather than a weed mess, takes care and time that we cannot necessarily afford. Plus, the donkeys look so sad when we don’t give them treats, and they have a special tragic bray just in case the gloomy demeanor does not get the point across.

The donkeys get these treats regularly enough that they have learned to wander over and wait hopefully whenever they see us go into the greenhouses. Sometimes we are just going to trellis the tomatoes or transplant or pick and have nothing for them. And sometimes we are pulling out things they won’t like, such as radicchio roots or tomato plants–though they have fairly broad tastes when it comes to plants. They are basically goats. I have seen them contentedly chewing on a length of garden hose.

It seemed perfectly reasonable to think they would like the bolted kale. Especially that early in the season, when the only other things we could offer them were an assortment of small weeds. Armfuls of bolted kale ought to make a donkey happy.

They did not. Sean had already given the donkeys two loads of kale when I went over to the fence. I expected to find them happily browsing on it, but they were standing on the other side of the ditch eyeing me dolefully. It was the sort of look you would get from your kid on Christmas after he has opened the large package that he has every right in the world to think will contain his long hoped for dream toy, only to discover an itchy sweater. It is a look that says this is not merely an outrage, it is an injustice. A grand injustice. Dred Scott. Sacco and Vanzetti. The Holocaust. And now this: stalky kale.

The donkeys stared at me in disgust for a couple of minutes and then just walked away. It did not matter what else we had to offer them that day. It was too late.

I fear sometimes that our CSA shares might get the same response. Not that I am exactly comparing you to a donkey or suggesting that we fill your boxes with armfuls of crops long past their prime. But as we do with the donkeys, we aim to give you things you will enjoy eating–though we understand that, like the donkeys, you may not find everything you get delicious. We all have our tastes. I don’t like every crop we grow. We are fine with the idea that, like the donkeys, you may not enjoy turnips and simply choose to nudge them aside while grazing on your share.

We like to believe, however, that by and large you enjoy the crops we send your way and even anticipate them with some relish. But as the donkeys reminded me, there’s always the chance that, despite our best intentions, we will seriously miscalculate somehow. That’s one of the risks of distributing vegetables the way we do. One of the risks, really, of giving others anything rather than having them get their own stuff.

I will live with the risk. Mostly by doing everything I can to reduce it, such as growing a wide range of crops in a wide range of varieties chosen for their vigor and taste, using growing techniques that enhance those crops without harming the place they grow or the people who eat them, and getting them to you as fresh from our fields as possible. All of which our way of distributing vegetables makes easier for us to do.

Plus, even if we do hand out the itchy sweater equivalent of a crop, we will just keep tossing things over the fence, figuring that in the end we will offer up enough good stuff to make it worth wandering back over.

_____

Vegetable notes: Another leafy start to another season. Welcome to vegetable production in upstate New York. Especially in a season when we have had cold nights nearly all spring. Warm days certainly help, but for some reason, warm nights really make a difference. Maybe plants are shy about growing and prefer to do it in the dark.

Which makes what the onions did all the more surprising. I put transplants in the greenhouse late last fall in order to get an early crop. I though that meant we would have nice young onions some time in early July. But the tops on these guys started to go down (a sign of maturity in onions) several weeks ago. This is the earliest by weeks that I have ever pulled onions. Not that I am complaining. I put onions in just about everything I cook so it is nice to have a fresh crop.

I also put garlic in most dishes. This year’s crop looks good, but it is some week away from being ready. What to do? Well, garlic scapes — those odd curly things in your box — will work nicely. They are milder than the cloves so you can put quite a lot in a dish without getting any overpowering garlic taste. I roasted some cauliflower with sliced scales recently. You can also use them raw. I have put them in various salads. And you can just make a dish of them. Cut them into pieces of whatever size catch your fancy and sauté them in olive oil and salt on medium low heat until they are softened and lightly browned.

The scapes would also be good sautéed with the beet greens. You can use the greens in a salad, but I think they are particularly good steamed and then sautéed with garlic and finished with a bit of vinegar and maybe a touch of hot pepper. You can use the whole plant, roots and all.

2016 Season CSA Shares Available Now

When you join The Alleged Farm CSA you get a weekly box of farm fresh produce in a remarkable array of varieties delivered to a convenient location. We grow 65 crops, including 30 kinds of tomatoes, 10 potatoes, 16 lettuces and five colors of carrots, and we have 11 drop off points around the Capital District. We make it easy for you to eat well.

In addition, you get the weekly farm newsletter, with suggestions about what to do with the crops (and how to identify unusual ones) and opportunities to visit the farm and learn about how your food is grown and who grows it. That’s a connection to what you eat that, unfortunately, most people are no longer afforded. But when you join our CSA, that connection is not just afforded, but affordable. Our share is a great deal on great food.

 

The Alleged Farm donates 7 tons of food to local groups

We are in the business of feeding people. But not everyone can afford to eat as well or even as much as they should. That means sometimes we make it our business to give away our produce to help those people get the diet they deserve. To that end, we work with three local organizations who can deliver our crops where they are needed: Community Action, Capital Roots and Comfort Food (which is run by former Alleged Farm worker Devin Bulger).

In the course of the 2014 season, we donated about 14,000 pounds of fresh produce to these organization for distribution throughout the region. That’s a pretty big pile of vegetables, and giving it away makes us feel pretty good. We like feeding people.