The Alleged Farm News – 15 October, 2015

This week’s share: Broccoli, Carrots, Daikon, Eggplant, Lettuce, Onion, Pears, Hot peppers, Adirondack Red and Blue Gold potatoes, Tomatoes, Tokyo Bekana, Jester winter squash


Sometimes the literalness of farming comes as a relief.

This literalness is in large part what gives farming its reputation for being the domain of clodhoppers and dolts. Simple men, I suppose the theory goes, do simple things. Not that literal and simple are entirely synonymous. Brain surgery–actual brain surgery–is no more metaphorical than growing carrots. There’s more at stake perhaps, more fine motor skills required, certainly a longer formal training period. But it’s the same direct kind of work, the same matter of physical actions having immediate consequences on the real object at hand. It is manual labor.

And yet brain surgeons are rarely deemed to be dolts. Perhaps it is all the schooling, the title, the pay–and the clean clothes. If farmers needed advanced degrees and commanded serious fees and had a phalanx of helpers to hand them the tools of their trade they might be seen as metaphorical geniuses too, rather than bumpkins.


But there’s no license required to grow a carrot. No schooling at all, really. For the majority of the history of carrot growing, it has been done by people who most likely could not read or write (though to be fair, for most of its history medicine has been practiced by people of dubious learning too). At best, it is good honest work, which is a nice way of saying menial. It requires no obvious skill or art or power of interpretation, no spin or branding or talking heads. The work of growing the carrot is much like the carrot itself: not without its merits, but a little plain and dull.

No doubt committed farm to table foodies would disagree. They would extol the carrots many virtues on their menus and cooking shows and in whatever forms of social media trendy carrot-extolling people use these days. And they would be right to praise the carrot. We tend to take it for granted and use it in boring ways, forgetting (or not really knowing in the first place) all the excellent dishes one can make with carrots.

But most likely these people would not just be lauding an underappreciated root. They would be using their paean to carrots as an opportunity to advance a cause: sustainability, nutrition, farming, buying local, cooking well, themselves. And probably mostly the latter. Look at me, I am the sort of person who truly appreciates the simple carrot, the healthy carrot, the organic carrot, the local carrot, the perfectly prepared carrot. So watch me, follow me, buy my stuff.

It sometimes seems like almost every public utterance is just another form of promotion, a carefully crafted message designed not to inform you, but to shape your feelings and thus your actions. Or maybe it’s just the election getting to me. Presidential debates, which ought to be packed with facts and policies and goals–with things we can judge for ourselves in order to make an informed decision–have become carefully rehearsed, deeply dishonest performances only occasionally interrupted by anything remotely akin to actual reality. To be fair, such events do tell us something important, but about the modern political process, not the candidates. Any sensible balance between fact and feeling has been abandoned because in the end, sadly, it is a lot easier to buy votes than earn them. There has always been an element of hucksterism in our electoral process–Lincoln did some things that might test our cynical indifference–but he had more than messaging to offer voters. Now it is like selling Pepsi, except that pepsi gets in trouble if it offers outright lies.

It is enough to make me want to grab my pitchfork. No, not violent revolution. I lack the proper disposition, and anyway the time of pitchforks as agents of political change has probably passed. But they do a great job digging up things–literally. So I will just go out to my field and harvest the humble roots, which are in the end no more and no less than themselves, and enjoy the peace and quiet and carrots.


Vegetable notes: It appears at least somebody reads the newsletter. Or some thing, anyway. I assume that is how the eggplants got the message to hurry up. And just in time. It looks like we will have a hard enough frost Saturday night to do in all the summer crops–if last night’s surprise frost has finished them off already

So it is time for roots. Such as daikon, the large white root in the box. It may look a little intimidating, but it is just a big radish. You could take a melon baller to it and turn it into more familiar round radishes. Which would be an odd, inefficient thing to do. Just peel it and slice it up. And if you don’t want to snack on that much raw radish, you could steam it or pickle it (it makes a nike kimchi) or dice it and put in in chicken soup or grate it and sprinkle over a bowl of udon just before serving.

Tokyo Bekana (in the bag) is a crunchy, mild mustard green. It looks rather like lettuce, and ou can certainly use it raw as a salad green. Or steam it or toss it in a soup.

As a quick reminder/warning, the little peppers in the bag with the pears are a Lemon Drop (yellow), which has a nice citrus flavor and some serious heat, and a Fatali, which has a good flavor too and the kind of heat you need to treat with respect. Unless you are Laotian, a little goes a long way. You also have a couple of Poblanos.

In case you are wondering, the Adirondack Reds are supposed to be red on the inside.

And eat your tomatoes soon. Not only is it time to move on to roots, but at this point in the year they tend not to last all that well.