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.