Finally, the burst of Spring and we all seem to gear up for what is ahead! Greens are abundant on the Vineyard. Cooking greens are available from The Farm Institute and I have been enjoying them for breakfast, lunch and dinner!
We had an amazing weekend of gardeners here a couple of weeks ago. We learned about soil and bacteria, soil enhancers, companion planting, how to preserve and ferment and when to plant what, among a few of the highlights. When we found unwanted grubs in the soil, we ate them! That’s right. Two of our participants followed John Bagnulo’s lead of removing the head, and chewing them up. It was reported that they tasted like oysters. We planted most of our seeds from Fruition Seeds. We planted four rows of potatoes, carrots, radishes, lettuces, kale, cabbage, Bok Choy and onions. Caitlin at Mermaid Farm had started many of the plants from seed in her greenhouse in February and it was a labor of love turning the soil and creating a 20 x 30 virgin plot into a garden in 24 hours! I learned that I should not plant my nightshades in the same place year after year. Hmmm? How had I missed this valuable information all these past years? I have been planting my eggplants, peppers and tomatoes in the same beds year after year. Gardeners are warned of a variety of tomato diseases residing in the soil which affect peppers, eggplants, potatoes, and other crops in the nightshade (Solanaceae) family. To avoid the disease cycle and to help get rid of the disease-causing organisms, rotate tomatoes with unrelated crops such as corn, beans or lettuce. There is always something to learn, and while this seems basic, I had forgotten and fortunately avoided the diseases as I have had good success with my crops in the past.
The garlic is up and I have fond memories of watching my 17 and 23 year-old sons sitting on the porch last Fall breaking up garlic and then planting it. I was a little grumpy, when in February I discovered a pile of their unfinished job of garlic stems and leaves sitting in a pile on the porch. I then recalled seeing them together doing something productive and forgot about the mess they left behind! And speaking of garlic, have you ever wondered what that green garlic mustard (Alliaria petiolata) is? That green that lingers on my compost all winter, even when its leaves were buried under snow, is putting out new growth. Garlic mustard tastes like garlic and mustard - a bit mustard-y and garlic-y! How could you go wrong? This plant is a biennial, which means that it starts growing in the late summer and fall of one year, overwinters, and then goes to seed and completes its life cycle the following year. It has a rosette of heart-shaped leaves with scalloped edges. Add it to braised greens or make a pesto and throw it in the freezer. The roots can be used just like horseradish, a bit stringier, but just as delicious! As the days warm, this plant morphs into a taller broccoli rabe wanna-be vegetable. The flower stalks can get to be 2 1/2 feet tall. The flowers look like miniature broccoli heads and then open into small, white flowers. This becomes a fantastic wild vegetable. Stir-fry the greens with just about anything! The flowers then produce a seed pod 1 to 2 1/2 inches long which can be harvested into a raw snack. Each pod contains a row of black seeds which you can sprout. Garlic mustard is an invasive species. You can harvest it freely without worrying about sustainability issues. You can eat it year round with many added health benefits! Try my Wild Greens Pesto with Garlic Mustard recipe.
What is New on the Farms?
At Morning Glory: One greenhouse is full of transplants of lettuce, herbs, onions, broccoli, cabbage, cut flowers; about 10,000 seeds of corn are in flats that will be transplanted to their West Tisbury field when they will ripen corn by mid-July!
At Mermaid Farm: Caitlin has her orange tomatoes plants out with a “For Sale” sign.
The Allen Farm has 66 baby lambs. Lamb sausages will be ready in July.
I had the best guinea fowl last week from The Good Farm. My family commented that it was the best “chicken” they ever had. When I told them it was guinea, they claimed they had never had guinea fowl before. Such a deprived family I have! We all loved it and I have been told there are a few more in the freezer. They are located at the Bill (Clinton) mailbox across from The Scottish Bakehouse if you want to swing by. Jefferson is the keeper of The Good Farm and partners with Richard Andre of The Cleveland Farm at the Farmer's Market selling meats. They will be selling nitrate-free bacon and sausages for the Farmer's Market. Richard Andre and Jefferson have a limited number of pastured ducks available for sale. Those huge ducks you may see in electric netting on the farm are actually goslings they'll have for sale come October. Finally, starting May 19th I'll have fresh pastured, organically fed GMO-free chicken available weekly. YEAH!!
We had an outstanding week in April with our Spring Cleanse. Our basic philosophy: GOOD NUTRITION is the foundation of GOOD HEALTH. We ate a minimum of 12 plants each day (we counted a total of 82 varieties by the end of the week!) and spent a great amount of time discussing the importance of fiber to build up the microbes in our gut - this being the key to our health. We looked at plants and their medicinal values, and how to make them a regular part of daily life, making them delicious and how to use every part of the plant in our meals (cauliflower leaves and broccoli stems) and how to use leftovers! Genetically Modified Foods were a discussion after lunch one day, as was how to take some of the stress out of our life! Yoga was lead by Emily Phillips and Mollie Doyle. We biked to Katama and hiked Chilmark. The importance of supporting sustainable agriculture in our communities was exemplified at each meal. If you missed the opportunity to be with us in April for our Spring Cleanse, please consider joining us this October. We are offering a Fall Metabolic Boot Camp followed by a 3-day Gourmet Foraging workshop. We are offering a 10% discount if you register by May 31st.
The debate of eggs continues….
YES! I encourage folks to eat local, but if you are concerned with GMOs you may wish to strike a deal with your farmer and tell her that you are willing to pay more and then commit to supporting that farmer and telling all your friends! GMOs in feed, the costs, the nutritional density in pastured eggs are what I am talking about here - there is no comparison when it comes to our health! Here is the cost breakdown from my perspective:
We are getting about 12 dozen eggs a week that we sell to our neighbors at Mermaid Farm. The wholesale price is $6/per dozen and the retail price is $7. (They refuse to charge more than $7/per dozen). Organic grain is $32/per bag and GMO-free grain is $25/per bag. We have discussions over which we should use and we oscillate between using both. We go through about a bag and a half a week. We lose about a chicken every two months to the hawks. Our weekly costs are approximately $47 to feed and we collect approximately $72 per week. This is not taking into consideration the time to feed and water the chickens, collect, wash & package their eggs, repair, clean or maintain their coop and area or that we donate a chicken here and there to our hawks. We are getting nutrient dense, delicious eggs for ourselves and sharing ours with our neighbors. There is no need to compare my eggs to others. I do wonder when I see the sign “Local Eggs” or “Island Eggs” what that means in terms of raising and feeding chickens. I think it is good practice to ask.
I know the Allen Farm allows their chickens to roam all over the back of the farm and are fed a diet of organic grain. They currently collect 2-3 dozen eggs a day. In Eggs – The Best Way, I go more in depth about eggs, their nutritional value and how to “prepare” them in order to best benefit your health.
Well, as you can see, madness has come over me - I have written an extra long newsletter this month. Life is full with catering, classes, events, gardening, GMOs and eggs!
The nettles are out and abundant. If you do not have any in your garden, Mermaid Farm is selling them. There is nothing quite like nettle tea to soothe the soul, but they are also used for joint ailments, as a diuretic, and as an astringent.