Monday, September 29, 2008

Coming to an End

As we move farther into the fall season, the green beans are coming to an end and so is my time at Colchester. When I arrived in May, I had never managed to keep a house plant alive let alone grown most of the food that I eat. Working on the farm with Theresa and the other interns and having the opportunity to interact with our members has been one of the most challenging and rewarding experiences of my life. Physically I have never been so challenged or nourished by my work.

Tomorrow is my last CSA pick-up and Wednesday I am heading back to Wilmington, NC where I hope to continue my work promoting and creating sustainable, local food systems. Please continue to visit my blog to see what I am up to.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Veggies...what are they good for?

Sweet Potatoes

The sweet potato (Ipomoea batatas) is a dicotyledonous plant which belongs to the family Convolvulaceae. Amongst the approximately 50 genera and more than 1000 species of this family, only I. batatas is a crop plant whose large, starchy, sweet tasting tuberous roots are an important root vegetable (Purseglove, 1991; Woolfe, 1992). The young leaves and shoots are sometimes eaten as greens. The sweet potato is only distantly related to the potato (Solanum tuberosum). It is commonly called a yam in parts of North America, although they are only very distantly related to the other plant widely known as yams) (in the Discoreaceae family), which is native to Africa and Asia. (

Roasted Vegetable Curry

· 1 large or 2 small sweet potatoes
· 1 onion
· ½ small head of cauliflower
· 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
· ½ teaspoon salt
· 2 teaspoons grated peeled ginger root
· 2 tablespoons curry powder
· ½ teaspoon salt
· 1 cup coconut milk
· 1 cup diced tomatoes

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees.

Peel the sweet potatoes and onion, cut them into ¾ inch chunks, and place them in a large bowl. Cut the cauliflower into bite-sized florets (about 3 cups) and add to the bowl. Add the oil, sprinkle with salt and toss to coat. Spread the vegetables in a single layer on one or two oiled baking trays. Roast for 20 minutes, stirring once after about 10 minutes.

Meanwhile, in a bowl whisk together the ginger, curry powder, salt, and coconut milk until smooth. Stir in the tomatoes.

After the vegetables have roasted for 20 minutes, pour the curry sauce over them and stir to coat. Return to the oven until tender, about 5 minutes. (Moosewood Restaurant Simple Suppers, p. 53)

Apple Sweet Potato Casserole

· 2 sweet potatoes
· ½ cup water
· 2 large apples
· 1 cup apple juice
· 2 tablespoons cornstarch
· 3 tablespoons water
· ½ cup honey
· ⅓ cup wheat germ

Cook sweet potatoes in ½ cup water until tender about 20 minutes. Peel and slice lengthwise into ½-inch thick slices. Lay them in a casserole dish. Peel and core apples, slicing ½-inch thick. Lay apple slices on top of sweet potatoes. Bring apple juice to a boil. Combine cornstarch and water. Add to juice, cooking until sauce is clear and thickened. Add honey. Spoon over apples, then top with wheat germ. Bake at 350 degrees for 30-45 minutes or until apples are tender. (Practical Produce Cookbook, p. 256)

Friday, September 26, 2008

Caring for the People

In order to make fresh fruits and vegetables more accessible to low income women and children, the USDA began the FNMP (Farmers' Market Nutritional Program). The program was established in 1992:
FMNP Eligible WIC participants are issued FMNP coupons in addition to their regular WIC food instruments. These coupons can be used to buy fresh, unprepared fruits, vegetables and herbs from farmers, farmers' markets or roadside stands that have been approved by the State agency to accept FMNP coupons. The farmers, farmers’ markets or roadside stands then submit the coupons to the bank or State agency for reimbursement.

Colchester annually updates its application to be a part of this program to make sure that our pesticide-free vegetables are available to everyone.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Caring for the Land

Colchester practices good land stewardship in many ways. In addition to being pesticide-free which reduces ground and water contamination and using crop rotation, we are also using cover crops to replenish the vitamins and minerals that the veggies leech from the soil. Theresa has chosen to plant cow peas in some of our dormant fields this season to replace nitrogen. According to NCSU:

Cover crops are grown to protect and improve the soil, not to harvest. Cover crops have the potential to improve soil tilth, control erosion and weeds, and maintain soil organic matter. They can reduce compaction and increase water
infiltration which decreases leaching of nutrients. Cover crops retain and recycle plant nutrients (especially nitrogen) between crops, provide habitat for beneficial microorganisms, and increase plant diversity.

Practicing good land stewardship ensures that we will continue to be able to produce vegetables on the land year after year.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Do You Have Lettuce Today?

Each week at the farmers' market in Chestertown, our customers hungrily, ask, "Do you have lettuce?" Happily, our answer is generally yes. In order to ensure a continued supply of our mesclun mix, we must practice succession planting:

In agriculture, succession planting refers to several planting methods that increase crop availability during a growing season by making efficient use of space and timing.

For us this has meant seeding new rounds of lettuce every two or three weeks, a strategy that is known as same crop succession planting. This has allowed for the continued harvesting of our lettuce mix.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Veggies...what are they good for?


The leek , Allium ampeloprasum var. porrum (L.), also sometimes known as Allium porrum, is a vegetable which belongs, along with the onion and garlic, to the Alliaceae family. Two related vegetables, the elephant garlic and kurrat, are also variant subspecies of Allium ampeloprasum, although different in their uses as food. The edible part of the leek plant is sometimes called a stem, though technically it is a bundle of leaf sheaths.

Drunken Leeks

· 2 Tablespoons butter
· 6 to 8 small leeks, trimmed and washed
· 1 clove garlic, crushed
· 1/2 cup red wine
· 1 teaspoon red wine vinegar
· 2 Tablespoons parsley, chopped
· Dash salt
· Black pepper

Melt the butter and cook the leeks and garlic for 3 minutes over medium heat. Add the red wine and some salt and mix well. Cover and cook for 15 more minutes or until leeks are tender. Place the leeks on a serving dish and reduce the liquid left in the pan for 2 minutes. Add the wine vinegar and pepper to taste. Pour over the leeks and garnish with parsley.

Zucchini and Leek Oven Baked Frittata

· 3 medium zucchini (approximately 1 lb)
· 1 leek
· 3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
· 6 large eggs
· 1 cup grated Parmesan cheese
· 2 cups shredded mozzarella
· 6 basil leaves
· salt and pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 35o degrees. Wash and trim leek. Slice in rounds. Wash zucchini and chop in small pieces. Heat the 3 tbsp of olive oil in large skillet on medium heat until hot and add the zucchini and leek. Cook until vegetables for one or two minutes (the zucchini will still have a crunch to it).

In the meantime, whisk the 6 eggs with the 1 cup Parmesan cheese and 2 cups mozzarella in a bowl. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Brush the pie plate with olive oil and add the zucchini mixture. Pour egg mixture over zucchini mixture and stir to blend. Scatter the basil leaves on top.
Bake in 350 degree oven for 30 minutes or until the frittata is sent and the top is nicely browned.

Friday, September 19, 2008

The Rain in Spain

Though the wet weather has finally arrived, it didn't come soon enough. We have been irrigating throughout the season to ensure that our seedlings will sprout and our plants will grow. Whenever we plant we lay drip tape at the same time. This allows us to water six 200 ft rows slowly over the course of two hours before moving on to the next crop.

According to Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations:

Irrigation is the supply of water to agricultural crops by artificial means, designed to permit farming in arid regions and to offset drought in semi-arid regions. Even in areas where total seasonal rainfall is adequate on average, it may be poorly distributed during the year and variable from year to year. Where traditional rain-fed farming is a high-risk enterprise, irrigation can help to ensure stable production.

And high risk it would have been. Theresa said that this season, without irrigation, we couldn't have run the CSA. Though I don't like harvesting in it, I welcome the rain. The crops could use a little natural moisture.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

The Tomato Waits for No Man

When Theresa first asked me if I wanted to can this Sunday, I said, "That doesn't really fit into my schedule." She gently reminded me that if I couldn't do it now it wasn't getting done. There will not be an overabundance of tomatoes forever. One thing that farming is helping me to understand is seasonal eating. Canning the tomatoes now allows us to extend the harvest throughout the winter.

So, Sunday was a day of canning for Rachel, Theresa and me. With the tomatoes left over after Friday's CSA pick-up and Saturday's farmers' market, the three of us spent the afternoon blanching, peeling and canning tomatoes. Though canning tomatoes takes a lot of time, having three people makes it seem more like an afternoon hanging out then working. I will get to remember the day I spent with the girls later this winter when I am making chili.

Monday, September 15, 2008

It's that Time Again

The cycle of planting is beginning again. The head lettuce, which we finished harvesting back in late June is going in the ground again. Head lettuce matures in 50 to 60 days which means in late October or early November we will have Romaine, Salad Bowl and other lettuce varieties back on our dinner tables.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Veggies...what are they good for?

Hot Peppers

Peppers are commonly broken down into three groupings: bell peppers, sweet peppers, and hot peppers. Most popular pepper varieties are seen as falling into one of these categories or as a cross between them… The chili pepper, chilli pepper or chili, is the fruit of the plants from the genus Capsicum, which are members of the nightshade family, Solanacae. Even though chilis may be thought of as a vegetable, their culinary usage is, generally, a spice, the part of the plant that is usually harvested is the fruit, and botany considers the plant a berry shrub. (

Spicy Black Beans with Bell peppers and Rice

· 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
· 1 large onion, diced
· 1 cup chopped green bell pepper
· 1 cup chopped red bell pepper
· 3 large garlic cloves, chopped
· 1 tablespoon ground cumin
· 1 jalapeño chili, seeded, chopped
· 1 teaspoon dried oregano
· 2 15- to 16-ounce cans black beans, drained
· 2 cups canned crushed tomatoes with added puree
· 1/4 cup orange juice
· 1 1/2 teaspoons hot pepper sauce (such as Tabasco)

· 1 1/3 cups raw rice, cooked

Heat oil in heavy large skillet over medium-high heat. Add onion, bell peppers, garlic, cumin, jalapeño and oregano; sauté until vegetables begin to soften, about 8 minutes.
Mash 1/2 cup beans. Add mashed beans, whole beans, tomatoes, orange juice and hot pepper sauce to skillet. Bring to boil, stirring frequently. reduce heat, cover and simmer 15 minutes. Uncover and simmer until reduced to thick sauce consistency, stirring occasionally, about 15 minutes. Season with salt and pepper.

Mound rice in center of platter. Spoon black bean mixture over.

Corn Jalapeno Muffins

· 1 cup milk
· 1 large egg
· 1/4 cup vegetable oil
· 2 cups all-purpose flour
· 2 tablespoons sugar
· 2 tablespoons cornmeal
· 1 tablespoon baking powder
· 3/4 teaspoon salt
· 1 cup corn kernels, frozen thawed or canned drained
· 2 tablespoons minced jalapeno, or use mild chiles

Whisk together the milk, egg, and oil. In a large mixing bowl, combine flour, sugar, cornmeal, baking powder, and salt. Stir in first mixture until all ingredients moistened, then stir in the corn and peppers. Spoon into greased muffin cups. Bake at 400° for 20 minutes, or until a wooden pick or cake tester inserted in center comes out clean. Cool in pan for 5 minutes, then remove from pan and serve warm.

Friday, September 12, 2008

Companion Planting

One strategy that organic farmers employ is companion planting. According to
Companion planting is based around the idea that certain plants can benefit others when planted next to, or close to one another.
In our leek field we planted carrots between our rows of leeks. It is thought that the carrots, through chemicals they release, will cut down on the incidence of worms in the leeks. This is called Biochemical Pest Suppression. For more information and for a companion planting chart see

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Seasonal Abundance

Before I came to Colchester I didn't understand the cycle of abundance of the farming season. Though I did some shopping at the farmers' market, I primarily purchased my vegetables at the supermarket. This meant that I didn't really have a grasp of the growing season.

This year by working on the farm I have had the opportunity to see the farm transition from early Spring, when there were hardly any vegetables to give out at the pickups, to summer, when there are more vegetables than we know what to do with.

Colchester tries to organize charities to come pick up food that does not sell at the farmers' market in Chestertown on Saturday mornings, but still some of the vegetables end up on the compost pile. Here their organic matter will begin to breakdown. The compost pile will be used to fertilize the fields next season. So, though it may seem like a waste, these vegetables are helping to ensure next year's soil fertility.

Monday, September 8, 2008

Member Feedback

Positive feedback from our members makes the experience of growing food much more meaningful.

Last week, I was working the Tuesday CSA pickup in Chestertown when one of the members asked me if we had any melons left. I pointed to the end of the table and was about to move on when he told me that he had taken a cantaloupe at the last pickup. He said he left it on the counter too long and it broke open. He went on to say that he almost threw it away right then. But he said for some reason he decided to take a bite. "It was the best cantaloupe I have had in all my 65 years," he told me.

This week, when I go to pick melons, I will be thinking of him and hoping that I will find another cantaloupe that is just as good.

Sunday, September 7, 2008

Veggies...what are they good?

Lima Beans
Phaseolus lunatus is a legume. It is grown for its seed, which is eaten as a vegetable. It is commonly known as the lima bean or butter bean; it is also known as Haba bean, Pallar bean, Burma bean, Guffin bean, Hibbert bean, Sieva bean, Rangood bean, Madagascar bean, Paiga, Paigya, prolific bean, civet bean and sugar bean.

Lima beans and butter beans contain linamarin, a cyanogenic glucoside, although the beans are rendered safe when cooked, and low-linamarin varieties are typically used for culinary purposes. (

Baked Lima Beans in Sour Cream

· 6 cups of cooked lima beans
· 1/4 cup of butter
· 1/2 cup of brown sugar
· 1 tablespoon of dry mustard
· 1 tablespoon of molasses
· 1 cup of sour cream

Combine all ingredients. Place in 2 quart casserole. Bake at 350ºF. for 45 minutes.


· 2 cups lima beans
· 2 cups corn
· 2 tablespoons chopped onion
· 1 teaspoon salt
· 1 cup water
· 2 tablespoons butter

Put everything but butter into a saucepan. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer approximately 25 minutes. Drain and add butter. (Practical Produce Cookbook, p. 16)

Friday, September 5, 2008

Ick! You Want Me to Eat What?

I don't know about you, but the fungus growing on this corn doesn't look very appetizing to me. According to Wikipedia:

Corn smut is a disease of maize caused by the pathogenic plant fungus Ustilago maydis. U. maydis causes smut disease on maize (Zea Nays) and teosinte (Euchlena mexicana). Although it can infect any part of the plant it usually enters the ovaries and replaces the normal kernels of the cobs with large distorted tumors analogous to mushrooms. These tumors, or "galls", are made up of much-enlarged cells of the infected plant, fungal threads, and blue-black spores. The spores give the cob a burned, scorched appearance. The name Ustilago comes from the Latin word ustilare (to burn).

The fungus has had difficulty entering into the American and European diets as most farmers see it as blight, despite attempts by government and high profile chefs. In the mid-1990s and due to demand created by high-end restaurants, Pennsylvania and Florida farms were allowed by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) to intentionally infect corn with huitlacoche. Most observers consider the program to have had little impact, although the initiative is still in progress. Regardless, the cursory show of interest is significant because the USDA has spent a considerable amount of time and money trying to eradicate huitlacoche in the United States. Moreover, in 1989 the James Beard Foundation held a high-profile huitlacoche dinner. This dinner famously tried to get Americans to eat more of it by renaming it the Mexican truffle. (

If you are interested in trying this new food:


Cooked by the following method, cuitlacoche can be used for crepas, quesadillas, budin, or in plain tacos.

· 3 tablespoons safflower oil
· 2 tablespoons finely chopped white onion
· 2 small garlic cloves, peeled and finely chopped
· rajas of 4 chiles polbanos
· 1 ½ pounds (about 6 cups) cuitlacoche
· sea salt to taste
· 2 tablespoons roughly chopped epazote leaves

Heat the oil in a frying pan. Add the onion and garlic and fry gently until translucent - about 3 minutes. Add the chile strips and fry for 1 minute more. Add the cuitlacoche and salt, cover the pan and cook over medium heat, shaking the pan from time to time for about 15 minutes. The fungus should be tender, retaining some moisture, but not soft and mushy. Stir in the epazote and cook, uncovered, for another 2 minutes.

NOTE: If the cuitlacoche is rather dry, sprinkle on 1/4 cup water before covering; if it is too juicy, remove the lid before the end of the cooking time and reduce over higher heat.

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

The Incredible Edible Eggplant

As the season wears on, some of our members have said that they are a little tired of eggplant. Our new intern Rachel arrived this week from Asheville, North Carolina, and she still has plenty of enthusiasm for this incredible vegetable. In case you are looking for a new receipe:

Roasted Ratatouille

· 1 zucchini
· 3 onions
· 1 eggplant
· 2 tomatoes
· 2 red, green, or yellow peppers
· 6 garlic cloves
· 1/3 cup olive oil
· 1 teaspoon salt
· ½ teaspoon black pepper
· 1 cup packed fresh basil leaves
· Grated Romano or Parmesan cheese

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees. Cut all of the vegetables into 1-inch chunks and place them in a large bowl. (We usually peel the eggplant.) You need between 12 and 14 cups total. Coarsely chop the garlic. Toss the vegetables and garlic with the olive oil, salt, and pepper, and spread on a baking sheet (or two). Roast for 15 minutes and then stir the vegetables. Continue to roast for 25 to 30 minutes, stirring again after 20 minutes, until the vegetables are fork-tender and juicy.

While the vegetables roast, chop the basil. When the vegetables are done, put them in a serving bowl and stir in the chopped basil. Top with grated cheese. (Moosewood Restaurant: Simple Suppers, p. 50)

Monday, September 1, 2008

Reading the Landscape

One of the things that I enjoy the most about farming is that I can see things in the landscape that I never saw before. I have created a connection with the earth.

To me, these are my beans. You may look out at them and all you see is a field of green beans. But, as I gaze out over the rows of beans, I see where I knocked the seeder over so there was a particularly dense patch of provider seeds which translated into an area loaded with plants . I can also tell that I put these babies in the ground a while ago, before I got the hang of walking in a straight line. I know the history of these beans and it makes them taste even better when they are on my dinner table (and I hope on yours).