Monthly Archives: July 2011

mano y mano

The scene pictured above was taken by Quin my second or third week here. I’m trimming onions and Justin is organizing what is probably 80 or 90 pounds of zucchini. Since this harvest, the CSA pick has consistently been an unbelievable bounty. And now, a month and a half later, tomorrow will be the last Mano Farm harvest in which I will partake for the foreseeable future. When I was rearranging the fire pit yesterday in Quin’s sunflower circle, I felt so at peace with myself and my time with Quin and Justin at Mano, but I was also struck with the stark melancholy that happens whenever I have to transition away from something. Time truly goes too fast.

I rarely took photographs here. Today, while I was harvesting tomatoes (now pumping out about 70 pounds a week from a single bed) and ground cherries around sunset, I realized why. The beauty here is very difficult to capture in one image, at least the beauty how I experience it. I find myself really appreciating the transitions: from a bed of weeds to one with freshly transplanted seedlings; from a lifeless flat of seeds to the adorable effort of seedlings breaking through the surface; from the blazing heat of the late afternoon to the sudden coolness of dusk. These things could not even be properly conveyed with a video camera; indeed, I will need to rely on my mind’s eye to recall the magic and labor of the past eight weeks on this land.

I also realized that I barely posted any recipes this entire summer. Today, during the same harvest, I also realized why. We cook with what we have, and although I definitely consulted recipes for inspiration and at times for concrete directions, the food preparation relies entirely on the available ingredients. Ingredients come first, culinary desires second, substantially reversing the way food is consumed by the majority of the Western world, and often myself. Additionally, the food this summer was all phenomenal due to a combination of factors that render recipes moot: a visceral connection with the produce, unbeatable freshness, the cooking talents of Justin and Quin, and the best sauce–the hunger built up from hours of physical labor.

Saying my good-byes will not be easy.

oh and also

Starting on August 29, I am going to be the Farm-to-School Coordinator for the Knox-Lincoln County Cooperative Extension through the Maine VISTA Program! I am so pumped to settle into my (currently unknown) house in Maine, grow some food, forage some food, harvest some weeds, buy some stuff from the local co-op, buy some other stuff in bulk, etc. etc. I am also obviously pumped to be working in a position that I feel is so important. It is going to be a challenge, I think, but a wonderfully rewarding one.

And something else pretty sweet entered my life yesterday: chocolate chia seed pudding. Chia seeds mixed with raw cacao, honey, maple syrup, and vanilla extract are soaked in milk for at least 20 minutes and they soak up all the goodness to create a yummy pudding. A+, will make again.

straight veggin’

The farm has been in a state of food excess since the day I arrived. The beauty of farming at the height of the growing season is the incredibly bounty of food that the earth constantly provides, and we don’t want the labor that goes into growing and nurturing that food to go to waste by throwing perfectly good food into the compost pile. So, we have been doing a lot of eating, canning, freezing and selling of vegetables to maximize our labor. The second shift of food processing is equally as important these days.

A few hours after waking up this morning, I threw a bunch of potatoes, carrots, onions and basil into a crock pot with cannellini beans I reconstituted to go with last night’s Burgess buttercup squash curry. Dinner tonight will be brought to us by the magic of all day in a crock pot set to low.

Two days ago, we cleared all of the radishes out of a bed that had been planted with both carrots and radishes. Much to my amazement, radishes go from seed to plump and spicy vegetable in three weeks. Carrots take a lot longer, so when the radishes are removed from the bed, the carrots continue to grow.

After clearing all of the radishes, we selected the best specimens to replant into a different bed to grow out for seed, but about 150 radishes didn’t make the cut. I’ll make braised radishes for lunch, some radish relish to serve with tacos for tomorrow’s lunch (maybe), and a boatload of radish pickles from a recipe in Liana Krissoff’s Canning for a New Generation: Bold, Fresh Flavors for the Modern Pantry. (This book has been a savior for us during the height of zucchini and apricot onslaught.)

Yesterday we planted the rest of the tomato seedlings that have been patiently waiting in the greenhouse for their time to enter the big, bad world. At the same time, I completed the first real tomato harvest of the season, a promising 14 lbs. of Costoluto Genovese and Thessaloniki varieties. There are so many green tomatoes on the vine waiting to ripen, so we are staring at the tip of the iceberg with a clear view of the what lies ahead. So exciting! So much canning awaits! Salsa, marinara, arrabiata–who knows?

“to boil”

Sandor Ellix Katz, author of Wild Fermentation: The Flavor, Nutrition, and Craft of Live-Culture Foods, has been a culinary inspiration here on the farm (see: sauerkraut galore, kimchi even more galore), and I just started reading his other book, The Revolution Will Not Be Microwaved: Inside America’s Underground Food Movements. He offers the connection between fermentation and fervor as motivation for his foray into the second book:

“Just as fermenting liquids exhibit a bubbling action similar to boiling, so do excited people, filled with passion and unrestrained. Revolutionary ideas, as they spread and mutate, ferment the culture. Agitation of fermenting liquids stimulates the process and quickens fermentation, as evidenced by increased bubbling action. Agitation similarly stimulates social ferment.”

I learned today that fervor and ferment are both derived from the latin fervere, or to boil. I was so overwhelmed by the amount of information Katz seamlessly, energetically fits into his writing that I only read about 10 pages before stopping and looking up everything he references. Let’s just say that today, Katz rose even higher on my list of “Top People I Would Like To Meet. Please. And Thank You.”

That brings me to a bit of food for thought about environmental thoughtlessness motivated by capitalist values, brought to us by ol’ Sandor himself:

“My friend, Les, who is a trucker, had a job driving between Idaho and Maine, back and forth, hauling frozen Idaho potato products to Maine and frozen Maine potato products to Idaho. Go figure. It must make business sense for whoever is paying to have it moved. I came across a news report that a Seattle-based salmon marketer is shipping Alaskan salmon and crab to China for labor-intensive processing, then shipping it back to the United States, a total of 8,000 miles. ‘Something that would cost us one dollar per pound labor here, they get it done for twenty cents in China,’ says Charles Bundrant, founder of Trident Seafoods. This is the logic of global capital and it is shortsighted because it ignores, or externalizes, the depletion of nonrenewable resources and the grave environmental costs of all these extraneous food miles.”

The same mindset that motivates salmon shipments to China and back initiates mass chemical spraying and GMO proliferation, all of which complicate and obstruct the actual nutrition of food. It also ignores the very same micro-ecosystems I mentioned in my previous post, and in most cases, prevents them from developing at all. When I was harvesting coriander seeds from a cilantro plant the other day, I was amazed at the amount of ladybugs on the plant. Quin and Justin told me that Coriandrum sativum does a fabulous job of attracting beneficial critters, like ladybugs, that then integrate into the farm ecosystem and work as natural pest control. If all the cilantro is sprayed with Roundup to prevent weeds and a mess of other things to prevent the various pests, where will all the ladybugs bone?