8 Ways to Enjoy Fresh Herbs

A mortar and pestle, garlic, onions, and flat-leaf parsley.

Garlic, onion, and parsley.. this looks like the start of something delicious! Read on for a green sauce recipe.

Out in the fields and in our gardens we have an amazing local resource of flavor that can elevate snacks and meals to a whole ‘nother level! Culinary herbs are so fun to use and they open up worlds of new combinations of tastes. Come read on and learn eight different ways to enjoy and make use of them.

If you have a CSA farm share with us, we have plenty of herbs in the Pick Your Own Patch that you can harvest for your personal use, fresh cooking and drying or other preserves. We also stock these fresh herbs at our stands and markets to pick up along with your produce. Get a bunch and use some fresh, then dry the rest for winter!

Beyond the pleasures of cooking, many of the classic culinary herbs also have medicinal uses that you can explore more and incorporate into your cooking for health benefit.

Herbed Butters, Oils & Spreads

Herb butters, also called compound butters, are a deliciously easy way to preserve fresh herbs as well as quickly add flavor to whichever dish you’re making. The basics of herb butter involve combining softened butter with a small handful of finely chopped herbs as well as some salt and pepper. When thoroughly mixed, scoop out onto waxed paper and tie up the ends, or pack the butter into a lidded container. It should last for about a week in the fridge, or several times longer when well-wrapped in the freezer.

Use on hot bread or biscuits, steamed veggies, scrambled eggs, or grilled meats and fish. Virtually any herb can be used to make a compound butter, with popular recipes including rosemary, thyme, basil, parsley, chives or dill.

I still remember the first time I went to an Italian restaurant that served hot bread with an herbed olive oil. Dipping fresh bread into a tasty flavored oil was so fun and just perfect for when you are waiting for a meal. If you can rip the bread, even more fun in my experience. This is very easy to make at home, and works well with both fresh chopped or dried herbs. Combine your desired herbs with about as much oil as you think you will eat up for that meal in a pretty little bowl that makes room to reach your bread in. If you have leftovers you can cook with it later. I use about a quarter cup of oil and a tablespoon of fresh herbs or quite a bit less if dried herbs. One combination I like is basil, garlic, oregano and hot pepper flakes. Sprinkle a little coarse salt in there and mix that in too to help pull out the flavor when you eat it. Make your oil as the first step of making dinner so it has time to infuse. Chopping the herbs small and crushing dried ones a little in your hand before adding will help release the flavors.

A quick herbed spread can be perfect party food with veggies, or a simple dinner when paired with good bread and a hearty green salad. Try this creamy spinach and herb dip shared by CSA member Amy Eichorn. Thank you Amy! She recommends refrigerating overnight so that the flavors can mix, and then serving on toasted, crusty bread.

green garlic

Green garlic is the young garlic plant. You can use it like a scallion all the way up to the green tops. The white part is most tender raw. Green better for cooking. Use it anywhere you want garlic flavor.

Creamy Spinach and Garlic Spread

8 oz cream cheese softened

Splash milk

1 Tbsp butter

1 green garlic shoot chopped (or 2-3 cloves of garlic)

6 – 8 oz spinach chopped (or Swiss Chard without the ribs)

In sauté pan, place last 3 ingredients and over low heat, soften until garlic is cooked and spinach is wilted. Add all ingredients together and mix well. Chill overnight in the refrigerator to let flavors combine, if you have time.

From CSA member Amy Eichorn, 2015.

 

Sauces with Herbs

Make sauces ahead of time and keep in the fridge or freezer for ease in cooking later on. If making a stovetop sauce, add herbs a minute or two before serving– delicate herbs like basil and dill are at their most aromatic when just warmed.

I like to listen to podcasts, and I often play the weekly episode from NPR’s Splendid Table while cooking dinner. (As well as America’s Test Kitchen, which is made in Massachusetts!) I heard a few recipe tips for a fresh herb sauces while listening, and they are very adaptable to other herbs too.

Fresh Oregano Sauce from an episode of Splendid Table is wonderful for lamb, eggplant, sliced tomato salad, and more! Pulse these ingredients in a food processor until well mixed and chopped: a bunch worth of oregano leaves, a little bit of capers, a couple cloves garlic, some lemon zest, a good bit of olive oil, and salt to taste.

Green Herb Sauce from the South of France
This is also from that Splendid Table episode, though I have been making a variation on this for a while. Take capers, fresh mint, parsley, oregano, basil, a little garlic, olive oil, almonds (opt), anchovies (opt), and pulse in a food processor until chopped and mixed. Salt and more olive oil, to taste. Add a squeeze of lemon juice right before serving. Use this on roasted potatoes, grilled vegetables, anywhere.

I like to make that sauce in the mortar and pestle with the garlic and salt in there first, then adding the capers, then chopping the herbs up small and putting them in, with olive oil last. Being as I love parsley I often do it with just parsley. I also sometimes put in some chopped onion or shallot, which is especially nice if it sat in some red or white wine vinegar for a few minutes.

Fresh Dill Cream Sauce
That there Splendid Table just tossed out a bunch of fun ideas in a matter of seconds and I have yet to try this one. Chop up your fresh dill fronds, mix with some dijon mustard add a bit of heavy cream to get to a sauce consistency, add a little chopped shallot or onion. This sounds like it would be awesome on anything from the grill.

Try this recipe too for Cilantro Peanut Sauce:

A dish of mixed herb sauce.

This green herb sauce was made using what’s on hand– we advocate for flexible recipes that use what’s seasonal and available.

1/4 cup peanut butter
1/4 cup honey (or other sweetener)
3 tbs soy sauce
2 tbs cider or rice vinegar (or other light vinegar)
2 tbs lemon or lime juice
2-4 tbs olive oil
1 bunch cilantro, chopped
1 tbs sesame oil (optional)
1-2 cloves garlic, minced (optional) – or green garlic
1 tbs minced fresh ginger (optional, or a little ginger powder)
a little of your favorite spicing agent (cayenne powder, chili flakes)

    Mix everything together. You can mix it in a pouring container or the container you’ll store leftovers in later. Add a little water to get desired consistency. Salt to taste.

Also try Scallion-Cilantro Chutney or Roasted Tomatillo Salsa Verde.

 

Salad Dressings  

Bowl of bean salad and bunch of savory

Winter Savory is an excellent seasoning for beans. Try it in a bean salad with sweet onions and green pepper.

A simple vinaigrette can do wonders to a salad of greens, grains, or pasta. The best part is that just about any herb can find a home in a salad dressing! Whether you’ve got fennel or oregano, there’s a blend of oil and vinegar that will match the flavors of your herbs.

The classic rule of thumb for a vinaigrette is three parts oil to one part acid (lemon juice or vinegar), but this all depends on taste. Adding fresh herbs, shallots, garlic, strawberries, or extra citrus zest will change the balance of your dressing, so be sure to sample often.

Here is a tasty Fresh Dill Dressing: take the fronds from a bunch of dill and puree with 1/2 cup olive oil, 1/4 cup vinegar, 1/4 cup water, 3-4 cloves of garlic, and salt to taste.

Try any of these four seasonal dressings: Herb Vinaigrette, Rosemary Vinaigrette, Strawberry Vinaigrette, or Creamy Roasted Tomato Dressing.

 

Marinades 

Various fresh herbs in jars of water.

Here are some of our fresh herbs at the Montague farm stand!

Whether for vegetables or meat, a marinade can add subtle flavors to enhance the dish. Acids in the marinade will help break down and tenderize your ingredients, and oil prevents drying out during cooking time as well as gets seasonings to stick.

Try a basic marinade with equal part oil and vinegar, salt and pepper to taste, a few minced cloves of garlic, and a heaping handful of minced rosemary, thyme, and parsley.

For eggplant and summer squash, we love to add soy sauce, olive oil, the spice blend garam masala, garlic, cilantro and parsley to marinades before cooking. Maybe some cayenne pepper flakes for heat.

It’s not quite a marinade, but adding sprigs of rosemary under the skin of chicken before roasting is phenomenal.

Try Lemon Herb TofuGrilled Chive Chicken, or Cilantro Lime Marinade.

 

Pesto

Pestos are probably the first thing that come to mind when thinking about what to do with a fresh bunch of basil, but have you ever tried making pestos with other types of herbs? In addition to mixing up the type of nuts (walnuts, pine nuts, pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds, pecans, almonds, cashews) or cheese that you might use, different herbs and greens can bring a variety of flavors and colors to your pestos.

For example, using one part minced rosemary to three parts parsley in a pesto will result in a bright green, robust flavor with just the right amount of rosemary. Add parsley to your basil pesto to keep it green, or mix with radish tops for a spicier take on a traditional sweet basil pesto. Even blending hearty greens like kale with a handful of herbs can make a simple smooth pesto.

 

Classic Basil Pesto:

basil

Basil growing in the field.

 

2 cups fresh basil leaves, packed

1 cup parsley sprigs

1/3  cup freshly grated Parmesan-Reggiano or Romano cheese

1/3  cup extra virgin olive oil

1/3 cup pine nuts or walnuts

3 medium sized garlic cloves, minced

Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

Put it all in a food processor and blend until you like the consistency. Sometimes it is nice to stop before everything is completely pureed to get little chunks of texture and flavor.

If you love pesto and like to have it often, you can freeze pesto for the winter. During July and as long as the Basil season lasts we offer basil in bulk orders from the farm.

Pesto is very forgiving and can easily be vegan. I must admit that I never buy pine nuts any more because they are so expensive. I have found that sunflower seeds and cashews make great pesto, and I usually don’t add cheese either. Enough olive oil, garlic and salt make it so good. Sometimes a touch of lemon juice is really good too. It is a great place to use up pretty much any type of green you have from spinach to kale to arugula to garlic chives to mustard greens.

Also try Green Garlic Pesto in season. Not sure what else to do with a fridge overflowing with pesto of all kinds? The Kitchn has tips for creatively using pesto in a variety of dishes.

Teas

Fennel fronds make a delicious tea that's soothing for indigestion.

Fennel fronds make a delicious tea that’s soothing for indigestion.

Herbal teas can be a great way to warm up on a chilly day, as a natural supplement to your diet, or for medicinal purposes. Drying your own herbs is the best way to save seasonal flavors for later on in the year. A typical ratio for brewing tea is 1 teaspoon of herbs per 6 ounces of water, but this is dependent on the freshness of the herbs and how strong you’d like to brew it.

I am very fond of thyme tea on cooler summer mornings and all fall and winter. For this tea, put a good sprig of thyme (one with 4 or so little branches on it) per mug of tea into water and then boil for a few minutes. The taste is warm and aromatic. You can add honey if you like. Word on the street is that thyme has immune boosting properties and is great to help out right as you start to feel sick. Though I enjoy it at any time.

Mint and Fennel Tea

Chamomile Tea

 

Cocktails with Herb Simple Syrups and More

Flowering thyme

Flowering thyme can be processed in a liqueur.

Farm to Table drinks can be a fun way to enjoy fresh produce with a variety of delicious combinations. A simple syrup is an effective way to flavor beverages: mix equal parts sugar and water in a saucepan, along with your herb of choice, until the sugar dissolves. If you don’t want want any particulates in the syrup, bundle the herbs with food-safe twine or place herbs in a linen re-usable teabag.

Blueberry Basil Infused Vodka

Flowering Thyme Liqueur

Sage Brush Cocktail

Five Cocktails with Basil

 

Preserving HerbsIMG_4541

Having access to fresh herbs year-round can be a challenge, and buying bunches of herbs when they’re in season will ensure that you get the highest quality product at peak flavor. Drying or freezing your own herbs is easy and rewarding! For more information, read our blog post on Drying Herbs.

You can save them to enjoy all year-round! Another great way to save herbs is to chop them up, mix with olive oil, pack them in ice cube trays, and freeze. Once frozen take them out of the cube tray and put into freezer storage bags to store in the freezer. Then they are ready to pop into the pan to start flavoring anything when the snow is on the ground.

 

Do you have any favorite recipes that feature herbs or good ideas for using them? Let us know in the comments or at recipes@redfirefarm.com. Enjoy the season of fresh herbs!

Meet Your Farmers: Haley and Aina

We’ve got quite the crew here at Red Fire Farm: at peak season there are between 60-100 people in total working at our Granby and Montague locations on any given day.

We’ve created this ongoing series of Meet the Farmer posts as a way to share a little bit about some of our crew who help sow, grow, and harvest the food that goes out to our farmers’ markets, grocery stores, and CSA sites around Massachusetts. These folks do a great job and are keeping local farming alive!

Haley Norris

Crew Leader

Image of Haley carrying a large bundle of row cover.

Haley does some heavy lifting around the farm. This time of year we are putting away the protective row covers that kept bugs like flea beetles from devouring new brassica transplants this spring.

On the Farm:
Haley first started farming eight years ago in New Hampshire, and has now worked at Red Fire Farm for three seasons. She is currently a crew leader, which means that she manages a small group of crew members as they all harvest produce, control weeds, and make sure that fields are in good condition.

Here’s one of her favorite times on the farm:
“I just remembered my favorite farm memory! We were picking beets in the Mitchell field and some neighboring corn farmers who were all Hispanic and barely speaking English started whistling and tossing us corn. The Somali women got so excited that they ran over with a bunch of beets and we all traded. It was a really beautiful moment to see so much culture in one spot all together because of farming.”

Favorite Vegetable:
Her favorite vegetable to harvest and to eat is eggplant. Their shiny purple color brightens up the harvest. Haley likes to eat it roasted it with tomatoes, Turkish style.

Try these other recipes when they come in season for Thai Eggplant Stir Fry, Ginger Garlic Eggplant, or Garlic and Herb Ratatouille.

Off the Farm:
When she’s not out in the fields, Haley enjoys a well-deserved rest and a cold craft beer. Since she’s from eastern New Hampshire, she’s likely as not to be drinking Smuttynose Finestkind IPA.

Aina Sullivan

Field Crew

Phoo of Aina standing in front of a greenhouse.

This is Aina’s first season on the farm.

On the Farm:
Aina started farming because of her experience WWOOFing in Iceland last year. She also wants to homestead her own land one day.

As a field crew member in Montague, most of her day is spent harvesting produce, loading crates, weeding, hoeing, and performing crop-specific tasks like staking tomato plants.

Vegetable Favorites:
Her favorite vegetable is asparagus, which she likes to eat baked in the oven.

Off the Farm:
Aina also goes to massage school and makes art in her spare time.

 

Thanks for reading and stay tuned to hear from more folks about their time on and off the farm.

 

 

3 Ways to Get in a Pickle, and More Pickling Tips

Sarah and a friend canning pickles.

Sarah Voiland and Steve Munn making pickles. Having a pickling party can make time fly by! Be sure to swap recipes, too.

Welcome to the wonderful world of pickling! Whether you’re a vinegary veteran or just learning about pickling, we hope this page has some new and interesting information for you. This page includes a couple basic pickling tips, a breakdown of 3 different types of pickling – from canned pickles to refrigerator quickles to lactofermented foods – plus a few recipes, and resources.

Order in Bulk for Preserving
If you’re planning on pickling in large batches, you can place a Bulk Order with the farm. Please place your order by 3 pm two days before your preferred pickup date. Check our bulk order page for new kinds of produce available as the season progresses!

You can see more or less when things come into season here on our Seasonal Availability Chart. While not all things will be available in bulk, you can find them at our stands.

Basics of Pickling

–Always use the freshest quality produce possible.

–Do not use any produce that is discolored or rotting. Pare down to the good parts only.

–Sanitize your equipment and jars as required by each recipe, and maintain a clean workspace.

–Recipes and ratios are important. Never alter the vinegar/salt/water/produce ratio of a pickling recipe for canning. This is what keeps the pickle preserved, and a weaker brine could result in harmful bacteria growth. Only use canning recipes for canning, as Quickles recipes will likely not be strong enough. Salt to vegetable ratio is key for ferments, so make sure you attend to your salt when lacto-fermenting.

–Pickle new things! Bet you never thought about pickling snap peas, rhubarb, peaches, mustard greens, or garlic scapes, did you? Don’t forget about foraged wild foods too– ramps and fiddleheads in spring make popular pickles as well.

Here’s a rundown on some basic pickling facts and a few recipes from Colorado State University.

A Couple Good Tips:

The blossom end of a cucumber contains enzymes that will make your pickles less crunchy, so cut 1/8 inch off that end. It usually has a teeny brown spot, and the other end has the stem. If you don’t know which end it is, do both ends :) True for all three types of pickles!

You can save the brine from favorite vinegar pickles (yours or store bought), boil it, and pour it hot over more vegetables to make quickles with very similar flavors. Store in the fridge. This can make one feel like a kitchen wizard.

A word on types of cucumbers. While you can pickle any type of cuke, pickling cucumbers (aka kirby) are built for it. They have thinner skin that is more permeable to flavor and smaller fruit size for fitting into jars. They also strike me as a little less juicy, which is good for retaining structure. Slicing or salad cucumbers are okay for pickling, but better for salads and such. Also of note, some grocery store cucumbers may be sealed in a little wax, so it is better to get yours at a farmers market or to ask and make sure you are not getting waxed fruit at the grocers.

What to Pickle

Photo of garlic scapes in canning jars.

Garlic scapes make a lovely, spicy pickle! Though when packing they always want to e-scape the jar.

Cucumbers, carrots, beets, green beans, garlic scapes, radishes, sweet or hot peppers, snap or snow peas, summer squash, zucchini, asparagus, cabbage, parsnips, turnips, green tomatoes, mustard greens, shallots, daikon, melon, onion, okra, apples, peaches, rhubarb, basil, and more!

Pickling flavor combinations:

While you can’t alter the ratios of vinegar/salt/water/produce in canned pickles, you can alter the spicing of pickles to be what you like!

For dill flavor on any produce, cukes, green beans or other: Dill, white vinegar (for vinegar recipes), salt, garlic, peppercorns. Add celery seed and mustard seed for more flavors. Dill seed can be used in the winter season when fresh dill is unavailable.

For spiced sweet pickles: Cider vinegar (for vinegar recipes), sugar, salt, mustard seed, celery seed, turmeric. Add ground cloves, peppercorns, cayenne for more flavors.

Add kick to any pickles with crushed red peppers, cayenne powder, or a whole fresh hot pepper or so in the jar. Whole peppers make your jars good-looking too.

More spice ideas to play with: cinnamon sticks, bay leaves, coriander, fennel seeds, whole cloves, allspice, anise, curry powder, caraway seeds, cumin seeds, ginger, fresh oregano, thyme, savory, tarragon, basil. You get the notion :)

 

Ways to Pickle….

Quickles or Refrigerator Pickles

A close-up of pickling spices.

Quickles made with red radish and kohlrabi. You can see the pickling spices there on top!

Quick pickles don’t need to be canned– you just mix them up and put them in the refrigerator. They are good in the fridge for a week or a few months, depending on the recipe. These are a great way to start making pickles. While some people say to wait x long in their recipes, you can always start tasting them right away and know that the flavors will keep developing.

Upsides to quickles:

  • They are very quick and easy.
  • You don’t need to be as concerned with your brine recipe–while you should always be careful in preparing your recipes and using the correct amounts of salt and vinegar to preserve the product, refrigeration will help keep quickles preserved.
  • Because you can make them in small batches, quickles can be a good way to test out different flavor combinations before undertaking a larger canning project.

Downsides to quickles:

  • They take up valuable fridge space.
  • They won’t last nearly as long as a well-canned pickle.

Try some of these Recipes:

Dill Quickles from Red Fire Farm

Pickled Sugar Snap Peas from Smitten Kitchen

Easy Japanese Pickled Cucumbers from The Kitchn

You can also use any canned pickle recipe you find for quickle making, and just put it in the fridge instead of canning it.

 

Canning Pickles

Two jars of quick dill pickles.

Bread & Butter Pickles, canned. These things take any sandwich to the next level.

At least one summer day spent over a hot, humid stove is a small sacrifice to make for a stocked pantry of homemade preserves and pickles. Be on the lookout for recipes that only make small batches or single jars, of which there are many in The Pickled Pantry book listed below. This way, it will be a lot easier to whip up a patch of pickles when you don’t have much time, want to try a new recipe, or are working with a limited amount of produce.

On the other hand, I like to plan big days of pickling to get things dirty once and come out with a lot of pickles for eating and presents. If you are doing this method, here are some steps to plan your day:

  1. Set a date in the season of the produce you want to preserve, invite friends if you like
  2. Choose your recipes and figure out where you will get your ingredients ahead of time, aiming to get your produce as fresh as possible
  3. Inventory your equipment and jars a week beforehand so you can get more of anything
  4. Set up your kitchen the night before, imagine where you will put things, and plan for an easy lunch the next day
  5. Start early on your designated day, because I can’t count the numbers of times I took longer than I thought :)

If you are new to canning, I recommend finding a friend who has done it before, or a local group, to can with, as the process has many little steps, and it will just be more fun to learn in person than by reading a book. That said this Complete Guide to Home Canning by the USDA is a pretty good resource for learning, as are the books in the section below.

Make sure you use a recipe designed for canning, as getting the right vinegar/salt/produce/water ratio is key for safe preservation. Also make sure to use vinegar that has a measured acidity of 5% labeled on the bottle, as that is the acidity expected for canning recipes.

Recipes to Try:

Classic bread and butter sweet pickles from Red Fire Farm

Fiddlehead Pickles from the University of Maine

Basic Pickled Jalapeno Peppers from Food in Jars

Here’s another great resource for canning recipes and methods: The National Center for Home Food Preservation.

Lacto-fermented Pickles

lactofermenting pickles

Lacto-fermenting cucumbers with garlic scapes and a couple wild harvested grape leaves to help keep them crunchy. You can see my methods here for keeping the cukes under the brine :)… Another canning jar full of water on top and a plastic bag rubber-banded over all to limit air flow.

These are easy and really good for you. Fermentation preserves foods without cooking out the beneficial enzymes and probiotics. When you boil your jars in canning, that’s just a simple way of pasteurizing the contents. However, as you boil away potentially harmful bacteria, you also lose some of the really helpful microbes that your body needs to function and digest.

You can create a context for those beneficial bacteria to thrive, one that is also safe to eat. Thats how lactofermentation works. By submerging vegetables in a salty brine, you create anaerobic conditions that make wonderful, flavorful foods!

For more information on the health benefits of fermented foods, check out this page from Greenfield’s own Real Pickles. And there is new news that fermented foods may help reduce anxiety, which is lovely.

How to make them:

Wash and prep your vegetables to whatever size you like for eating. Weigh them out, and then weigh out salt at 2.5% of your vegetable weight. So for 1 lb of vegetables you would weigh out .025 lb of salt. Massage the vegetables with salt and pack into a very clean non-metal food-safe container, like a quart glass ball jar. Mash down with a weight of some kind, cover to prevent flies or dirt getting in (the less airflow the better), and let sit a few hours to bring out juices. If juices do not submerge the vegetables, add a little water until vegetables are fully submerged. This liquid is called brine. Let sit covered and weighted in a cool spot out of the sun for 3 weeks or so checking every couple days to skim mold off the top of the brine. You can taste them as they go and stop the ferment at any time you like it by putting it in the fridge. Read more details in the recipes and books below.

I have also had good success making a brine of about 2 Tbs salt per quart of vegetables and water, mixing the 2 Tbs into some water and pouring that over cut vegetables in a quart jar, then filling with water to cover the vegetables. This method is less exact. Half-gallon ball jars are pretty great containers for doing a batch for my family of three and a little baby.

Basic Tips:

  • Use only sea salts or kosher salts that do not contain iodine or caking agents that could mess with your bacteria.
  • Use non-chlorinated water.
  • Keep vegetables submerged in brine at all times.
  • You can ferment pretty much all produce and combining is fun, as is adding various spices and herbs.
  • Add a few grape leaves, oak leaves, or horseradish leaves to your cucumber ferments to provide some tannins to help keep them crunchy.

Fun with your Brine:

Use your leftover brine, after eating your ferments, in mixed drinks and other food. Probiotic dirty martinis anybody ;) Also great for adding to salad dressings, and anywhere else you can think of.

Fermenting Recipes:

Daikon Ginger Pickle from Red Fire Farm

Homemade Sauerkraut from Nourishing Kitchen

Fermented Sour Pickles from Wild Fermentation

Fermented Nettle Kimchi from The Fermentista’s Kitchen

Books We Like

Consider supporting your local book store if you purchase these titles! Most allow you to pre-order for pickup.

The Pickled Pantry: from Apples to Zucchini, 150 Recipes for Pickles, Relishes, Chutneys & More by Andrea Chesman

Asian Pickles: Sweet, Sour, Salty, Cured, and Fermented Preserves by Karen Solomon

Put ‘Em Up! A Comprehensive Home Preserving Guide for the Creative Cook by Sherri Brooks Vinton

Wild Fermentation: the Flavor, Nutrition, and Craft of Live Culture Foods by Sandor Ellix Katz

Fermented Vegetables: Creative Recipes for Fermenting 64 Vegetables & Herbs in Krauts, Kimchis, Brined Pickles, Chutneys, Relishes, and Pastes by Kirsten and Christopher Shockey

 

people with pickle jars on heads

It can get rather silly in the kitchen.

Happy pickling! We’d love to see photos of your final products and swap recipes: send them to recipes@redfirefarm.com, or share on our farm Facebook or Instagram.

You can get ingredients for preserves by ordering in Bulk from the farm. We update our bulk order page frequently to reflect what’s seasonal and available. Or visit our stands and markets for daily selections of organic produce. Thanks for reading and we hope to see you around the farm!

Celebrating 25 Years at Old Depot Gardens in Montague with Old Photos!

Way back when Ryan Voiland was 12 years old, he set up a little roadside stand at 504 Turners Falls Road. He thought it would be better than his paper-route job, based on some trials of selling wild harvested berries, and pumpkins in years past. The backyard garden produced the goods. In the kitchen, he made some preserves, like pickles and jams. And he raised bees for honey. It’s been 25 years since then and Old Depot Gardens is still going! Open daily from May through October, you can find the same freshness, but a lot more local food!

His backyard fields were one of the earliest farms to be certified organic in Massachusetts!

In the time since then, Ryan also started Red Fire Farm, with a farmstand in Granby opened in 2001 where we are celebrating 15 years this year also! You can read more about what drives his work in organic farming here.

Come celebrate with us at the Garden Party and Anniversary Celebration on Saturday May 23 in both Granby and Montague. Door prizes, lots of samples, tons of beautiful organic plants, workshops and more!

Here are some old photos of Ryan and the fields back in the day!

first stand

Old Depot Gardens in the beginning… With Ryan in a bee hat. The blueberries in this photo were likely harvested from the old Blue Meadow Farm on Meadow Road, where we now farm.

 

first fields

First fields in Montague, in Ryan’s parent’s backyard. Done with shovels, rakes and a rototiller.

compost on the field

Spreading compost to enrich the back yard field! Ryan’s brothers Luke and Adam helped a ton in the early days.

 

dried flower wreaths

Ryan with his homemade dried flower wreaths.

 

ryan with bee swarm

A honey bee swarm with young beekeeper Ryan. By starting young as a farmer, Ryan was able to get through the very thin first years of having a small farm while still having basic living expenses covered by his parents. He reinvested all of the farm income back into the business to be able to do more.

 

hoeing in the field

Paul Voiland and Ryan hoeing in the field as he got a little older. Paul and Jean, Ryan’s parents, supported him in so many ways, from driving him to farmers markets on Saturday mornings, to constructing the stand buildings, to picking up loads of composted manure. And they still do!

 

old depot gardens

Old Depot Gardens nowadays. If you walk down the path, you’ll find little kiosks full of vegetables and local goods, like jams, dressings, maple syrup, milk, cheese, and more.

granby stand for red fire farm

Red Fire Farm Stand in Granby. Within the historic chestnut-era barn, you will find seasonal selections of produce, and an array of locally made products from all around Massachusetts.

You could say that Ryan grew up with the local food movement, and so did his farm. Thanks to the many local people who have supported his work over all these years. Without you passionate local eaters, we wouldn’t be where we are today. Come out and celebrate 25 years with us!

Garden Party Celebration Details

Farmstand Locations for Granby and Montague – open 7 days, 9am-8pm.

More History about the farm.

Farmer Favorites- On The Table This Thanksgiving

By Lauren McMullen

It’s that time of year again. We’ve been craving it since the leaves started to fall. Time to gather with your families, make a giant mess of the kitchen, and taste all of the warm flavors of fall. Here at the farm are know how to turn the seasons bounty into a plate of something delicious, and we’d love to share some of our inspiration with you.

You can find our produce right now at the Winter Farmers’ Markets, at the Granby Stand (Open through 11/25), in our Fall and Winter CSA, and as Bulk Orders for parties or storage.

Let’s see what’s cooking …

Catherine Raddatz Roasted Potatoes

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When I asked Farmer Jenn what she was looking forward to most this Thanksgiving, she didn’t hesitate to reply “My Mom’s roasted potatoes” here it is:

Preheat oven to 425 degrees
Cut Potatoes in half, boil for 7 minutes and then drain (large white varieties are best, we have Superior and Elba)
Melt butter and vegetable oil in oven
Add Potatoes and roast for an hour – turning potatoes over occasionally to coat

 

Potato Leek Soup

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This is a legendary recipe around the farm that I tried myself for the first time last week, I made a few alterations and think that the results are worth sharing.

5 large white potatoes (peeled and chopped)
5 cups chicken broth
1 TBS butter
3 large leeks (sliced using whites only)
1 tablespoon fresh thyme
1 bay leaf
celery salt
pepper
1 Cup light cream
mushrooms

Peel and cut potatoes, slice leeks. Melt butter over medium heat in pot. Add leeks and let sit for several minutes. Add potatoes, chicken stock, thyme, bay leaf, celery salt and pepper. Bring to a boil and cook until potatoes are soft (about 20 minutes). Once potatoes are soft, remove from heat, remove the bay leaf, and use an immersion blender or food processor to liquify. In a separate pan slice mushrooms into tiny chunks and sauté. Return the soup to heat, add cream and mushrooms and simmer until desired consistency is reached. Enjoy!

 

Maria Rodale’s Pumpkin Pie From Scratch

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This is a classic recipe that our flower manager, Andrew, returns to season after season. He’s tested it, he’s shared it with his family, and he keeps making it every year.

Pie Dough

Ingredients:
1½ cups organic flour
½ teaspoon salt
1 Tablespoon sugar
10 Tablespoons cold, or even frozen, lard or butter
6 Tablespoons ice water

Directions:

1. Put the flour, salt, and sugar in a bowl.
2. Cut the lard or butter into small bits (if it’s frozen, I use a cheese grater).
3. With your fingers, smoosh and mix the fat and the flour until the mixture resembles a coarse “corn meal” mixture. Be gentle, relax, and enjoy the sensual pleasure of mixing the fat and flour!
4. Add a few tablespoons of water and mix together gently until the dough sticks together.
5. Wrap up the dough in wax paper or a plastic bag and put it in the fridge for a half hour.
6. Flour your work surface and flour your rolling pin, too. Take the dough out and roll it until it’s as thin or thick as you want it and the right size for your pie plate.
7. Carefully lift the dough off the surface and put it into a pie plate, and press it gently into place.
8. Crimp the edges.

You can put the leftover dough into the oven on a cookie sheet with some salt, and bake until crispy, and your whole family will come running to eat it…just make sure to wait until the pieces are a bit cool or there will be burnt tongues all over the house!

Pumpkin Pie Filling

Ingredients:

2 cups cooked pumpkin*
¼ cup white sugar
¼ cup brown sugar
¼ cup maple syrup
Dash of molasses (1 or 2 Tablespoons)
2 eggs
1 teaspoon cinnamon
¼ teaspoon ginger
¼ teaspoon ground cloves
¼ teaspoon nutmeg
1 cup cream
½ teaspoon salt

* If you are making the pumpkin from scratch, as I usually do, take a baking pumpkin and cut the top off and pull the seeds out. Bake it in an oven until it collapses (350 degrees for about an hour). Peel off the skin, the rest is the good stuff. Put it into a blender to smooth it out. If you just mash it by hand, the filling will still taste good, but the texture will be stringy as opposed to smooth. Both methods are fine.

Directions:

1. Put all the ingredients into a bowl and mix together until you have a brownish gooey mess.
2. Pour into the crust.
3. Bake in the oven for about an hour: Start the oven at 425 degrees, then after 15 minutes, reduce it to 350. If the crust starts to burn before the pie is done, cover it with tin foil.
6. Test for doneness the way you do a cake–stick a knife in and if it comes out clean, it’s done.
7. Enjoy with ice cream and whipped cream!

See more seasonal recipes on the blog.

We hope everyone has a delicious holiday filled with fresh and tasty New England vegetables!

Reporting from Tomato Festival 2014!


festival poster and flowerstomato display

 

What you might read about here below….

Lovely Tomato Recipes…. including ways to preserve tomatoes (Bulk Order Tomatoes Here)

Tomato Tasting Results from the Tomato Festival. The votes are in…

Tomato Trot Race Results.

…Read on

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Rosie and Darrah enjoy the Tomato Tasting with over 140 varieties this year!

 

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Posing with their vegetable sculpture!

We just wrapped on Tomato Festival 2014. Thank you to all who came out – we had over 2,000 guests! Though the fest has passed, we are still swimming in tomatoes – it’s the peak of the season! Our farmstands and markets now have tons of heirloom, red, cherry, and paste types for you to try. And you can also order heirlooms, slicers and pastes in bulk for preserving.

What happened at the Festival? Check out the photos on Facebook.

Tomato Recipes for the Peak Season

We all have favorite tomato recipes. Here are some of ours. Click the links to read the recipes.

One of our favorite Boston Chefs JJ Gonson

One of our favorite Boston Chefs, JJ Gonson of Cuisine en Locale. She did a demo in the Chef Tent on finishing touches, using herbs and flowers to flavor and dress dishes.

Roasted Tomato Basil Salad Dressing
Fresh Tomato-Corn Salsa
Tomato Basil Salad  
Panzanella: Tomato and Bread Salad 
Dekal’s Tomato Bean Soup
Gazpacho
Husk Cherry and Cherry Tomato Salsa
Ratatouille Outside the Box
Garlic and Herb Ratatouille

Recipes for Preserving Tomatoes

Oven Roasted Tomatoes
Tomato Sauce Farmer-Style – the recipe Sarah Voiland did for the Tomato Canning Demo at the fest.
Canned Plum Tomatoes

We have half bushels of heirlooms, reds, or paste tomatoes that you can order for pickup in the Boston area and around Western MA at our farmstands, markets and CSA pickups. Everyone is welcome to order.

The Famous Tomato Tasting  ~ Results 2014

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Tomato Tasting at the Tomato Festival

There they were – the many many varieties of tomatoes, ready to taste. This year the harvest included 147 varieties! Though we planted about 190 in the field, not all are ripe at the time of the Festival.

We laid them out in the tasting barn in sections by type with the categories of Cherry, Paste, Heirloom type, and Red Slicer. Unbeknownst to many there is also another category in our farmer minds – the Cocktail Tomato (which we break out in the results). What is a cocktail tomato… not quite a regular tomato, not quite a cherry tomato, a little bigger than a bite.

If you came to the tasting at the Tomato Festival, you received five stickers to assign to your favorite tomatoes in any way you like. As the tasting goes along you can see which ones are working it by the collection of stickers on their card. I wonder if we had the votes hidden if it would affect the winners.

It is hard to taste all the varieties laid out there anyway, so the outcome is skewed by which tomatoes people choose to taste more. Cherry tomatoes anybody? And I would say the tasting also favors those tomatoes with fresh eating qualities, as opposed to cooking or saucing qualities.

The votes are in. The public has spoken.

Overall Top 20 – Type, Variety Name, Total Votes

Cherry Lemon Drop 136
Slicer Tomimaru 84
Cherry Honeydrop 83
Heirloom Giant 11 81
Cocktail Green Tiger 75
Cherry Golden Sweet 74
Cherry Five Star Grape 69
Cherry Black Cherry 64
Cherry Matt’s Wild 60
Cherry Sungold 59
Cherry Jasper 58
Heirloom Green Giant 51
Cocktail Blush 45
Cherry Green Doctor’s Frosted 38
Cherry Sunpeach 37
Cherry Bing 37
Slicer Clermon Cluster 32
Cherry Sweet Treats 31
Heirloom Big Orange Stripe 27
Heirloom Brandywine 27

Thanks very much to our many tomato chopping volunteers, very especially Matt and Linda Soffen – who help organize the tasting.

Top Tomatoes in Each Category

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Cherry Tomatoes tend to be big winners.

Results this year held many unexpected winners. It’s a rainbow of winners too! Lemony yellow, green and striped, and two pinks!

Lemon Drop won best of Cherry Tomatoes – this is a break out year for Lemon Drop, which has always had the requisite balance of sweet and tang to make it a winner.
Green Tiger won in the Cocktail Tomato category, a new variety for us this year.
Giant 11 took top honors for Heirloom style tomato. A find! One of the diamonds in the rough of our exotic tomato patch, and one you are sure to see more of on the farm next year.
Tomimaru Muchoo proved most worthy in the Slicing category. This is a pink greenhouse variety, and along with the greenhouse red Clermon Cluster did well in the top 20 – so believe us when we say that in-ground greenhouse growing makes awesome tomatoes!

And we are calling the contest off for the Paste Tomatoes, as we only had three in the running due to Late Blight in our Montague patch, and only one of them got a vote. They are much better turned into sauce.

If you would like to see the full results from the tasting, click to see the PDF of Tomato Tasting 2014 – All Results.

Tomato Trot 5K Race Results

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Joanna crosses the finish line!

Congratulations to Joanna Johnson for first place! This is significant in a race which has been won by males since the first run! In fact women took two of the top four places in the race with Meredith Beaton finishing a mere .7 seconds behind 3rd place Patrick Homyak. Eric Ciocca took second place.

The Tomato Trot 5K is a cross-country style trail race through farm fields. Did you run the race and want to see your time? Click here to see the race results.

Trot race photos on Red Fire’s Facebook.

Congratulations to all runners for a great race!

 

Thanks to all for a great festival! It will happen again next year, round the same time, when the tomatoes start to weigh heavy and ripe on the vines.

Stay tuned for more recipes, stories, coupons and events from the farm with our e-news – you can sign up here.

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It’s one of the few days where everyone can come enjoy the farm Pick Your Own – here we have the cherry tomato patch where you can see almost all those varieties on the tasting table growing in the field!

~ Sarah Voiland

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2015 Pick-Your-Own

Note: PYO is only available to Red Fire Farm CSA and Farmstand members.

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As part of your Vegetable CSA membership, you have access to our Pick Your Own patches. The farm is family-friendly, so bring your little ones and check out our land. PYO includes herbs, flowers, berries, peas, tomatoes, tomatillos, hot peppers, and more (changes with the season).

Late July, August and September are great months to come for pick your own, as by then we’re brimming with crops like cherry tomatoes, basil, tomatillos, hot peppers, green beans, herbs, flowers, and ground cherries.

Pick Your Own is a perk for members that can make it out – we still aim to give all members the value of their share in harvested and delivered vegetables :). But of course we want you to come out to visit. The whiteboards located in barns have the most updated PYO limits and info, so please follow those if they differ from what is written online.

  • If you are traveling to the farm for over 1 hour to do the picking (Boston area and Worcester members), then you probably will come for picking only once during the early summer. This means that when you are here you can pick a lot at once, once the limits have gone up.
  • If you are a member from Franklin, Hampshire or Hampden County and you can easily make it to the farm each week, then we ask that you pick weekly but not as much each time. This is why there are different limits posted for each crop depending on where you are coming from.
  • Farmstand & Market Members ($300 level) can pick a lot at once if desired, but you must pay as you go (by using credit from your card). Prices are posted for each PYO crop on the board. There are sometimes limits on crops for Farmstand Members.

 

What to Bring and Where to Go
Come ready for outdoor weather. Also please bring containers to take your pickings home in, and leave the quart and pint containers for reuse if possible. If you have a car, share a ride! Meet some other local food loving people. You can post on our facebook seeking rides. Read below to find out which farm location you should visit based on your CSA pickup location.

 

GRANBY PICK YOUR OWN

Open to CSA and Farmstand & Market Members from Granby, Springfield, Worcester and the Boston area.

Pick Your Own details are inside the farmstand in the center of the barn at 7 Carver St., including a map of field areas and a list of picking limits, and often containers for harvesting. You can come to pick any day, hours are 9am – 8pm.
We usually have someone working the farmstand from 9-8pm who can answer questions. The PYO is all self-serve. There’s extra parking in the Brown-Ellison Park next door if needed.

Cherry Tomatoes

     CSA Members: 

     Weekly pickers: unlimited

     Long-distance members: unlimited

     Farmstand & Market Members: $2.50 per 1/2 pint or $4 per pint

Herbs
Basil, Parsley,
Oregano,  Savory, Sage, Chives, Mint, and more!

CSA Members: Pick as needed.
Farmstand & Market Members: Pick as needed, no charge.

Hot Peppers

     CSA Members:

     Weekly pickers: 5 fruits per week

     Farmstand & Market Members: 5 fruits for $1

        Yellow and Green Beans

              CSA Members:

              Weekly pickers: 1 quart                                                                                          

              Long-distance members: 4 quarts

              Farmstand & Market Members: $3 per quart

       Cut Flowers

             CSA Members: 10 stems

             Farmstand & Market Members: $.50 per stem

        Sunflowers

             CSA Members: 7 stems

             Farmstand & Market Members:  $.50 per stem

         Husk Cherries – also known as Ground Cherries

             CSA Members: unlimited

             Long-distance members: unlimited

             Farmstand & Market Members: $2.50 per 1/2 pint or $4 per pint

MONTAGUE FARM PICK YOUR OWN


We now have a patch on our Montague farm at 184 Meadow Road. This section is small, so there’s capacity for Montague, Amherst and Northampton area members only!

Please park on the grass along Meadow Road, not blocking any thruways or driveways. 

Pick Your Own information is at the large old tobacco barn next to Meadow Road near the red hand-painted Red Fire Farm hanging sign. Pick Your Own details will be there, including an informational map attached to the side of the barn facing the road, a list of picking limits, and often containers for harvesting and measuring. Bring containers to take things home!

Self-serve. You can come to pick any day 9am – 8pm. There will be a log book, so you can keep track of your picking if you are at the $300 Farm stand member level, as those members pay half of retail price for PYO items. Please tally your purchases as you go, and we will process them periodically at the office. PYO for CSA level members is free up to limits provided.

Cherry Tomatoes

     CSA Members: 

     Weekly pickers: unlimited

     Long-distance members: unlimited

     Farmstand & Market Members: $2.50 per 1/2 pint or $4 per pint

Herbs
Basil, Parsley,
Oregano,  Savory, Sage, Chives, Mint, and more!

CSA Members: Pick as needed.
Farmstand & Market Members: Pick as needed, no charge.

Hot Peppers

     CSA Members:

     Weekly pickers: 5 fruits

     Farmstand & Market Members: 5 fruits for $1

        Yellow and Green Beans

              CSA Members:

              Weekly pickers: 1 quart                                                                                          

              Long-distance members: 4 quarts

              Farmstand & Market Members: $3 per quart

       Cut Flowers

             CSA Members: 10 stems

             Farmstand & Market Members: $.50 per stem

        Sunflowers

             CSA Members: 7 stems

             Farmstand & Market Members:  $.50 per stem

         Husk Cherries – also known as Ground Cherries

             CSA Members: unlimited

             Long-distance members: unlimited

             Farmstand & Market Members: $2.50 per 1/2 pint or $4 per pint

 

We're famous for the variety of crops we grow!

We’re famous for the variety of crops we grow!

Fun things to do in Montague:

  • Visit our Old Depot Gardens farm stand at 504 Turners Falls Road in Montague, very cute, with our produce and tasty local products.~ 2 miles from the farm.
  • Check out the Bookmill, a cafe with waterfall, used bookstore, cd shop, art gallery, beer. 1/4 mile from the farm stand.

Enjoy the season and the fields!

Tomato Planting Tips for the Home Gardener

It’s tomato planting season!  We have been busy putting early season tomato plants in our greenhouses, and gearing up our bedding plants to be sold at markets and stands.  Some of our most popular garden plants are our juicy, colorful tomatoes.  While it can be fun and simple to grow your own tomatoes, they do have their quirks.  We thought we’d share some of our tomato planting tips with you, the home gardener!

Start with Good Soil

To begin, it’s important to know that soil quality is key for growing healthy tomato plants.  They are most happy where they can get full sunlight in fertile, nutrient rich soil.  Spreading compost is a very effective way to give your tomato plants a healthy environment.  You can buy it at garden centers, or make your own at home.

If you’d like to test your soil to find out the pH and how you are doing for nutrients, Umass offers soil tests. Their “Routine Soil Analysis” for Home Grounds and Gardens, currently $15, is a great basic test for home gardens and will give you recommended rates for how much fertilizer and lime to apply.

Compost in the making

Timing Your Planting

In Massachusetts, it is usually safe to plant your tomatoes outdoors towards the middle or end of May, keeping an eye out for frost to protect them as needed.  Memorial Day weekend is the classic time for planting tomatoes. Tomato plants can be transplanted as late as the end of June and still have time to ripen their fruits before fall cold arrives.

How to Plant

When you are ready to plant your tomatoes, dig a hole in the ground, deep enough to cover the base of the plant and all its roots. You can mix compost into the hole, or fertilize the whole area.  Settle the plant in, fill in the hole around the plant, and pick off any leaves towards the bottom of the plant that are touching the ground.  If your plants have a “leggy” look (their stems are overgrown), you can plant them on their side in a trench with just the top point and a few leaves above ground (remove any leaves that will be underground).  Tomato plants grow roots from anywhere along their stem, so they will straighten themselves upright a few days after planting.  Place tomato plants 18’’-36’’ apart from each other.  If you have had problems with cutworms in your garden, you can try protecting your tomatoes using a collar around the base of the plant such as a paper cup or toilet paper roll.  Once your plant is nestled in the soil bed, pat down the soil, and water it in to secure its placement.

Support Systems

Tomato plants grow wildly; they would sprawl all over the ground if you let them.  You can let them do this, however, it is often preferable to give them some standing support, so the tomato fruits do not end up compressed on the ground or scalded by sun.  If you only have a few plants, you may want to buy cages like these that you can place around each plant, or make some out of concrete reinforcement wire.

Stake & Weave Method – sandwiching the plants between string

Another option is to use a stake & weave method, which is what we use for our tomatoes.  Secure wooden stakes deeply in the ground (roughly the height of your future plants) about every three plants in your row of tomatoes.  Using a thick string that will last the season, go down the row at the level of the current growth, looping the string tightly around each stake, and then go back down the other side, effectively sandwiching the plants between a string on each side.  We find it effective to string a row along the bottom of the plants, another one along the middle, and a final one along the top, as they grow.  The string should be pulled tight to provide a stable structure for the plants to stand within.

To Prune or Not to Prune

As your plants grow, you will notice them growing “suckers”.  These are new growing points that grow in the “v” between the main stem and lateral branches.  Suckers will eventually grow and produce fruit.  You can pinch suckers off to prevent your plants from getting top heavy, and to focus the plant’s energy on the main stem.  Pinching the suckers will mean fewer, but larger fruits.  We only do this for our greenhouse tomatoes, and don’t find it necessary in the field. If you are going to prune, only prune indeterminate varieties of tomatoes (most types, see labels at the stands or look up your variety online). Determinate varieties grow only so long and set their fruit all at once – some paste tomatoes, for example, are determinate – so you will prune away part of your total yields if you remove suckers.

Diseases and Late Blight Resistant Tomatoes

Late Blight – the scourge of 2009, seems to return every year now

Tomatoes are fairly vulnerable plants in our climate.  There are many diseases to watch out for, some you can prevent, and others you just have to cross your fingers and hope you don’t get.  Early Blight and Septoria Leaf Spot are common problems that many tomato farmers in the area experience every year. These two diseases slowly kill the foliage of the plants.  Early Blight is a disease that overwinters in the soil, so rotating the tomato placement in your garden each year can help.

Late Blight now seems to come every year to our area towards the latter part of tomato season, and when it arrives makes quick work of the foliage and the fruits of the plants.

We sell quite a few Late Blight resistant tomato plants that we recommend mixing into your garden plot to add variety and prevent against the loss of all of your tomato fruits, should blight happen to find a home in your garden.

Our Late Blight Resistant tomato plant varieties are:

  • Defiant
  • Mountain Magic Cherry
  • Iron Lady – also resistant to Early Blight and Septoria Leaf Spot. Which basically means you should grow this tomato.
  • Plum Regal Paste
  • Matt’s Wild Cherry

Look for them at our farm stands over the next few weeks as you begin your planting. Each one is its own unique variety with its own unique fruit. Matt’s Wild, for example, has little red fruits that have excellent tomato flavor and cherry tomato sweetness, often a contest winner!

Blossom-end Rot is another common problem.  This is caused by low calcium intake due to uneven moisture or to low levels of calcium in the soil.

Be sure to water your tomato plants regularly if nature isn’t keeping up, but allow the soil to dry out between waterings.  You want to provide your plants with constant water, yet not create a soggy soil.  Try not to water from above; aim your sprinkler at the base of the plant to keep the leaves dry.  Airborne diseases are more likely to infect wet leaves.

Some tomatoes will have a split skin or begin to crack.  This can happen when there is a sudden change in moisture (after a period of extended dry weather), or when the fruit is overripe.  Not to worry though, split skin tomatoes are still perfectly healthy and delicious to eat if you get to them quickly.

If you see a disease or problem on your plant and would like to identify it, a great resource is the Vegetable MD page at Cornell.

Harvest Time

As your plants bear fruit, harvest the tomatoes when they are in their expected full color and size.  Then onto culinary feats!  Tomatoes can be used in all sorts of ways in the kitchen.  Some are delectable sliced raw into salads, while others are designed for making sauces.  Check out our recipes to find unusual ways of cooking with tomatoes. Do note that tomatoes lose flavor when refrigerated, so keep them on your counter instead!

More About Variety Selection

We typically grow 150 varieties of tomatoes, many of which have won awards!  From slicing, heirloom, cherry to paste, our tomatoes come in all sorts of shades, and have all sorts of flavors.

Our recommendations for a good red slicing tomato are Jet Star and Big Beef.  For heirlooms and specialty tomatoes, try a mix of colors and types. Brandywine and Wapsipinicon Peach both have won awards for flavor at our farm.  If you’re looking to make sauce, choose a paste tomato variety, bred to cook down quicker with less juice and more meat;  Federle is a great heirloom, and San Marzano is very productive.  For a simple snacking tomato, we love Sungold Cherry Tomatoes. Having a mix in the garden is the most fun.

If seeking low-acid tomatoes, try Pork Chop- a yellow tomato, Jet Star – a red slicer, San Marzano – a paste tomato, or Sungolds for nice golden yellow cherries.

If you like tomato salads, growing a selection of tomatoes with different colors can make a stunning salad. Try Green Zebra, Black Prince, Cherokee Purple, Striped German, and Gary Ibsen’s Gold.

These and many more varieties – that we have taste-tested and field-tested at our farm – can be found at either of our farmstands in Granby and Montague as well as at our summer farmers’ markets, Tuesdays in Springfield, Northampton and Boston, and Thursdays in Stoneham.

May you have a bountiful harvest!

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Helping Monarch Butterflies with a Butterfly Garden

Butterflies bring joy to the garden – and you can make much needed habitat for them! Plants that butterflies love have flowers with lots of nectar, as that is food for butterflies. Not all flowers make good nectar sources; these ones below are especially rich in it. We carry these varieties and more at our farmstands over the month of May and into June. Many of these flowers are frost sensitive, so we will be stocking them in mid May.

A few key tips for butterfly gardens:

  • Plant nectar-rich flower varieties
  • Multiple plants of the same kind in one spot are easier for a butterfly to see
  • Choose host plants for the caterpillars of butterflies, like Milkweed for Monarchs, Lupine for Painted Ladies, Snapdragons for Buckeyes
  • Butterfly nectar plants are also great for honey bees and other beneficials, bringing pollination and protection to the rest of your garden

If you know only one butterfly, it is most likely the Monarch! Monarch butterflies especially need our help in providing nectar plants and safe habitats for caterpillars. Many of their previous safe grounds for feeding and laying eggs have been diminished by increased use of GMO glyphosate resistant soy and corn, or plowed over to grow government-subsidized corn for biofuels. Parking lots, roads, and front lawns have also replaced the sweet fields of wild flowers necessary for a healthy butterfly population. Read more about what is happening with Monarchs and what we can do.

One critical plant for the survival of the Monarch butterfly is milkweed. Monarch butterflies only lay their eggs on milkweed and the caterpillars will only feed on this kind of plant. We have found a native variety that also has beautiful flowers and fall seed pods.

 

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Above is Butterfly Milkweed, or Asclepias Tuberosa. It’s a bright orange wild flower that loves full sunlight and fairs well in dryer soil. Monarchs migrate north to lay their eggs and will only lay eggs on milkweeds such as this one. Seeing a chrysalis on a milkweed plant is a rare joy, something we should all get a chance to see.

 

Some of the other plants we grow that butterflies love:

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Buddeleia Butterfly Bush: A woody shrub with fragrant lilac blooms that attract hummingbirds, butterflies, and beneficials. Lovely at the back of borders for its height and arching shape. Perennial.

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Verbena Bonareisis: Tall, beautiful and purple. An excellent cut flower. Clusters of tiny flowers on top of a long stem that Butterflies love to land on.

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Coreopsis: A bright blooming flower that does well in full sun. Perennial.

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Marigolds: Bright colors that not only attract butterflies but also repel aphids from your garden. Annual.

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Snapdragons: These attract butterflies and provide food for Buckeye butterfly caterpillars. The make beautiful cut flowers as well. Annual.

Bee Balm

Bee Balm

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Monarda (Red Bee Balm and Purple Wild Bergamot): A fragrant, fun and quirky flower. Grows tall and is also a favorite of hummingbirds. Edible for us too! Perennial.

Sweet Alyssum: This flower smells like honey and butterflies and bees enjoy the sweet scent. You will too! Growing in white and light pink. A perfect spring flower that loves cooler weather. Annual.

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Echinacea: This flower is drought tolerant and makes an excellent addition to any bouquet. Also known for its healing properties. Perennial.

 

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Salvia Gruppenblau: Shorter, fragrant blue spires that attract hummingbirds also. Great for drying! Perennial.

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Cosmos: Idyllic, wispy flowers with long skinny stems. Annual.

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Gomphrena: A shooting plant with spikey flowers perfect for drying. Butterflies love to dance around from flower to flower. Annual.

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Cleome: Also known as spider flower, this flower is unlike any other. We feature it in many of our summer time bouquets. The large exploding flowers gain everyone’s attention, especially wandering butterflies. Annual.

 

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Ellagance Lavender: Highly fragrant low growing purple flowers. Many uses. Perennial.

Benarys Giant Zinnia

Zinnia: One of summer’s most colorful features. Will bloom into the fall! Makes a great cut flower and can be featured in single variety bouquets. Annual.

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Yarrow: Large flat-top flower heads on ferny foliage make clouds of color all summer long. A mix of colors on drought tolerant plants. Superb for cutting, and drying as well.

 

Come visit us at the farmstands in Granby and Montague for even more varieties! Keep an eye out for our poster at the stands that highlights these butterfly flowers, and also read the plant descriptions on display to learn more about each plant.

 

Best wishes in the garden this summer!

 

Cabbage Harvest Story and Sauerkraut Recipe

Brassica oleracea capitata. Latin for cabbage. From a wild cabbage, through centuries of breeding and selection, came many food crops in the brassica family that we eat today… broccoli, kale, Brussels sprouts, kohlrabi, cauliflower, bok choy. This family is very important on our farm, as many of the crops are hardy to the cold and help us extend the season of local food.

hamida with giant cabbage

Hamida found this giant cabbage in the field. It would make a great batch of kraut!

 

This time of year, hopefully before we get weather in the low teens or below, we are harvesting the cabbage for winter storage.  When the big fall cabbages start rolling in, it’s also the time we start to make sauerkraut in earnest at our house. You can make it too. You can find our organic cabbage at our winter farmers’ markets, with Bulk Order for pickup around Massachusetts, and in our CSA farm shares.

filling bins of cabbage

First we harvest the cabbage into rows. Then it goes air-born. Zeinab catches cabbage to fill up the pallet bins.

Sauerkraut is German for “sour cabbage.” Though I would describe the flavor as tangy instead – likely from the high vitamin C content. Sauerkraut is lacto-fermented, meaning the food is made with the help of naturally occurring beneficial bacteria that create a lactic acid environment. Eating this live food is good for your health, because of the live cultures, increased nutrient availability, and beneficial compounds. Read more about the health benefits from some of our local kraut makers – Real Pickles. And more on wikipedia.

It’s one of my goals over time to weave the making of sauerkraut and fermented foods into my life year round. The flavors and health aspects are so compelling. I’ve found sauerkraut makes a good place to start, as it is simple, and very worthwhile.

How to Make Sauerkraut

  1. chopping cabbageChop cabbage to desired size for eating
  2. Salt to taste, and then squeeze or pound to get the water moving out of the cabbage. You can mix in flavorings at this point. See below for ideas!
  3. Pack cabbage tightly into a clean non-reactive container, pushing it down so that liquid rises above the vegetables. You can add water if needed. We usually weigh down the kraut in our glass jar with another smaller glass jar filled with water that nestles inside the mouth of the main jar, then cover the whole setup with a cloth or napkin to keep dust and bugs out of the opening.
  4. Let sit out on a counter, and taste often until you like the flavor, then put in the fridge to slow the ferment. Skim off any mold that forms on the surface (it’s okay, just remove it). Make sure the liquid level is above the vegetables when you check it, as you want to keep the process anaerobic. You can add more brine (2 tbs salt per quart water works). If the top layer gets exposed to air and looks bad, remove a layer, often it is perfect and smelling good underneath. Don’t put in direct sun like these photos, as UV rays kill your beneficial bacteria.

    sauerkraut fermenting

    Red cabbage sauerkraut.

I find I usually like how the sauerkraut tastes after about 3-5 days in our kitchen. I like the freshness and crunch of the cabbage at this stage. You can have cabbage ferment at a much slower pace in a cooler environment – this is how lacto-fermentation was used as long term storage for many foods to help people get through the winter. That is essentially what you are doing when you put it into the fridge as well, slowing down the ferment. But it keeps going and stays alive, and will hold a very long time in your refrigerator.

Salting
For the amount of salt, Ryan just wings it. Fermentation master Sandor Katz says, “In most ferments, including vegetables, salting can be done to taste, without any need for measuring.” He also says that commercial sauerkraut makers use 1.5-2 tsp salt for each pound of chopped cabbage. You can ferment without salt, though salt helps keep vegetables crunchy, brings water out, and makes a more secure environment for lactic acid bacteria (ones you want!).

sauerkraut with caraway

Sauerkraut with caraway seeds. The weight jar is covered by a napkin and the cover is secured below the rim of the large jar in case of dust or bugs. Kinda makeshift.

 

If you’d like to flavor your sauerkraut…
Lately we are fond of caraway seeds, they add such dimension to the taste of sauerkraut, nuttiness and aromas. Some other fun options… juniper berries, dill seeds, celery seeds, ginger, hot pepper flakes, turmeric, apples, cranberries, sweet white wine, oregano, other vegetables. Go exploring!

Another way to go is to make Kimchi, which tends to be cabbage with a mix of vegetables and includes some hot pepper. Here’s a kimchi recipe from Amy, one of our members.

 

 

How to Eat It

sauerkraut snack

Sauerkraut snack.

This time of year we are starting new batches soon after one finishes, and eating them right quick. You are likely to see me eating sauerkraut or something lacto-fermented at any meal of the day now that we are in the groove. Wally likes to snack on it! I am fond of putting it out with a bit of other snacks like carrots and cheese as a finger food or lunch. Raw is best as you get the probiotics. It tops salads, goes along with any meal on the side, and dresses up sandwiches. Great with breakfast eggs and toast. And on bagels with cream cheese. Basically you can eat it anywhere is what I’m saying here. More versatile than ketchup! And it will save you from scurvy.

Further Reading
If you want to delve deeper into the fascinations of lactofermentation I recommend Sandor Katz’s books, Wild Fermentation and The Art of Fermentation. If you have read any other good ones, please share in the comments!

Here is a larger batch sauerkraut recipe on Sandor Katz’s website.

bucket sauerkraut

Ryan tasting some of his bucket batch of kraut.

Water
If you add water at some point to keep your liquid level up, beware of chlorine. Chlorinated water can cause problems for fermentation, as chlorine kills your beneficial bacteria. If you have chlorinated water, you can boil it in an open pot to evaporate the chlorine, then cool it to room temperature (so hot water doesn’t kill desired microbes). You can also let it sit in an open container for a few days, and the chlorine will evaporate. Or you can filter it with charcoal filters.

Containers
Glass jars are a good container as they are non-reactive. I got some larger half gallon Ball jars that fit right into the fridge after fermenting on the counter. You can use quart jars or whatever you have. We also do bigger batches in food-safe plastic buckets.

I read recently in Katz’s book about a woman who uses the old style canning jars with glass lids and rubber seals to ferment – she says that she can close the jar and the gases of fermentation escape through the seal when the pressure builds, but it is sealed, so nothing gets in, and she has no incidence of mold. Sounds worth trying.

 

max pulls in cabbage

 Bringing in the Harvest

There’s Max pulling in a bin of cabbage. After harvest, we bring the bins in and store some in our root cellar for the winter. Storage varieties of cabbage will last months in the right conditions. We have a good amount of it this year! Please take some off our hands and make sauerkraut!

Cheers,

Sarah

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