Askelon is a port city along the eastern coast of the Mediterranean Sea. Today Askelon is in Israel, but it’s an ancient city, and people have inhabited the site for at least 8000 years. It’s one of the biggest ports in the Eastern Mediterranean and the root meaning of the name, Askelon, may have something to do with business or mercantile activity. Whatever the name originally meant, the settlement served as a shipping point for onions that were exported by sea. That name of that sea, the Mediterranean, comes from the words “medi,” or “in the middle of” and “Terra” “of the Earth,” or “Terra” —the sea at the middle of the world. Askelon’s aromatic bulbs made for happy customers “all around the world,” and the port city became synonymous with the onion. In fact, our modern word “scallion” comes from Askelon, as does the word “shallot.” Recently we were asked by our friend, Colleen Logan, from Savor the Local based in Carmel, to write a piece on “why people should support local family farms. This week we’re picking scallions for your harvest box. Why should you want to get your onions from a local farm instead of buying a more famous or cheaper brand from “across the sea,” like they did in the good old days?
The food supply is a transnational dynamic these days, as indeed it has been for ages. We need to have the ability to move food around the planet if we’re going to guarantee food security to everybody and keep regional famine at bay. Also, it’s just nice to live in the Northern hemisphere yet be able to enjoy tropical fruits all year long. Food prices in the US are also often cheaper than they otherwise would be, were it not for foreign imports. Farm workers in Ecuador make as much in a day’s labor as a farm worker in the United States makes in an hour, so it’s no surprise that they can ship frozen strawberries from Guayaquil to processors much more cheaply than growers in California can. If produce from far away is not only sometimes more exotic and often cheaper than local produce is, why support local farms? I’m a local farmer; why support me?
- Your local farmer is a neighbor, a member of your community. When you support a local farmer the money you spend on the farmer goes back into our local economy and builds our community. That’s true even when you live in San Francisco or Oakland and the farmer lives in Watsonville. Where does “community” begin and end? When I get on the freeway and listen to “the traffic and weather together every fifteen minutes,” the reports cover all the territory from 17 in the south to Petaluma and 101 in the north – that’s one big bowl of asphalt and concrete spaghetti we all share in common and have to deal with. Some of that traffic comes as local farms and farm workers spend money in your cities and buy your goods and services. It’s good for the community for the money it generates to travel from home to home in circles and keep more locals employed.
- But farmers are more than just neighbors and consumers. The farmers around you are the custodians for the natural resources in your local area. Farmers and ranchers make their living from the soil and water and how they treat those resources directly affects you, whether you buy their produce or not. If you don’t want agricultural chemicals in the water you drink, then support the local organic farms that are producing food without recourse to the noxious chemicals that would contaminate your water or foul your air. If you enjoy the rural character of the hills on the horizon of your community then support the ranchers whose work it is to manage those rangelands. If restaurants and markets in your community make a point of supporting local farmers, ranchers, and fishers, then support them so that they can play their role in creating and maintaining a vital, viable foodshed.
- Maybe not every local agricultural producer is doing a good job of caring for the environment that we all share; but support the farms that are good stewards of our environment and encourage them. And supporting local farms is good for the environment because they can have a smaller carbon footprint than larger companies. If you like having cleaner air, then don’t buy food that has to come into the Bay Area on a jet, cargo ship or long haul truck. Put your money where your mouth- and lungs- are. And cleaner air isn’t just about us; we have to breathe the air that blows in from Asia and someone else will have to breathe the smog we create. When there’s less air pollution anywhere in the world everybody wins.
- Sometimes local produce costs a bit more than produce purchased in chain stores. Local producers may not use as much energy as distant suppliers in getting their produce to market but they often have significantly higher labor costs or water costs. In some cases local growers may be using practices that are more labor intensive but less environmentally damaging. The local growers need you. When the Covid pandemic hit and all the supply chain disruptions occurred those that had a connection to local food outlets learned the value of supporting their local farms. This farm to table relationship has been mutually beneficial. As a community, we are all better off when the lowest price is not our highest value.
- You can get an education of sorts from supporting a local farm too. It’s so easy to find anything from anywhere that a person can almost be excused for having no clue what’s “in season.” It’s always summer somewhere in the world so there’s almost always going to be fresh corn on the cob at some price. But eating locally means living through the seasons with all the ups and downs of the region we live in. Here in the Bay Area we’re blessed with an extraordinary range of local products. Eating seasonally doesn’t have to mean having to give up on things when they’re out of season; we can think of each season as an opportunity to enjoy the best of what our region, our climate, our season has to offer.
- Supporting a local farm can provide a sense of pride in feeling a connection to the people that grow your food and that live in your neighborhood. I’d like to take a moment to thank Colleen Logan for all the support she and Savor The Local have given our farm over the years. Colleen wrote, “I am passionate about what I do. I love supporting chefs who cook with local ingredients that are in season and I enjoy the challenge of bringing interesting and unique items for daily cooking or special occasions,” she says. “I am proud of the fact that the produce is harvested to order and delivered just in time. 95% of what I deliver was harvested that day or the day before. I directly help small farms thrive, by letting them set the prices, the minimum for each item and working with their schedules and means of communication. I also really enjoy the personal relationships I have with each farm and some amazing local chefs.” Her words sure gave me a sense of pride. Thanks, Colleen.
- If you care about your local environment and economy it makes sense to find a farmer in your area that has values you want to support. We want to thank all of you reading this because most of you have supported us for a long time through the purchase of our Mystery Boxes and farm products. We hope you will continue to support us and help us get the word out to others that might be interested in good ol’fashioned, locally sourced, farm fresh produce!
The seasons are marching forward. We plant basil this week, and the first summer squashes get sown in the trays. By popular convention our “frost-free” date here in Santa Cruz County is usually thought of as April 15th so we’ll have lots of transplants coming out of the greenhouse around that time. Life is about to get really busy and I’m optimistic about the outlook for the upcoming season.
Thanks, for your support!
Andy and the Crew at Mariquita Farm.
© 2021 Essay by Andy Griffin.
Photo of Gayle at a Piccino Mystery Thursday by Debra Baida.
Photo of Linda Ferrasci’s sheep by Linda Ferrasci.
Photo of pick up site with totes and mystery boxes by Gayle Ross.
Photo of Colleen Logan and the Savor the Local van by Michael Troutman.
All other photos by Andy Griffin.
We’re still seeing rain and cold night temperatures, but spring planting is underway. The potatoes are in the ground, and the basil seed arrived yesterday. Along with corn, squash, tomatoes, chilies and beans, I’ll be trying some chayote this year. Maybe my 2nd time will be the charm.
Several years ago Don Gerardo brought me a chayote from his home in Michoacan and it already had a stem emerging. We planted the fruit at the foot of an Ash tree in my yard and it grew rampantly up into the crown. Eventually, there were some flowers, and then a single fruit formed, but then we had a frost and the whole plant died. This time, I’m thinking that if I plant the Chayote earlier in the year than I did last time it will have more time to set more flowers and create a bigger crop.
Chayotes are in the squash family, but they behave a little differently than the zucchini. Give it time to grow and the chayote plant will form a large underground potato-like tuber. When a frost kills the foliage, the chayote can always sprout back from the tuber and grow new vines. (I’m also growing the Scarlet runner bean this year, which shares the Chayote’s Central American origin, and it too, develops a tuberous habit. I’m betting the weather is unstable there and it serves the plants well to have a 2nd way of survival if the seed crop can sometimes be destroyed by unpredictable invasion of icy weather.) The habit of the chayote is rampant, clambering over everything in its path, climbing up trees, crawling over walls. It’s the custom in rural Mexico, where the chayote is at home, to let the chayote’s vines scramble into trees. But I don’t want to climb a tree to harvest a squash, so I’ve built some tall frames on the sunny, south side of our home garden for our chayote.
I’ve got several varieties of Chayote, about fifteen potted plants in all, growing in my greenhouse. When the danger of frost is over, I’ll transplant the chayotes under the frame. As the spring advances into summer the vines will cover the frames like a canopy, and the ripe fruit will hang down through the screen at the top so that it can be picked. Fidel, who manages the production in the greenhouse, gave me the fruits. When the season is over we’ll know if planting them on a larger scale is a good idea. I like the idea that the chayote is popular in South East Asian AND Latin American cooking. I’m going to enjoy getting to know the plant. I’m hoping we’ll have a crop to share by late summer.
© 2021 Essay and photos by Andy Griffin.
“When life gives you lemons, make….” Yada, yada, yada, you know how the saying goes. As pithy quips go, this sour cliche is not without its wisdom, but I find it’s hint of disdain for this versatile fruit distasteful, as though there’s something wrong with a lemon. The lemon is a gift! Just imagine if you had the misfortune to be born in Europe before the lemon was introduced from Southeast Asia. To a modern botanist, the Latin name for lemon is Citrus medica, but that reflects a consensus in the scientific community to use a highly modified form of the Latin language for taxonomic nomenclature; there wasn’t a word in classical Latin for lemon. Not only did the Romans not have the tomato, the potato, the bean, the squash, the chile pepper, or the corn plant, they didn’t have the lemon. When life finally did gave the Romans the lemon- via the discovery of a direct sea route from the southern Red Sea to India- the produce distributors of the Empire made MONEY. Lemons are great.
For the last ten years or so I’ve been planting lemons at my house. I started with some Meyer lemons, because they’re very popular and I enjoy their balance of sweet and sour. But the Meyer lemon is not a “true” lemon. Meyer was the fellow who encountered the “Meyer” lemon in the hinterlands of China, but make no mistake, it was the Chinese who developed the fruit by crossing the citron with a Mandarine orange/pummelo hybrid. Indeed, if you let a Meyer lemon hang on the tree for a long time, the fruit begins to pick up an orange cast to the skin which betrays the Mandarin heritage. The extra sweetness that the fully mature Meyer possesses is another hint that the fruit is not a true lemon. When life gives you Meyers, make dessert.
But as popular as the Meyer has become, the true lemon still has its fans. There is a bitterness to a true lemon that adds an attractive element of complexity to many dishes that the Meyer can’t match. When I saw how well the Meyer lemons did on the south facing slope of the field below my house I decided to diversify my little grove with a number of different “true” lemons. I planted Eureka lemons, Lisbon lemons, Femminello lemons, and a Santa Teresa lemon or two. Unfortunately, I didn’t keep the names straight, so I have a small lemon zoo of unnamed varieties. I guess you could say that when life sold me lemons I paid for the young trees but I didn’t pay attention. At least I’m having fun trying to rediscover the names of the plants I’m cultivating and when I gave Happy Girl Kitchen 300 pounds of mixed up lemons they made Lemon Medley Marmalade.
Today I spent the morning watering my citrus since it appears like we’re not going to get enough rain. I was also weeding around the base of the trees and getting ready to fertilize the crop. I use a special OMRI approved organic fertilizer twice a year, and I also toss on a handful of seaweed meal. Seaweed has a rich blend of trace elements and minerals which help the plant create interesting flavors. As I dug around the trees I unfortunately unearthed a drowsy toad. He ( or she or they) did not look all that happy to be disturbed, but lucklily wasn’t harmed. I thanked the creature for eating flies and mosquitoes and let it go back to sleep in the mud. When life gave the toad a lemon tree it made a home.
The different lemon varieties differ in size, shape, flavor, and season of yield. One tree is a standout, the fruits are enormous with an extremely thick rind. I spoke with the nursery where I’d purchased the trees. It turns out that my “lemon” was actually a Cuban Shaddock. For many years the Cuban Shaddock was used as a rootstock because of its vigor and disease resistance, and then a lemon scion was grafted on. A freeze had killed the lemon tree but the rootstock survived and now is fruiting. I’ve kept the Shaddock tree because it’s so entertaining. The Shaddock fruit is good too, but there’s not much of it inside all the pith. I also learned that the use of the Shaddock as a rootstock can sometimes make for lemons which have unusually thick peels, so nowadays the nursery has switched to other types of rootstock. So what do you do if life gives you a lemon with a thick rind? Make lemonade? Most of the lemony flavor in a lemon comes from the essential oils in the skin, nit from the juice. Here’s how I make lemonade:
Use a vegetable peeler to slice off the colored part of the rind before you squeeze the lemons. I make a simple syrup by bringing two cups of water to a boil and then I add a cup of sugar and a generous handful of lemon peels. I let the lemon peels simmer in the sugar water for ten minutes of so, then I let the mixture cool before removing the skins. After I’ve juiced the lemons I add water and the lemony simple syrup until I find the balance I like. I find that most recipes make a lemonade that is far too sweet for my taste so I won’t tell you how much sugar to use, but I can assure you that the lemony syrup gives a real citrus punch to the drink. Sometimes for fun I’ll use several different kinds of citrus peels to jazz up the lemonade or I will make a batch of limoncello to use in a cocktail. Wintertime is citrus time on the farm, and this week life is giving you lemons. I hope you enjoy them as much as I do.
© 2021 Essay by Andy Griffin.
Photos by Starling Linden and Andy Griffin.
“Do you bathe,” she asked me. “Are you interested in personal hygiene?”
I took my time answering these questions and looked back at the woman who was interviewing me.
“Seriously,” she continued. “The job you’re applying for is primarily a forklift driving/warehouse worker job, but there are some deliveries to make and some inevitable interactions with the public. This business is a co-op with several owners so if we hired you, you’d have several “bosses.” One of the “owner/partners” doesn’t believe in taking a bath or a shower and, in fact, he’s now saying that to wash his body is to destroy the lives of millions of microbes…. So he stinks…. He stinks so bad that some of the stores we serve have called to say that if we don’t find another driver they’re going to stop ordering. So, I ask again, ‘Do you bathe?’ If you don’t want to wash , if showering is ‘against your religion,’ then hey, that’s fine; no judgement…..but no job.”
“I take a bath every day,” I replied.
“Great,” she said. “You can start right now.”
So that’s how Dorothy came to hire me at Organic Matters Produce Company, on Monday, May 25th, 1989. It would have been after midnight not long after that job interview when I first met Gayle, the company’s bookkeeper. Some of you have gotten to know Gayle too, because she’s been taking the lead at our bi-monthly pop-ups at Piccino for a number of years. Sometimes I’ll get a nice note or see a complimentary post on Instagram or Facebook that says something positive about the produce we provide and they’ll thank me. I like the positive strokes, but I know it’s never me that made the nice array of veggies happen- it’s always a team effort. Gayle has played a big role in keeping our farm going over the years. After April she’ll be stepping back from her regular work schedule. I’m not saying “goodbye” to Gayle, but it’s never too early or too late to tell someone how much they mean to you.
Organic Matters was a good job for me. The company bought produce from all the local organic growers and distributed food around the local area and up as far as San Francisco so working there gave me an opportunity to get to know a lot of people I’d be working with for the next 30 plus years. If you’re trying to add up figures or figure out how someone else buggered up a whole pile of invoices it can help not to be distracted by all the shenanigans and drama that can occur in a busy office during the day. Gayle liked to work nights when the office was empty. I’d be there working too, but I’d be tucked away in a refrigerated warehouse, so I wasn’t on hand to bug her much.
In 1990 I farmed with Gayle’s husband, Joe, at Frogland Farm until the big freeze that December of that year, when temperatures dropped down below freezing and stayed that way for the next two weeks, even during the day, so that all the crops turned black and fell over. A competent bookkeeper can add up figures and keep the books straight, but a great bookkeeper doesn’t freak out and lose their professionalism when the numbers aren’t rosy. Organic Matters went out of business, Frogland shut down, but Gayle stayed busy working for other organic farms and for like-minded organizations like the Eco Farm Conference. When Mariquita Farm needed a real bookkeeper Gayle came to mind. And Gayle took the job, but only on the condition that we never ask her to wear high heels to work! We got a big laugh about that.
As a bookkeeper Gayle was always the soul of discretion, and she saved me from myself any number of times. Unlike many competent bookkeepers though, Gayle doesn’t have any problem with leaping up from the keyboard to go and load a truck, or drive it off on deliveries. She’s a very capable woman. Gayle has stepped in to help Mariquita Farm and my family many times over the years. She’s one of the people I know who are calm and principled and empathetic in a way that makes you want to be a better person. All these years later I am happy to call Gayle a good friend.
Thinking about Gayle is bringing me back to Organic Matters. While I worked there I ended up filling in wherever I was needed, which put me behind the sales desk at times. I remember one day looking up from my phone when Dorothy was clearing the air with Russell, a delivery driver, over some egregious failure on his part. “Honestly, Russell,” she said. “Sometimes I think you really don’t like driving.”
“That’s where you’re wrong, Miss Dorothy,” Russell replied. “I LOVE to drive- I just effing hate to stop.”
We got a kick out of that answer. What is food distribution if it’s not about stopping to unload food?
This week we’ll be stopping for you. I’m happy with this box. It’s winter, which is always a hard time on the farm, but the box is looking good. There are a few things that I ought to mention, though; If you’re not going to use your Hamburg parsley right away then you should cut the leaves off and store the roots in a sealed bag or container. The Yellowstone carrots are bagged up with any of the stray Parsley roots that fell off in the harvest, so you can put them together. Hamburg parsley is a very fun crop; you can cut the roots up into chunks and cook them with potatoes if you want to make an herbal infused mashed potato dish. Parsley roots are good roasted too, along with carrots, beets, radishes, or turnips. Speaking of turnips, the Tokyo turnips in your box will roast up great, and the greens are tender enough for salad.
The citrus in your box is a mix of a number of different kinds of citrus from our friend, Zea, at Fruitilicious Farm. Zea is my “citrus coach.” Her orchard is just up the hill from our farm, so I figure if crops grow well for her there, they should do well for me. Right now the mix that Zea can harvest includes some, if not all of the following:
Valentine Pummelo –
A very pretty half-pummelo hybrid from UC Riverside involving the very interesting acidless ‘Siamese Sweet’ pummelo crossed with a Dancy-Ruby Blood Orange hybrid. Delicious flesh is juicy and sweet, with a thick rind that makes it easy to peel.
Bloomsweet “Grapefruit” (Pummelo) –
(Citrus obovoidea) Also known as Kinkoji in Japan. Large yellow grapefruit-like fruit, but without the bitterness typical of grapefruit and with a thick rind like a pummelo. Chewy but pleasant flesh makes interesting juice.
Vanilla Blood Orange –
Vaniglia Sanguigno in Italian. This is an acidless orange with lovely pink flesh that is best blended in juice with tart citrus or other oranges. Sweet and juicy, but a bit insipid by itself.
Fremont Mandarin –
Very sweet and juicy mandarin with few seeds. Small to medium size fruit is dazzling orange.
Meyer lemon —
Not a true lemon because it has some mandarin in the gene pool, but with a nice tart punch that’s got some sweetness too. Juice one of these with the Vaniglia for a glass of very interesting orange juice.
We strive to bring the familiar favorites to your kitchen but we also like to bring you the unique crops that each season has to offer.
Did someone say it’s March!?
Andy and the Crew at Mariquita Farm
© 2021 Essay by Andy Griffin.
Photo of Gayle by Debra Baida.
Photos of citrus (except as noted) by Zea Sonnabend.
Photo of Meyer Lemons by Andy Griffin.
The time has come,’ the Walrus said,
To talk of many things:
Of shoes — and ships — and sealing-wax —
Of cabbages — and….
~ Lewis Carroll, The Walrus and The Carpenter
The warm temperatures notwithstanding, it’s still winter so I’m going to step out on some thin ice and tell an ethnic joke at the expense of the Polish people. But before I do I’d like to share a small personal triumph. If you’re going to have kids, it’s probably a bad idea to count on having your efforts as a parent validated too soon, but I’m feeling good today. I’m a vegetable farmer and I enjoy cooking so of course I wanted my children to eat veggies. When he was young my son, Graydon, went through a phase where he’d only gladly eat “white food,” and by that I mean white rice, white cheese, and white bread. He’s 25 now and that time is thankfully long past. He grew up to discover a passionate interest in all things Asian, and that included getting a degree in Mandarin, and then he lived in Taiwan for a while. While in Taiwan he began teaching himself basic Chinese cooking techniques, and now that he’s back here he’s only amplified his interest. Not infrequently, he’ll text me pictures of what he’s cooking and I enjoy seeing how far he’s taken his interest. The Chinese have a way with cabbage, for sure, and it makes me feel good to see how Graydon’s childish abhorrence of vegetables is a distant memory.
Graydon’s mother, Julia, lived in mainland China for a while when she was just out of college too, and she used to tell me that you could tell winter was coming when the trucks would roll into the cities loaded with cabbages. The people would buy loads and loads of cabbages and stack them up outside their homes. The weather was so cold that the whole world was like a refrigerator, so the cabbage would keep pretty well outside. Every day the people could bring a head or two inside, peel off a yellow leaf or two, and commence to make a meal. As a mother and a passionate cook and a confirmed Sinophile, Julia would love to see these texted photos of Chinese dishes that I receive rolling in from our son, but she passed away 6 years ago. In my experience grief is like a well-mannered dog that never leaves your side and remains quiet most of the time, usually choosing to put it’s nose in your hand and beg for attention up during moments of joy. I feel happy our son is cooking vegetables and enjoying Chinese food, and I feel sad that Julia is not here to share the moment. But that’s life, and grief is a part of life like a shadow that makes colors stand out more, or like a salt that deepens other flavors. But enough about other things; let’s talk cabbage.
Of course the cabbage that is most common in China is what we’d call Napa Cabbage here. Napa is a Brassica- Brassica rapa, related to the round Brassica oleracea cabbage that is most common in the west, but not closely. All Brassicas have tiny round seeds, paired valentine-shaped cotyledons when they germinate, and show off characteristic 4 petaled flowers when they reach sexual maturity, but beyond that they vary widely in form. A lot of the Brassicas grow well in cool weather, and the family really comes into its own in the kitchen during the winter. We’ve got a number of different Brassicas planted for you. This week it’s a regular cabbage family reunion in your harvest box; cabbage, broccoli and kale, for sure, and maybe turnips by week’s end if the little roots swell up fast enough. Like most garden plants, Brassicas grow easily enough if you give them what they want. These cabbages of ours grew easily enough, but we did make a mistake that I’d like to point out.
Cabbages are so important economically all over the world that plant scientists have worked to develop varieties for every season and growing region. These cabbages began to form heads just like they’re supposed too, but they didn’t get heavy. I suspect we erred and planted a variety in the fall that should have been planted in spring. All cabbages are fairly cold tolerant, but they behave differently under different light conditions. Some varieties perform best when the days are getting longer, as in the spring. Other varieties develop better when the days are getting shorter, as in the fall. Seeing that these cabbages were getting ready to bolt without getting heavy made me think we’d better pick them now. They taste good, but they’re light for their size. In the future we should probably plant this type in the spring so that it can grow super fast under the conditions of increasing day length; that way we’ll get the weight we want before the plants want to go to flower. These cabbages must be watching their mustard cousins blow up into a blaze of yellow flowers and they want to follow them. Which brings me back to my son, Graydon.
Many, but not all Chinese Brassicas are members of the mustard side of the family; think turnips, gai-lan, the various choy types, mizuna, or the many mustards and radishes the Chinese favor. Graydon often cooks Chinese food, so I was surprised when he sent me a picture that I didn’t recognize as anything Chinese. I asked him what it was. “Salmon wrapped in ‘Polish foil,’” he responded. I still didn’t understand the joke, so he amplified. He’d gotten ready to make a baked salmon dish with a miso glaze and the recipe called for aluminum foil, but he didn’t have any, so he improvised and used green cabbage leaves. He’d been working with someone of Polish ancestry who’d turned him onto stuffed cabbage recipes and joked that cabbage leaves are “Polish foil.” And he told me something else that I never knew but that is apparently common knowledge among informed cooks all over the world from Warsaw to Beijing; cabbage is high in glutamates, those natural amino acids that lend “umami” to food- think monosodium glutamate, but natural. My days of schooling the kid on food are long over, and it’s my turn to learn.
Meanwhile, back on the ranch we are getting potatoes ready to plant, we’re transplanting more kohlrabi and lettuces, sowing trays of peppers, and watching the tomato seedlings get bigger.
© 2021 Essay and Photos by Andy Griffin.
A favorite way to eat truly fresh kohlrabi is to peel (like a potato, Andy doesn’t peel his but I like to.) Larger kohlrabi bulbs sometimes can have a more fibrous skin which you may want to peel. The kohlrabi, slice it like you would jicama or carrots for a dip tray, and then eat the raw pieces plain or with lemon juice. The kohlrabi is fresh so it’s sweet, and has none of that strong cabbage smell old brassicas can have.
Store in a bag in the fridge.
Kohlrabi doesn’t have to be peeled after cooking.
It’s excellent cooked or raw. Try it both ways.
Grate kohlrabi into salads, or make a non-traditional coleslaw with grated kohlrabi and radish, chopped parsley, green onion, and dressing of your choice.
Try raw kohlrabi, thinly sliced, alone or with a dip. Peel and eat raw like an apple.
Steam kohlrabi whole, 25-30 minutes, or thinly sliced, 5-10 minutes. Dress slices simply with oil, lemon juice and a fresh herb, or dip in flour and briefly fry.
Saute grated kohlrabi in butter, add herbs or curry.
Add sliced or cubed kohlrabi to heart soups, stews or a mixed vegetable stir-fry.
Chill and marinate cooked for a summer salad. Add fresh herbs.
Kohlrabi leaves can be used like other greens. Store the leaves and bulbs separately. The globe will last for a few weeks in plastic in the fridge.
- 2 tart apples, cored & grated or julienned on a mandolin
- 2 large kohlrabi or 4 small, peeled & grated or julienned on a mandolin
- 2 shallots, diced (1/2 of an onion also works)
- 4 tablespoons Italian parsley, coarsely chopped
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 tablespoon sherry vinegar
- salt & pepper to taste
Adapted from Phoebe B. Serves 4 as a side dish.
Mix all of the above and season to taste with salt and pepper.
- 3 medium kohlrabi bulbs, peeled and cut into 3/4-inch cubes
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 2 teaspoons sesame seeds
- 1 teaspoon poppy seeds
- 1/2 teaspoon fennel seeds, coarsely chopped
- salt & pepper to taste
Adapted from Perfect Vegetables by the Cook’s Illustrated Team
Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Toss the kohlrabi, oil, seeds, and salt & pepper together in a large bowl until combined. In a single layer spread the mixture onto a rimmed baking sheet. Roast (with rack in middle position), shaking pan occasionally, until the kohlrabi is browned and tender, about 30 minutes. Transfer to a bowl and adjust seasonings to taste, serve immediately.
The humble kohlrabi and anoint it as the next “it” vegetable. Why not? Kale got the “celebuveggie” treatment and kale salads sprouted up on menus from Malibu to Muskogee! I’m not the world’s biggest kale salad fan, despite being a kale grower, because I think the texture is a bit much, and when I make a “kale salad” I prefer to use spigariello, but kohlrabi greens would work too, and they’re both a lot more tender on the tongue than kale.
Kale, spigariello, and kohlrabi are all members of the Brassica oleracea group- along with collards, cabbage, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, and cauliflower. Brassica oleracea is a star among vegetables. When you see them growing together you can see how they’re all family, but they look diverse from a distance. With kale and spigariello it’s the leaves that are valued, but cauliflower’s inner, more tender leaves can be cooked with good results. With cabbage and Brussels sprouts we’re still eating the leaves, but they grow curling inward to form heads and don’t open outwards into a rosette like the kales, collards and spigariello. With Broccoli and cauliflower we’re eating the emergent, immature flower buds. But with kohlrabi we focus on the bulbous, swollen stem, which looks round, like a turnip that is on top of the ground, but the leaves are good food, and if you let the plant go to flower the floral buds could be consumed like tiny broccolis. All the members of the Brassica oleracea are so closely related that they can cross-pollinate like dogs into myriad mongrel forms.
I love kohlrabi because the fat, round stem is sweet and crunchy like jicama. Kohlrabi can be cooked- steamed or cubed and stir fried, or grated and folded into latkes or dressed as coleslaw, but I usually just eat it raw, sliced and dressed with a little Meyer lemon juice. I’ve grown both purple kohlrabi and green kohlrabi and come to the conclusion that the purple form is consistently sweeter than the green variety, so that’s what you’re getting today. Later in the season we’ll harvest a super large sized green kohlrabi variety that is popular in Germany and I’ll be excited to try it because I’ve never grown it before. The seed is expensive so I’ve got it sprouting under cover in trays in the greenhouse for transplant later instead of being sown directly in the ground where it would be in danger of being pecked up by birds. The large form of kohlrabi will be ready for transplant in a month or so, and harvest will commence in May when warm weather will make crisp, crunchy salads very appealing.
Kohlrabi was developed in Northern Europe and is most commonly associated with German, Dutch and Scandinavian cuisine, but the crop has found an unlikely home in the cooking of Northern India and Nepal. Colonial powers introduced the plant to India and farmers there found that the crop did well for them because the plump, crisp ball of a swollen stem that makes up the best portion of the plant rests on top of the ground, and not in the ground, like a turnip, so it is less susceptible to damage from pests like nematodes that live in the soil. If you strip the leaves off the ball so that the plant doesn’t continue to transpire after harvest- and thus wilt- and if you keep the harvest in a cool place they will “keep” for a long time. You’re not going to want to keep the kohlrabi that you get in you box for long though. They’re going to taste so good you’ll gobble them up and wonder why I didn’t send you more. Don’t worry; I’m working on it.
© 2021 Essay and Photos by Andy Griffin.
I heard a mighty crash down in the forest below the packing shed but I haven’t gone into the canyon yet to see which tree has fallen. Closer to the outbuildings a mid-sized mature, eucalyptus toppled over, luckily landing away from our barn, not onto it. And along the edge of our yard the old Catalpa tree that had been planted by my Great Grandfather, split into three giant pieces, and now the slope is buried in a tangle of smashed limbs. We’ve had weather; I guess you have too! But the greenhouses are still standing with their roofs all intact, so that’s good. The crops we’ve planted under cover have enjoyed the protection from the storms, and the artichokes and lemons we have out in the fields haven’t been damaged by frost, so far.
We usually elect to take a break at the end of January and into February because the winter conditions can make it hard to harvest enough to keep our veggie delivery program going. The pandemic we’re all suffering through at present turned any wish Starr and I might have had to take a vacation in a warm desert into a palmy mirage, so we elected to enjoy a “staycation” here along the Monterey Bay. The plan was to shut the deliveries down while the crops grew big enough to pick and use the down time to catch up on all the projects that had gone undone. We could spend a day weeding, planting, pruning, cleaning up or organizing, and then venture the following day for a visit to someplace in the Bay Area that we’d never taken the time to know before. Factor in taking a few days to watch the rain coming down, and pretty quick we’re over halfway through the holiday.
A hike up Mt Madonna was our first tiny trip. We had the idea to go to the tops of all the tallest hills around the Bay Area and look around to get a new fresh perspective on our local world. From Mt Madonna looking south you can see Jack’s Peak in Monterey, and looking east you see the Mt. Diablo Range. Our second trip was to the East Bay, hiking up Round Top behind Oakland to see Mt Diablo to the east and Mt Tamalpais to the northwest. The communities we are looking down on from the high points are the towns that sustain our farm. We thought we’d use our time to get to know them a little better. One of our projects for 2021 is to plant a lavender labyrinth into the field to the south of our home, so we made sure to visit the beautiful labyrinth in Oakland’s Sibley Volcanic Preserve. Volcanoes in Oakland?!
From atop Grizzly Peak Boulevard looking west the San Francisco peninsula stretches out to the Golden Gate, so after several projects got wrapped up, and we’d cleaned up the mess from the windstorm and we headed to Twin peaks and Land’s End. The tiled stairways in the Inner Sunset are gorgeous. It’s so inspiring to see these beautiful gardens and works of art tucked discreetly into quiet, residential neighborhoods. I admire the work that it took to get the stairways planned and accomplished.
And San Francisco’s labyrinth at Lands End at the Golden Gate was as cool as Oakland’s labyrinth, and yes it really is at the end of the land overlooking a cliff that goes directly into the Pacific Ocean. Life is a maze, with dead ends everywhere, but a labyrinth is more of a spiritual tool offering a calm center at the end of a meandering path. We’ll come out of this pandemic one of these days, and we’re looking forward to a time when we can have visitors enjoy the lavender labyrinth we’re planning. It’s too wet at present to dig the beds, but we’ve got trays of lavender planted in the greenhouse to transplant out when the plants get big enough and lots of great lavender to share once the plants mature.
I’ve got another 65 citrus trees to plant out once this storm passes that’s coming through now. And the tomato seed has been planted for the 2021 summer crop. I managed to get the ground worked up for the spring’s earliest bean planting just hours before the last rainstorm hit, so that feels good. Our next high points to visit will be Mt Diablo, and then Mt Tam. We’ve been hitting the nurseries in the different neighborhoods that we pass through too, and visiting the public gardens. Sometimes farming can feel heavy-like some grim, brown, Dutch painting of a peasant toiling in the mud- so it’s invigorating to see what fun gardeners can have with plants. So far we’ve checked out the arboretum at Villa Montalvo, the Elizabeth
Gamble garden in Palo Alto and the UCSC Arboretum is Santa Cruz. The Ruth Bancroft garden in Walnut Creek is next on the list, once we get a few more projects tucked away. We were also delighted to see what was left of Greg Browns murals in Palo Alto while taking a street tour though downtown. And then to top it off as we were driving out of Palo Alto along University Avenue, we were excited to see three large crow sculptures, which we later discovered, were part of a You-We-Me sculpture series residing in the driveway of the artist, Silvi Herrick.
We’ll be ready to open back up for deliveries in two weeks. Every season is an adventure of sorts and 2020 was a roller coaster ride, for sure. We’re hoping that 2021 will be calmer. So far, so good! The tables are covered in seedlings sprouting in the greenhouse for transplant out later. Almost all the beds inside the greenhouse have been planted out, and we’ll be finished with that task by week’s end. The artichokes are getting big and fluffy in the fields and drinking up the rain, and the pea plants are starting to reach out with their vines. We look forward to the new season and we’re hoping for your support. If you have friends that might appreciate the food we grow please let them know about our program. We’re looking for more neighborhoods to serve so if you can suggest a likely pick-up spot I’m all ears.
See you soon!
© 2021 Essay by Andy Griffin.
Photos by Andy Griffin and Starling Linden