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Green Tomatoes

Bonnie's Fried green tomatoes over cheese grits with country gravy and local cilantro

Bonnie’s Fried green tomatoes over cheese grits with country gravy and local cilantro

Well, well, well…… the outside temperature feels like summer now that the tomatoes are gone and I am back in the kitchen. Imagine that! It was sort of a crap shoot, wondering how many more I would get and if they would turn from green to red. This just wasn’t a good year for tomatoes. We had too much rain, then it was cold and now its 80 and sunny going into October.

Green tomato salsa over tamales with creme fraiche from Chef Bonnie Collins

Green tomato salsa over tamales with creme fraiche from Chef Bonnie Collins

The green tomatoes are being put to great use and I have received some beautiful pictures from Bonnie (HH chef) and Antonio (Pike Chef).

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Bonnie’s Pasta Primavera using green tomatoes from the farm

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Antonio’s sausage and farm peppers with marinara made from the last of the HH farm tomatoes

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Bonnie’s green tomato caprese salad

 

Farm Boys helping me again. Thank you Jeremy, Bryan and TJ :)

Farm Boys helping me again. Thank you Jeremy, Bryan and TJ 🙂

I spent last week taking down the tomato trellising, ripping out the plants and hauling the plastic mulch and drip tape to the dumpster. Its always an adventure pulling up the plastic. Last year I did the “burrito method” where you are on your hands and knees rolling as you go down the bed with your face inches from the ground, up close and personal with all the wild life that has made a home in the moist, shaded environment. This year I knew better and was on my feet with plenty of distance between me and the creatures. I uncovered a humongous toad and a family of mice (mother and 4 babies) this year. Now maybe I care a little too much but their untimely death was not going to be on my watch. As soon as I pulled the plastic off them the mother took off into another bed leaving the babies alone and helpless, yes…. we are still talking about field mice. Anyway, I immediately called for back up (Jeremy) to bring me a box so we could reunite the babies with the mother. After about ten minutes of herding them down the rows, unsuccessfully trying to squeamishly get the babies in the box, the mission was accomplished to my satisfaction and we could continue on about our day. I wish I had a picture of Jeremy and Bryan helping me herd. It was very sweet and absolutely priceless.

Mice Family Reunited!!

Mice Family Reunited!!

Although the tomatoes are gone, I am still getting peppers, chard, spinach, nasturtium and sorrel. I am also hoping to have kale in the next couple weeks. I was able to do some taste testing on the green beans when I was harvesting last weekend. I will be making my first harvest tomorrow for a special event at AKL this Friday.

Salad at AKL! Farm spinach with mixed greens and nasturtium flowers. The boys loved it!

Salad at AKL! Farm spinach with mixed greens and nasturtium flowers. The boys loved it!

I am back in my kitchen as of today and I am so excited to use the produce from the farm!! More pictures to come :).

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Farm, Journal, Update

It’s the final countdown

Final Harvest

Final Harvest

It’s the final countdown, ba da da daaaaah, ba da dat da dah….. I have given my date to be back in the kitchen and it is quickly approaching. Although it is slightly warmer this week I just can’t wait any longer for the tomatoes to turn. I made my final harvest of the season today, picking all red and green tomatoes. The peppers are starting to slow down as well and because of  the cold temperatures at night, I am not sure if the green beans will take off or not. I did see some flowers on them today but they may be shocked/ stunted due to the cool nighttime temperatures. I am going to leave the peppers and green beans in the ground for a couple more weeks, mainly because I would like to be able to use some of the produce when I get back in the kitchen.

Kevin's hot sauce for Phi Delta Theta

Kevin’s hot sauce for Phi Delta Theta

Coq au vin for Phi Delta Theta

Coq au vin for Phi Delta Theta

Kevin, who is back at Phi Delta Theta cooking, has been taking a lot of the weekly produce and turning it in to some amazing things. I have seen first hand if you plant the seed, nurturer it, harvest it and then prepare the food then you take extra care of the ingredients when cooking them because you know how much work went into growing it. Kevin has his house invested in the farm because he is able to describe to them exactly what they are eating and has the back story on how that vegetable came to be on their plates, from start to finish. It is really

Pickled Golden Greeks for Phi Delta Theta

Pickled Golden Greeks for Phi Delta Theta

fun receiving pictures of what he has made. He has processed the Golden Greeks into pepperoncinis and also made homemade hot sauce out of the Red Flames. I gave him most of the “trial” Yukon Golds and he paired it with a wonderful coq au vin. So much fun to see the transition from farm to kitchen. It makes me excited to get back into my kitchen soon.

Antonio's fried green tomatoes with fire roasted carmen pepper aioli and head romaine quick salad for PIKEs

Antonio’s fried green tomatoes with fire roasted carmen pepper aioli and head romaine quick salad for PIKEs

Antonio, the chef at PIKE, has also done some amazing things. He, like Bonnie at Hendrick House, takes all of my seconds so that he can process them down into sauces, soups, etc. That was the idea for their use and he has really taken it upon himself to spend the extra time doing this until a processing kitchen is established. Antonio sent me a picture of a mouth watering dish he made using not only green tomatoes but also Carmens and head Romaine. Having lived in the south for so long, I have a soft spot in my heart for fried green tomatoes :).

Definitely over worked for a volunteer! Jon Adler

Definitely over worked for a volunteer! Jon Adler

I had a volunteer today named Jon Adler. I spoke about him once before but every time he is in town he comes and spends a full day at the farm with me. Jon is an alumni and former president of the fraternity Alpha Kappa Lambda, which is where I cook during the winter and spring. He helped me harvest and package all of the produce to be delivered tomorrow morning and then he helped me rip out all of the remaining tomato plants. It is sad seeing the tomato plants go but it was really fun having a friend to hang out with all day. I forget how much I miss Kevin keeping me company and making fun of my singing.

Bye Bye Tomatoes

Bye Bye Tomatoes

Now that the tomatoes are gone I will be spending the rest of the week dismantling as many physically demanding things as I can before going back into the kitchen which means the trellising, plastic and drip tape.

TJ!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

TJ!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

TJ even came out in his new ride and hung out for the final harvest. It was a really fun day.

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Farm, Journal, Update

Fall is here?

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The sweet smell of summer and sunshine has been replaced with grey skies and crisp earthy smells of fall. Fall used to be my favorite time of year with changing colors of the leaves, dusty harvests, visits to the pumpkin patch, fresh cider and bon fires. This year I am sad seeing the tomatoes and peppers coming to an end. This was an incredibly short summer and it makes me nervous not having a set spot for the coming year, especially now that the first two “practice” years are almost over.

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IMG_1852The name of the game this past weekend was Head Romaine. Kevin and I harvested nearly 150 lbs yesterday and it was sold and delivered this morning. I am anxiously waiting to hear feedback from the chefs. The Romaine plus the peppers and small order of chard (thanks Casey 🙂 ) was one of the largest deliveries of the season. It was amazing to empty a full walk in this morning, distributing each product to its new home.

The chefs have been creating some beautiful dishes:

AOPI

AOPI

Nick from AOPI did a Chicken Nicoise dish with an Anchovy-herbed compound butter buerre blanc, using the farm’s yukon gold potatoes and red ribbon sorrel

Hendrick House

Hendrick House

Bonnie (chef of Hendrick House) did a Paprikash catfish with sautéed carmen peppers (from the farm) and onions with cheesy grits and corn on the cob

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PIKE

Antonio from PIKE did a beef and cheese stuffed carmen pepper with the last of my ripe tomatoes, which he turned into a coulis

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Hot, Hotter, Hottest Golden Greek

Hot, Hotter, Hottest
Golden Greek

Despite this cold weather, I am still getting beautiful harvests of peppers though it is slowing down. This past weekend was the first Sunday that we did not harvest tomatoes. There are a lot of tomatoes hanging on the plants but it is just too cool for them to ripen. We are predicted to have 80 degree temperatures this weekend so I am hoping that is just enough heat to push them to have one more nice harvest. I have been prepping the chefs to get ready for a large green tomato harvest. Many of them, with Bonnie’s lead, have been changing their menus and coming up with a lot of great ideas to help me move them. I hope the students like green tomatoes. 🙂

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Stupid Spot

Stupid Spot

Bacterial Spot is back again. Nothing new.

 

 

 

 

I am starting to disassemble the farm slowly. The drip tape will be pulled up in the next couple days (as soon as I can kick this inconvenient cold/flu) and the south 1/2 of the land will be ready to disc. I am also preparing to take down pepper and tomato trellising as soon as the green tomatoes are harvested next week.

 

 

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Farm, Journal, Update

Get Em’ To The Greek!

Lunchbox Peppers

Lunchbox Peppers

It has been crazy hot here for the last two weeks and I am guessing that was it for summer 2014, since it is now back in the 70s for a high. Pretty strange. I heard today that it is supposed to frost in two weeks, which is early for us here in central Illinois and right on time since the tomatoes are finally starting to look really good (sarcasm). This short period of heat has really brought on the peppers and tomatoes. When I say “has really brought on” I am dead serious. I am harvesting nearly every day to keep up. I am pulling over 300 lbs a week  just in Carmen peppers alone. I think the chefs are getting a little tired of this variety but they keep taking them, mostly because at this point I am begging and also trying to remind them that we will be starved for fresh produce in the winter :). I am pretty sure every chef I am selling to has menu’d stuffed peppers at least once, to try and move through the volume. I will probably not grow so many Carmens next year.

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Antonio’s Sweet and Sour Pork (with homemade sauce) and farm peppers

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Antonio’s gyros with a Mediterranean salad using farm tomatoes

 

I have been overwhelmed with the support and excitement from the chefs this year.  I received some beautiful pictures of some of the dishes they have served with all of the peppers and tomatoes they have been buying. Antonio, who is the chef of the PIKE fraternity has been taking tremendous orders every Monday. He has capitalized on my seconds turning them into salsa, marinara and various sauces. I love seeing what he has been doing with the produce.

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AGD peppers Before…

AGD Stuffed Carmens

AGD Stuffed Carmens

Casey, who is the chef of AGD sorority, has also been very excited about the produce this year. He is so much fun to sell to and always has great ideas. This is his version of the stuffed Carmen. He sent me beautiful before and after pictures.

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Bonnie’s Stuffed Peppers

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Seconds getting ready to be Bonnie’s base for sauces

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Bonnie’s stuffed Carmen

Bonnie, the chef at Hendrick House is my crutch. Without her this project would probably not be possible. She is so understanding of the season and writes her menus accordingly. She also doesn’t hesitate changing her menus to accommodate an influx of produce (when we have a heat wave etc). Bonnie will take any produce I cannot sell and process it down to use or sell at a later date, even if she doesn’t really want to 🙂 “Bonnie, I know you just got 100#s of Carmens last week but do you want 50 more #s on Monday?” – Me “Eh, Surrrrrrre.” – Bonnie “Oh thank goodness” – Me (saying to myself) She is a great chef and a farmer’s dream!

Not mentioned: Christie at Gamma Phi Beta, David at KKG, Nick at AOpi, Jason at Armory, Rich at Presby, Ryan and Heath at Newman and of course Kevin at Phi Delta Theta. I am coming for pictures!!!

Aphids.... What Aphids?

Aphids…. What Aphids?

In other news, the aphids on the tomatoes are suddenly gone. One day they were there, the next they weren’t. Was it the heat? Was it the heavy rainfall + the heat? I’m just going to shrug my shoulders and move on, grateful I didn’t spend money trying to get rid of them. Chalk this one up to a win :)!

Yukon Gold Potatoes, yes please!

Yukon Gold Potatoes, yes please!

Spent the afternoon digging potatoes. I decided to try my hand at Yukon Golds this year. I love the way they taste and was going to plant this as a trial. Turns out to grow potatoes all you have to do is plant them, wait 3 to 4 months and harvest them. That is it! No weeding, no pest control, no nothing. I am definitely going to grow this crop again.

Second round of Romaine is coming along nicely, now that I cured my western corn worm problem. I have been looking at this crop closely and I think that I will have much better luck with this harvest. They should be ready by the beginning of next week. Oh yeah, I sprayed a non organic pesticide on the beds but was very careful about pollinators. And yes, I feel like a horrible person again to the extent where I actually saved a tomato horn worm I found today, gently setting it on the other side of the fence instead of squishing it.

 

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Farm, Journal, Update

Happy Labor Day

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Huge harvests

Happy Labor Day! What better way to celebrate Labor Day then to spend it at the farm :). I had a busy weekend trying to catch up from lost time spent in the kitchen last week. It was a beautiful couple days, the rain held off and I had a lot of orders to fill. I was lucky to have an extra day to make it happen.

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Romaine hearts

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Loss due to western corn worm beetles

Tomatoes packaged and waiting for delivery tomorrow morning

Tomatoes packaged and waiting for delivery tomorrow morning

Peppers are rolling in like crazy, tomatoes are in abundance and I had my first fall harvest (except it feels like summer) of romaine. Had you driven down south Lincoln today  you probably would have seen me angrily shaking my head and fists down the first lettuce bed. It was attacked by western corn worm beetles. This was not a good thing because I already had cooks putting in orders for it to be delivered tomorrow morning. Being a chef myself, I know there is nothing worse than having an unreliable vender who leaves you short handed at the last minute. Fortunately, I was able to contact the chefs in plenty of time to source from someone else and they were all very understanding. I did dig down and saw that the hearts were still in tact so I was able to replace a couple of the orders with hearts instead of heads. I have another batch that is two weeks behind this one and I will be spraying with pesticide tomorrow to ensure this will not happen again. Which pesticide (organic vs. non organic)? Well, here we go again….. I will let you know next week.

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Roasted farm tomatoes and peppers for salsa and jambalaya

Not a regular cheese burger,  Cheese burger with Hendrick House farm tomatoes yummy!!  - Antonio, PIKES

Not a regular cheese burger,
Cheese burger with Hendrick House farm tomatoes yummy!!
– Antonio, PIKES

It was (sort of) nice being at the farm and in the kitchen last week because I was able play with the produce I was bringing in. I turned my tomatoes and peppers into salsa and tasty jambalaya. I also received a picture from Antonio, the chef of the PIKE house, to see how he was using the produce, asking for feedback from the students. The response so far has been very positive.

 

These boys came after dinner in the evening to help me because they knew I had been in the kitchen all day then had to go harvest.

Thank you Rauf, Andrew, Joe and Marshall!!

I think the boys at the fraternity took pity on me last week because they rallied together and not one but two groups came out to help me out of the goodness of their hearts! I even had an alumni, the president when I first started working for this company (Jon Adler), organize and rally a group to come out and help me harvest Sunday. It blows me away when these college kids take time out of their schedule to do manual labor for free, in the heat AND on a holiday weekend. I absolutely love that they are invested and care about the quality of their food. It makes everything so worth it. This means this project of local and fresh food is working and every day more and more people are starting to take notice. From the bottom of my heart, thank you AKL!

 

Thank you Jon, Katie, Aaron, John and Andrew!!!

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