Here at the farm, we have been busy working around the rain late this week. We've been harvesting, mulching, and transplanting; watching the sugar snap peas, beans and tomatoes for signs of maturity; cultivating corn, beans, carrots and beets; and protecting all of our produce from pests like groundhogs and deer. One of the biggest transplants this week was winter squash! Now we've got rows and rows of delicata, acorn squash, butternut, pumpkins and more out in the field. Farming in some ways is like predicting the future: you plant a seed, and you know that eventually, with time and care, your plant will grow and bear fruit. We know we won't be harvesting the squash for many many weeks, but now it's there, growing and waiting.
This week, we wanted to highlight our herbs. Pele and Lindsey manage many of the herbs we grow at the farm, some in large quantities and some in small. But we put a lot of time and effort into caring for these special plants, even if we only send half a dozen bags to market each week!
We recently saw an article in the New York Times, Breeding the Nutrition Out of Our Food, and it reminded us about the benefits of eating herbs:
"Herbs are wild plants incognito. We’ve long valued them for their intense flavors and aroma, which is why they’ve not been given a flavor makeover. Because we’ve left them well enough alone, their phytonutrient content has remained intact.
Experiment with using large quantities of mild-tasting fresh herbs. Add one cup of mixed chopped Italian parsley and basil to a pound of ground grass-fed beef or poultry to make “herb-burgers.” Herbs bring back missing phytonutrients and a touch of wild flavor as well."
Since we grow herbs other than Italian basil and parsley in small amounts, we send what is ready each week to market. So we can't guarantee the availability of any one herb at any of the markets. We typically have 4-6 different herbs available at each market, and if there is one that you really want to purchase regularly, talk to Jim or one of the other farmers and we will do our best to bring it for you the following week!
What do you do with these beautiful bunches of fresh herbs? The simplest thing to do is to make pesto--it doesn't have to be just basil. Any combo of your favorite herbs, plus nuts/seeds (walnuts and almonds make a great mix), olive oil, some salt and pepper, and maybe some cheese--such a quick easy way to enjoy these amazing plants. For storage, always keep your basil OUT of the fridge. Keep it in a cool dark place, with the bag open. It'll last a surprisingly long time when stored this way. Most of the other herbs will last about a week in the fridge. It's best to keep your herbs fairly dry in the fridge because they can become slimy pretty quickly. Rosemary and Thyme will keep much longer in the fridge because they aren't as leafy.
You can also preserve herbs quite easily if you don't think you can use a whole bunch in a week's time: dry them in your oven at its lowest setting (less than 200 degrees), and check them every twenty minutes until they become fragrant (about an hour). You can also freeze pesto before you add the cheese! Thanks to Pele for the tips!
Grace came up with a couple great recipes featuring some of our herbs: Oregano and Olive Pasta, and A Fresh Take on Chimichurri.
1 lb of pasta
1/2 cup of pitted olives sliced
1 bunch of NMF spring garlic, sliced
1 bag of NMF spinach, washed and roughly torn
1 bunch of NMF fresh oregano, washed and chopped
1/4 cup of balsamic vinegar
1/4 cup olive oil
salt and pepper to taste
Boil pasta as directed on the package. Combine the pasta with the spinach and olives. In a small bowl combine the oil, vinegar, oregano, and garlic. Toss with pasta, add salt and pepper to taste, and serve at room temperature or cold.
A Fresh Take on Chimichurri
4 oz fresh NMF Italian basil
1 bunch of NMF scallions
1 bunch NMF spring garlic
1 bunch of NMF Italian Flat Leaf parsley
juice from 2 lemons
1 teaspoon of salt
crushed red pepper
1/3 cup of olive oil
Wash and trim all herbs. For the basil trim the larger stems, for the scallions trim the roots, for the spring garlic cut the roots and the tops off (only an inch or two off of the tops). For the parsley trim the thicker stems.
Combine all herbs and lemon in the food processor, add the salt and the pepper (as much of this as you like) and turn on to combine. Slowly add the olive oil and process until somewhat smooth.
Use this to brush on fish or vegetables (such as our summer squash) before you put it on the grill, or on bread.