July 23rd 2007
Table of Contents:
1) In your box this week
2) Swing Low Sweet Chariot
3) Events: U-picks and dinner at the farm
6) Which Farm?
8) Two Small Farms Contact Information
1) In your box this week: Green Onions, Strawberries, Salad Mix, Rosemary, Potatoes, Fennel, Mystery item, and red onions
How to store this week's bounty: all in the fridge as soon as you arrive home! The potatoes are "fresh dug" - they have not been cured and so must be stored in the fridge. Also, the rosemary will last a few weeks if you store it in the fridge in a plastic bag.
This week's vegetable list: I try to have it updated by Monday night, sometimes by Mon. am
2) Swing Low Sweet Chariot
"What has eyes but does not see?" croons the singer. "Does not see, does not see..."
"A potato, stupid!" bellowed Magdalena from the back seat. When my daughter was six she took great pleasure in beating the chorus girls to their punch lines.
"A potato, a potato, a potato," cooed the backup singers belatedly as Lena laughed. It was the shmaltzy Silly Songs again, a grubby kiddie-music cassette making its millionth passage through the bowels of the tape deck in our mini-van.
"Play it again!" yelled Lena, and I did- not because I liked the song, but because I love my daughter. The song is all wrong. My sympathies are entirely with Mr. Potato Head. I compare and contrast him with the King of Spain.
The Spaniards broke into Peru like they had cracked a safe. They were so dazzled by the glitter of the gold they were stealing, they had no eyes for the potato. Pound for pound, the potato has proved to be one of the most productive and nutritious vegetable foods ever developed by humankind. Potatoes provide complex carbohydrates, starches, vitamins, minerals, and proteins and can be cultivated under a wide variety of environmental conditions. Potatoes can be stored fresh for long periods of time against the threat of famine. Dried, Inca-style, as chuño, potatoes last almost indefinitely.
Desirable potato varieties are easily cloned and propagated by slicing a potato into parts, each piece with its own two or three eyes, and planting them deep in well-drained soil. There is enough water and energy stored in the tuber to send green shoots to the soil's surface. If the potato plant's vigorous roots can tap into sub-soil moisture, the potato may not even need irrigation before setting a bountiful harvest. You can't eat gold. In the end the Spaniards squandered all the gold they tore from Peru by financing religious wars. It fell to Spain's dread enemy, protestant England, to harvest the real treasure of Peru by cultivating the potato.
Even the English didn't perceive the commercial potential of the potato at first. Some of the blame for this blindness must be laid on the cooks who, misunderstanding the strange new plant, steamed the potato foliage instead of the tubers. Diners got sick from solanine poisoning. More to blame were the theologians of the day. Protestants were reluctant to plant potatoes because, having not been mentioned in the Bible, they were "of Satan." A few Catholics tried cultivating potatoes- but as a hedge on their spiritual gamble, they planted their crops amid prayer on Good Friday and irrigated their fields with holy water.
Here, around the Monterey Bay in Central California, we have such unpredictable rainfall that all water ought to be considered holy. While my irrigation water has never been consecrated, I can tell you Good Friday is a later planting date for potatoes than I'd choose. Domesticated potatoes do best under the cool conditions of late winter that most closely mimic the high Andean altitudes of their wild ancestors.
I prefer to plant my potato crop in February. A farmer can plant a couple of weeks before the last frost for maximum yield. Soil is a good insulator. It will take the potato's new shoots a couple of weeks to reach the surface, and by then the threat of frost will have passed. Potatoes planted into warm weather never yield quite as well and are more prone to disease and insect pressure.
Once the potato was adopted in the British Isles, it became one of the most efficient engines driving the industrial revolution. Potatoes yield more nutrition with less persistent labor from fewer acres than other crops. With the introduction of potato cultivation peasants were kicked off of their farms by their overlords to make room for sheep. When they had been shorn of their land, the peasants were free to be wage slaves in the factories, working with the machines that spun wool into cloth. A diet of potatoes, augmented with the milk and cheese from the family goat, enabled this process of enclosure and industrialization to move forward.
But where Andean farmers had cultivated a rainbow of different potato varieties, Europeans cultivated only a few genotypes. When disease struck the European potato crop almost every plant died, from the Volga to Donegal Bay. Lack of genetic diversity meant there were no blight-resistant potato clones to survived for replanting. In Ireland over a million people died, and another million emigrated.
Today Ireland is doing well, but Peru is still recovering. Some visitors compare the squalid poverty of modern Peru to the ancient splendors of Macchu Picchu, the mysteries of the Atacama mummies and the Nazca Lines. It seems hard to connect the impoverished circumstances of the short, brown peasants that scrub in the earth for potatoes and chew on wads of coca leaf to mitigate the discomfort of altitude sickness, with the ancient imperial splendor of the Incas, who studied astronomy. A theory germinates on the kook fringe of archeology. "The Nazca Lines must have been cut across the desert floor to guide
UFOS in for landing. The surprising wisdom of Peru's past civilizations came from outer space!"
There is something refreshing about this notion. For once, real aliens get credit for their contributions to culture. Of course, the people who patiently worked for over 4000 years to transform the potato from a bitter tuberous herb into a vegetable that became a crop of international importance, are rendered invisible by the fantastic glow of more highly-evolved space beings. But are saucerites kooks? Maybe we all ought to hope that the UFOs return. After all, if we ruin this planet, we're going to need to fly to another one. Swing low, sweet chariot.
"What has eyes, but does not see, does not see, does not see?"
Silly songs aside, it's not the potato that's blind.
copyright 2007 Andy Griffin
Strawberry U-Picks Every Saturday through the end of August!
Come pick your own berries at High Ground Organics, Saturdays 10 am to 1 pm, for the rest of July and August. U-pick berries are $1.20/lb. Check in at the Redman House Farmstand first to pick up your empty flat(s). Directions: From Hwy 1, take the Watsonville Riverside Drive (Hwy 129) exit. Go west off the exit (toward the ocean). Turn right at the stop sign at Lee Rd. Pass the Chevron stations and turn into the farmstand parking area.
August 5th Open Space Alliance and High Ground Organics Dinner in Watsonville at the Farm:
August 25th: Tomato Upick at Mariquita Farm in Hollister in the morning: 8am - 12 noon. We know we'll have plenty of tomatoes by then. We will have many more upick days in Sept and likely October. We will also have a Padron Pepper upick day once Andy is sure the patch is prolific enough to make it worth your while! Stay tuned.
Rosemary Serving Hints from The Edible Ornamental Garden by J. Bryan
and C. Castle
- Use rosemary to flavor cold drinks, soups, pickles, cooked meats,
omelets, egg casserole, fish and poultry, sauces, dressing and even
preserves and jams.
- Saute chopped rosemary in butter, sprinkle with flour and add stock.
Season with lemon juice and anchovy paste and serve on fish.
- Add chopped rosemary to fresh fruit compotes, to pastry for meat pies
or to cake batter when making a traditional weding cake.
- Cook orange sections in syrup ('simple syrup is water and sugar that
have been heated together. -julia), flavor with rosemary, season with
taste, chill and serve with whipped cream.
- Rub veal, pork, or lamb roast with rosemary.
- Combine rosemary with butter to dress lima beans.
- Use whole sprigs with flowers for garnishing, or put them in the oven
when baking bread.
- Add sprigs to the cooking water when boiling potatoes, or cooking
chard or beans.
Beetroot Salad with Anchovy Dressing
from: Jane Grigson's Vegetable Book
julia's note: 'beetroot' is what beets are called in England, I think.
I was intrigued by this recipe because of the unusual salad dressing.
I'm a big fan of vegetable salads, our dinner table often has a
traditional lettuce salad and also a beet or potato or turnip or fennel or
celery etc. salad. I love make ahead dinner items, and vegetable-rich ones
are an extra bonus.
1 pound boiled, peeled beetroot
1/2 pound boiled firm or waxy potatoes
2 hard-boiled eggs, peeled
2 medium onions, chopped
4 Tablespoons oil
1 tin anchovies in oil
1 teaspoon wine vinegar
1/4 teaspoon (or a bit more?) Dijon mustard
Slice beets and put into a shallow bowl. Peel and slice the potatoes
into half-circles and arrange them in a ring round the edge, slipping the
straight edge down between the beets and the edge of the bowl. Mash
the eggs to crumbs with a fork, mix them with a heaped tablespoon of
parsley and set aside.
For the dressing, cook the onions in a tablespoon of oil in a small
covered pan, so that they become soft without browning. Cool and pound
with the anchovies, their oil and the remining ingredients (use a blender
if possible). Adjust the seasonings (this usually means add S & P to
taste). Spread dressing evenly over the beets. Scatter the egg on top
with extra parsley if neccessary. Serve chilled.
Fennel Baked with Parmesan Cheese
from: Jane Grigson's Vegetable Book
Jane Grigson's note about this recipe: My favourite fennel dish, the
best one of all by far. The simple additions of butter and parmesan - no
other cheese will do - show off the fennel flavour perfectly. The point
to watch, when the dish is in the oven, is the browning of the cheese.
Do not let it go beyond a rich golden-brown.
Julia's note: this dish can be halved or made even smaller for just two
people with one or two large heads of fennel.
6 heads fennel, trimmed, quartered
3 tablespoons grated parmesan cheese
Cook the fennel in salted water until it is tender. It is important to
get this right: the fennel should not still be crisp, on the other hand
it should not be floppy either. Drain it well and arrange in a
generously buttered gratin dish. Be generous, too, with the pepper mill.
Sprinkle on the cheese. Put into the oven at 400 degrees, until the cheese
is golden brown and the fennel is bubbling vigorously in buttery juices.
6) Which Farm?
>From High Ground: Strawberries, salad mix, fennel, green onions,
Flowers. From Mariquita: potatoes, rosemary, beets, red onions, mystery
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8) Two Small Farms Contact Information
Two Small Farms
Mariquita Farm/High Ground Organics
Organically Grown Vegetables
P.O. Box 2065
Watsonville, CA 95077