a light tomato harvest

sungolds and washington cherry tomatoes

the restaurant has too many tomatoes to take any of mine at the moment so i’ve got to hold back. hopefully there will be some on the menu soon.

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green garlic, arugula, kale, and peas on the menu

sometimes its hard to keep track of where the food i grow ends up. i’ll come in to the restaurant before my shift with some vegetables and on a busy night can lose track of time and miss the chance to snap a picture. i’ve also brought veggies in then had the next day or so off and missed the dishes. it can be frustrating but i’m getting better at it. here are some of the veggies i lost track of:

green garlic

the garlic was planted in november and harvested in march. they were beautiful! unfortunately, i have no idea where they ended up on the menu. the garlic i used as seed was from the grocery store so it ended up being the least cost effective crop i’ve grown so far. i won’t grow it again unless i can get a good deal on seed garlic. anyone?

arugula

i thought the arugula was a disaster because it immediately went to seed without producing many leaves but they ended up being delicious! after i harvested lots of tasty flowers i picked out all the plants and harvested the leaves. i ended up with about a pound. not too shabby. the flowers ended up in a spring soup. i have no idea what else is in the soup though!

kale

the kale grew mostly in the shadow of the fava beans due to poor crop planning. when planting i didn’t think ahead to the favas growing to be eight feet tall and casting a huge shadow. the kale still managed to grow though. it can basically grow anywhere. when the favas came out the kale got some sun and bulked up a bit but was still quite pathetic looking. it had a great taste though – maybe theres a market out there for shade grown kale…

peas

the peas were absolutely delicious. i’m sad i missed their final destination. there is a tiny window when the peas are a good size but still sweet and tender enough to eat straight from the pod. left too long and they get tough, bitter, and starchy. i managed to get most of my cop in this magical window and took several pounds in to the restaurant. this coming fall i’m planning on planting some climbing varieties and growing over winter (last season i only did bush varieties in the spring).

i think thats everything that i’ve taken in to the restaurant this year and not accounted for. hopefully it won’t happen again!

summer squash NOT on the menu

my bed of squash has done very well this season. it pumps out a couple of pounds of squash every week which is more than enough for me and my parents but not gonna cut it for the restaurant. they buy 50lbs+ of squash at a time. i would need three whole beds of squash planted to produce that much for a single harvest (and i have 9 beds total). the other problem is that i only go to the garden once a week and the plants should be checked out almost daily to ensure harvest at optimal size. i often go and find massive squash that nobody would want to buy. i’ll probably skip planting squash next season but they’ve been nice to have around. i’ve shaved them raw into salads, made squash fritters, soup, “zucchini” bread, sauteed them with other veggies and had them with eggs for breakfast, but more than anything else: grilled them on the BBQ. yum!

a few weeks ago i noticed some powdery mildew on the plants. i tried to take out some of the most effected plants and sprayed with a baking soda and water solution but things just got worse. the plants as a whole are now almost totally covered and appear to be close to death. still pumping out squash though!

fennel on the menu

almost a crop failure but not quite. i transplanted and started fennel from seed in the same bed back at the beginning of april. they both grew nicely – starting the seed inside was unnecessary. i kept waiting and waiting but the fennel never bulbed up like i had hoped. instead they have an almost perfectly flat pancakey frame. some of them are quite plump but “bulbed” would be an overstatement. the centers of some plants are elongating and getting woody – probably starting to bolt (although doing so very slowly).

there are, of course, different varieties of fennel out there – some bulbing and some not. i’m confident the variety i got (“orion” fennel)  is a bulbing variety. the flat fennel is definitely my fault – due to the plant maturing in the heat of summer while it would rather be doing so in a cooler climate. the fennel should have been growing during the cool season – planted in late fall instead of late spring. i’ve been doing a fair amount of learning the hard way recently. the mistakes i made caused the fennel to be too tough to eat raw but they are still tasty when cooked with a flavor that holds up well to other bold ingredients.

the fennel ended up in the broth of a mussels and chorizo dish but i lost track of that one. more recently they were braised with squid for a briny pasta dish. they were part of an italian version of mirepoix called soffritto made of celery, carrots, onion, and aromatics (including fennel) wich is often the foundation of a good braising liquid.

on the plate: squid ink spagetti, braised squid, sungold tomatoes, bread crumbs, and aleppo chili. theres fennel in there somewhere, i swear.

radishes and lemon verbena on the menu double whammy

this is the second time i’ve grown radishes. the first were planted back in november and harvested in february. there was a huge difference between the winter and summer plantings. in november the radishes grew very slowly and were hammered by slugs that flourished in the rainy conditions. this summer the radishes exploded out of the ground. i’m convinced they did so well because they were planted immediately after peas that fixed lots of lovely nitrogen in the soil. i was harvesting radishes after 29 days of sowing the seed. definitely the most rapid growth my garden has seen.

brandon took an unusual approach when serving these radishes at the restaurant. he cooked them in butter and white wine and mixed them with other vegetables and served them alongside a beautiful piece of sea bass. i don’t think i had ever eaten a cooked radish before. they take on a turnipy flavor and loose a bit of their spice and crunch. who knew?

this dish was served with the awesomest butter sauce ever: beurre blanc. shallots, white wine, acid (vinegar or lemon juice), and lots of butter – a winning combination. this sauce hails from France’s Loire Valley and is traditionally made with Loire valley muscadet wine. to add a little complexity and cut through the richness the beurre blanc for this dish was infused with lemon verbena from farm agricole. and thats a crazy delicious double whammy.

on the plate: steamed sea bass, radishes, roasted turnips, watercress, squash blossoms, and lemon verbena infused beurre blanc.

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the lemon verbena love continues in the pastry department. majkin’s (now famous) “thousand layer” crepe cake accoutrements have recently been upgraded from cherries to peaches. these peaches are getting a nice bath in lemon verbena infused simple syrup and the cake has a cute little lemon verbena garnish on top.

on the plate: almost a thousand crepes layered with bavarian cream and a nice bruleed top. lemon verbenary peaches, peach jam, and a verbena garnish.

broccoli romanesco NOT on the menu

broccoli romanesco has got to be the coolest looking vegetable ever. thats pretty much the only reason i wanted to grow them. sure they are delicious and nutritious and blah blah but just look at this thing.

just look at it. more of a cauliflower than a broccoli with crazy fractalized “curds” (the individual pieces of the head – my vegetable geek term of the day) which are themselves arranged in a fractular way to create the craziest looking alien vegetable around. i stole that image from wikipedia. the ones i grew couldn’t have been more different.

this is my first true crop failure. so many things went wrong with these guys. things got off on the wrong foot when i started the seed in reused potting soil from a failed batch of starts. it seemed like a convenient and economical thing to do until my farmer friend pointed out that nutrients would have been leached from the soil making life more difficult for my new starts. they barely grew and after eight and a half weeks under the grow light looked close to death. i transplanted them anyway and they started growing normally but i’m sure their early days stunted them in the long term. to make things worse i planted them too close together. crowding and competition for nutrients and water no doubt stressed the plants and resulted in less growth. yet another distraction: the plants were started too late in the year. when they finally headed up the heat of summer caused loose curds instead of a nice dense head. i poked around the internets and found i’m pretty lucky they headed up at all. lots of home gardeners out there grow nice big plants that never send up a head. i guess it could always be worse.

the good news is that, although tiny, they are delicious. they just won’t be ending up on a menu.

lemon verbena on the menu

there has been a lemon verbena plant growing next to the house for as long as i can remember. it is never watered or cared for in any. every year we cut it back to its stumpy main stalk and every year it explodes with growth. it can get to be over seven feet tall and tends to take over that section of the yard. when you brush past it the smell can be overwhelming.

majkin – bar agricole’s lovely pastry chef – was having a hard time finding lemon verbena from our regular suppliers so i brought her some. she steeped it in some heavy cream and whipped it up to serve alongside a rhubarb upside down cake. a light infusion is important as too much herby flavor can taste soapy. this batch came out just right – just a hint of lemon verbena goodness.on the plate is a butter cake made with housemade buttermilk and rhubarb set into caramel – served as an upside down cake. a little sugar, salt, and the lemon verbena is added to the cream and it is left to steep overnight in the fridge. some vanilla streusel sprinkled on top adds texture.