Tag Archives: winter squash

farm grace

For the latter part of our Wednesday “weekend” — I spent the morning freelancing for the Windsor Times, and Emmett spent it harvesting — Emmett and I have decided to indulge in a miniature Slow Food event of our own. After a lunch of four ears of fresh-picked corn (wormy ends severed prior to a brief boiling), we’ve decided to get creative with Foggy River produce for dinner. Riffing partly off recipes from Grub, we’re planning on bruschetta, green bean salad, some early, nutty-but-not-yet-sweet Kuri squash (from the plants that died — the fruit never did quite ripen fully), and some other dishes that will probably arise when we plumb the depths of the refrigerator to discover still more Armenian cucumbers, Lacinato kale, brassica greens, and Swiss chard.

I can’t wait to sit down to the bounty, and in anticipation of a feast, I thought I’d steal a post to talk about farm grace. By which I mean: I can’t quite express how lucky — but it’s deeper than lucky, more like blessed or gifted — I feel when things grow. Often, when Emmett and I sit down to a meal we grew and prepared, one of us will compliment the flavor of the food and the other will quip, “Thanks, I grew it myself.” But honestly, we had nothing to do with it. I mean, sure, we weeded, watered, and hoped. But really, the plant does the hard work.

I’ve learned about photosynthesis, the light and dark reactions, the xylem and phloem and all of the components of a plant’s cell — chloroplast, vacuole, mitochondira, ribosomes, endoplasmic reticulum. And yet somehow, sometimes, focusing on the specifics of how things work can take away a bit of the magic. How often do you stop and wonder how in the heck, with the same ingredients — soil, sun, water — you can end up with a potato or a tomato, a melon or a lemon, a butternut squash or a radish? Maybe I’m simple, but it seems to me that in this context even the formation of the lowly radish is something of a miracle.

And then there are the things that are obviously miracles. Have you ever grown a pumpkin? With very little help from you — just a bit of water and compost — one day you’ll walk outside and happen upon a gigantic green gourd three times the size of your head. (How does it do that?!) And even if you’ve been paying close attention to the plant the miracle is no less great. Watching a bright orange flower turn into a small fruit, which then gradually grows… and grows… and grows… into a monstrous squash is phenomenal, too. Whenever I wander out into the squash patch and see a snapshot of time progression — blossoms, tiny squash and bigger squash in the same frame (sweet dumplings pictured above) — I’m amazed. All this beauty and flavor, mostly made of air. (Funny aside: When Harvard seniors were presented with a block of wood and asked what it was mostly made of, the majority of students — even science students — said water and soil. In fact, the solid part of plants — including trees — is primarily derived from carbon dioxide, what you and I breathe out.  Somehow, it’s intellectually easier to attribute a redwood’s growth to water and soil, but even 150-foot-tall trees are made of air.)

So, to all of our hardworking plants at the farm, I say thank you. Because if someone gave me water, sun, and soil and expected me to make a butternut squash out of it, I’d be quite certain that they’d lost their minds.

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the jungle

I’ve dug up a few interesting farming-related articles from around the web: how high food prices can hurt — or at least not help — third world farmers, what Wal-Mart, cancer, and organic produce have to do with local farming in my hometown of San Diego, and when agricultural conservation gets contentious in New Jersey.

And finally, as promised, the optimist’s version of our two-week vacation from the farm:

In our absence, the farm went from a vegetable patch to a vegetable jungle. The quinoa now towers as tall as I do, brimming with proto-grain. Remember when, three months ago, I dreamed of a bean thicket? Well, now I’ve got one — an impenetrable green mass whose weight has managed to partially collapse its fencing. And the winter squash field — oh, the winter squash field! Green jack-o-lanterns, three times the size of my head, lie casually in the dirt. A French variety of yellow pumpkin — which looks as if you took a bright yellow globe and squeezed it at the poles, so it’s slightly wider than it is tall — bursts through the green vines with an unexpected splash of color. The textures, colors, and sizes of the squash are all different, all energizing: the ribbed delicata; the smooth, ovular spaghetti; the pear-shaped butternut; the pleasingly round kuri. (There are also a few mysterious hybrids, such as the one that’s shaped precisely like a spaghetti squash but is ribbed and dark green, like an acorn. What will it taste like? Only time will tell.)

Yes, a few of the mysteriously diseased squash plants died, but a couple of them are reminding me of… oh, I don’t know, pick some great hero, Hercules in the Augean Stables myth, or Queen Elizabeth I resolutely refusing to wed, or Mel Gibson in Braveheart, or something.

This one could not be more gallant, stolidly hanging on just long enough to put all of its energy into a small-but-perfect kuri squash:

So these are the upsides. And more good news: at today’s market in Windsor, we made more money than we ever have before. We still haven’t added up all of our numbers to see if we’ve actually paid off our investment costs yet, but I’m not going to let that dampen my spirits! Instead, I’m going to drink a locally-brewed beer and toast to all of the wonderful customers who’ve helped us out — by coming back every week to see what we have, by telling friends, and for all the little things, too, like getting excited about purple bean recipes and armenian cucumbers.

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