Friday, August 28, 2009

Dare we say...Rockwell's????????

So, I'm just SO EXCITED! Today we picked a big full lug of fresh, shell stage ROCKWELL BEANS! This is, yes, very exciting news! For those of you who don't know what all the hoopla could possibly be about, well the Rockwell Bean is a very rare, very tasty, very beautiful dry bean that town of Coupeville is very proud to call its own. For more on the fascinating history of the Rockwell Bean, check out my webpage -
Now, before you start dusting off the crockpot, the Rockwell Beans we are currently harvesting are at SHELL BEAN stage.
Most folks may be family with fresh "Cranberry" or "Borlotto" shell beans. This is a nice picture of several kinds, including Tiger Eyes (which I also sell) and some others. But really, almost any variety of bean can be used at the fresh "shell" stage, including the ever famous Rockwell (although granted, some are tasty and prettier than others!). All it means, is that the beans have picked up their form and coloring, yet they are still tender and young. If left to continue maturing on the vine, then the "shell" beans will turn into "dry" bean. But why wait another 3 to 4 weeks when we can enjoy our Rockwell Beans starting now!
At shell bean stage the beans will cook up quickly, in 10-15 minutes, so they are not suited for the long baked bean dishes that we will be enjoying in another month or so. But fresh shell beans are a treat all to themselves and if you have not tried them, well now is the time since they are only available at this stage for a two to three week harvest period. And shell beans are famous very being sweet and creamy - not starchy like a dry bean - with a "melt in your mouth" texture.
To prepare shell beans first shell them from their pods. Once shelled they can be stored for a week in a paper bag in the refrigerator (they can mold easily if not refrigerated, or kept in plastic). Also, they freeze wonderfully, simply blanch them briefly in hot water and pop them into freezer bags for a quick treat later in the season.
We will be bringing recipes to the markets, but here's a quick sampler of a recipe I threw together for a Slow Food potluck meeting in Coupeville this week.

Fresh Shell Bean and Pasta Salad
- About 2 cups of fresh shell beans, shelled from pods (approximately 1 lb of beans in pod)
- 12 oz of dried pasta, some kind of curly shape to hold vinaigrette well
- About 1/2 cup of good quality, extra virgin olive oil
- 3 big cloves of garlic, crushed and minced.
- One med, fine-flavored red onion (like Red Torpedo), or large shallot, sliced thinly.
- Fresh herbs (I used marjoram), chopped
- About tablespoon worth of red wine vinegar
- Kosher salt or fine-quality salt (I used truffle salt), to taste
- 1 cup worth of crumbly goat cheese
To make I simply gently boiled the shell beans (I used a combination of Rockwell beans and other shell beans we also will have available at market!) until tender and then drained them and set aside. Cooked the pasta according to directions, drained and put the pasta in my serving bowl. Then, while the pasta was still hot I added in the garlic, onions, salt to taste and couple tablespoons worth of olive oil and tossed together until it was all coated. Then I gently poured the beans on top of the pasta. I poured the remaining olive oil in a jar, added the red wine vinegar and whisked the two together, and tasted to make sure right balance between oil and vinegar (I didn't want it to strong the vinegar). Crumbled the goat cheese on top of the entire thing and voila - done!
In addition to Rockwell's, we also will have several other kinds of great shell beans to enjoy. As a matter of fact, we have lots of fabulous food this week and this segways quite nicely into the...Here's what we are bringing to the Coupeville and Bayview market list!
From Willowood Farm
- Shell Beans, Shell Beans, Shell Beans! We will have Rockwells, Tiger Eyes, Black Cocos and Arikara Yellows.
- Potatoes - 8 flavors this week!!!!!
- Garlic - 12 flavors this week, (I think...).
- Cabbages - gorgeous red cabbage, flat green cabbage and savoy
- HUGE kohlrabi
- Beautiful gourmet onions
- Head lettuce (not much this week, so get there early is you want some!)
- A new picking of lovely dwarf grey sugar peas
- Dragon Langerie beans
- Summer squash

Wilbur at Prairie Bottom farm forgot to email me his list, so not totally sure, but I know he has some of all the following:
- Baby Spinach
- Leeks
- Gold of Bacau Roma Wax Beans
- Rockwell shell beans
- Summer Squash
- A few Red Kuri winter squash!
- Dill bunches
- Cucumbers for pickling
And probably more too...
A few more things to pass on, my friend Vincent Nattress, a Coupeville grad who went off to become a chef and who recently move back to town with his lovely family, has created a blog about local food issues which I'm having a lot of fun following. This guy really loves eating on the island and I appreciate that! Anyways, he posted a great entry on the abundance of "fallen fruit" this time of year that I thought everybody might enjoy so here is the link -
And finally, a great photo of our mixed potatoes for everybody to salivate over...

Thank YOU! For buying and enjoying local food! This farmer is VERY grateful...

Georgie Smith, Farmer
Willowood Farm of Ebey's Prairie

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Preserving the bounty...

You might be surprised to hear me say this, but I'll be the first to admit - canning, pickling, freezing, dehydrating - all the many ways we can work to preserve the bounty of our local seasonal food...well it's a major pain. All the jars kicking around the house for months on end, baskets of rims, then all the prep work - cutting, slicing, snapping - followed by a rush of packing hot jars and then waiting, waiting, waiting for the water to boil and the allotted hot water bath/pressure canner time. And finally, the nerve-racking will my jars "ping?" Please, please let my jars ping!!!!
And since my daytimer has me pretty well scheduled during all daylight hours in the fields, food preservation for this farmer usually entails a very, very late night.
BUT...Is there are more satisfying feeling than looking at a counter of jars full of healthy, chemical-free food, food that was grown in your region supporting your local farmers keeping your favorite open lands in production???? Especially come December and January and February when the abundance of summer - the tomatoes, the beans, the beets - are long gone?
If you haven't ever tried preserving your food, its not as hard as it appears, and especially as you find great recipes and perfect your techniques, the products you end up with are well, really, really good. Just takes a little time and planning. And it is something that is much more fun with some friends and family. Get a good book - or google - here is one of my favorite sites for quick and easy info on canning, pickling, freezing and the many ways to put food up -
So this Sunday I plan to preserve some of the bounty. Especially since the batch of pickled Dilly Beans we did do this week is already about 1/4 gone! My husband has been eating about a pint of them a day! I do admit, they are addictive, kinda like potato chips only beany!
If you would like to stop by the market and put up some food for your family and friends, well we have lots of choices. And, on that note, we are offering a special promotion on all the veggies you need to make your own batch of dilly beans:
* FOR JUST $12 - 5 lbs of fresh beans (choose any of our 4+ varieties of beans, they are all great pickled!), one bunch of dill and 2 heads of garlic. We will also include a recipe, but basically, that's enough beans, dill and garlic for at least 8 pints. A bargain!

And what else of the summer bounty will be at market today, well, quite a bounty. Here is the brief (hah!) summary:

From Willowood Farm
- Potatoes - 7 flavors today plus baby new potato bags!
- Garlic - Probably 8 flavors today?
- Head Lettuce - loads of beautiful head lettuce!
- Kohlrabi - giant tender heads! Great raw in coleslaw, baked...
- Chard
- Kale
- Cabbage - three beautiful kinds! Great for coleslaw, sauerkrat (another fun and yummy home project!)
- Peas
- Chickpeas (probably the last week they'll be available in fresh form)
- Summer Squash - loads of perfect summer squash!
- Beans, beans, beans - We have our favorite Dragon Langeries and gorgeous Golden Rocky yellow wax beans....
- Gourmet mixed Italian Onions

From our friends at Prairie Bottom
- Lots more beans! Golden Bacau wax bean, Green Romas, French Filets
- Beet Bottoms! Great for canning
- More onions
- More taters
- Spinach
- Leeks
- Dill bunches
- Carrot Bunches
- Fava Beans
- Basil

And at Bayview Market only we will have a selection from Mikey at Whidbey Green Goods of Sungold tomatoes, cucumbers, peppers, basil and yes, even more beans....

We hope to see you there!

Happy preserving!
Farmer Georgie
Willowood Farm of Ebey's Prairie

Friday, August 14, 2009

Farmer or Gardener?

So when does a gardener become a farmer? Or vice versa?
This topic comes up a bit at Willowood Farm. Partly because it has only been in the last year or so that I've felt I've earned the title "Farmer" versus, for example, "Out of Control Gardener..."
Now a lot of folks out there might think that's just nuts. I know Willow the intern does. Her words today, "The next person who comes over here and refers to this as a "garden" I'm going to knock them over the head with a kohlrabi..." Or something to that effect...
But she has a point. I am, afterall, actively growing on eight acres this year. I have two tractors, one combine, numerous implements....I plant rows 250 feet at a time (today I planted about 20 rows, so, let's see 5,000 row feet?).

Yet, growing up on Ebey's Prairie, surrounded by 100s of acres of field crops and with neighbors that mean actual "tons" (as in 2000 lbs of wheat) of a crop when they use the term versus just a descriptive word meaning "lots" (as in I have "tons" of beets for market, like 50 bunches...), the title of "farmer" has been one that hasn't really felt right until recently.
So what is the difference between a "farmer" and a "gardener." I would like to say that a farmer is a person that makes a living off their gardening. But since there have been a lot of farmers that spent many years NOT make a living off their gardening, well, that doesn't fit.
Perhaps it is more fitting to say a farmer is a person who at least HOPES to make a living off their gardening! Okay, I qualify there.

Does a farmer need to have large equipment? Well, not neccessarily. I think there are probably a lot of folks farming all over the world that don't own anything that runs on horsepower (except, for maybe actual horse power...). Although, I do admit that the purchase last fall of "Manny" the cutest little manure spreader I ever did see, made me feel like I had earned the title of "farmer." Spreading manure by machine rather than by pitchfork? Definite step up.
I think feeling like a farmer has been something that has grown on me. Something I have began to "own" the more years I do this, and the more I learn. I'll never know it all. That is the one thing about "farming" that I find endlessly fascinating. Working with plants, soil, bugs, and nature is so incredibly complex. I don't know how anybody could say they have a total understanding of it. It is constantly mystifying (and inspiring) to me.
Perhaps that's the difference. Gardeners, well anybody with an interest and effort can be a gardener. Even a good one. But a farmer? You've got to earn that right from Mother Nature herself (plus throw little bit of crazy in, because us farmers have to be a bit crazy to love working this hard!)
So, enough pontificating and on to the good stuff - the FABULOUS FOOD COMING TO THE COUPEVILLE AND BAYVIEW MARKETS TOMORROW!
Here we go -
From Willowood Farm of Ebey's Prairie
* Fresh Chickpea (aka Garbanzo bean) Bunches. These are a short seasonal treat so get them while you can, I would guess we'll have one more picking on them then they will be past the fresh stage. Yes, they are a bit of work to shell but so worth it! Chef Vincent Nattress, who recently moved to Coupeville with his family and is selling AWESOME sourdough pancakes and pulled pork sandwiches at the Coupeville Farmer's Market blogged about our chickpeas on his new local foods blog. And he came up with a great recipe. Check it out here -
And the really cool thing? Along with being an accomplished chef, Vincent is a COUPEVILLE HIGH SCHOOL GRADUATE! Go Wolves! Welcome back Vincent, Coupeville Rocks!
* Potatoes. Adding more kinds this week. Romanze (yellow/red), Mountain Rose (red/red), Purple Majesty (crazy purple), Carola (yellow) and some Maris Pipers (creamy white), as well. Come check out the growing selection (pun intended!).
* Garlic - should be coming with a nice mix of this as well. It is all curing nicely in the barn!
* Head Lettuce! New crop in. Looks great so come and enjoy!
* Onions, onions, onions....Lots of flavors.
* Brocolli
* Summer squash
* Romanesca Cauliflower (the crazy spiral orangey kind)
* HUGE cabbages. Red and green. Time for coleslaw and sauerkrat!
* HUGE kohlrabi. Add to above...
* Beets - Red, Chioggia and Golden!
* Carrots - Medium size and tasty! Some red ones too...
* Parsnips
* Kale and Chard bunches...
* Squash blossoms
* Bulb Fennel

From our friends at Prairie Bottom Farm
* Big Carrot bunches
* Huge beets for canning
* Lovely fresh beans - yellow wax, french filet, etc...
* More onions including green onion bunches!
* Lettuce Mix
* Summer Squash
* Leeks
* And more stuff but Wilbur keeps forgetting to send me his list so I'm not sure what else. WIL-BUR!!!!

So, thanks for reading all this and we sure do hope to see you tomorrow. I will be down at the Bayview market for those who have been missing me!

Eat your Vegetables!
Farmer Georgie
Willowood Farm of Ebey's Prairie

Friday, August 7, 2009

So what makes local food local, anyways?

So lately I've been thinking a lot about the whole concept of "local" as it is certainly bandied about a lot. I really got to thinking about this because of some "local" beans selling in our small town grocery store. They were advertised as local Washington grown beans, by the Inaba Family from Eastern Washington. They were priced at $1 a lb sell price and well, looked pretty darn bad. Now just to give you perspective, we've picked probably somewhere in the neighborhood of 150 lbs of beans today, took 4 people about 5 hours to do this. So 20 (wo)man hours. For $1/lb, well...unfortunately my farm does have to turn a profit at the end of the year! Our beans are going more in the neighborhood of $2.50 to $4 a lb, dependent on variety. I would love my local grocery store to sell my beans, and I would give them a wholesale price to be able to do so for a quantity sale, but I certainly would never be able to compete with beans priced at $1/lb retail...And well, customers are used to getting those $1/lb beans so coming in with a bean more at $3/lb even if they were picked fresh that morning and are of the highest quality - well, that's a bit of a shocker for some!
Yet those Inaba Family beans still can claim the "local" tag? As a farmer less than a mile away from the grocery store with 200+ lbs of beans sitting in my cooler, well...that's kind of a frustrating situation!
I've actually met members of the Inaba Family. Nice folks. Run a lot of acres in, I believe it is the Yakima area. Quite a few hours away. It would take most of us, what about 5 hours, to get from Whidbey to Yakima? Are those beans really local when they are available abundantly on Whidbey Island this time of year?
I think locality means a lot of different things to people. And it can be a small (20 miles) or big area (200 miles). And it can depend on the product. Some things - coffee and chocolate, two of my personal favorites - are great examples of things that, short of major global warming, probably won't be found growing locally on Whidbey Island. But so many, many things are! And the really cool thing, the more people like you - the consumer - ask for and purchase locally grown items then the more they will be available!
So remember, if you want to support your local farmers make sure that the local product you buy is "local," at least as far as you define it, and that they are actually farmers! Just because somebody is selling produce at your local farmer's markets doesn't always mean they are farmers! Sometimes they are just folks that bought the food off the supply truck and are reselling it, food from who knows where that they have no connection to! I was dismayed to read these articles...
Those of us working our the Willowood Farm market booths can assure you, we've all had a lot of one-on-one hours - lots and lots of hours - getting to know the beans, and other veggies, we offer for your eating pleasure! And on that note...
Coming to the Coupeville and Bayview markets tomorrow -
From Willowood Farm
- Potatoes - 4 lovely kinds even a fingerling this week!
- Garlic, garlic and more garlic...
- Beans. Oh, did we mention beans? We have 4 kinds - all the colors of the rainbow and so yummy!
- Gorgeous dwarf snow peas
- Fresh chickpea bunches! These are a very short season treat, incredibly tasty and we will bring recipes!
- Beet bunches - 2 kinds!
- Onions - Red Torpedos, Cippolinis, Tropeana Tondas...
- Broccoli
- HUGE kohlrabi
- Lovely savoy cabbage - one of our favorites!
- Kale and chard bunches

From Prairie Bottom Farm
- Big, sweet carrots
- Beet bottoms for canning
- Dill - for making Dilly Beans!
- More onions
- Even more beans...
- Fava Beans
And more...

We hope to see you there and THANK YOU! for supporting local farmers!
Farmer Georgie
Willowood Farm of Ebey's Prairie