Saturday, July 21, 2012

Crazy cruciferous cabbage!

Bring on the....CABBAGE! 
An nice big cabbage plant starting to "head up"
And here on Ebey's Prairie we are pretty darn good at growing it.  So good, as a matter of fact, that the central Whidbey/ Ebey's Prairie area produces a large portion of the world's supply of cabbage seed?  You might have seen the fields, about this time of year the cabbage planted late last summer has now erupted into tall blooming fields of yellow usually fairly humming with the work of happy, happy bees.  Those fields are allowed to set seed and then harvested, threshed and sent to seed companies that redistribute, package and ship it all the world.   Here's a great link to cabbage production on Ebey's Prairie from a few years ago..
About 7 years ago now I traveled to China (my brother was getting married to a lovely Chinese woman) and while there we toured some of their farms (I couldn't help myself!).  While looking at crazy amounts of eggplants and melons and strange cucumbers, our Chinese farmer host was very excited to show us the crop of "big headed" plant that they were packing and shipping for Japan.  They thought it was quite a novel vegetable and said they had gotten the seeds from the U.S.  I was fascinated wondering what this exciting vegetable might be.  We went to see this "unusual" vegetable in the packing shed and discovered that it was, lo and behold, cabbage!  (In China, while they eat just about every other vegetable possible and then some, they don't have a tradition of eating headed cabbage.  Just loose "Chinese/Napa cabbage."  But it is popular in Japan apparently).  I found it ironic that I traveled half way around the world to see growing out a vegetable who's seed was more than likely produced right in my backyard! 
Cabbage is, simply put, a really awesome vegetable.  It grows well, it is chock full of Vitamins C and E and great cancer-fighting properties, and you can store it forever either in a root cellar or made into something scrumptious like sauerkraut.  It has been cultivated for over 4000 years, Captain Cook used it as a poultice to treat injured sailors and prevent gangrene and Egyptian pharaohs ate copious amounts before a night of drinking because they thought it let them hold their liquor better. 
But like some of my most favorite vegetables, cabbage is, sadly enough, rarely the "star" at the farmer's market booth.  No...people want their precious tomatoes, their basil, their fancy-schmancy garlic and their colored potatoes.  (okay...we do all that too! hahaha).  And the poor cabbage gets sadly, overlooked.
Well today, today is CABBAGE day.  (As in we harvested like 200 lbs of it so um, yeah, we need to sell it!).  At market today we've got 3 kinds - this crazy Italian pointed one called "Couer di bue" which means "oxheart" (I find that Italians have named many of their vegetables "oxheart."  We grow a tomato with the exact same name.  Apparently they are very found of bovine hearts in Italy.) We've also got a lovely round spring cabbage called "Charmant."  And a small purple/green Italian savoy cabbage called "Verona di Michelle."  (or something like that).  A nice representation of the many forms in which cabbage can produce itself although all of these are the smaller "early summer" cabbages.  For the big giant heads, well we will have those come September!    
So come down to the Coupeville or Bayview market and pick yourself out a nice head or two (or three!)  There are tons of recipes and uses for cabbage (just google a bit) I'm including one that I'm going to try tonite which is basically cabbage with fancy bacon (Pancetta).  Yum!

Fried Cabbage w/ Pancetta
  • 6 slices pancetta, cut into small strips
  • 1/2 red onion, diced
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 head cabbage, finely shredded
  • 2 tablespoons lite soy sauce
  • 1 dash hot pepper sauce (such as Tabasco®), or to taste (optional)
  1. Cook and stir pancetta in a large skillet over medium heat until slightly browned, about 5 minutes. Add onion, garlic, salt, and black pepper; cook until onions become translucent, 5 to 10 minutes. Cook and stir cabbage with pancetta mixture until slightly softened, 5 minutes. Add soy sauce and hot pepper sauce; cook until cabbage is tender, about 10 more minutes.

 And of course, we have loads more veggies to go with your cabbage including...
* Mesclun
* Red Spinach
* Head Lettuce
* Walla onions w/ greens
* Scallions
* New potatoes
* Fresh garlic (2 kinds this week!)
* Raab
* Japanese Turnips
* Kohlrabi
* Fava Beans
* Basil (first picking!)
* Shelling peas
* Italian parsley
* Cauliflower
* Beets
*  Rhubarb
* Kale
* Collards
* Chard
And more....
Hope to see you at market!
Farmer Georgie
Willowood Farm of Ebey's Prairie

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Holy Cauliflower Batman!

Ah....isn't he cute????
This week at market it is...CAULIFLOWER TIME!  Yep, we have a bonanza of cauliflower a the moment.  I'm especially thrilled as last year we lost our "early" crop of cauliflower due to nearly 3 inches of rain we got in mid May.

This year we were smart to open up a new (and drier) field and put the starts in a few weeks later.  The end result - over 300 lbs of cauliflower harvested and still more to go.  (and we've got not just white heads, but purple and Romensco cauliflower too).  Wowser!  And, btw...we have also planted now 3 more rotations of cauliflower to come on now through about mid October! 
Like a lot of fresh grown veggies, cauliflower is one of those that is SO SO SO much better when grown locally (and without chemicals) than what you can buy in the grocery store.  I think there a lot of reasons for that.  One is just how fresh they are.  Cauliflower you buy today from the Willowood Farm booth at Coupeville or Bayview was picked yesterday.  If you eat in tonite, well that's just one day out from harvest to plate! 
I think there is no way you can beat that time-frame commercially. They pick the cauliflower, pack it and send it to distribution warehouses where it sits for a few days as sales and delivery plans are made.  Then, if gets to the grocery store and may sit in their cooler for a few days as well, especially if they already have some cauliflower on the shelves.  Eventually it gets put out and again, might be a few more days before you put it in your cart and take it home.  I think the quickest scenario on commercially grown cauliflower - field to plate - via the grocery stores has gotta be at least 3 days.  But more likely you are looking at five, six even a week out or more....And all that time flavor and nutritional value are fading fast!
Also, I believe that growing things without chemical fertilizers or pesticides (as we do at Willowood) improves the flavor of veggies.  I'm sure some folks would argue with me about that.  But I'm sorry, a vegetable that grows the way it should, pulling nutrients slowly and surely from healthy soil, sunshine and clean air, has just gotta be way better than one pumped full of chemical compounds.  And, btw, brassicas in general (brassica's referring to anything in the broccoli family like cauliflower, cabbage, kohlrabi, brussel spouts...) are one of the more heavily sprayed vegetables for insects.  Ick!
Intern Paige as The Lorax
I've actually had numerous folks over the years tell me that they cannot eat broccoli, cauliflower, etc...purchased from the grocery store.  They get bad tummy aches.  But they can eat mine.  I'm not sure if it is the lack of chemicals, the freshness or perhaps a combination of all that.  But it is good to now!
And finally I think the reason my cauliflower (and broccoli) tastes so good is cuz I let it "ripen."  What I mean by that is, I let my cauliflower get bigger and the "curds" open up a bit.  Much more so then is common for the grocery store cauliflower.  Why do I do that?  Well...I started doing it by accident. It is easy to miss that one to two day "perfect head of cauliflower" window.  When you get a small tight head.  I started getting bigger, a bit looser heads.  But I realized two things #1 - It costs me the same amount of space, labor and time to grow a 1.5 lb cauliflower head as it does to grow a 5 lb cauliflower head (and I am in this farming thing to make money!) and #2 - I think the bigger, looser heads taste better.  Sweeter.
I first I thought maybe I was just using the "better tasting" theory to justify letting the heads get bigger.  But somebody recently told me in Italy broccoli raab (another member of the broccoli family) is never picked til the heads started opening up to bloom because they are considered at their tastiest then.  Which makes perfect sense for cauliflower as well (a cousin to broccoli raab).  So there you have it!
So why am I telling you all this.  Cuz we've got some MONSTERS at market today!  Some good 5+ lb heads.  And boy oh boy, are they GOOD!  If they are too big for you, well....somebody would surely cut one for you.  But also remember, that is a 5+ lb of cauliflower picked just yesterday.  Even if you only eat a 1/4 of it a sitting you still will get better tasting, healthier for you and a way fresher cauliflower by buying just one and eating on it all week than you would going and buying a head at the store come Wednesday or Thursday.
Some come on down and get you some monster cauliflower!  You can also cream it, pickle it, and do all sorts of wonderful things with it!  Including making this fabulous roasted cauliflower and garlic recipe...


  • 2 tablespoons minced garlic
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 large head cauliflower, separated into florets
  • 1/3 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • salt and black pepper to taste
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley
  1. Preheat the oven to 450 degrees F (220 degrees C). Grease a large casserole dish.
  2. Place the olive oil and garlic in a large resealable bag. Add cauliflower, and shake to mix. Pour into the prepared casserole dish, and season with salt and pepper to taste.
  3. Bake for 25 minutes, stirring halfway through. Top with Parmesan cheese (or better yet, Capriziella from Little Brown Farm) and parsley, and broil for 3 to 5 minutes, until golden brown.
 Of course, we have loads more stuff coming to the Coupeville and Bayview markets today including...
From Willowood Farm:
* New Potatoes
* Walla Walla onion bunches w/ greens
* Scallions
* Fresh garlic
* Head Lettuce - HUGE heads!
* Garlic scapes
* Fava beans
* Kohlrabi
* Japanese turnips
* Beets
* Mesclun Mix
* Raab
* Kale
* Chard
* Parsley
From Ebb Tide farm we have (Bayview only) broccoli, bulb fennel, sugar snap peas and giant Daikon radishes. 
Mikey from Whidbey Green Goods is bringing (Bayview only) some hot house goods sourced from the Skagit Valley, tomatoes, cucumbers, basil and etc...
So...hope to see you at market!
Farmer Georgie
Willowood Farm of Ebey's Prairie

Saturday, July 7, 2012

Time for a Farm Photo Collage!

Squash planting toes.  (and one anal boot guy). 

Tomatoes in hoophouse!

Dirt only makes her cuter...

View from the interns room.  Photo by Caitlin Battersby

Dinner!  Photo by Caitlin Battersby
Harvest day crew.  We get a bit punchy.  Mustaches in honor of Walrus & Carpenter.

New potatoes!  Divine!

Garlic Hero!  Photo by Caitlin Battersby
Ran into a neighbor of mine who kindly follows this blog and she was mentioning how about this time of year I usually get so busy this blog reverts from my witty farm observations to..."hey look, a bunch of pretty pictures."
I don't know if it was her suggestion or what, but well, that seems like a GREAT idea for today.  So folks..."Hey look, a bunch of pretty pictures!"
And of course, we know what you folks really care about is what we are bringing to market today.  So on that note, here goes....
From Willowood:
* Japanese Turnips (lots of them!)
* Garlic
* Garlic scapes (and recipes for pickling them too!)
* Head Lettuce
* Mesclun mix
* Spinach bags
* Arugula bags
* Cauliflower (and it is BEAUTIFUL!)
* Broccoli - (also BEAUTIFUL!)
* Radishes (Bayview only)
* Walla onions (Bayview only)
* Beets
* Chard
* Kale
* Italian Parsley
* Carrots
* Fava Beans
* New potatoes
* Kohlrabi
Our friends from Prairie Bottom Farm are adding herbs to the mix.  Whidbey Green Goods (who sources local veggies from Whidbey Island the Skagit Valley) is bringing basil, snow and sugar peas, cucumbers, tomatoes and eggplants.
Hope to see you at market!
Willowood Farm of Ebey's Prairie

Spraying fish guts on the tater field

Planting onions.  Photo by Caitlin Battersby.
Sunset view toward the Hancocks. 
Bibb Lettuce.  "Amish Speckled."

Wet crew.  Wet dog.  Still happy.

Bobbie at the Bayview Farmer's Market.