Farmer Favorites for 2011
We poll six farmers about what new vegetables they are most excited about bringing to their customers this year.
By May, green markets will begin popping up again, reacquainting many of us winter-weary shoppers with the colors and flavors of the farm. This time of year we find ourselves yearning most for the surprising new tastes that the more adventurous farmers tuck in among the sugar snap peas and baby greens. Our anticipation prompted us to call some farm-forward growers and ask what they were most excited about bringing to town.
Carol Ann Sayle, Boggy Creek Farm, Austin, Texas: “Purslane and silver and crimson lamb’s-quarter,” says Sayle, “give you the nutrition you need to stand the heat of summer, whereas grocery store greens like kale and spinach are dead with age.” More surprising still are the leaves and stems of broccoli, cauliflower, and Brussels sprouts that Boggy Creek was among the first to sell—though Sayle doesn’t take credit: “Our chickens,” she says, “taught us they’re delicious.”
Elissa Altman blogs at Poor Man's Feast.
Anthony Boutard, Ayers Creek Farm, Gaston, Oregon: Following the popularity of last year’s Austrian ‘Lady Godiva’ pumpkins, Boutard is introducing a Mexican variety, ‘Silver Edge,’ (shown) whose flavorful, nutritious seeds taste great roasted or can be ground up to make a mole sauce known as pipián. Are customers asking for them? “No,” says Boutard. “But no one asked us to sell corn for hominy, and now we show customers how to make fresh hominy from scratch.”
Andy Griffin, Mariquita Farm, Hollister, California: Griffin is growing rugosa winter squash, a fine-grained, wrinkle-skinned, dense variety of butternut that’s sweet, stores well, and actually gets better over time. Says Griffin: “We used to feed our Jersey milk cow, Jenny, ordinary pumpkins to make her butter more yellow. Then we started giving Jenny the culled rugosa, and she won’t eat anything else.”
Mike Madison, Yolo Bulb Farm, Winters, California: “No one is interested in big watermelons anymore,” says Madison, “so I’m growing small Japanese varieties like ‘Hime Kansen’ and ‘Asahi-Miyako,’ which people love for their crimson flesh and unctuous sweetness.” Madison also says there’s a fig renaissance going on, and he is doing his best to promote it, bringing to market the ‘Violette de Bordeaux’ (pictured). The dark-skinned fig with red flesh is often described as a spoonful of fig jam in whole fruit form.
Ric Gaudet, One Straw Farm, Dixon, New Mexico: “Unbelievably sexy” is Gaudet’s description of Witloof chicory root. Gnarly and long, boiled or braised, the root is best eaten, he says, “on a freezing day.” Nantes-type carrots and French radishes are his other picks to make market-goers happy.
Keith Stewart, Keith’s Farm, Orange County, New York: Stewart is trying some new varieties of tomatoes this year—Defiant, Magic Mountain (shown), Jetstar, Cobra, Apero, and the gorgeous black variety, Paul Robeson—as well as growing red shallots and “several thousand” more garlic than usual to meet popular demand. Stewart also planted more peach trees last year: “Our customers love it when we bring in organic fruit,” Stewart says, though he cautions that the trees won’t bear for another few years.