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Stab-Stab, Spring Spring.  Things are Ramping Up!

It's been an eventful week down on the farm.  Things are really ramping up fast for spring.  Every day has brought new fruit flowers for us to admire.  The greenhouse is overflowing once more, though the calendar says it's still too early to plant many crops.  The weeds don't care, though: they're taking off with abandon!

It didn't help that we both had fairly significant reactions to our second COVID vaccine shot.  We both had some extreme fatigue - I slept from about 3:30 Thursday afternoon until 8:00 Friday morning, and was still feeling down all Saturday.  I also had an annoying metallic taste in my mouth, muscle and joint pain, and vertigo.  For about 20 hours, it felt like 75% of my body weight was in my head!

But, the stabbing is done, and in a few weeks, we'll be fully vaccinated, continuing to do our part to prevent the spread.  And, given the friends we have lost, and the large number of friends and family who have had serious symptoms, to COVID, we'll take a couple of days of lost productivity!

Spring foraging is also ramping up.  Xenia has been enjoying stinging nettle tea several times a day, then munching on the nettles after.  They are packed with vitamins and antioxidants.  Some studies suggest they may able to help with liver health, reduce inflammation, help control blood sugar, lower blood pressure, and reduce seasonal allergies. 

Ramps are also just about ready to begin harvesting.  More on ramps below.  I wanted to try something new for celebrating ramps (ramp butter, ramp pesto, and such are a given, of course!), so I broke out The Flavor Bible, which gave me the inspiration to create a recipe for a great pasta with bacon, ramps, and cheese!

So, lots of excitement to dig into this Weeklyish!  But, first, a little technical assistance announcement regarding ordering from our online store.

Order Deadlines

Delivery Option     Deadline
Home delivery | Thursday     Tuesday, 10pm*
Pickup @ Culver Farmers' Market | Saturday     Thursday, 10pm
*Sourdough orders for delivery require an additional 24 hours
Shop Now

Having Trouble Ordering?

Have you been having difficulty ordering online over the past few weeks?  We've been getting sporadic calls from frustrated customers and just taking their orders manually, but other folks are ordering successfully.  I think I may have figured out what the challenge is.

Our e-commerce provider recently pushed out an update, designed to make the store faster and easier to use, especially on mobile devices.  We can probably get the faster part to work, though we'll have to re-shoot all of our product photos (which will take a while).  But the easier part seems to be a matter of opinion.

The gotcha is the cart, which used to be annoyingly large, is now annoyingly small, and light grey.  When you have finished shopping, you need to click the cart icon at the top right corner of the store.  It's very easy to overlook (see the photo above).

Also, if you are viewing the store on a mobile device, you may have to turn to landscape view for the cart button to work.  That is the case with my iPhone:  I can click the cart button, but if I'm in I'm holding my phone upright, nothing happens.  I have to turn my phone horizontally to be able to check out. 

If you've been struggling, hopefully this will help you out.  Either way, feel free to call or email us if you have problems.
(833) 574-FOOD (3663)

We'll always do our best to get you fresh, nutritious, delicious food!

No Showers, just April Flowers

"The perfect blossom is a rare thing.  You could spend your life looking for one, and it would not be a wasted life."
- Katsumoto, The Last Samauri, John Logan

"April Showers Bring May Flowers."  Sure, that was true back in elementary school.  But, things are not as they once were.  We've largely skipped the showers, and everything is flowering in April.

At least, that is the case with all of the fruit trees.  This week, every day has brought a new tree into bloom.  Monday the early Nanking Cherries.  Tuesday the later Nanking Cherries.  Wednesday the early peaches.  Thursday, the Stella cherries.  Friday the Mount Rainier cherries, and the redbuds started budding.  OK, they're not really a fruit tree.  But you can make jelly from the blossoms.  Saturday the peaches. And the Bartlet pear (which isn't really an edible fruit, and is not a tree I'd recommend planting.  But it is pretty!) Saturday brought the almonds (yes, we have an almond tree, and yes, it has made almonds in the past.  Alas, we only had two, and one got killed by freak spring weather a couple of years ago.  I don't know if they can self-pollinate or not, because last year the blossoms all got frozen off.  We'll see if we still get any...) And Sunday, the pears.

It's all exciting and beautiful, and keeps all of the pollinators on their toes.  But it is a little frightening.  Right now, the forecast looks fairly good.  But, we're still more than a month away from our average last frost.  So, there is a chance we could loose it all.  Still, we can enjoy it for now.  I've done my best to avoid overwhelming you with flower photos this week, but with only limited success...

Spring Foraging Ramping Up

Spring is really our favorite foraging time.  We're putting tons of work and effort into the garden, much of it for the promise of rewards in the distant future.  Meanwhile, nature presents opportunities for delicious instant gratification.  Well, instant, except for the copious amount of time it takes to harvest when simply finding the food is a challenge!  We're talkin' to you, morels! 

One of the most delicious and anticipated spring foraging options are ramps.  Ramps are a kind of perennial wild leek.  But, unlike domesticated leeks that grow all season long to be harvested in the fall and early winter, ramps are a spring ephemeral.  They pop up from bulbs in the early spring, taking advantage of the sunlight on the forest floor before trees and shrubs leaf out and block it.  Nature is remarkably efficient at capturing and storing energy: we should learn from her!

While ramps are incredibly delicious, they require a great deal of stewardship if they are to be enjoyed responsibly.  It can take a ramp plant seven to eight years to reach harvest stage, and they are not very effective at reproducing.  They have also proven to be exceptionally resistant to cultivation: they ware wild, and determined to stay that way!

As a result of their slow, difficult growth and popularity, many ramp populations have been wiped out.  They are now rare and difficult to find, yet ramp festivals still exist, where large groups eat massive quantities of these rare treats, often destroying the very resource they are trying to celebrate.

If you find and forage ramps yourself, it is best to take only 1/4 of the plants you find, to allow the colony to remain healthy.  While the ramp bulbs are their most delicious part, we recommend following the practice of the Native Americans, and harvesting only the stems leaves.  Cut them off an inch or so below ground.  This will help the colony thrive, as the bulb will remain to grow another plant next year.  Because the plant's above-ground time each year is so short anyway, there will be a good chance a ramp large enough to harvest will have already stored enough energy to survive to grow again next year, particularly if you only take about 1/4 of them. 

This is the practice we use for the ramps we eat and bring to market, so you can rest assured we are carefully nurturing our rampy resources.  Our earliest patches will start to reach harvestable stage late this week, so we'll have a limited quantity available.  But, you really probably need to order online: it's doubtful we'll have any extras left for impulse shoppers at the market!

The Flavor Bible

Those few who have paid attention to my recipe blog will recognize this week's (Cook)Book Everyone Should Own, The Flavor Bible by Karen Page and Andrew Dornenburg.  I'm actually just going to modify my earlier review for  this entry - after all, this isn't academe, and I shouldn't get into trouble for self-plagiarism.

If you've been following weeklyishly, by now you've likely noticed that most of my favorite cookbooks are as much food science/theory books as recipe collections.  I like to improvise.  I like to understand.  A book that can help me do both will always rise to the top.  And, these are also the books that will help anyone eat more seasonally and locally.

The Flavor Bible is one of those books, but in a very different way than most.  It is not chock full of recipes (actually, it has none), nor even cooking techniques.  Instead, it is to flavor inspiration what the card catalog was to libraries (before computer based catalogs made them obsolete, that is…).

The heart of the book consists of an alphabetical listing of ingredients and flavors, from Achiote Seeds, Acidity and Afghan Cuisine to Yuzu Fruit, Zucchini, and Zucchini Blossoms.  Each has a table of complementary flavors recommended by experts (mainly a large number of influential and creative American chefs).  When a flavor combination is recommended by multiple experts, it’s bold.  When lots of them recommend it, it’s in bold caps. If it is a flavor pairing made in heaven, it gets bold caps and an asterisk.

Most ingredients also get a listing of “Flavor Affinities.”  These are outstanding groups of flavors, usually three (beets + goat cheese + walnuts), often more (Cherries + goat cheese + ice wine vinegar + black pepper + thyme).  There are also suggestions on dishes and techniques from various chefs scattered about, as well as discussion of seasonality.  For example, in addition to a huge number of ingredients, the entry for Autumn says the weather is typically cool, and suggests braising, glazing, and roasting as techniques.  Sometimes you get helpful tips (add caraway seeds late in the cooking process, but Cardamom early).  It also occasionally lists pairings to avoid (basil and tarragon, for example).

The Flavor Bible can really help improve your creativity in the kitchen, particularly if you produce a lot of your own food, are a member of a CSA, or shop at farmers’ markets.  Fresh, seasonal food always tastes best, and is most healthful.  But much of our cooking guidance assumes everyone finds their sustenance in the supermarket, where seasons don’t exist (and nothing really tastes like anything).  Cooking and eating seasonally can be a challenge at times, but The Flavor Bible inspires creativity, making seasonal and local cuisine a liberating experience!

It won’t give you a recipe for Oysters on the Half Shell, but it will tell you that ramps go with cream, Parmesan cheese, bacon, onions, and pasta, and that can lead you to some yummy experimentation.  Hmmmm… 


Spaghetti with Bacon and Creamy Parmesan Ramp Sauce

So, we have ramps.  And we know they go with cream, parmesan cheese, bacon, onions, and pasta.  So, what to do, what - to - do???  This!

Makes 6 servings

1/2 lb Bacon (jowl bacon is a good choice - try Amor Gardens and Pork!)
1 lb Spaghetti
6 Tbsp Butter
6 Nebuka Scallions, white parts only, minced
2 cloves Garlic, minced
4 oz Ramps (bulbs and greens or just greens), washed, dried, and coarsely chopped.
2 Tbsp Flour
3 C Half and Half
1 C freshly grated Parmesan Cheese

Cut the bacon into mid-sized pieces, and cook in a skillet.  When it is done, drain on paper towels.  Save the bacon grease for another use, but don't wash the skillet!  The little remaining bits will add flavor to the sauce.

Start the water for the spaghetti (make sure to salt the water).  When it comes to a boil, add the spaghetti, and cook until a little less done than al dente.  Drain, saving a few cups of the pasta water.

Meanwhile, the sauce takes about as long to make as the pasta does to cook.  Perfect!  Put the bacon-cooking pan over low heat, and melt the butter.  Add the garlic and Nebuka scallions, and saute just until fragrant.  Add the ramps, and cook just until they've reduced in volume, but still retain a dark green color.

Slide the ramps, garlic, and scallions to one side of the skillet, and tilt it so the butter drains to the other side.  Sprinkle the flour onto the butter, and stir constantly until it just cooks and forms a roux, about 1 minute.

Turn the heat up to medium-high, and slowly whisk in the half and half.  Continue whisking constantly until the sauce begins to thicken.  It's probably time to check the pasta...

Turn the heat back to low, and slowly add the cheese, while constantly stirring.  The sauce will thicken even more.  Taste for seasoning, adding salt and pepper if needed.  The longer you simmer, the thicker the sauce, but you want it runnier than your final goal: it will thicken more once added to the pasta.

Drain the pasta (reserving a few cups of the water!).  Add the sauce to the pasta pot, and toss well.  Put the pan over low heat, and stir, finishing cooking the pasta in the sauce.  If the sauce gets too thick and loses its creamy consistency, add a little o the pasta water at a time to make it silky smooth again.

Serve immediately, garnished with more bacon and shaved parmesan.  Yum!

Order Deadlines

Delivery Option     Deadline
Home delivery | Thursday     Tuesday, 10pm*
Pickup @ Culver Farmers' Market | Saturday     Thursday, 10pm
*Sourdough orders for delivery require an additional 24 hours
Shop Now
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