Good morning all!
I meant to take a photo of this week's produce during packout yesterday, but was buried in strawberry sorting until late evening! Take a pic when you unpack your veggies in your kitchen this week and email it to me!
This week in your Harvest Basket!
- Bunch Carrots - I've been especially excited to have carrots for you in June. It's been a farmer goal of mine for many years to have a year-round supply of fresh carrots on the farm, without a lapse in any month. This is the year I finally pulled it off and I'm been pretty tickled. To do it takes a combination of planting the right winter varieties, having a spring crop in the greenhouses, and getting an early February seeding established for outdoor May/June production. The weather cooperated, the seeds all germinated, and we've had sweet, freshly-dug carrots all year. Whether we'll ever be able to pull it off again is up to the weather gods...
- Purple Radishes
- Head Lettuce
- Tokyo Bekana Pac Choi - the lime green ruffly head with white ribs, great in stiry fry.
- Artichokes - there's a story behind them, read up below!
- Sunflower Shoots - my favorite micro shoots: tender, nutty, great on salads or atop a main course. I also put them in my smoothies.
- Sugar Snap Peas
- Fresh Red Onions - an overwintered variety called Desert Sunrise. This was an experimental planting that did pretty well - our first real success with overwintering onions, after a few years of trying different varieties and watching them all bolt in the spring :(. These were seeded last September and planted in October, tended for 8 months in the field, and finally harvested this week. Labor of love, and probably not at all profitable(!) but great to have big onions so early!
The Story Behind the Valley Flora Artichoke
In the early 70s my parents landed in Bandon, a little bit by accident, and the place got ahold of them. They stuck around, they made friends, they owned a little restaurant on Beach Loop for awhile, they fell in love with the southcoast. Eventually they traded the restaurant for the farm and settled in on Floras Creek, Abby and I were born, the years unfolded. Early on my mom, Bets, got some artichoke plant divisions from a friend who lived on Short Street in Bandon, near the old Coast Guard building on the waterfront. She heeled the plants into her garden where they thrived and fed us many an artichoke every spring throughout my entire childhood.
When I fledged and eventually landed in Portland with my own place, she gave me some divisions for my garden. They took off and yielded there until 2008 when I packed up my life and moved back to Langlois to start up Valley Flora with my mom and sister. One of the things I stuffed into the 26' U-Haul, next to my wheelbarrow and houseplants and blender, was a bucket full of artichoke divisions that I unearthed from the garden at the last minute.
Home on the farm, I opened up new ground for an artichoke patch in the field and planted one of the five rows with the plants I'd brought down from Portland. The other four rows got planted with Green Globe plants I'd started from seed. Within the first year it was obvious that our family chokes eclipsed the Green Globes in every way: hardiness, productivity, flavor, beauty, and best of all, they barely have a hairy choke inside. In fact we always tell folks that you can eat the small chokes "bottom up" once you get a few layers of outer leaves out of the way (with a little help of some melted lemon butter or aioli). It wasn't too long before I had torn out all the Green Globes, divided the mother row of chokes once more, and replanted them to fill out the rest of the patch. We've been harvesting and selling chokes from these five rows for the past decade and they've garnered a little local notoriety. B&B Farm Suppy orders artichoke plants from us to sell to their eager gardening customers every spring, and the artichokes themselves have a loyal following.
Fast forward to 2020 and I recently found myself telling this story to someone who had eaten our artichokes for the first time and was inspired to write to me about it. She had lived most of her life in Monterey, CA, near the artichoke capitol of the world, and had struggled to find a decent artichoke ever since she moved away - until this spring when she tucked into a VF choke that she bought at our farmstand. "Yours are da bomb!" she wrote. "...incredible!"
I told her the story of these chokes, and while doing so it dawned on me that it's been almost 50 years since those artichokes ended up in my mom's garden. They've now fed three generations of our family - and lots of our beloved customers as well - which makes them a bonafide heirloom at this point. We still have no idea what variety they really are, which only makes the story better. This year we gave them a new lease on life and transplanted divisions into a whole new corner of the field with more space. Five rows has turned into nine, and because they're young first-year plants they're yielding a little later in the spring than usual. Normally the season is over by now - peaking in April - but we're getting a small June flush in the new field that we're glad to share with you this week.
If you've never cooked an artichoke before, the easiest way is to steam them (stovetop or pressure cooker) until tender-soft (25-25 minutes stovetop, longer for big chokes, and around 8 minutes in the pressure cooker) and the outer leaves pluck out easily. Then melt some butter or whip up an aioli (we like a little mayo with lots of lemon zest, lemon juice, salt, pepper and fresh thyme) and dip away! I don't bother trimming the spines off the leaves: too much work, and you can navigate the spines easily enough if you're careful.
For the more adventurous, there are lots of other things you can do with artichokes: artichoke dip, roasted artichokes, braised artichokes, and more. Have fun. Oh, and a quick sidenote: artichokes do NOT pair well with the tannins in red wine, so if you want to have a glass while you enjoy your chokes, stick to white or rosé. :)
Have a great week!