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Gobble Gobble

Yes, it’s that time of year again. Here in the #hocomd world, Maple Lawn farm’s turkeys are nearing the end of their solar panel shielded sun bathing.

We are so lucky to be able to get fresh turkeys, for a fraction of the cost of some of the options out there. Many places have heritage birds for 5-9 dollars a pound. Here, we can get fresh turkey for $2.29 a pound, $2.30 to pick it up right at the farm. With its own reusable bag.

You have many options around here to get their turkeys. Boarmans. Roots. David’s. MOM’s. Whole Foods. And, I hear, maybe at Harris Teeter, but that isn’t confirmed. For the full experience, at least once, you should pick up at the farm. For the craziest experience, do it on Tuesday or Wednesday. Lines out the door, but it does move fast. I go on Monday, so I can let the turkey stay in the fridge one day, then brine it for 24 hours. This year, I may try something different for cooking it. There will be a follow up if this method works.

This weekend I also picked up my favorite other seasonal items, like the pumpkin ice cream from Baugher’s.

I can’t emphasize how amazing this farm is. They have a bakery, if you want pies for the holidays. They make their own ice cream. They make apple butter, peach butter, all sort of jellies and jams. You can pick your own fruit in summer and fall, and their fruit market is open year round. Worth the trip to Westminster. I go every month after picking up my meat CSA at Evermore Farm. Yesterday I got pumpkin ice cream, pumpkin cookies and a peck of gala apples. On Small Business Saturday, you could knock off quite a bit of your Christmas shopping there, and have lunch at the restaurant. Order the tuna melt, and the CMP sundae. And, a side of apple fritters. Heaven.

So, now you have the turkey. You can get the pie and the ice cream, and maybe some cider, at Baugher’s. Next post, in a few days, the wines and the special items.

Those pumpkin cookies are calling my name. They won’t last until Thanksgiving.

CSA Tidbits

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It’s been a while since I talked about my farm share from Lancaster Farm Fresh. Our spring/summer 26 week season is about to end next Tuesday, and then fall shares begin. We have already transitioned to fall vegetables, which I love, but the official “seasons” are off by a few weeks.

Some of the favorite things we get these days.

Radishes.

Exotic ones, like the watermelon radishes. I swapped this week to snare some of these. The medium shares got them, and we didn’t. Radishes come in spring and fall, and some of the hardiest ones, the daikon for example, come in the winter. These more delicate radishes can be enjoyed raw, with a sprinkling of salt. Those daikons, and the really heavy black radishes of winter, they have to be roasted to bring out their flavor.

Turnips.

Hakurei are my favorites. They can be eaten raw, and unpeeled, but I like to roast them or cook them with their greens, like Vivian Howard, of the Chef’s Life fame, has in her cookbook, Deep Run Roots. The “pot likker” alone is worth it. Yesterday I cooked up a mess of greens and added these roots to the pot. Nothing like intensely flavored greens, and buttered turnips. No pictures of those. They weren’t that photo worthy.

What is photo worthy? This.

Restaurant quality, if I say so myself. Greens from the CSA. A Cherry Glen Monocacy Ash cheese, picked up at Evermore Farm when I got my meat share. The blackberries? From Baugher’s in Westminster, right down the road from Evermore Farm. I love to stop there after getting my monthly allocation of meat and eggs. The blackberries were end of season, and a bit mushy, but still bursting with flavor. I ended up mixing some plain yogurt with lime juice, olive oil, salt, pepper and mint, for the dressing.

There are a few slivered almonds there, too.

Finally, the first soup of the season.

Lentil soup. Made using some fresh stuff, some frozen stuff and a bag of French lentils. Started with celery, a leek, carrots and onions, all from the CSA. Added a quart of turkey stock made in the spring and frozen, using Maple Lawn farm turkey drumsticks. The bag of lentils. A bay leaf from my plant. French thyme from Penzeys. Salt. Pepper. After it cooked about an hour, I blended part of it to make it creamy. Added a cup of milk at the end of cooking.

Enough for at least three dinners. One Tuesday night. One this weekend. One will be frozen for later this winter. It was the first time I made lentil soup and it won’t be the last time.

Before I sign off on this CSA update, I have to include the picture from Tuesday.

$33 a week. All organic. If I priced this out at Roots, I know it would be much higher, even if I could find all these items there. Watermelon radishes are hard to find. So are Hakurei turnips. French breakfast radishes.

I love getting the tops of the radishes and the turnips, too. They made that dinner last night. Rainbow chard, radish greens, turnip greens, all cooked down for a long time. The lettuces will be gone by the weekend. Salads at lunch and dinner. I will be roasting cauliflower this weekend. Tuscan kale. Destined for a salad on Sunday. The sweet peppers? Stuffed with goat cheese and Canadian bacon. Served with short ribs this Sunday night. With a little planning, a CSA share can give us a week of healthy eating.

 

A Record Year

On the garden yield. The 2017 tomato crop has blown away all my previous yields.

This was probably my heaviest harvest in August. Over 20 pounds. So far this year my grand total has exceeded 171 pounds, and the cherry tomatoes are still producing.

My previous personal best was 139 pounds the first year I moved to a community garden plot. I thought that was an immense amount and now I am dealing with another 30 some pounds. The freezer is full. I have been gifting a half dozen friends regularly. The food bank and the Wine in the Garden auction basket winner have benefitted from my harvest.

I keep extensive records. By variety. Number of tomatoes. Number of ounces. Every time I pick. I sort. I weigh. I process.

Doing this allows me to decide what to plant again. What to give up. This year? The last of the pineapple tomatoes. They disappointed me for the last time. I love how they look, and how they taste, but they are fickle and fragile.

My replacement for them. Striped German. In the top picture, they are the very large yellow tomatoes with the green stripes. Those were picked a bit early, just before a predicted rain. If I left them on too long, they would split.

In this picture, you can see what happens when the rains come and split the tomatoes. My other favorite from this year, the small cherries with the darkest color, are prone to splitting too. These, the black cherry heirlooms, and those Striped Germans were bought from Love Dove Farms. I bought a market pack of four Striped Germans, and two plants of the black cherries. They will most certainly be grown again next year. They were superior in taste and both produced well.

San Marzano and large cherry tomatoes also did well.

I had two San Marzano plants that produced more than 20 pounds of tomatoes. The red cherry and tomato berry plants also went crazy in late July.

My freezer has dozens of containers of oven roasted cherry tomatoes. All winter long, I will be enjoying them over pasta or mixed with couscous or rice. I freeze them in single dinner size. Enough for the two of us to share.

The plants this year were spectacular.

Ringed by rebar and string to keep them upright. Many reached over six feet high eventually. I put in 32 plants this year in two long double rows in the garden. I lost two of them early in the season. Thirty plants. Averaging almost six pounds per plant. Since eight of the plants were cherry varieties, that’s a healthy return on “investment”.

One other surprise. The purple bumblebee hybrid, which isn’t purple at all.

Do they look purple? Not to me. They do have a great taste. Next year, they will return with the black cherry, striped German, and the San Marzanos. I will probably also repeat the Brandywine and the Rutgers.

It may be the end of the season, but the planning never stops. And, let’s see if I can get to 175 pounds before the first frost.

Almost August

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Summer is just rushing by. Really high heat. Really heavy rain. Humidity. All those endearing aspects of living here in the MidAtlantic.

August is here. Summer is halfway over. Thankfully. But, we have favorite activities staring us down. Like the county fair. I am working on my submissions for herbs, vegetable display, heirloom tomatoes and more. Daily visits to the garden to plead with the heirlooms to ripen in time.

My calendar has more days with activities than blank days.

CSA. Food bank harvest. Fair. CSA picnic. Howard County Conservancy activities, like the BioBlitz and the “Bugs, Bees and Daiquiris”.

Processing the garden. There are days when I harvest three pounds of cherry tomatoes and a couple more pounds of larger ones. Time to fire up the canning pots and get busy.

Add a few family commitments and we may be in event overload.

Will we see you at the fair? Or, maybe the happy hour with Mike Raupp and Paula Shrewsbury?

It’s the height of summer. Enjoy it!

Short and Sweet Saturdays

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A new addition to my writings. To entice me to sit down more often and write. When we get too busy to take the time to pursue our hobbies that bring us pleasure, we sometimes need to stop and smell the flowers again.

I will try and post at least twice a week. Those Tidbit Tuesdays, and these. Discipline. It’s what I need to come down to the computer and write.

I have a long in process post about the trivia behind amateur radio Field Day. I will get it done and posted soon, I hope.

In the meantime, some tidbits from the past few days.

WELCOME BACK HOWCHOW!!!!

Not excited, am I? For 18 months, we mourned the absence of our favorite food writer, who helped me grow this site by linking to it and letting me guest post on the most comprehensive local food scene blog in Central Maryland (and beyond). His toddler had him way too busy to write (and curtailed his frequent visits to the local restaurant scene). It’s good to see him back and writing about what is new and exciting in Howard County.

In other news, I have just finished my first four month subscription to a meat share CSA, with Evermore Farms, and loved it so much I am renewing for the next four months. I like getting this monthly surprise bundle. Keeps me creative in the kitchen. Like today.

My small share. 7-9 pounds of meat a month. I also get a chicken share. Today’s bird was 5.25 pounds. I also chose to get two dozen eggs a month. The right size for the two of us. I supplement the share with a few items from the freezers at the farm. I do have the option of getting a “delivered” share, to be picked up at the Columbia Wegmans every month, or to have home delivery, which requires leaving a cooler outside. I like going to the farm, picking out a couple of extra items (including Rheb’s truffles and Salazon chocolate). Today I did get two skirt steaks to grill.

This month was heavy on the grilling stuff. Beef patties. Sirloin steak. Lamb sausage. It’s a good mix of beef, pork and lamb.

There are some ham “chips” which are just screaming for me to use in a traditional Maryland style crab soup. When I make it, there will be pictures.

And, the last tidbit today. What is it with the wind out there. It knocked over my potted bay leaf plant twice so I had to rescue it in order to keep it safe from breaking.

I had to wedge it in between the patio and deck.

It has all kinds of new growth on it, and it is getting unwieldy. I need to transplant it again to a bigger heavier pot. That does make it difficult to bring inside for the winter but it’s worth it to have fresh bay leaves for soups and stews.

Time to stop writing here and get back to answering emails on the community gardens page. Now that’s a whole other topic I could write volumes about.

“Meat” Me in Westminster

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I really miss having a weekly food delivery service, that provides me with locally sourced pasture raised meats. When we lost Friends and Farms, and the reasonably priced option of meats from Wayne Nell in PA, I scrambled while looking for an alternative that gave us something that flavorful, without costing a large amount of money.

Simply put, excellent quality in pasture raised meats isn’t inexpensive.

I discovered Evermore Farm in a roundabout way. I saw their post before Christmas featuring Rheb’s chocolates. They were located not far from one of my favorite year round farm stands, Baugher’s in Westminster. We took a trip out there, met the owner, and became a fan of their products. Their beef, pork and lamb were competively priced, and they were an outstanding product. Love their lamb merguez sausage.

Fast forward to the announcement of their CSA, a four month program, with small, medium and large shares. An option to buy chicken, and eggs. Delivery or farm pick up. I signed up too late for delivery, so we headed out to the farm for our first small share pickup. A good size for two people. 8-9 pounds of meat a month. Roughly $8-9 a pound, with much of what you are getting the more expensive cuts of meat, so it is worth the cost.

Not long after joining this meat CSA, we see that another favorite source, albeit almost as far away from us, Copper Penny Farm, is now offering a meat CSA. Two sizes. Small is 12 pounds and large is 25 pounds a month. A bit more than we would likely use, but a very good value for a family. They also have an egg option.

For us, we did add the poultry and egg option from Evermore.

We could have chosen three dozen a month, but two dozen is perfect for the two of us.

I have already planned my monthly trips. Next month, pick up CSA and hit Baugher’s for vegetable plants for my community garden. June, pick up CSA and head to Old Westminster Winery for my quarterly wine club pick up. July? Head over to Baugher’s orchards to pick peaches. Between the insulated bags, and my various ice packs, we can do this.

 

Baby Chick Days

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Yes, it’s that time of year again. The baby chicks (and ducks) are back at Tractor Supply.

This time we were in Westminster running errands and stopped in for some bird food, and the cheeps from the chicks always attracts us.

They had laying chickens and meat chickens, and they had baby ducks. I really wanted the ducks, but I can’t convince my husband to turn my old garden into a home for them. I mean, after all, duck eggs are amazing.

You have to buy a minimum of six chicks. There are signs everywhere telling people these are not Easter pets. These are farm animals, which you can raise in a fairly limited space if your county regulations allow it.

For us, we would have to do some serious planning. Just to keep them safe from the occasional fox, and the resident hawks.

Still, it is something I would love to do. I don’t know, I could use subterfuge and blackmail, like telling him I will buy one of these instead.

Hey, they are only $199.99 and just think what you could do to drive your HOA crazy with one of these babies in your front yard. Out here, though, no HOAs, so I could make it my new driveway guardian. Do you think it would scare the hawks?