Spring Garden: After the Rain

I am so happy that I was able to plant so many seeds and seedlings in my home garden last weekend. They are so happy after all this rain (three days in a row, and counting)! Take a look at them this evening…

Happiness!

Tasty Dips

This weekend, I hosted some friends over for dinner and was excited about an idea that came up in conversation a couple weeks ago with my boyfriend: expanding dip options from hummus, eggplant, and cheese spreads. So, I tried two new ones using cannellini beans and red lentils. Both were wonderful. Unfortunately, I didn’t get a chance to snag any photos while cooking them — so you’ll have to trust me on this one.

Kale Pesto White Bean Dip (from Annie Eats)

What You Need

  • 2 cloves garlic
  • ¼ cup walnuts (I didn’t have any – so I omitted them, but next time I will include them)
  • 1½ cups kale leaves, stemmed and chopped
  • 1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil, plus more as needed
  • ¼ cup freshly squeezed lemon juice, divided
  • ¼ cup freshly grated Parmesan
  • 1 tsp. kosher salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
  • 3 cups cannellini beans, drained (2 15 oz. cans)
  • 1 tbsp. balsamic vinegar

What You Do

  1. In the bowl of a food processor, combine the garlic, walnuts (if you are using) and kale.
  2. Pulse until finely chopped.  Scrape down the sides of the bowl.
  3. With the processor running, add the olive oil and 1 tablespoon of the lemon juice in a steady stream through the feed tube until smooth.
  4. Add in the Parmesan, salt, and pepper and pulse until combined.
  5. Scrape down the sides of the bowl and add in the beans, the remaining 3 tablespoons of lemon juice and the balsamic vinegar.
  6. Process the mixture until completely smooth, scraping down the bowl as needed.  If necessary, pulse in additional olive oil to achieve a smooth texture.
  7. Adjust seasoning with salt and pepper to taste.
  8. Transfer to a serving bowl, drizzle with olive oil, and top with a sprinkle of chopped walnuts.  Serve with pita chips, fresh veggies, etc

Curried Lentil Dip (from Frontier Natural Products Coop)

What You Need

  • 1 cup red lentils
  • 2 1/2 cups water
  • 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
  • 1 cup diced onions
  • 1 1/2 cups peeled, cored, and diced apples
  • 3  garlic cloves, minced
  • 1/4 cup raisins
  • 1 teaspoon curry powder
  • 1 teaspoon garam masala
  • 1/4 cup coconut milk
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt

What You Do

  1. In a medium saucepan, bring the lentils and water to a boil.
  2. Lower the heat and simmer until the lentils are soft and most of the water is absorbed, about 20 minutes.
  3. Meanwhile, heat the oil in a skillet and sauté the onions, apples, and garlic with a dash of salt for about 5 minutes on medium heat.
  4. Add the raisins, curry powder, and the garam masala, if using, and continue to sauté for 10 minutes, until tender.
  5. In a food processor or blender, pureé the cooked lentils and sautéed onion mix with the coconut milk and lemon juice. Add the salt and adjust to taste.
  6. Serve at room temp or chilled.

I served the dips with pita chips, a veggie plate, and rice crackers. The best part — I have plenty left-over to enjoy all week.

Chesapeake Compost Works Now Accepting Orders

The remarkable team behind Chesapeake Compost Works just announced that they are open for orders of their first batches of product. Way to go, guys!!

Email them (info@chesapeakecompost.com) with the product you want, the quantity you want, and your zip code and they’ll give you a quote.

Chesapeake Compost: Our original 100% multi-purpose compost, made from recycled brush, garden trimmings, and food scraps.  $32 per cubic yard plus tax and delivery charge, $28 per cubic yard for orders of 10 cubic yards or more.

Chesapeake Garden Mix: A 80% / 20% blend of Chesapeake Compost and fine sand, perfect for raised beds and other plantings where you are planting directly into this soil.  Holds water and has a rich, soil texture.  $37 per cubic yard plus tax and delivery charge, $34 per cubic yard for orders of 10 cubic yards or more.

Chesapeake Topsoil: A 50% / 50% blend of Chesapeake Compost and fine sand, perfect for starting new grass plantings or rejuvenating distressed landscapes.  $40 per cubic yard plus tax and delivery, $37 per cubic yard for orders of 10 cubic yards or more.

Chesapeake Potting Soil: Our blend of Chesapeake Compost, spagnum peat moss, and vermiculite, designed to be light and airy yet hold water.  Perfect for starting seeds in flats, trays, or growing in pots.  Coming soon!

Chesapeake Sustainable Potting Soil: Our blend of Chesapeake Compost, coconut coir, and expanded rice hulls.  Made entirely of renewable materials.  Performs just as well as Chesapeake Potting Soil, perfect for starting seeds in flats, trays, or growing in pots.  Coming soon!

Chesapeake Rain Garden Mix: Blended to the specifications of Blue Water Baltimore, this mix is designed to let stormwater infiltrate the ground.  Blue Water Baltimore uses this mix to construct rain gardens throughout Baltimore.  Coming soon!

Chesapeake Castings: Worm castings made from red wiggler worms fed a diet of spent brewery grains and lettuce.  This super rich soil is used as a fertilizer to add life and nutrients to everything from your container garden to your farm.  Coming soon!

Fleetwood Farm

On my way to the farm every morning, I slow down as I pass Fleetwood Farm to see if I can pick out Sam, the Maremma on duty, from the rams and ewes he guards day and night. I usually can’t, but I’m hopeful that one of these days I’ll spot him and then – like riding a bicycle – will be able to spot the dog(s) in a herd anywhere.

Last week, I volunteered to take some leftover produce to the mulefoot hogs so that I could spend a little time with the new lambs and Sam. Walt Feasel was there, working with a border collie in one of the fields, but took a break to introduce me to the new crop of babies, chat about his operation, and even sent me home with sausage that my taste testers ranked above all others. Seriously. Two out of two meatatarians said it was the best sausage they have ever had.

Here are five reasons to love, support and purchase from this farm:

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5. Sam. Fierce when he should be. Friendly when you’ve earned his trust. Once you win him over, he squeezes between your legs, lifts you up, and nuzzles into your heart very quickly.

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4. Diversified livestock. This handsome Bourbon Red tom waddles around with New Hampshire and Plymouth Rock chickens.

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3. The close-knit herd. Seeing them moving around the pasture together will makes you all warm and woolly inside.

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…so will their adorable lambs.

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2. Momma Mulefoot loves Willowsford Farm leftovers.

IMG_5084 resized1. And Sam loves the the Willowsford Farm dog, Bella. They’ve been seeing each other since last fall.

Fleetwood Farm is located at 23075 Evergreen Mills Rd in Leesburg, VA and raises heritage breeds on pasture for meat and eggs. Farm visits are by appointment only. Learn more here.

Microgreens @ home and from the store!

There has been some buzz about microgreens at the USDA and University of Maryland, College Park. Last summer, a new study revealed that microgreens contain up to 40 times higher levels of vital nutrients than their mature counterparts.

Microgreens are the young seedlings of vegetables and herbs that are harvested less than 14 days after germination. Typically, they are 1-3 inches long and come in a rainbow of colors (which depends on the seed).  And, best of all, they are delicious!

I was thrilled when I found a small tray of locally grown red-radish microgreens in Mom’s Organic Market in Rockville. I was over-the-moon when I found sunflower microgreens at the Mom’s in College Park today. The greens come in a small tray, still in the soil from New Day Farms in Bealeton, Virginia.

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I just harvested a handful of sunflower microgreens for my salad. IMG_0283

I am so inspired by this new product that I decided to give it a try myself. I purchased 1/4 pound of red radish seeds from Johnny’s Seeds. I set up one of my spare tupperware with a small layer of gravel and organic seed-starting potting mix.
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I wet the soil and disinfected the seeds. I then spread the seeds on the soil in the container and misted them with my water-bottle. IMG_0286

I’ll loosely close the top and cover it with a towel until the radishes sprout. Then, I’ll move the sprouts in with my germinating garden seeds. In less than 10 days, I should have home-grown, beautiful and nutritious microgreens.

We’ll see how they compare to the wonderful microgreens from New Day Farms 🙂

We Have Germination!

So far, my experiment has been a wonderful success. After being out of town for the DC Snowquester, I returned to find many of my seeds (planted last weekend) SPROUTED! Take a look:IMG_0287 IMG_0288 IMG_0289 IMG_0290 IMG_0291I moved all the seed-starting trays (and tupperwares) to the sun-room  They are now under three lights to help provide additional warmth and light for the new veggie-life. I have also been keeping up with my new garden journal and added in the dates of germination for the seeds that germinated so far.

It was a beautiful day, and I spent it daydreaming about the garden.

You know you’re ready for spring when…

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…you’re talking to your friends (and plants) about the “thigmo response.”

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…you’re nearing the end of cleaning jobs and getting creative.

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…things on the winter project list (operation organization aka chalkboard wall) are getting done!

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…you’re excited to start shoveling.

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…you’re so eager for new life around you, the smallest creature catches your eye.

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…you’re photographing that new little life around you so you can post it to various media and blog about it (because you are procrastinating on your succession plans).

Balsamic Roasted Baby Roots

This recipe from Sprouted Kitchen was a huge hit at holiday parties last year and now that fresh carrots are on our minds again, I thought I’d share and recommend. WebMD also recommends this recipe as a lower cholesterol and lower calorie food and recipe.

BALSAMIC ROASTED ROOTS + SPINACH SAUCE // Serves 4

1 lb. Assorted Small Carrots
1 lb. Assorted Small Beets
2 Tbsp. Extra Virgin Olive Oil
2 Tbsp. Balsamic Vinegar, divided
1/2 tsp. Sea Salt
1/2 tsp. Black Pepper

1 Bunch Fresh Spinach Leaves
1 Large Clove Garlic, minced
2 tsp. Unsalted Butter
1/2 Cup Light Whipping Cream or Whole Milk
1/3 Cup Finely Grated Parmesan Cheese
Squeeze of Fresh Meyer Lemon Juice
Salt and Pepper to taste

Preheat the oven to 425′ and line a baking sheet with parchment paper or foil.

Toss the clean and dry root veggies in 2 Tbsp of olive oil and salt and pepper to coat. Sprinkle 1 Tbsp of the balsamic vinegar in and toss again. Place coated root veggies on the baking sheet and roast on the middle rack for 30-45 minutes, depending on size. You want to be able to pierce a butter knife through the largest vegetable on the tray.

Once the vegetables are roasting, steam the spinach for just a minute or two to cook down. Remove from heat to cool, squeeze out any remaining water and chop well.

In a medium saute pan over medium-low heat, drizzle olive oil over the minced garlic and cook for about a minute. Add the butter if desired (I did not and sauce turned out fantastic). Add chopped spinach and cream and stir to coat. Cook until the spinach absorbs most of the cream. Stir in the Parmesan and a few pinches of salt and pepper. Allow the creamy spinach goodness to cool a bit then transfer to a mini or immersion blender. Give it a few pulses to break it down then add it back to the pan and thin with milk/cream if you wish. Squeeze in a bit of fresh lemon juice to taste. Turn off the heat and cover to keep warm.

When the vegetables are ready, remove to cool slightly and drizzle on the remaining balsamic.

Seed Starting 2013

Yes! March! We are so close to spring, I can taste it in the air. February was a wonderful month to fantasize about spring and everything related to the garden. Rooting DC confirmed that I am ready to get gardening (or at least, garden planning). I attended wonderful workshops about seed-saving (thank you to Southern Exposure Seed Exchange), herbal medicine from the home-garden, achieving continuous harvests with succession planting, and growing your own mushrooms!  I was also able to collect free seeds for community gardens at the University of Maryland.

This weekend, I pulled out all my seeds (and bought some new, exciting ones from Southern Exposure Seed Exchange), my gardening books, and a lovely new garden-journal a friend gave to me for my birthday, to develop my garden plan and start some seeds inside. With two seeds starting trays and six tupperwares , I started over 30 seed varieties. Vegetables, herbs, and flower! Some highlights include five types of basil, ground cherries, okra, artichoke, and cauliflower. I focused my seed-starting efforts on cool-weather crops (broccoli, lettuce, leeks, etc.) and slower-growing warm weather crops (tomatoes, peppers, eggplant, watermelon, cucumbers, etc.). I also started a tray of red-radish microgreens.

I took tupperware from Thai take-out and other unwanted containers, lined them with small gravel, and put in organic  seed-starting mix, and voilà: home-made seed starting kits. I also made every effort to label the seeds  with some duck-tape and sharpie markers. Hopefully I’ll be able to keep track of the seedlings as they grow.

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I’m still planning many different types of seeds to direct-sow in the garden. For spring, I’m planning to direct-sow radishes, peas, beans, spinach, carrots, onions, garlic, broccoli-rabe, and other greens.

I was also really happy to pick up a few clay pots and paint them with chalkboard paint – I’m eager to use these for kitchen herbs and label them accordingly. Cute!IMG_0269

 

I cleared out some of the fall/winter crops from the garden that were hurting from the cold weather. I harvested kale, mustard, collards, and broccoli to enjoy this week.

Next item on the garden “to-do” list is a soil test and developing a garden design. I’ve got a fire going, some mint-green tea and all my garden books out — so, I’m ready to go!

Farm Crew Positions Open at Willowsford Farm

Farm July 2012Willowsford Farm is now hiring full-time farm crew members for the 2013 season.

Farm Crew is a paid, hourly position.  Crew is involved in all aspects of farm production: planting, cultivating, mulching, harvesting, washing and distributing produce, and caring for laying hens.

Work Experience/Skills Desired: One full season on a vegetable farm, or similar experience.  Other demonstrated skills or work ethic are considered.

Farm work is physically demanding and we work in all conditions: cold and wet and hot and humid.  A commitment to working hard, having fun, and getting the job done and done correctly required.

Educational opportunities: This is not an internship, but there is a lot to learn here for the interested crew member. Willowsford Farm is also a member of Chesapeake CRAFT, a series of farm tours, workshops, and potlucks – a lot of fun and an excellent opportunity to see how other farms do sustainable agriculture.

These are paid positions, $10/hour.  Housing is available.  The farm crew season is April – end of October.

Please submit resume and statement of interest to farm@willowsfordfarm.com or through our posting on Good Food Jobs.