News and blog
It's hard not to be overwhelmed by health fads-every other minute some new detox or diet appears in magazines, blogs, and government PSAs. Many times, a company capitalizes on the new research and the entire health hemisphere is whipped into a frenzy-remember POM Wonderful-the pomegranate based company, or the acai berry craze? I have nothing against either fruit, they do have fantastic health benefits, but for people on the East Coast, those fruits aren't local, they can be incredibly pricey, and the carbon footprint on them is mind-boggling.
I would suggest that you substitute tart cherries for the tropical fruits. If you have escaped the tidal wave of information about tart cherries in the last 3 years, you impress me. It seems like every month a new piece of information on the nutritional qualities of tart cherries is published-so hats off to the tart cherry industry-you are doing work.
Adams County natives have always relied on tart cherries as staples for classic pies, jams, and beverages. Sadly, with the advent of processed foods, many Americans across the country lack the know-how to preserve their own fruits and vegetables thus making produce like tart cherries, hard for customers to purchase because of their sour taste. It isn't commonly eaten raw like sweet cherries, and if you are going to bake with them, you have to wash and pit them. In a generation that wants instant gratification, why would they bother to add more work into their schedules?
Well, here's why you should bother:
You can find tart cherries (TC) locally on the East Coast. Pennsylvania produces a small amount (3.3 million pounds in 2011) of TC in comparison to Michigan (157.5 mill lbs), the biggest producer of TC in the US, but that still means that your local farmers' market is very likely to have a TC grower. Expect them in early summer, generally mid to late June. As sweet cherries are more widely consumed, many growers sell most of their TC crop to processing plants like Knouse, where they become pie filling. If you know that one of your farmers' market vendors grows TC, call and ask them about ordering ahead and the growing season. If you live in an agricultural area, ask a grower if you can glean from his orchard after harvest. (Always ask first before going into someone's orchard. Would you want an unannounced stranger in your flower bed cutting roses for their person use?)
Besides PA on the East Coast, NY also grows TC, 7.8 million pounds in 2010. If you live in the Midwest, Michigan and Wisconsin are your go to TC states-again, Michigan is firmly in the lead with 135 million pounds grown in 2010. On the West Coast: Oregon, Washington, and Utah are the states to find tart cherries. Now, I am sure you remember the hullabaloo from last year's crazy warm weather and then terrible frosts during spring-it decimated the nation's cherry crop. Michigan had 157.5 million pounds in 2011, and only 5.5 million in 2012. PA went from 3.2 in 2011 to 2.5 million in 2012. The only states that escaped unscathed were the West Coast-they had the best year of their life in terms of cherry sales.
Now for the news that you've been waiting for, the nutritional benefits to consuming TC.
According to the Self.com nutrition data analyzer, TC are "very low in Saturated Fat, Cholesterol and Sodium. It is also a good source of Dietary Fiber, Copper, Manganese, and a very good source of Vitamin A and C." Per pitted cup of fruit, you can receive 40% of your DV of vitamin A, 26% of vitamin C, 8% of Potassium, 8% of Copper, and 9% of Selenium. You get 10% of your DV of Dietary Fiber in one cup. The analyzer then scores the fruit based on its nutritional results. The TC was given 4 out of 5 stars for weight loss, 4 out of 5 starts for optimum health, and 2.5 stars out of 5 for weight gain. You should remember that most of the calories (of any fruit) do come from sugars. If you are interested in more info, visit the site yourself!
Furthermore, TC are being touted as possessing the "highest anti-inflammatory content of any food" and has been linked to assisting people suffering from osteoarthritis to manage their pain. Researchers at the American College of Sports Medicine in San Francisco studied 20 women ages 40 to 70 with inflammatory osteoarthritis and found that "drinking tart cherry juice twice daily for three weeks led to significant reductions in important inflammation markers – especially for women who had the highest inflammation levels at the start of the study.
"With millions of Americans looking for ways to naturally manage pain, it's promising that tart cherries can help, without the possible side effects often associated with arthritis medications," said Kerry Kuehl , M.D, Dr.PH., M.S., Oregon Health & Science University, principal study investigator. "I'm intrigued by the potential for a real food to offer such a powerful anti-inflammatory benefit – especially for active adults."
The antioxidants in TC are called anthocyanins and have been compared to well known pain medications in their ability to reduce inflammation. A small study even showed that drinking the juice could "improve the antioxidant defenses of older adults." This is big news for anyone suffering from joint pain, especially athletes, who know that wear and tear on joints can be both excruciating and halt a career. Visit the report here.
If you'd like the comprehensive report on tart cherries go to this website. Click on the Red Report.
If you are leery of reports published by marketing boards-hold the phone. These organizations exist because small and large growers alike need to fund research in our defense. Instead of spending your time on contesting negative media, why not commission scientists to see if what we grow has nutritional worth? That's the thinking behind creating marketing boards, and for me, without the PA Apple Marketing Board and US Apple, the apple industry would not be where it is today. People wouldn't know about the benefits of apples-you'd only hear one side of the story-so please, consider that.
If you still want a second opinion, then you are in luck. Joe Cannon has a Masters in exercise science and a BS in chemistry and biology. He has a blog called the Supplement-Geek where he reviews hype surrounding health issues. After Dr. Oz covered tart cherries, Joe Cannon did his own research. Visit his site for the full she-bang. What I like about this website is his scientific commitment to the truth. Whereas Dr. Oz freely advises millions after small studies are published, Mr. Cannon begins researching. Mr. Cannon freely admits that there is a lot of possibility for TC, but more studies should occur for definitive results. The really interesting part of this particular post, though, is the comment section. Lots of readers wrote in about joint pain and its reduction after taking TC pills or drinking the juice. As a woman behind the stand on many occasions, I can truthfully say that many of customers who suffer from gout drink our tart cherry juice passionately. I cannot speak personally for the sleep aid suggestions, as I fall asleep regularly. But I have spoken to a couple customers who drink a little before bed. I have found that drinking cherry juice can reduce cramps ladies, and that makes it a Gift from God.
So here's what I am taking away from this information, TC are a local fruit that contains antioxidants and anti-inflammatory properties; you get a good dose of vitamin A and C in one cup, it has a decent amount of dietary fiber, it tastes great, and current research shows that its benefits will grow as the number of studies increase.
I eat fries, which have none of the good things listed above-so I feel a lot better physically and mentally when I choose to eat local tart cherries rather than fries, or cherry flavored candy and soda. That alone makes it worthwhile for me to eat.
So if you are interested in adding tart cherries to your diet, raw and in juice form, stop by our stand at any of our farmers' markets in June and pick up a pint or two!
So! In addition to greeting you all at your favorite farmers markets, I also participate in an organization that has helped shape me and make me the person that I am today. This organization, which I am proud to chair at present, is called the Young Grower's Alliance. Many of you have heard about YGA through Alana's Nicaragua blogs last year - a few other might have noticed that we've been selling apple schntz at market on the group's behalf.
You can get the $0.50 description of what YGA's mission is on the website and that's a very accurate description of our group. However, before we get into this Nicaragua trip specifically, I wanted to address what the group has meant to me. I grew up on a farm - a reality that brings along with it a number of interesting points. While the exposure to farm life and the apple industry provided an indispensable benefit for my current occupation, it can also be prohibitive for those unwilling to expose themselves to new and different things. What I'm trying to say is, if you aren't willing to get off the farm and learn from others and ask stupid questions, you'll never learn everything you could. That's what YGA has provided me. I've met and networked with inspirational folks my age with the same hopes, dreams, ambitions, and stumbling blocks; becoming friends with many of them. I've travelled locally and beyond our borders to New Zealand to gain both specific, applicable knowledge and valuable perspective on what my vision for our farm might be.
By in large, this Nicaragua trip is just part and parcel of this idea - that travel is a great teacher and I'll come home with a richer perspective. However, there is part of this trip that, for me, is a little more meaningful. More notable than my familarity with fruit growing as a result of my upbringing is the good fortune bestowed upon me as I started out in agriculture. I have two capable, experienced mentors in my father and uncle; two willing facilitators who give me some autonomy to pursue many of my goals, but also rich, fertile, well-preserved soils to grow in. I have access to most of the things required to do my job as best I can. I have tools and equipment to do my work (so long as they aren't broken and misplaced, another story)...
I'm very fortunate to have had a farm to come back to out of college. I try not to take this for granted. I see many of my fellow vendors at markets and many other young people in agriculture without access to good land, capital, resources etc. Moreover, the people in Nicaragua don't have access to the basics in many situations, not the least of which is suitable land for agriculture, water for irrigation, and the resources to produce food in enough supply to support their families. And since our YGA group started as an organization populated by folks who grew up on our family's farms (though we'd like to welcome all would be/new & beginning farmers into our group), I look forward to using some of my time and expertise to try to make life a little easier for some people who weren't blessed with the advantages I had growing up.
To learn more about YGA, check out our website. To learn more about Project Gettysburg Leon, for whom the YGA is the current Ag Delegation, check out their website here and don't be shy about becoming involved in these great organizations.
From Our Farm, to Your Home,
"I've read about your Buyer's Club and I don't think it's for me. What I like are farmers markets!" No worries*, we've got ya covered (ok, so Baltimore and Philly... we've got nothing for ya, see Buyer's Club blog). You still with me? Cool - here is where Three Springs can be found in the Winter Time - in our normal, fresh-faced, standard display, standardized hours farmers market format that we've all come to enjoy so much!
Silver Spring Farmers Market - Saturdays 10-1pm
We'll be at our standard spot (as far as I know right now), between Copper Canyon Grill and FroZenYo on Ellsworth from January thru March before the "Year Round" Market begins again in April, at which time we'll show up an hour earlier again, 9-1pm. That's right, every Saturday morning in DC, we've got your apple/potato/value added goodness supplies covered
January 5th - March 30th, 10-1pm
Central Pennsylvania - Twice Each Month!
Both of our awesome Central PA markets have added monthly Winter Markets to their schedules and we're happy to be attending both! Sure, we wish they were spread out bi-weekly, but this is how the chips fell, folks! Farmers on the Square will tend market every third Saturday in the afternoon while Farmers on Walnut will tend every third Friday in the late afternoon/eveningtime. So! To clarify, Three Springs will tend market on the following dates in the following locations:
FOW/Camp Hill in the First Presbyterian Church:
The market season is rapidly coming to a close! While we will certainly miss all of our customers, we don't want to miss you! I don't want you to sign our yearbook, like we're parting ways - we just want you to be aware that you don't have to settle for inferior produce in the lonely months when the market is closed. So we're taking this opportunity to let you know how to join our winter buyer's club and recieve monthly deliveries of items of your choosing to somewhere right in your backyard!
The Buyer's Club is a fairly straight forward, easy thing to join! You'll recieve two emails per month - just two reminders about ordering deadlines. Then, at a date and time listed below, you will arrive and pick up your order with your receipt and take your morsels of culinary bliss along with you! Simple as that! Just sign up through our mailing list. (Drive the Cold Winter Away, part II for Winter Market purists)
Greenbelt Buyer's Club - every 3rd Sunday, 10am
cooperating farms/suppliers: Two Oceans True Food (salmon and fish), more announced soon
ordering deadline: the previous Friday by noon
dates for Buyer's Club Delivery in Greenbelt:
March 17th (me lads & lassies)
Philadelphia Buyer's Club - every 1st Sunday, noon
cooperating farms/suppliers: Hillacres Pride (dairy, cheese, meat)
ordering deadline: the previous Friday by noon
dates for Buyer's Club delivery:
Baltimore/Towson Buyer's Club - you tell me!
So, we'd love to provide this for our customers but we need to hear from you! Please shoot us an email in the website's contact form specifying your preference for weekend or weekday deliveries, morning or afternoon, and preferred location - downtown Baltimore or Atwaters in Towson. We'd love to get you involved!
No two weeks are the same on our farm - not on any farm. However, the thing that will differentiate last week from the rest is particularly noteworthy. In case you didn't catch it (on this Facebook post), Mom and I were special guests at a National Endowment for the Humanites event at the White House which included a preview of the new Ken Burns documentary "The Dust Bowl", followed by a great panel discussion! My mother and I, a daughter and grandson, respectively, of a Dust Bowl survivor will remember this unique opportunity for a long time to come.
My maternal grandmother, Dorothy Hiestand Cogley, rarely talked about her youth growing up in Ayr, Nebraska - a tiny farming town South of Omaha. It was certainly an impactful beginning to the amazing life she's led, the remainder of which will have to wait for a future blog entry. However, when I sit down to visit with my grandmother, still with us and healthy at 92, she shys away from her agricultural upbringing - her father's farm in Dust Bowl era Nebraska where she lived until 15 years old. It was at that age the family pulled up their roots and moved back east with family to Lancaster County PA - fleeing the dust clouds, like so many other Dust Bowl refugees. After viewing the excerpts from the stirring Ken Burns documentary, set to air this November, I'm learning more about her apprehension - more than she was willing to share with me or her children.
Fast forward another 75 odd years to once upon a time called right now!
They say that those who do not know their history are doomed to repeat it.
As the demands on agriculture mount in the face of worldwide meteoric population growth and other nations with less oversight become bigger players, the timing of the new Ken Burns Documentary "The Dust Bowl" couldn't be more appropriate. Moreso, the airing date of this documentary, November 18th and 19th on PBS, should be right about the time our country's current drought situation (the worst since the 1950's) should begin to affect food prices.
By in large, the US has learned the lesson of the Dust Bowl, but it's no time to be resting on our laurels - much still needs to be done to increase soil conservation in our country. The point that rang truest in the terrific panel discussion after the screening was how important it is to acknowledge that the decision to plow all that badland ground to feed our soldiers was, at the time, made with altruistic goals and what was thought to be sound reasoning at the time. We can't become so haughty as to assume we've got mother nature figured out and we can use her for our own devices.
So you're here reading the blog of a small family fruit farm in Central Pennsylvania, so it's safe for me to assume you've already recognized how important agriculture is to this nation. Also, how important GOOD agriculture is to this nation - how important it is that we, as farmers, do right by the lands that we proudly nurture. I've struggled with the thought of me, as an American Farmer, being responsible for feeding the world. I'd prefer to feed you guys - my friends and neighbors. But to hear our excellent panel (author Timothy Egan, genius Lester Brown (he truly is), farmer/conservationalist Clay Pope; moderated by FRESHFarm's Ann Yonkers) speak about the short-sightedness exhibited by the agriculture of other nations (not to keep singling you out, China)... I've been reinvigorated by this notion. Don't expect us to double our acreage or anything like that; if anything, we'll likely get smaller as we go along. But! The world needs America to keep farming, not just our friends and neighbors. And while much of our food remains in our friendly 100 mile radius, great vision is needed to balance future food demands with proper soil health and water conservation, especially in consideration of energy and fossil fuel demands. It's a hefty task, but someone's got to do it.
It was the worst man made natural disaster in the world's history. It was the biggest real estate scam in our country's history. It killed children and displaced families all over the midwest, almost turning the entire region into an uninhabitable desert. It also served (in my opinion) as the impetus for the first great agricultural reform, the formation of what would be the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS), thank you Hugh Hammond Bennett, in The New Deal. If you find this compelling (as well you should) or you desire the kind of inspiration this topic provided me, Ken Burns' "The Dust Bowl" airs on PBS November 18th and 19th.
I'd been doing farmers markets for about three years before I realized I was part of the food industry. I know that sounds silly, but we farmer types are very territorial and are so proud to be counted among the roughly 0.6% of the population in our country who work in agriculture, we are slow to recognize this crossover.
But now I'm lovin' it! I've met a lot of great people working in food and it's changed a lot about what we do here at Three Springs. We're like kindred spirits - those living in the farming and restaurant realms. We all love what we do (most of the time), keep weird and long hours, put up with a lot of bologna, and bring a unique perspective to everyday things. I like being in the food industry and I thank them for making hayseeds much like myself and others of my ilk to be welcome in their company.
What I didn't expect from my newfound role in food was to receive praise from some of their finest - and both in the same month, for what its worth!
The first was some lovin' we got from none other than...
In this sweet review of Headhouse Market! Cheers to Blooming Glen, Birchrun Hills, Market Day Canele, and Wild Flour Bakery who make Sunday mornings fun and delish for us too!
I was told the famous window sticker is in the mail...
The second was a shout out from The Philly Inquirer's Craig LaBan. The renown restaurant critic gave us special props in the open of his weekly food chat. Then, hit us back on twitter with this juicy review:
For our readers at the James Beard Foundation and Michelin Guide, our contact information can be found at the bottom of this blog!
That was a joke guys.
I try to answer every question I'm asked - from regular customers to random web wanderers. But if there is any query that is likely to stand out from the crowd, it's an intriguing question from a web lurker overseas. We received a comment matching this description (ref. "Ask" vol II) from Prasanjit this week, checking in from India:
4/30/2012 @ 3:23 am
We're located in the city of Mumbai, India. We have lawys loved growing our own veggies, and I decided to grow an apple seedling, from the seed of a Granny Smith apple. After it sprouted and began to leaf well, I tried the same with Gala and Red delicious apples too. Now I have 4-5 young saplings, 2 each of GS and Gala, and one of Red Delicious.
I have now begun to realise that I will likely not get a GS apple from a GS sapling. However, is it possible for me to graft between these saplings I've grown from seed, and obtain a GS/Gala/Red delicious apple? Do let me know. I would really love to be able to grow these on our farmland, and atleast receive one type of edible apple from these 5 saplings I'm growing.
Thank you, Prasanjit! It's actually a fairly difficult thing to rear an apple tree from a seed, so you're doing quite well for starters.
For the history buffs out there, grafting has been an agricultural practice for more than 4000 years by some accounts. Even today all fruit orchards depend on the skilled grafting hand of a nurseryman to provide the trees that feed people. The same is true for any number of nut trees, grape vines, and a whole slug of ornamental trees and plants.
To address your question, you can graft any variety on those those seedlings and produce apples of a variety you prefer. What you'll need is some scionwood (budwood) and a little education. Just to reemphasize for clarity, you'll need to have cuttings of a living, growing Red Delicious or Granny Smith tree to have the budwood to graft over the seedlings.
Without knowing the diameter of your seedling, it's hard to provide foolproof advice. Provided your seedling trees are at least 5/8 inches in diameter (that's about 16mm), you should have enough plant material to chip bud your seedlings. You'll want to leave the top of the tree grow and make leaves to feed the rest of the tree. Using the chip budding techniques in the videos below, you'll be able to attach several buds to each seedling and they should grow - provided your cuts were straight and sterile and your union (cambium to cambium for all my fellow botany nerds) is good.
What might be fun is to leave the top of the tree, the old variety, in long enough to try some fruit before you cut it out. Sure, it may be nothing like the Granny smith you hoped for, but it might be a good variety, you never know. Perhaps it will be a new discovery - the world's greatest apple! Just don't forget who suggested leaving that branch in when the budwood is distributed!
And if the apples aren't good, just cut that part out!
- Farmer Ben
Further "Ask A Grower" reading:
Hi, hey, and hello!
It’s the last day of April and looking mighty nice outside. We will have temps in the 70s over the next three days with thunderstorms possibly dampening our first day in Towson, MD. That’s right-we have our season kickoff tomorrow at The Shoppes at Kenilworth in Towson from 3:30 to 6:30 PM! It’s a lovely little market with phenomenal produce, delicious grass raised meats, herbs, flowers, and the tastiest treats by Ruth (our market neighbor) I have looked upon in my short and silly life.
The Kenilworth market runs from May 1 to the week of Thanksgiving in the parking lot of the Kenilworth Mall. I really like the feel of this market-the vendors are all friendly and enjoy good relationships. It has a small town feel. Dog and kid friendly-what a deal. But to top it all off, Atwater’s Bakery and Restaurant is nearby and makes use of the available produce every week! They incorporate the fresh finds into their menu and strive to accomplish this at their many locations. Since I can diminish the swell of my Black & White in mere seconds, and eat there almost weekly, I heartily encourage you to sample their wares when you pass through. They even have a bread stand at the market-it also appears at our Silver Spring, MD location, too! You can visit their website here: http://atwaters.biz/
One of our good friends and neighboring vendor is One Straw Farm and CSA. They should arrive at our market the second week of June and have a smorgasbord of options. Joan and Drew Norman work diligently to uphold their personal and professional standard of organic practices, and push that standard when they find innovative technology in the field. Ben speaks very highly of them and I am impressed with Joan’s tenacity and warmth every time I see her. Visit their site at: http://www.onestrawfarm.com/index.html
In other GREAT NEWS: We open our season at Headhouse in Philly this Sunday (May 6th) at 10am! It is a packed market with a long list of stellar vendors, a wide range of products, and a great downtown location. It’s a great place to shop for fruits, veggies, canned goods, flowers, pastries, and then eat at one of the food trucks/stands! It’s in the heart of historic Philly, with gorgeous brick houses leading out to the waterfront if you are the wandering type. This is Ben’s baby and a huge reason for him returning to the farm and starting these markets. It you want to catch a family affair, join him this Sunday and meet his charming mother, Emily, his soon-to-be brother in law, Russ, and family friend, Erica! The market hours are 10 AM to 2 PM, but the best produce is yours for the picking when you arrive at the START of market. Always keep this in mind at the peak of summer-all soft fleshed fruit should be snatched immediately so you can wash and cool it! We tried to ask our customers to bring Tupperware to market last year to store their berries…it works better than jostling around in the display cartons we use. I plan on writing a blog in the future about canning since it’s staging a comeback among the younger generation-YAY! Even washing and freezing your fruits when you get home increases its staying power and offers you tasty summery options in the dark days of winter.
Alrighty then-we covered this week’s new markets but what about the second week of May? I have answers! May 9th marks the start of Farmers on the Square OUTSIDE market in Carlisle, PA. Running from 3 PM to 7 PM, we will be taking over the front courtyard of the gorgeous stone Presbyterian Church on Carlisle Square. Very kid friendly, with activities for them and space to run around, parents, grandparents, and young alike can browse to their heart’s content. We have the Dickenson Farm, Pretty Meadow, Roots (cut flowers), pastries, chicken and eggs and jars of goodies from the Otterbeins, and several more vendors! This market runs outside until late October and then moves inside on the Dickenson Campus.
If you like the vendors and feel of Farmers on the Square, then please come out this Thursday (May 3rd) to the Farmers on Walnut interest meeting held at the Cleve J. Fredricksen Library in Camp Hill at 6:30 PM. We have been pursuing a market at the Library in Camp Hill with resistance from a small number of residents, who believe that we will bring large crowds, large farm equipment, and a lack of safety to their quiet neighborhood. We have been feverishly working to dispel these fears (to limited success) at monthly Council meetings, but if you haven’t made it before, please attend the Library meeting to get a general idea of what is offered at a farmer’s market, chip in your opinion, and support fresh local produce in Camp Hill in a safe neighborhood. We also need experience farmer market attendees to speak up because some people are saying that baked goods and other non-fresh items have “no place or purpose” at a farmers market. Say whaaaaaaaaat??! Please visit the Library website for more info and the address: http://www.cumberlandcountylibraries.org/index.aspx?nid=88
If you live in the Camp Hill area and would like to attend a Thursday market from 3 PM to 7 PM from May 24th until November, show up and speak up! Our main goal is for a market to happen in Camp Hill, with baked goods and a variety of vendors. Please help us achieve that goal-one that adds to the health and happiness of Camp Hill’s residents.
On May 12th, we begin our weekly trip to Fell’s Point in Baltimore, MD! It’s the 2nd annual Fell’s Point Farmer’s Market running 7:30 AM to Noon , May through October! You can visit their Facebook page: http://www.facebook.com/pages/Fells-Point-Farmers-Market/177166742337662 to see the impressive vendor list, check out nearby restaurants (it’s so worth it), and see the gorgeous view of the waterfront! Our stand is run by Josh, a long term stellar employee, Shane (2 years of air-guitar EXCELLENCE), and Pam (a very lovely lady poached from our Towson market). Check out the good looks and better tasting produce in two weeks! Extra incentive: the genius popcorn vendor from Silver Spring (Capitol Kettle Corn) will be at the market with his amazing Ethiopian mix. I ate 2 bags. 2 BAGS. I haven’t eaten popcorn like that since the Lion King, folks. I ate it. All. Ohhh, drool.
If that doesn’t bring you in, then I’m out of ideas. Wait, no I’m not. Because it’s Apple Blossom Festival on May 5th and 6th!!! If you love apples and supporting the industry that works hard to provide tasty and beautiful apples, join us at the South Mountain Fairgrounds this weekend to eat too many delicious items, shop handcrafted gifts for Mama, watch clogging, local musicians (BLUEGRASS-YES.), and cheer on the Apple Queen candidates. Shout out to the Baugher clan-OO Yeah! For a full list of vendors, activities, and a description of our orchard tours, go to the festival site: http://www.appleblossomfestival.info/. Dave Wenk will be hosting Orchard tours on Sunday, I shall be there helping with my pet project, Crunch Quest, and if those aren’t great reasons to attend-besides oodles of free parking, I am at a loss. If you have kids or just love scavenger hunts, come out for Crunch Quest-a scavenger hunt for all ages-but particularly those 4-11-and learn about Apples For Health. This is the second year that the Adams County Fruit Growers Associate, Penn State Extension, and WellSpan have partnered to design and host this activity for children to become more aware about apples and their own health. I had the lucky opportunity to design (with many necessary and appreciated suggestions) the Quest and I sure as heck hope that it learns ya good.
Well. That was a lot of info and I bet your reeling. No? Well then, aren’t you a smarty?
Yes you sure are-because you’re following a farm blog and becoming more informed about what you eat and how it gets to your table. Good for you! Now get out there, conquer the day and the carp, and attend some community festivities this weekend!
Hola hola, rabble-rousers!<-------- Boy, do I like that word.
I'm pretty excited right now as I sit and look out the window at our flowering apple trees-never mind the grey sky! Because it's ASPARAGUS season! Forget that I spent several dedicated years trying to mow over our asparagus patch at the old house as a teen, forget that I lied when asked about the uniform sleekness of the patch...multiple times. None of that matters because now I am a quasi adult and spontaneously like my vegetables. Except, of course, mushrooms. Bluurgh is all I have to say on that subject.
But I digress.
Really folks, it's a wonderful thing to eat, look at, and grow. The darn thing is a wonder; shooting spears at 6-8 inches a day at its prime off of its underground crown, which can live as long as 20 years! So I bet that patch is still going strong back at the old house....
For all you green fanatics, Ben and I want to clear some things up real quick when it comes to this delightful spring green. Sprue Asparagus is the thin first spears of a crop and sometimes sold as more tender and flavorful and whatnot. We call bull and so does Good Eats host Alton Brown. He wittily named Sprue as the supermodels of Asparagus-watery and insubstantial. It does NOT have the amount of fiber and nutrients that the later thicker stalks will have...a certain "fat bottomed girls" song comes to mind. So, the whole "I'll eat the Sprue because it's tender and high class" is really someone on the farm and supermarket saying, "let's get rid of these by saying they are tender." Now you know. Say No to Sprue!
Same thing goes for white asparagus. It's HUGE over in Europe, my boyfriend lived in Germany for awhile and talked about how white asparagus was super pricey and everyone went nuts over it. Well folks, they went nuts for albino greens. Does that sound sensible to you? DOES IT???! It doesn't to me. It sounds hypocritical. And I don't trust hypocritical food.
If you didn't know before, you obtain white asparagus by covering up the young asparagus so it decreases its exposure to sunlight, thus eliminating the chlorophyll that is almost uniformly present in veggies. Its supporters say that the white stuff tastes less bitter and is more tender. Again with the tender. You know what should be tender? Babies. Kisses. Spinach.
Asparagus is a champion. It is strong, vital, tall, and full of fiber that keeps you vital and regular. Great qualities in a person and a veggie. You know what tender does for you? Makes you a target for bears, lions, man-eating aliens, and poorly written romance comedies. Not great qualities if you want to start and raise a family, folks.
So, what is the difference between green and white asparagus? It only has one thing more than green asparagus-sugars, so more calories. While on the other hand, one of the best things about green asparagus is the presence of "anthocyans, which are responsible for the purplish coloring of the green asparagus, protect the cardiovascular system." We should all follow the advice of Beyonce-"like a ghost, I'll be gone." Go for something solid!
Now-the most important part of asparagus is storage prep and prep before cooking. If you buy asparagus from a farmer's market or supermarket, plan to eat it as soon as possible. The flavor quickly goes downhill so freshness is key. The spears are literally the flowers of the plant, so like Alton Brown says, treat them like flowers. Cut the bottom inch off the stalk, put them in water, and place a loose plastic bag over top. Remove the rubber band before you stick the bundle in the fridge!
Before you buy your bunch of spears though, check that they aren't limp, cracked at the bottom, rotting at the top, or just plain scary. Take your right to buy great produce firmly in hand. Empower yourself at the market.
Just so you know, You Tube has the Good Eats "Age of Asparagus" episode in three parts-I am embedding one but I highly recommend you watch the whole thing-I repeat a lot of the info because it is so good!
Next important piece of information: when you go to cook the asparagus and you cut off part of the stalk do not immediately pitch it. You always have options: stalks are great for veggie stocks and you can toss them in your compost. Second: cook asparagus briefly to keep maximum nutrients and firmness. This means NO BOILING VEGGIES. If you don't have dentures, please, please, please do not boil. The heated water saps out all the goodness from your veggie. But if you want to cook it, you again have options. Alton points out two great ones: microwaving in a damp paper towel, or roasting on aluminum foil at 500 degrees for 5 minutes, each side, with olive oil/butter and some kosher salt. Grate some lemon zest over that and BING! Delish asparagus. Ben is a big proponent of the roasting and I wholeheartedly agree with that, but me and mon cherie want that wrapped in prosciutto.
Final note folks: we grow both regular green and purple asparagus. Ben does say that the purple appears more tender (sigh) because it snaps easier and it isn't an overwhelming flavor-so pairs well with many dishes. Now-purple food is usually great stuff because the color means the presence of nutrients. It has higher levels of the anthocyanins which have higher amounts of antioxidants. "Antioxidants help fight off free radicals that cause damage to your cells, or eliminate these toxins from your body, thus protecting you from chronic illnesses, like cancer. In addition to antioxidants, purple asparagus is also rich in B vitamins that help keep your skin, nails and hair healthy." For the history buffs out there, the Chinese, Greeks, and Romans used it for digestive issues. (Can't get any more "heritage" than something used thousands of years ago.) "Purple asparagus was found to have diuretic and laxative properties that help flush out toxins from the body. The diuretic effects of purple asparagus also help alleviate bloating and cramps during menstruation."
It's kind of a big deal, amIright?
We look forward to seeing you at market-Silver Spring, MD and Carlisle, PA this Saturday morning 9am to 1 pm! If you have any great recipes that you will bet your hat on, share them with us. I compiled a list of rhubarb and blueberry recipes that made my mouth drool for an hour before lunch today. It's on our website under recipes...makes sense.
I wish you well and happy shopping for fresh, local goods!
The "Never EVER Call it the Offseason" Blog
- Weather Update
- We're Honored with Two Awards
- A More Updated Weather Update
- Market Season is HERE? Yes... yes, it is!
Strange world we live in, aint it folks?
On the heels of the most difficult growing season for at least a generation, the strange bedfellow we aggie types have in Mother Nature has brought us a spring so early it's off the charts. Perhaps remorseful over all her perilous tricks last year, the Earth, it appears, is in a super big hurry to start a new growing season and strike the last one from our minds. We're cutting a pretty wide path these days, so I'd have to say she's been successful in doing so. Let's talk shop.
In early March, we got 17 degrees overnight. This past Tuesday the 27th, we got 26 at one farm, 31 at the other. Between these two events, we lost some cherries and a few apples. How many we lost remains to be seen. It's usually significantly colder in Wenksville than in Gardners, so I'd spent most of the day thinking we're ok. Unfortunately, the danger still exists to lose our crop because the spring is SO early. How early?
Well, when we look at insect lifecycle models we talk about a unit of measure called degree days which, without getting jargon-y, is essentially a measure of accumulated temperature - I believe it's hours over 43 degrees. At any rate, as of the third week of March, degree day accumulation was similar to other years... in June.
Just spoke with one of the men who sells us our mating disruption today. He covers an area spreading from Winchester, VA to the escarpment-ringed Niagra region of Ontario. The bloom period over this latitudinal range is usually six weeks, as in bloom starts in Virginia normally in mid March and starts in Canada six weeks later. This year, that gap is three weeks! Which, if you think about, means many of the crops on the East Coast will all ripen at the same time, negatively affecting the prices farmers can get for their crops (and making us all the more appreciative of the fact we can sell them directly to you and not on a flooded wholesale market)!
Other sad news, the strawberries were a complete loss - root rot from the deluge this fall. Fortunately, we will be planting a spot three times larger than the lost patch this spring!
However, as with everything in the farm business, there's a silver lining behind every cloud. Should we have a crop - still touch and go for another month, this crop will be early which is probably good for everybody. The winter was so mild, we didn't lose any work days to excessive snow and our pruning is right on schedule despite the early spring. What this means is we are able to plant in a very timely manner despite it being so darn early - also a very good thing.
Three Springs Recognized (twice) By Our Peers
While on the subject of good news, we recognized by our peers in the agriculture industry with two awards this winter - either of which would have been the highlight of the chilly months between seasons.
The first such distinction was my father David Wenk's recognition by the lifeblood organization of the fruit industry, the State Horticultural Association of Pennsylvania (SHAP), who chose Dave as 2011 Grower of the Year! Words can't describe what an honor this was for Dave who was able to collect himself on the podium long enough to express his gratitude for his brothers and sisters in the fruit biz, for whom he has such an amazing respect. Lancasting Farmer was on hand to document the ceremony. We were able to keep it a secret until the halfway through friend and PSU classmate Matt Boyer's presentation. He was surprised and honored for sure.
The second distinction belongs to all three owners; John (L), Ben (C), and Dave (R) who were awarded the honor of Master Farmers for the Mid Atlantic area in 2012. Just as was the case for Dave's "Grower of the Year" honor, it's the recognition of your peers that makes these awards special to us. While the SHAP honor was chosen by past recipients and board members of that tree fruit organization, the Master Farmer award can be offered to an operation growing any commodity and is chosen by the membership of the Mid Atlantic Master Farmers. The American Agriculturalist magazine provided coverage here. We're looking forward to meeting the rest of the Master Farmers at the reception in Harrisburg in early April.
Things continue to play out like a Charles Dickens novel at Three Springs Fruit Farm as we get doused with another frost last Friday (3/30). Once again, the effects were isolated and mostly minimal. I'm learning that a lot of our neighbors did not fair as well. Some businesses are competitive with neighbors in the same field and I'm happy to say the fruit business, likewise agriculture in general - especially our alternative agricultural brotherhood, do not feel competitive with one another by in large. We ask that you send all of us some good vibes and warm thoughts as it's starting to look like some trying times for many of us in the fruit business in 2012, same as it was in 2011.
It's hard to believe that I'll be writing a weekly market update for DC NEXT WEEK in advance of Silver Spring opening 4/7... and that the update WILL include asparagus, AND possibly rhubarb. Heads up for the official Markets 2012 announcment very soon and don't agonize over any major changes. If you're expecting to see us, you'll see us for sure!