We are back in full production, and here is what we have ready for our wholesale customers this week. We will be making deliveries this Tuesday and Friday to some area stores, so keep an eye out for our babies! Our retail greenhouse opens April 13th. In the mean time, check with these stores to see if they have our plants yet. Happy growing and garden dreaming to you all!
Lily and I recently were a part of the Philadelphia Flower Tour organized by Thomas and Bailey of Ardelia Farm for cut flower farmers and florists. While we are neither of those things, we tagged along to learn more about flowers and plants used in the industry and to attend the Philadelphia Flower Show, Terrain and Longwood Gardens in nearby Kennet Square. Here are a few pics from our the Longwood conservatory taken by our friend Nina Foster from Trillium Finch (check out her jewelry and floral design work too - it is gorgeous).
The flower show woke me right up after a long drive with lots of gorgeous begonias, succulents, cacti, tropical flower displays and tulips to fawn over.
We also visited Terrain - a gorgeous garden and "lifestyle" shop owned by the same company that owns Anthropology and Urban Outfitters. A few plants made it into our car for the trip back as well as lots of ideas for future dreams and displays. We have our work cut out with a high bar and lots of inspiration.
Look at these beauties! During the middle of April, we will be starting all of these varieties from tubers from Dutch breed DeVroomen and from US Washington state producer Swan Island. If you would like to grow gorgeous dahlias in your garden, the best bet is to start them indoors for a head start. If you are not equipped to do that or want to try a few new ones without the hassle, you can always get them from us. For the first time this year, we will be selling them before they bloom, in 1 gallon pots. This will make them more affordable and will give you a plant that is compact and easy to handle. In the past we offered dahlias only in 3 gallon pots, 3 feet tall and blooming. Not only were these hard to load in the car and plant in your garden, but they were much more expensive. We hope that pictures alone will do the trick, and that you will take our word that these are the highest quality dahlias to add to your collection. You can dig up the tubers in the fall, store properly in vermiculite or sawdust or dried maple leaves, and then divide and replant in the spring. Perhaps this is the year you join the dahlia craze bandwagon, or you simply continue to feed your obsession / addiction. Either way, we are here to help you find dahlia bounty.
Tips for dahlia success:
1. Prune the tips of the plants. We will have done this once or twice before you purchase them, but until mid-June, keep pinching. This will keep the plants symmetrical and compact and they will send out more blooms.
2. Fertilize the plants at planting time. We recommend a heaping handful of Compost Plus from VT Compost Company.
3. Foliar feed the plants once a week with a fish and seaweed emulsion spray. We recommend Neptune's Harvest.
4. Once they start to bloom, cut the the stems at the base. Keep this up all summer for the longest bloom life.
5. Before first frost, cut the plants to the ground and dig up the tubers.
6. Allow them to dry and cure in a dark and airy place laying on newspaper for about a week or two. Once cured, place in paper bags with dried leaves, sawdust, or vermiculite. Keep bags in a cool, dark, dry spot all winter. Make sure to label the bags with what variety is inside. It is also a good idea to add a second label inside the bag in case the ink fades or the paper rips. Cutting up a yogurt container into large strips is a great way to make a permanent plant labels.
Last year was the year of the cut flower program at Red Wagon. Not only did we grow and sell more cut flower varieties than ever before, but we also hosted a 3 part floral design workshop series with flower farmer / florist Nina Foster and had a chance to meet flower growers from Vermont, New Hampshire and Massachusetts. The fun and beauty continue into 2018 with an expanded offering of varieties that work well for cutting and arranging and crafting. Here is the list. If you are a home gardener, you can make a wish list now for summer dreaming and planning. If you are a commercial grower, feel free to contact us about purchase plants in larger quantities for your commercial operation. The photos below represent only about 1/3 of the plants we grow that are suitable for cut flower use. Most of our perennials and many more annuals and some herbs are also suitable for floral use. And please note that vegetables and berries can make unique and eye catching additions to those sprawling, romantic bouquets that are so in style right now. If you need any suggestions or want to make a special request, please don't hesitate to let us know.
Photo gratefully used with permission from Ball Horticultural and Johnny's Selected Seeds.
2017, garden wise, started off so rainy and cold, but then took a nice turn with a mild and extended fall. Some of those summer crops were able to keep producing into November which made up for the late start. It was a year when the garden provided respite and much needed beauty and escape from the news out there. Tending our little corner of the earth always feels like just the thing.
On a personal note, we sold our home and moved so our home garden was lost mid-way through summer. Our new house is cozy and just right. A perfect place to call home, right near the banks of Otter Creek. We can literally walk down the sidewalk, row boat in tow for a sunset tour on the river.
And while I had to say goodbye to one home garden, the Red Wagon trial garden did well and provided an abundant harvest of produce and flowers for late summer. We tried a few new cut flower varieties this year and included those in the Red Wagon garden - Scabiosas 'Fama Blue', 'Fama White', 'Salmon Rose', and 'Oxford Blue'; Lisianthus 'Roseanne Deep Brown' and 'Doublini Blue', and Asclepias currassavica 'Silky Formula Mix'. These were so productive in a relatively small amount of space. Look for more cut flower varieties from us in 2018....these have been a steadily growing category for us and in recent years they have really taken off. And they are so fun to grow!
In the vegetable department, I was again impressed with how productive the broccolini, Happy Rich, can be. I was able to harvest new shoots and buds all spring, summer and fall 2 to 3 times a week. These are delicious raw or in stir fries or steamed. The stems are tender and sweet and never turn tough or bitter. I also grew an onion variety that is early and very productive - New York Early yellow onion. I used to grow this quite a bit in my vegetable farming days, but have not seen the seed in catalogs in recent years. Well, it is back, and it is a great onion to add to your garden plan next year. It is ready a good 2 to 3 weeks before other yellow onions and it stores well. The tomatoes we tried from Wild Boar Farm tomato breeder Bradley Gates were all beautiful. The extra delicious ones were Solar Flare, Berkeley Tie Dye and Brad's Black Heart. Those are all making a come back in 2018 along with a few other new tomatoes. Our full plant list will be out in January, so please check back for that later.
Wishing you all a warm and happy new year.
We successfully moved our herb farm from rented land in Charlotte to the land near the greenhouses in Hinesburg. We are in the process of building tunnels that will protect the herbs spring and summer and fall. While the soil there is pretty solid clay, we have been able to amend it successfully with our beautiful compost made from plants, garden waste and spent potting soil. From solid clay to solid gold.
And we built a new wash station for packing the herbs and other future projects. It is a nice and cozy space, right next to Family Cow Farmstand.
We are so looking forward to next spring. Already, our attentions are turned to new gardens, new varieties, and new people. This time of reflection and transition from one year to the next is filled with gratitude for me. Thank you customers, friends, and all the fine people who make up Team Red Wagon.
Saturday, November 4th, 2017
11 am to 3 pm
In this workshop, Nina Foster will take you on a journey through the world of the autumn, wild crafted wreath. Her beloved Trillium Finch wreaths are a totem to nature that come into the home each fall, bringing with them a touch of nature's everlasting bounty to anchor us through the dark months of winter.
Learn to make one of these beautiful creations using materials from gardens, forests, fields, and personal adventures. Participants are encouraged to bring with them any special seed pods, branches, stones, crystals, feathers or other special objects they would like to incorporate into their designs. All materials will be supplied to make a wreath, but a special object with personal meaning makes each person's creation truly special. We love to team up with Nina - her special take on gardening and flowers are a perfect way to bridge gardening and nature and art.
About our presenter....
Nina Foster has a life long love for all things flora and fauna. Raised in rural Vermont, she spent much of her time wandering through the picturesque fields, meadows and forests, foraging, gathering and harvesting flowers, weeds, grasses and vine.Nina followed her older sister to Washington State in her twenties. She landed in the stunningly beautiful Skagit Valley where she settled, married and started a family. Wanting to be home with her daughter, here, she began Trillium Finch, a small flower farm and design studio. She grew all of the unique blooms and foliages she loved for her design work and she spent her time selling at farmers markets, delivering to local businesses and collaborating on events.Over the years Nina has trained and worked with some of the floral industries finest, including designers, Amy Merrick, Susan McLeary of Passion Flower, Jill Rizzo of Studio Choo and her dear friend, Erin Benzakein, of Floret. Nina is currently part of ‘Team Floret’ and travels to Washington State to assist at Floret work shops throughout the growing season.In 2011, Nina, her husband, John, their daughter, Lily, and constant companion, Star, the Australian Shepard, relocated back to her home state of Vermont. They reside in Hinesburg where Nina is thrilled to be preparing Trillium Finch’s first Vermont flower patch! You can follow Nina’s journey on Instagram @ninadfoster.
Workshop fee of $75 includes all materials, a light lunch, and a hand out.
Space is limited, please register here.
This cool rainy weather has me reaching for sage a little more. It adds warmth and depth to so many dishes.
Here is a super quick and easy soup you can make any night of the week:
Simmer whole leaves of sage in broth in a pot, on low on the back of the stove. In another pot, sauté onions, garlic, carrots until tender and starting to caramelize. Remove (and discard) the sage from the broth and add the infused broth to the vegetables. Add any of these options: shredded cooked chicken, cooked beans, small pasta or rice (cooked), diced tempeh or tofu. Just before serving, add a handful or two of fresh spinach, chopped parsley, and a few grates of lemon zest. Very easy weeknight soup.
I also love to use sage with roasted meats, chicken and vegetables. I stuff whole handfuls of sage inside the cavity of a chicken before roasting it. Add a lemon, a few cloves of garlic, salt and pepper, and it will add tons of flavor to your chicken. I also like to finely chop 5 or so leaves of sage along with 2 cloves of garlic, a teaspoon or two of lemon zest, and and a 1/2 teaspoon of coarse salt. I just smash and chop it all into a paste right on the cutting board, but you could also put it in a food processor or use a mortar and pestle. Then I toss washed and chopped root vegetables with this mixture, drizzle everything with olive oil, toss again, and roast in a preheated 400F oven for about 40 -45 minutes, until soft and caramelized. Or I will take the lemon / sage mixture and rub it all over a pork roast or beef roast before it heads into a hot oven.
These are all simple things to make in big batches so that you can use leftovers for lunches or hurried week night dinners.
If you aren't able to harvest sage out of your own garden, you can find ours at Market, Healthy Living Market and Cafe, Shelburne Supermarket, Lantman's Market, Natural Provisions Market & Deli, and Hunger Mountain Co-op. Warm up and enjoy! We will sell bulk herbs (1/2 a pound or more)directly to customers if you arrange it ahead of time. We have thyme, rosemary, sage, savory, marjoram, oregano, and mint. This is a great way to dry and put away herbs for the winter. I keep paper bags of herbs loosely closed all winter long.
What are you most happy with in your garden this year? I just moved houses and had to say good bye to one home garden, and hello to another, so my vegetable gardening was primarily limited to the display garden at the greenhouses. But there was much to learn and observe there. A few new varieties, and a few old favorites. It is always a balance to choose new things but also to crave the comfort of the old and dependable varieties. Here's a run down of what I want to note for next year's choices.
First, the tomatoes. We planted 8 new tomato varieties in the display garden this year. All were from California tomato breeder Bradley Gates at Wild Boar Farm. I found all of them to be quite productive and ranging in flavor from very good to excellent. Here's a run down of my experience with them (and I would love to hear about yours if you grew them):
Solar Flare- my favorite for flavor. Shape was a little strange and there was a fair amount of zippering, but the flavor was well balanced and the texture was juicy - perfect for salads. A little too juicy and oddly shaped for sandwiches.
For looks, I really liked Michael Polan. It is similar to a green zebra in flavor, but a minty green color when sliced open, and a cutely tapered shape. This is a saladette sized tomato, perfect sliced in half and tossed into a mixed salad where it keeps its shape and gives you a little surprise when you bite into it.
Precocious award goes to Pork Chop. It was ready long before the others, and in this cold season, I was surprised to get a fairly large tomato so quickly. It is yellow, a slightly flattened round shape, and very meaty. Very few seeds in this one.
I loved the two cherrys we grew - Barry's Crazy Cherry was, and still is, covered in yellow, tapered fruit. Really covered, actually fully draped, in clusters of yellow fruit. Napa Rosé was a small pink cherry tomato. Also a good producer but only not anything extra ordinary in terms of flavor.
And my absolute favorite of all of them was Berkeley Pink Tie Dyed. This was a very early tomato as well with a large, dark pink tomatoes with a faint green striping. They were unusual looking but well shaped, and they have a really good balance of meaty flesh that holds together and sweet juicy-ness. They were ready early and have kept on producing all season.
The Black and Brown Boar and Brad's Black Heart were also both excellent in terms of flavor, but they produced fewer fruit. Both are Oxheart type tomatoes - bulbous with a slightly pointed shape at the blossom end. My favorite tomato bite of the year was probably the very last slice of Brad's Black Heart I ate last week. Something about the September heat really brought out this tomato's flavor. It was so sweet and juicy and lively in a salad. But both of these tomatoes have fairly thick and tough skins. Not a quality I love. I do wonder if in a warmer season they might have thinner skins. I certainly felt like I needed a thicker skin this summer.
Some other successes to note:
Happy Rich Broccolini gave us a solid stand of broccoli shoots all spring, summer, and is still going strong into the fall. It is best to cut it back once or twice a week to keep it from flowering. And really would benefit from daily harvest, but who has time for that? I prepared the shoots in quick stir fries with scallions or garlic and sesame oil. Or roughly chopped them and threw them into salads raw. They stay very tender when picked regularly and are nothing like raw broccoli, which frankly, can feel like you are chewing on forest floor.
The Old Timey Blue collards were very pretty to look at and are delicious braised in broth. I found that they were a little too tough to simply sautee or stir fry. They needed the moisture from steaming or braising to soften up their texture. But their flavor makes up for it. It is earthy and satisfying and not too cabbage like. I just made some braised in chicken broth with thyme and new potatoes (I chopped the potatoes into half inch dice, simmered them in broth with thyme stems for about 8 minutes, added the finely sliced and de-stemmed collard leaves, and simmered an additional 10-12 minutes). It is a great dish to keep in the fridge for a quick meal, with a poached egg, or a piece of cheese; wholesome and grounding.
The star of the summer though has been the cut flowers. We grew so many new varieties. Some of my favorites were the lisianthus, the carnations, the scabiosas, and the dahlias. I also loved the new coral amaranth and the tall jester marigold. So many bouquets came out of a very small area all summer and they are still going strong. I am really recommending a small cutting garden to every customer I talk to next spring. Twelve or sixteen plants, planted on 8" centers take up only a few square feet of your garden's real estate but will give you a disproportionate amount of joy and bounty.
I will leave you with this beautiful image taken by a customer, Joannah Ralston. It is her harvest of Lavender 'Phenomenal' flowers. This is another new-ish variety for us, bred by Pennsylvania grower, Loyd Tavern. It is a huge plant, just covered in blooms, and best of all, it can take all the cold and all the heat and all the rain and all the dry that a Vermont summer dishes out. That is true resilience. Thank you for sharing your gorgeous bounty with us, Joannah.
9 am to 1 pm
Who wants to come play with buckets and buckets of cut flowers? We are so excited to invite you to part 2 of our Cut Flower Growing Workshop Series. Come join Nina Foster and friends for a flower filled 4 hour workshop. We will go over harvesting and post harvest care of your cut flowers. Then, we will spend the bulk of our time making magical arrangements that will take your breath away and that you can take home with you. Nina will demonstrate pro techniques for making a loose, flowing and wild arrangement, and will support each participant in making their own lush bouquet. Come and meet like-minded flower friends! This workshop will sell out quickly, and space is limited. We cannot wait to see you! $120 workshop fee includes all materials, flowers, and a light lunch. Please register here by purchasing your workshop slot.
Last Tuesday, we had our first "Make and Take Evening". It was super fun. We got to show off our plants, and every one who attended had fun picking out a container and choosing plants that fit their taste and style. It was such a treat to see how different all the planters turned out and felt inspired at seeing the plants through other people's eyes. And a giant double rainbow framed the whole thing towards the end of the evening. We will be sure to do this event again, so keep your eyes peeled for announcements about it. And if you have an idea for a specific project, let us know about it!
Memories bubble up in spring. They just do. One of mine, spurred on by a conversation with Aubrey in the milk house, is of my dad's first lettuce harvest each spring. He would return from the garden, victorious, with a huge head of green butter lettuce, and I vaguely remember polaroid pictures taken to mark the occasion, with dates scrawled on them proudly announcing what day they were picked. These were big, beautiful heads, full of crunch and texture and flavor. Picture worthy, long before Instagram and Facebook. I have shaped Red Wagon, in part, so that all of you can recreate this small joy and feel the thrill of the first lettuce harvest.
If you need a little help with your lettuce growing, here are some tips. There are three ways to grow lettuce:
- For proper, full heads, transplant individual seedlings 10-12 inches apart. It is easy...grab a 4 pack, transplant it, water once a week or so. Wait a few weeks, and boom, like magic, you have 4 large, juicy heads of lettuce. The best varieties for head lettuce: Romaine, Red Batavian, Green Leaf, Red Leaf, Merveille des Quatre Saison, Green Buttercrunch, Red Buttercrunch, Nevada Summer Crisp, Reine des Glaces.
- For mesclun style lettuce that you cut at the baby stage, it is best to start from seed. We sell a few seed mixes that will give you a nice variety of texture and color. Make a shallow trench, sprinkle in seeds (about 4-5 seeds per inch), barely cover with soil, pat down firmly and keep well watered until germination. After that, water about twice a week.
- For picking mid-sized leaves over the course of a few weeks, plant seedlings 4-6" apart. Use two or three 4-packs for a good patch that will give you greens for a while. The best varieties for this are green leaf, red leaf, red oak, green oak, forellenschluss, Nevada summer crisp.
Lettuce likes cool temperatures, a fair amount of moisture and it will grow quickly with a little extra fertility in the form of compost, Compost Plus, or a small amount of an organic fertilizer such as Pro-Gro. Some lettuces are more tolerant of heat, and some go to seed fairly quickly once warm weather hits. We grow certain ones just for summer plantings.
We grow 20 types of lettuce. My favorites for spring are Green Buttercrunch, Red Batavian, and Romaine - those are the ones I like to plant from mid-April to mid-June. Then for the summer plantings, mid-June to mid-August, I like Nevada Summer Crisp, Reine des Glaces, and Forellenschluss. In mid-August, I switch back to cooler weather varieties such as Merveille des Quatres Saison, Green Oak, and Red Oak.
It is possible to harvest fresh salad greens from a Vermont garden from mid-May to mid-December by planting new seedlings or seeding a new row every two weeks or so. I try to plant at least one or two 4 packs of salad greens of some sort (escarole, radicchio, arugula or lettuce) every week. This way, they are never bitter or tough in texture. The key to good salads is small but regular plantings. My first planting of lettuce is usually around April 10th and my last is planting is usually September 10th or so. Once cold weather hits, the lettuce can just hold in the garden, and it does not go to seed. I like to make my last 2 plantings extra big - like 32 heads of lettuce, and that way, I can pick them all fall. That is my lettuce wisdom, for what it is worth, and wishing you all...
It feels especially good to have hands in dirt this spring.
We have lots of lovely plants to show off this week! Here is a little show and tell.
I want to do a little summer dreaming and walk you through the new tomato varieties we are growing this year and invite you to join our Red Wagon Research Team! These tomatoes are all varieties that have been developed and selected by tomato plant breeder, Bradley Gates in Napa, California. These are tomatoes that have been either selected over the years from existing open-pollinated heirloom varieties, or they are varieties that Bradley has hybridized over many generations. They are not technically heirlooms because they have not been around a long time, but they have the color and flavor of what people associate with heirloom varieties.
Our thoughts are wandering to late August, when we grab that warm fruit, and bite in, dripping juices down our chin and arms. Maybe a little salt shaker will find its way into the garden tool box. Let us know if you want to help us track the results of these new varieties. We would love to get customer feedback about these exciting new tomatoes.
Gardening is a good way to stay on track, to remember what matters most. As Ralph Waldo Emerson wrote in his journal
I have confidence in the laws of morals as of botany. I have planted maize in my field every June for seventeen years and I never knew it to come up strychnine. My parsley, beet, turnip, carrot, buck-thorn, chestnut, acorn, are as sure. I believe that justice produces justice, and injustice injustice.
I came across that citation while reading Mary Oliver's newest book of essays, Upstream. Like many of you, I have been looking for order and calm lately. Her writing always hits the spot. If gardening is a place of integrity, as in, "what you do is what you get", how do we recreate that in winter, when our gardens are frozen and under snow? I visited a friend this weekend who has a little plant corner in her kitchen. Two small seats and a few tables arranged around and in front of the seats that are covered in dozens of plants: a fig tree, a robust amaryllis, orchids, poinsettias, and more greet her each morning when she has her coffee. It is a charming and soothing place, where thoughts can wander and creativity can flourish. I am trying to recreate that in my house. Maybe you are too.
Winter is a time when ideas foment and form, taking shape in the spaces opened by rest and restoration. It is the perfect time to plan the garden, to make lists, to revisit the names of favorite plants and secure their hold in the future garden of your imagination. I hope you are pouring over catalogs as we have been. A few of our favorites: Johnny's Selected Seeds, High Mowing Seeds, Select Seeds (for unusual annuals), Seed Savers' Exchange for heirloom vegetables, Native Seeds/SEARCH, and many more. We love providing our customers with new varieties to try each year; many of them are very old varieties, but they are new to us. We love to hear suggestion too, so please let us know if there is anything you would like to see us grow.
Another way I like to bring the garden inside for winter is with dried herbs. Dried peppermint, steeped for a few minutes, is just the right thing most evenings. Lemon balm, lemon verbena, tulsi, anise hyssop, bronze leaf fennel, and nettles dried and stored in jars or paper bags are a nice addition to the pantry. They are easy to grow in the garden or in pots, and can be dried by hanging in a warm, dark, airy place like an attic or barn. I also use dried herbs from the garden in all kinds of soups, stews, roasted meats and roasted veggies. I harvest big branches of sage, thyme, rosemary and oregano in the fall, put them in a basket, and just leave them on the counter, replenishing from a bigger stash that is stored in paper bags to stay out of the sun.
Here are a few of our favorite recipes this time of year that use up some of those dried herbs:
Cooking slow, flavorful meals is just part of the garden's contribution to these dark days. This year, it all feels extra important to find time to recharge our batteries and keep clear sight of our community and values. Gardening can be civic in nature. People grow gardens for all kinds of reasons - to beautify their home and neighborhood, to feed their family healthy food, to donate to food pantries, to stay active, to stay connected to other gardeners, to teach their kids where food comes from. They are all good reasons. Whenever I travel to a city or town, I try to find a community garden to walk through, exploring the patchwork quilt of living plants and people. Community gardening is the perfect expression of our pluralistic society. We can see garden styles from all over the world in one tiny place. We can see people sharing food, land and kind words. If I had to pick one place that demonstrates, over and over, that this experiment of democracy can work, it would easily be the urban community garden. If you are a suburban or rural gardener who does not need to join a community garden, see if you can take the time this summer to walk through one of Burlington's (or Montreal's if you are headed north) vibrant community gardens. If you are already involved in community gardening, I hope you feel a renewed appreciation for all it represents. Enjoy each other.
And if you would like to contribute or find out more about community gardening in Burlington, please contact Vermont Community Garden Network, New Farms for New Americans or Burlington Area Community Gardens.
I recently spent 9 days in France, visiting family. Highlights of the trip - eating cheese and visiting some beautiful grocery stores. My sister lives in Haute Savoie, which is a region tucked between Lac Lehman (the lake that separates parts of France and Switzerland) and the French Alps. It is a beautiful place, a little like Vermont in that there are mountains and a lake, but the mountains are huge and breath taking, dominating every cloudless day with punctuation marks on the horizon that command attention.
My brother-in-law, sister and niece are opening a cozy little restaurant in their town of Thonon-les-Bains, and I had a chance to visit the week before they officially open. Running restaurant-related errands sent us to some gorgeous grocery stores and I just have to share a few pictures with you. Produce, in France, is treated like semi-precious stones. Vegetables are grown with strict standards, they are handled carefully during harvest and post-harvest wash, and are displayed lovingly. I found some inspiration here, and it will make the winter that much shorter.
About four years ago, we added a new activity to Red Wagon Plants, growing herbs for grocery stores and a couple of distributors and restaurants. We called it "Lady Farm" amongst ourselves because we wanted to debunk some of the stereotypes of local farming and also because we were (and are) all women running it. The "Lady Farm" name has stuck internally, but our herbs are sold under the "Red Wagon Herbs" brand. Today, while harvesting with Samantha, Sarah, and Lily, it occurred to me that while I may still be shedding a tear or two about the election, I am really proud that we have been able to start this venture and keep expanding it each year. Our "Lady Farm" involves growing crops that are not heavy to lift, most of the tools and deliveries fit handily in the back of my car, and there is very little machinery required. While I know all of this plays into gender stereotypes, I am happy to have a farm activity that I can do into my dotage, and that each day of harvest is an immersion into aromatherapy. And frankly, we know we are not hurting anyone and we are maybe even bringing a little joy to someone's kitchen. While we haven't achieved Global Matriarchy yet, we have settled into a nice groove with Lady Farm, and for that I am grateful.
Here are a few things I like to do with herbs around this time of year....
Herb Salts Grind herb leaves in a mortar and pestle with coarse sea salt. Pour into cute jars, make a tag or label, and bravo to you making a perfect little hostess gift. Herbs to try: rosemary, thyme, sage, savory, and lavender. Try just doing one herb at a time, and if you do a mix, stick to classic combinations. Use herb salts on steamed or braised vegetables, any grain or potato dish, roasted meats, poached fish. Pretty much anywhere. Even to garnish a dressed green salad.
Herb Butter Let a stick of butter come to room temperature until slightly softened. Finely chop parsley or sage or rosemary or thyme. Mash the finely chopped herbs into the butter, add a few pinches of salt, and a teaspoon or so of lemon zest. Scoop into a dish, cover and refrigerate; or roll into a log with plastic wrap and freeze. I like to slather herb butter onto cooked winter squash, or finish a pasta dish with it, or toss with hot rice, or add to a baked potato, or top a piece of fish with it right before sending it under the broiler, or elevate the humble steamed vegetable. Herb butter is a great thing to have on hand. You can make it in bigger batches, and pull out the frozen log as needed, just slicing a piece off as you go.
Herb Stock When making any kind of broth or stock (chicken, beef, vegetable), I always add handfuls of herbs for added flavor and depth. It is okay to leave the herbs in there for hours, they won't be too strong. Your whole house will smell divine and it is a great way to use the stems and stalks that might otherwise get discarded.
Roasted Vegetables with sage, thyme, and rosemary. I drizzle olive oil, sprinkle sea salt, and crumble dried rosemary, sage, and thyme over carrots, parsnips, squash, turnips, and onions that are slated to roast at about 400F for 45 minutes. This is the easiest fall and winter side dish. And nice enough for the holiday table.
Herbal Face Steam Try placing a few sprigs of sage or rosemary in a large bowl, fill with a quart of two of boiling water, and sit with your face above the bowl, a towel over your head. This is a great way to clean your pores, clear your sinuses and lift your spirits.
Herb Bouquets Leave herbs in a small vase with about an inch or two of water on your kitchen counter. They smell great, and will be a visual reminder to use your herbs. Do not let them linger and wither in the fridge, they deserve a seat at the table.
It is early August, and I am more excited than ever to get in the garden. Why? Because this is just the right time to spend a quick 15 to 30 minutes planting a few things that will feed you in September, October, November, and even December. We have all the plants and seeds you need to make that happen in a way that will feel really good during those cool autumn days. Here is a quick guide for the fall vegetable garden. You can also sign up for our fall gardening workshop described below if you are looking for a little more guidance.
Spinach - you can plant either seeds or plants up until early September. Around September 10th, a row of seeds can go in the ground that you will harvest in early spring. The seeds will germinate this fall, and grow a bit, but don't harvest them. Just cover them with some straw in December, uncover them in early April, and the sweetest spinach awaits you. It is called "Overwintered Spinach". You've probably seen it in local food stores in early spring and wondered how it can be so sweet. The trick is cold weather.
Lettuce and arugula- plants can go in the ground until mid-September or so. Really. That means you have easily another 6 weeks to keep planting fresh greens for your salads. And another 3 months or more to continually harvest those greens. Seeds can go in the ground until early September / late August.
Scallions - plants can go in the ground until early September.
Beets - you have another 3 weeks or so to transplant beets and another 10 days or so to sow them from seeds.
Boc Choi and Napa Cabbage - transplant now, or as late as early September.
Broccoli - transplant anytime between now and late August (really). This will give you one big head per plant and tons of side shoots that you can snap off and throw into the wok or pan well into December.
Kale and Chard - plants can go in the ground until 3rd week of August or so. They will grow well in the fall, and kale can last into December easily (it will even come back in the spring if we have a mild winter again, but then it will go to seed May 2017 or so). Chard can only take a light frost, so it won't last through December, but it is nice to have a fresh patch of it for freezing and fall dinners. You can read about my chard gratin here.
Fennel - this is another cold hardy plant that you can transplant through August and into early September.
Radicchio, escarole, frisee - these bitter greens are very rugged and do quite well in the cold. They like to be planted by the end of August for October and November harvests. They make a perfect autumn salad with fresh pears, a nice Alpine cheese like the Tomme at our next door neighbor's Family Cow Farmstand, and a few toasted walnuts tossed with a garlicky vinaigrette.
We have all of these plants in stock from fresh plantings at our Hinesburg greenhouses. You can also find an assortment of them at City Market, Healthy Living, Gardeners' Supply, and the Montpelier Guy's Farm and Yard.