Sunday, March 14, 2010

In the Beginning - Hints of Green at Restoration Farm

The storm is hellacious – belligerent wind and soaking rain. Nature is throwing a chilling late-winter tantrum. Yet, in a well-lit basement work area, a small group of volunteers is painstakingly focused on the promise of sun-drenched organic vegetables. The first CSA pickup is months away. Sometime in early June, members will arrive at the Restoration Farm distribution tent, and delight in that first look and taste of tender greens. Some may never consider how the journey of that verdant lettuce, hearty kale or sweet crimson beets began.

Head Grower Caroline Fanning is instructing a group of volunteers in the process of seeding. She is carefully organized with detailed lists, labeled flats and packets of seeds grouped together. Seed flats are stacked tall throughout the room, each packed with soil and designated for a specific food crop, herb or flower.

I’m given the task of sowing seeds for Red Ace beets. Each compartment of the flat must be “dimpled” to receive the seeds. I plunge an index finger into the cold soil to make the indentation. Larger seeds require deeper holes.

Caroline gives me an index card folded into a v-shape. From the index card holder, two gnarled beet seeds are dropped into each hole. I seed eight flats in total. If all goes well, once the Red Ace seeds germinate and are planted at Restoration Farm they should be ready for harvest in mid-June for use in a Roasted Beet and Goat Cheese Salad. Can’t you taste it already?

Head Grower Dan Holmes arrives with Glen and Caroline’s grandfather George. They work to finish the flats – topping them off with more soil. There are flower seeds to be sown. It is eye-straining work. The flower seeds are tiny – some even dust-like.

Restoration Farm Head Growers Dan Holmes and Caroline Fanning, George and T.W. in the greenhouse.

Outside in the greenhouse, onions, leeks and scallions seeded several weeks earlier have begun to sprout.

The aromatic onion is the foundation for so many dishes. The onion has been cultivated for more than 5000 years, but even today is still seeded by hand at Restoration Farm. The fragile green tops of these aromatics are just one signal of the cultivation, the labor and flavor still to come.

©2010 T.W. Barritt All Rights Reserved


tasteofbeirut said...

I am reading this and dreaming of how one day I would invite this whole gang of you to come to Lebanon and spread your knowledge and have the fun of your life!

The Chef In My Head said...

I'm so thankful it's time to plant! Just started our garden with tomatoes, peppers, tomatillos and herbs. Great post, thank you!!! ~LeslieMichele

Julia said...

So exciting! I just planted my beets last week. Though, I was not as meticulous about planting only 2 seeds per few inches.

A Feast for the Eyes said...

I was just thinking about you and Restoration Farm! My public CSA (local farmstand, open to the public) down my road already shows signs of life. I can hardly wait for fresh, organic veggies. I love celeriac, too. It's ugly, but fun to work with. Spring has arrived in the Salinas Valley of California!

Fresh Local and Best said...

This post makes me think of all the wonderful food will be arriving at the farmer's market in a few months!!! And it also reminds me of all the hard work of dedicated farmers.

veron said...

Looks like really chilly weather you guys have out there. But the hints of greens are a sign of spring and warmer weather ahead. Everyone looks like they are having fun!

~~louise~~ said...

I'm sorry T.W. I had to chuckle when I saw that index card of seeds. I was wondering how you've adjusted to "dirty" hands:)

I'm really on the fence about planting veggies this year. There is such an abundance of crops available within walking distance of the house. As soon as things starting sprouting around here, I'll be able to walk down the block for dinner. Sooooo Cooool....

I just know you are going to enjoy the full pleasures of Restoration Farm this year. I hear the weather has been horrendous in New York and yet all of you seem to be having such sowing fun!!!

I look forward to you sharing each and every detail and of course the recipes:) I can smell them now since my cold seems to have completely vanished.

Thanks for sharing, T.W. Another delightful post:)

Lydia (The Perfect Pantry) said...

This is just the type of optimistic post I needed to read on this wet and windy day. There is nothing as hopeful as planting seeds, especially when you know you'll be eating the results in just a few months. I'm looking forward to reading reports from Restoration Farm this summer.

Mary said...

This was a terrific post, T.W. We are all anxious for farm boxes to start arriving. In the meantime, it's nice to know how it's done and what it takes to get those treasures to us.

A Canadian Foodie said...

LOOKS BEAUTIFUL! You have me in the mood to get started in my garden... the snow is ALMOST gone!

My Carolina Kitchen said...

It must be very rewarding to start plants from seeds T.W. Personally I've never had the patience, but I didn't have the knowledge you're getting there either.

This winter has been very harsh and I know you are looking forward to spring.

Working on this project must make you feel like you're contributing so much towards organic gardening. The patience and persistence of farmers is amazing.

Stacey Snacks said...

My chives are up in the garden and the crocuses too.
I am hopeful that spring will be here soon!

lostpastremembered said...

How wonderful to support this small agriculture.. they are the future... down with giant agra busiiness!

T.W. Barritt at Culinary Types said...

Taste - we would love to visit!

LeslieMichele - good luck with your planting!

Julia - can't wait to see what you do with your beets this season.

Debby - I wish we had the wonderful, long season that you do.

Christine - see you at Union Square!

Veron - all of the volunteer efforts have been great.

Louise - Those first two fingers needed a lot of scrubbing. I brought along latex gloves, but didn't think that was in the spirit of the farm!

Lydia - we needed some optimism after all that rain.

Mary - I do enjoy the story behind the scenes - it adds to the good taste!

Canadian Foodie - spring is almost here!

Sam - this is new for me. I really don't have time to maintain a garden, but its wonderful to have a place to flex those muscles from time to time.

Stacey - sounds like a chive and crocus salad is in the works!

Lost Past - I think the best thing about the local farm is the relationship you get to have with the farmer.

~~louise~~ said...

Latex gloves sound more like you T.W. Although, not quite the same as digging in the dirt bare handed I'm afraid:)

Happy St. Patty's Day! Good luck with the nettle's search:)