Sunday, June 05, 2011

Field of Greens at Restoration Farm

The heat wave has broken, the haze has cleared, and I wake to a glorious late spring morning. It is not just the rejuvenating weather that makes me smile. It is my first distribution of vegetables at Restoration Farm and the abundance of fresh spring greens brings a sense of renewal and promise as well.

I arrive early to help with the morning harvest. I am more experienced after several years as a CSA member, but there is more I can do. I am committed to helping more at the farm this season, learning about pasture raised chickens and fresh herbs, cooking more kale in creative ways and getting to know more of the volunteers who make up the community.

I always enjoy chatting with head grower Dan Holmes to get insights into the rhythms of the farm. The addition of animals has changed the pace. There are more people passing through, and there’s a level of excitement. And he, as the farmer, is constantly gauging and assessing and building on the collective events and experiences that take root in the soil. The farm is ever a work in progress.

Dan pairs me up with Leslie, a regular volunteer, and we begin to harvest spinach. I’ve never picked spinach before, and Leslie teaches me that you pick the large, outer leaves, allowing the new leaves to fill in the center of the plant. I learn that Leslie has a brick oven, loves to read books about food, and wants to learn more about baking bread. We agree to compare notes. A warm breeze buffets the field, tugging at my t-shirt as I stoop to gather spinach. In a short time, we have filled four milk crates with luscious green leaves.

Next we are joined by Dennis and move to the field of kale and Swiss chard.

We pluck the leaves and gather them into large bouquets for the afternoon distribution.

We take a jaunty ride on the back hatch of the truck to the garlic field at the north end of the historic village. I haven’t visited the field since last October when we planted hundreds of cloves. Now, the tall green shoots are waist high. We harvest the long curly garlic scapes at the center of each cluster. My fingers are fragrant with garlic.

Our pastured chickens are showing great progress. I’m amazed at how quickly they’ve grown in a few short weeks, simply by foraging in the fields.

Tricia, who is managing the Hardscrabble Chickens project, has been researching techniques and learning as much as she can to assure the best possible results when the first share of chickens is harvested. There is already a second flock of broilers in the brooder that will soon move to the field. It is a rare and special opportunity to be able to have a conversation with someone who has put so much thought, care, energy and enthusiasm into raising a product that I will eventually cook and eat.

There is an unexpected pleasure. While they weren’t anticipated for a week or two, the strawberries in the Sweet Field have ripened quickly in the past several days. I eat my first warm, juicy berry in the field and leave with a brimming quart of dazzling red fruit.

At the afternoon distribution the tables are a vision of greens.

For my evening meal, I celebrate the first spring harvest with an enormous just-picked salad of fresh spinach leaves garnished with orange slices, red onion and hard cooked egg. I eat the strawberries for dessert, au natural.

Greetings to the 2011 growing season at Restoration Farm. It feels just like a warm and welcoming spring sunrise.

©2011 T.W. Barritt All Rights Reserved


Sam Hoffer / My Carolina Kitchen said...

Ah, lovely rewards for a day picking in the fields. I like your spinach salad with the oranges. So colorful.

~~louise~~ said...

Happy Sunday, T.W!

I just had to smile to myself when I "heard" you say you "hitched a ride on the back hatch of the truck to the garlic field:)

It appears you are really digging in to the workings of the fields at Restoration Farm this year. You, T.W. are no longer a "newbie."

Your salad looks refreshing and yes, I agree, the first harvest of strawberries is best "au natural."

Thank you so much for sharing...Have FUN!!!

Christine (Cook the Story) said...

You've made me long for a nearby CSA. How I miss harvesting! I really love your pictures on this post. Brilliant green green green green then those red red strawberries.

Julia said...

What a wonderful day! It's always interesting to see how the NY farms are a few weeks ahead of us in MA... still no garlic scapes for us.

tasteofbeirut said...

I envied your day outdoors but I know I would be the lazy one, finding a shaded tree and waiting for the others to kneel and pick! Nice harvest, I was thinking of all the stuff I would make with these fabulous greens. Great salad by the way~

Fresh Local and Best said...

Boy do I wish I lived close to Restoration Farm. It must be an amazing delight to harvest produce that you have dedicated so much time and effort. The garlic scapes and strawberries are beautiful.

Deana Sidney said...

TW I am so jealous... that farm looks like heaven. How remarkable to be a part of your food chain. Don't get me started about the chicks... too too adorable.

alfred p said...

When I was little kid, we had a mixed German Shepherd named Jo. Maybe because she never had puppies of her own, she loved to play with all kinds of animals, especially little ones like kittens. One Easter, my parents gave me three baby chicks--they thought we could keep them in the backyard until they got big and then give them away. Jo loved the chicks; she used to sleep near and lick them like she was cleaning her babies. One day she cleaned them so well, she licked off all their feathers and they died.

veron said...

Looks like you are having so much fun! and look at those little chicks! Can't wait for you to harvest your chicken. ;)

Barbara said...

A true pleasure to read this post, TW! I love your Restoration Farm articles. Can't wait to see what you'll do with those delightful greens!

Gloria Baker said...

Look special and amazing! gloria

Stacey Snacks said...

Hi TW,
Was in the Hamptons last week and had the BEST strawberries ever! I have so many scapes in my garden not sure what to do with them anymore!