Thursday, July 31, 2014

Farm Fresh Dining

Storms can wreak havoc for gardeners.  A few nights ago, I listened to howling winds and crashing thunder while lightning flashed like strobe lighting.  Worried about my plants, so close to producing long-awaited fruits and vegetables, I hoped they would survive the night.

Pepper Plant, Damaged by Storm
The next day, I found plenty to do at Heart & Sole Gardens and luckily, my nephew, Ben, helped with labor.  A late Hopi corn crop, with plants about 2 1/2 feet tall and leaning in every direction, looked like a helicopter hovered above it.  I used a fire rake to pull soil close to the base of each plant as Ben and I straightened the stalks.  Next, we tackled pepper plants, many of which were lying flat.  After adding more stakes, I tied plants to secure them while Ben trimmed large leaves from the bases.  I was especially disturbed to see toppled tomato cages, heavy with the weight of huge plants, and unripe fruit scattered about.  Together, Ben and I lifted the massive plants and added stake supports and strong ties to help secure them from possible future storms.  After repairing damage as best we could, we harvested a few ripe tomatoes and peppers and my first squash and cucumbers of the season.  I really needed to weed and prune the okra, but I was afraid if I worked Ben too much, he might never come back to the farm . . .

Back at home, I picked blueberries before finally calling it quits for the day.  Too tired to plan and cook a meal, I looked at my harvest and knew it was going to be an eat-from-the-butcher-block evening.  Sometimes, after Richard and I work long hours at the farm, we prepare simple meals and eat while standing at the antique butcher block, which serves as a kitchen island.  I suppose we are afraid if we sit to dine, we might just fall asleep, face down in our plates!

Cherry tomatoes, tossed in fresh herbs, oil and vinegar
Taking scissors and a small bowl, I snipped fresh parsley, thyme, rosemary, basil, oregano and sage from the herb bed and tossed them in the bowl.  Noticing blooming oregano, I cut some of those blossoms, along with beautiful borage and nasturtium flowers.  Back in the kitchen, I chopped herbs, sliced some colorful cherry tomatoes and tossed both in a bowl with a splash of herbed vinegar and nice olive oil.  In a large skillet, I heated more olive oil and fried slices of a crusty Owl Creek Breadworks baguette I purchased from the Boone farmer's market.  Placing the bread on a foil lined baking sheet, I tossed a few chopped Chanterelle mushrooms Richard foraged in the hot oil and briefly sauteed them.  While the bread was still warm, I spread fresh chevre, also a farmer's market purchase, and topped the cheese with the mushrooms.  Finally, I added the tomato mixture and small chunks of fresh mozzarella.  After baking the bruschetta until the cheese was nicely melted, I topped each slice with the edible blossoms.
Nasturtium, Oregano & Borage blossoms add flavor & beauty

Standing at the butcher block, Richard and I savored our meal.  There was no tablecloth, no candles, no cloth napkins, crisply folded.  Heck, we didn't even have silverware.  Still, would I call it fine dining?  You betcha.
Fresh ingredients, simple preparation