Gardens to Tables

Winter is time for:

Putting in a cover crop

Cover crops can help suppress weeds, manage soil erosion, help build and improve soil fertility and quality, control diseases and pests, and promote biodiversity in your garden. Some options can be found on the Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds site here.

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Welcome to Gardens to Tables
Oxbow Produce Market's Fuju Persimmon and Avocado Salad Print E-mail
Written by Ann Shepphird   

oxbow marketOne of the most fun things for me to find in any city is the public market. The town of Napa, naturally, has a wonderful one. The Oxbow Public Market offers an array of goods -- from coffee to oysters to olive oil to spices. At the Oxbow Produce and Grocery, they not only offered fresh, local and organic produce that included currently-in-season persimmons and avocados and arugula but also a great recipe that brings them all together. Below is their recipe for Fuju Persimmon and Avocado Salad. Enjoy!

Ingredients
2 tbsp fresh lemon juice
1 1/2 tsp white miso
1/4 tsp black pepper
1/8 tsp salt
1/3 cup olive oil
3 firm ripe avocados, sliced
1 pound firm ripe Fuyu persimmons, peeled, halved, thinly sliced
2 bunches arugula

Dressing
Blend lemon juice, miso, salt and pepper until smooth. With motor running, add olive oil in a slow steady stream to create emulsion.

Toss gently the sliced avocados and persimmons with the miso dressing to coat evenly.

 
Finding Farm-to-Table on Molokai Print E-mail
Written by Ann Shepphird   

Molokai FarmersAt first glance, the Hawaiian island of Molokai may not appear to have all that much to offer the farm-to-table foodie. There are only a smattering of restaurants in the main town of Kaunakakai, and two of the best feature burgers and pizza. But, like a lot of things on Molokai, dig a little deeper and you'll find an abundance of fresh local (and, yes, organic) products. For instance, that burger spot, Molokai Burger, has a sign outside stating its meat is sourced from local ranches (and the burger was yummy) and the vegetables topping the pizza at the Molokai Pizza Cafe were incredibly fresh.

The truth is the island has always been an agricultural powerhouse, with its earliest inhabitants farming taro, sweet potatoes and fish ponds more than a century ago. Heck, even the high school mascot is a farmer (above) -- and a read of the local newspaper and signs alongside the road highlights the importance of agriculture (and, as with the other Hawaiian islands, the tussle between proponents of sustainable farming and the presence of Monsanto) to the community. With most accommodations on the island coming with kitchens or kitchenettes, Molokai offers a great chance to take advantage of truly local Hawaiian offerings.

Here are some gems we discovered on a recent trip:

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The Jolly Oyster Brings Aquaculture-Farm-to-Table to Ventura's San Buenaventura State Beach Print E-mail
Written by Ann Shepphird   

Jolly OysterWhen Mark Reynolds wanted to go into the business of farming healthy, local, sustainable seafood, he quickly learned that the only real sustainable seafood option was to raise filter-feeding molluscs. So he started with oysters and clams. In addition to being sustainable, oysters are packed with vitamins and minerals and low in calories -- only about 10 calories apiece, according to Reynolds, who said that was one less than licking a stamp (and a whole lot tastier).

Reynolds and business partner Mark Venus started their venture down in Baja California in 1997 and seeded their first farm in 1999. They now have two farms producing Kumamoto and Pacific oysters and Manila clams. Many of their oysters and clams go directly to restaurants but consumers who want to buy directly from the source can now visit The Jolly Oyster at San Buenaventura State Beach in Ventura and either buy the molluscs to take home or just shuck them right there at the park -- which offers picnic benches and outdoor barbecues for a true seaside feast.

If you're interested in doing the latter, you'll need a shucking knife for the oysters (and some charcoal and a skillet, if you're going to be grilling the clams). You'll also need some sauce. Reynolds was kind enough to share his recipes for a mignonette sauce and a Thai chili sauce, both of which go great with the oysters. Even better, the ingredients include many of the things growing in our gardens. Enjoy!

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Accessing Albuquerque Agriculture Print E-mail
Written by Ann Shepphird   

Indian Pueblo farmThere are a number of things that Albuquerque has been well known for over the years, including (in very rough chronological order) a vibrant Native American culture, Route 66 and "Breaking Bad." One thing that hasn't changed is the area's rich agricultural heritage, from the farms of the early Pueblo Indians, which incorporate the "three sisters" (beans, corn and squash), to the famous chiles grown throughout the state and incorporated in New Mexican cuisine at local institutions such as El Pinto Restaurant & Salsa Company (which I wrote about here in this story on "Traditional Christmas Tamales from El Pinto" in 2011 -- and which now has its own small organic farm in the back). Here are a few other fun gardens-to-tables style finds I discovered on a recent visit:

Indian Pueblo Cultural Center: The center features a Native Fusion Culinary Tour that includes a visit to the adjacent garden highlighting Indian Pueblo gardening techniques such as the Zuni Waffle Garden (above), a tour through the museum and a feast in the Pueblo Harvest Cafe.

Abuquerque AlpacasAlbuquerque Alpacas: This alpaca farm, located not far from El Pinto Restaurant, is open to the public for ranch tours and classes. They don't have set hours so call or e-mail to set up an appointment beforehand. We were lucky enough on our recent tour to arrive just three hours after a new cria (baby alpaca) was born. Not sure there's anything cuter than this little guy (right).

Stables at Tamaya: Located at the Hyatt Regency Tamaya Resort & Spa on the Santa Ana Pueblo outside of Albuquerque, the Stables at Tamaya offer trail rides, a summer rodeo every Friday night and also serve as the home for the Horse Rehab program, which works to save abandoned and neglected horses in the region. It should be noted the hotel also offers a locally inspired and sourced restaurant, the Corn Maiden, which I wrote about here in this article on "A Focus on New Mexico's Best at the Corn Maiden" in 2012.

Los PoblanosLos Poblanos Historic Inn & Organic Farm: Just outside the city proper in Los Ranchos de Albuquerque, Los Poblanos is a working lavender farm that also offers a 20-room inn (full gourmet breakfast included), La Merienda Restaurant (which has its own kitchen garden and beehive), a farm store and a number of workshops open to the public. We attended a lavender distillation workshop with Farmer Kyle (pictured) that included lessons on how to grow and harvest lavender and time spent watching the distillation process itself. And, yes, that is as mellow-inducing an experience as it sounds.

 
Chef Tylun Pang on "What Maui Likes to Eat" Print E-mail
Written by Ann Shepphird   

Chef Pang on farmMaui food. I only have to say the words and your mouth begins to water thinking of all the fresh products -- from local fish to Maui onions -- available on the island, doesn't it? Obviously, the best way to get Maui food is to, well, go to Maui -- and enjoy it yourself at one of island's many food outlets, which range from local stands to fine dining restaurants (some of which were featured in our story "Celebrating Agricultural Abundance on the Island of Maui").

A new one to add to the list is Ko at the Fairmont Kea Lani, Maui, which translates to "sugar cane" in Hawaiian, and celebrates both the agricultural abundance of the island and the mix of cultures that came together during the plantation era. Even better, Ko's executive chef, Tylun Pang (pictured above at Otani Farms), sources 90 percent of his produce from regional farms, including Hali'imaile Farms, Escobedo Farms, Kula Farms, Keaau Farms, Evonuk Farms, CN Farms, Allen Nago Farms, Anuhea Farms, Kamuela Farms, Shishido Farms, Pacific Produce and Island Paradise Farms. As Chef Pang says, "Listening to the farmers and fishermen and their stories helps me understand what they produce and what's being caught. I can then use my knowledge and training to take the flavors to the next level."

For those who'd like to bring some of those flavors home, Chef Pang has a book called "What Maui Likes to Eat" (click on the Amazon link on the right if you'd like to order) that is filled with recipes and stories from the island. Even better, 100 percent of the sales from the book are donated to the local culinary academy on Maui. And, Chef Pang was kind enough to share one of his signature recipes with us. See below for his Kobe Beef Poke, which uses island favorites such as Kula onion, Maui raw sugar, Hawaiian alaea salt and Japanese cucumber. Enjoy!

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