Hi friends, it’s Victoria. Last weekend we hosted the much-anticipated revival of the Scherzer/Spindler Passover tradition, and had the pleasure of a full house, a truly outstanding Seder meal, and a score of hands to help in the garden. Our beds, which have been slumbering gently under blankets of straw and sheep manure, are finally waking up and sending out sprouts, and we harvested our first rhubarb and asparagus of the year. Aside from these trusty perennials, everything else in the garden is still in its infancy, and we spent Sunday afternoon transplanting, mulching and weeding our delicate babies. If I’d been out there alone I’m sure the time would have passed slowly and felt like any other chore. But with the warm breeze, slow conversation with the whole family present, and the incredible smell of the mint beds we were working in, I can hardly imagine a better way to spend an afternoon. Truly, both weeding and weeds have an undeservedly bad reputation. Let me attempt to intervene on their behalf.
As soon as we expose the soil to prepare a new bed, dormant seeds that now have access to light begin to sprout. These plants are an incredibly useful first guard that appear to secure and protect soil that has been disturbed. The first and fastest in our beds, the clovers, work to fix nitrogen in the soil. They also send up a perfectly round first leaf, which is precious to behold and is a great source of abstract aesthetic pleasure — the raison d’être of Turkana Farms. After the clovers comes an herbaceous blanket familiar to most gardeners: dandelions, garlic mustard, nettle, chickweed and wild onion and their ilk. Seen from one angle, these species form an army that threatens to overtake a plot at the first sign of weakness. Conversely, I like to see them as my first crop.
One of the things I look forward to in the spring, with this flush of early growth, is foraging for wild greens. Currently I get to feel very romantic as I stroll beside the pond with a handmade basket, gathering violet leaves, but I did this just as often in vacant lots in my neighborhood in Raleigh, stuffing flowers into a plastic bag and trying to look like I wasn’t trespassing. My favorites from home — nettles, lamb’s quarters, and purslane — aren’t having their moment quite yet, but when I ventured forth to seek ingredients for an afternoon snack I found more than enough to meet my needs. Tender baby dandelion and violet leaves are mild, almost like spinach, and garlic mustard and wild onion are pungent and savory. Purple dead nettle has a nutty, earthy aroma, although the fine hairs keep me from eating too much of them without a quick sauté. The same qualities that make these species such formidable foes as weeds — early, fast, and constant growth — ensure a bountiful harvest once you grow to appreciate them as table greens.
Of course, you shouldn’t eat any wild plant if you aren’t sure of its identification. However, I trust the judgement of our readership implicitly, and if you have had the experience of becoming deeply acquainted with these species as foes, then you likely know them well enough to seek them out instead as food. Dina Falconi’s book Foraging and Feasting is an excellent resource, as is the truly beautiful cookbook Forage, Harvest, Feast by Marie Valjoen, and Euell Gibbon’s classic Stalking the Wild Asparagus is a must-read. If you’ve checked all of those out and you still aren’t sure, I’d love to have you over and show you firsthand.
Transformational Pesto (alternately: Revenge Pesto. Spite Pesto?)
1 basket (about 4 cups) of foraged spring greens now available in your garden and yard, roughly torn or chopped
½ cup chopped walnuts or pine nuts
½ cup shredded parmesan cheese
2 cloves chopped garlic (optional, especially if you have plenty of wild onion)
2-4 tablespoons good olive oil
Zest and juice of half a lemon
Salt and pepper
Combine the greens, walnuts, cheese and garlic in a food processor and pulse to combine loosely. Drizzle in the olive oil and lemon while blending, add salt and pepper to taste, and process until uniform. If your particular batch is too pungent for your pleasure, add more lemon and a pinch of sugar. Excellent with soft cheese on crackers, or over fresh pasta. Savor the gustatory pleasure of triumphing over your rivals.
THIS WEEK’S OFFERINGS
HORSERADISH ROOT: $5/LB
SORREL, LIMITED QUANTITIES, $2/BAG
FROM LAST FALL’S GARDEN HARVEST:
FROZEN SQUASH (SHREDDED, TROMBONCINO), GREAT FOR FRITTERS, $2/LB.
EGGS: Production is now in overdrive. We can handle all your orders. $5/doz
MEATS: We keep some on hand, but it helps to order ahead in case we need to retrieve from our stash in the big commercial freezer
GEESE: One remaining, about 8.5 lbs. $10/lb.
TURKEYS: A few small ones left over and frozen $11/lb .
GUINEA FOWL, We are sold out!
ROASTING CHICKENS – Freedom Rangers, $6/lb, range of sizes, mostly in the 4 to 5 lb. range
LAMB: Ground lamb $7/lb, shoulder roasts at $10/lb, riblets $8/lb, small and larger leg roasts $14/lb, lamb stew $7/lb
PORK: Loin pork chops, $12/lb (2 to a pack, btwn 1 and 1.5 lbs), Jowl (roughly 2 to 3 lbs each), $12/lb,
Spare ribs and country ribs $7/lb
baby back ribs $8/lb
fresh ham roasts (2 to 3 lbs), $12/lb
picnic or Boston butt roasts (roughly 2 lbs) $12/lb
smoked bacon, $12/lb
DUCKS: Two years ago we did Pekin ducks. The males are not so different in size from the females, and these are nice meaty birds, most between 5 and 7 lbs. Also $7/lb. We have to retrieve these from the big freezer, so please order a week ahead.
Email us your order at firstname.lastname@example.org, and let us know when you’d like to pick up your order. It will be put out for you on the side screened porch of the farmhouse (110 Lasher Ave., Germantown) in a bag. You can leave cash or a check in the now famous pineapple on the porch table. Regular pickup times are Saturday and Sunday from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. and 4 p.m. to 5 p.m., other days by arrangement. If you have questions, don’t hesitate to call at 518-537-3815 or email.