eggplant

2011 CSA, beans, corn, cucumbers, eggplant, peanuts, squash, strawberries, tomatillos, tomatoes, vinaigrette, Western Wake Farmer's Market, zucchini

Strawberries and Summer Crops


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Last weekend we participated in the Western Wake Farmer’s Market Strawberry Festival. We made a creamy strawberry vinaigrette with a tossed salad, topped with fresh-picked, sustainably grown strawberries. Sadly, we didn’t have any strawberries to sell at market last week, but hopefully we will have enough for market this Saturday. We shall see. We are giving first priority to our CSA members, but any left overs will be available for market customers.

Since we ran out of vinaigrette recipe cards last Saturday, we told folks we’d post the recipe on the blog. So, here it is:

Spring Greens Salad with Creamy Strawberry Vinaigrette 
For Vinaigrette
·         1 cup chopped strawberries
·         ½ cup walnut oil
·         ¼ cup balsamic vinegar
·         2-3 Tbsp heavy cream
1. Puree or smash strawberries with a potato masher.
2. Add oil, vinegar, and heavy cream.
3. Mix well. Taste. Adjust to taste. You can add salt and pepper or you can add sugar if you like. We just keep it simple.  
Salad Ingredients 
·         Use your favorite salad greens
·         We use mesclun mix, mizuna, frisée, spinach and arugula – but we adjust according to what’s available
·         ¼ to ½ cup chopped walnuts
·         1-2 cups (depends on how much strawberry you want in your salad) chopped strawberries
1. Wash and spin salad greens.
2. Chop salad greens.
3. Add vinaigrette, chopped walnuts and strawberries.
4. Toss ingredients (or you can place strawberries separately on your plate after you’ve tossed the other ingredients to highlight the strawberries in your dish).
5. Enjoy!

As usual, we’ve been keeping fairly busy on the farm. We’ve been planting a lot of our summer crops, including cucumbers, squash, zucchini, watermelon, corn, peanuts (our first time doing this, so it may just be a personal crop), and green beans. We’ll be transplanting tomatoes, tomatillos, eggplant and peppers soon – likely later this week.

We’ve also been busily cultivating. Above is a wheel hoe. I went through the potato plants with it to keep them good and free of weeds.We also planted some flowers, which of course, are not yet ready – but here are some pretty flowers that are currently in bloom.

A gorgeous iris (not sure which variety – if anyone knows, please comment below).

This is crimson clover. Ben planted it all over the farm to help provide more nutrients for our soil. Clover is particularly helpful for fixing nitrogen in the soil. It’s also very pretty.

Well, I suppose that’s it for now. This week marks our first week of the Summer CSA. We’ll be providing CSA members with strawberries, lettuce, kale, bok choy, tat soi, spinach, arugula, Swiss chard, frisee, mizuna and dried rosemary. We’ll also include a weekly (hopefully!) newsletter with CSA shares for the first time this season. Members last year liked the blog, but wanted something a little extra. Our weekly newsletter will be an effort to meet that particular need.


If you’re interested in joining our CSA, it’s not too late! Please print out a copy of the CSA brochure (linked to the right of the screen) and mail us your first payment to Ben’s Produce;1000 McLemore Road; Clayton, NC 27520. If you miss the first week or two, we’ll prorate you, so no worries there. And, of course, if you have any questions, please email us at BensProduceNC@gmail.com or give us a call at 919.800.8898.

Have a fantastic week and thanks for stopping by!

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cabbage, chinese cabbage, eggplant, peppers, planting party, seedlings, summer squash, tat soi, tomatoes

Seedlings Galore!


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Howdy do, folks?! It’s been busy as can be out here at the farm. Ben and I have been making soil blocks, seeding flats, planting seedlings and direct seeding root veggies. Of course, that also means Ben’s been prepping a whole heck of a lot of ground to get it ready so we can plant. I also finally tried my hand at the tiller to till up soil for our newest edition – the flower garden (so pumped!!!).

We’ve had lots of folks stop by since our last planting party to help us out on the farm in one way or another. Beth and the kids have been keeping up with the chickens (the kids LOVE gathering the eggs each morning), our neighbors Andy, Amanda and Duffie have been by to give us furniture (they got a new set) and keep us company, our friend Craig has been dropping off quite a lot of flower bulbs from his garden, Kevin came out to help Ben pot up some of the summer seedlings, and David came out to help Ben and I plant more potatoes (they’re all in!!!) and weed and mulch some. Whew! I think that’s everyone, but please don’t be mad at me if I forgot to mention you.

As you know from our previous post, we’re having a planting party this Sunday the 10th from 1-5pm. We’ve had a few folks email us to let us know they’ll be stopping by to pitch in a hand and have a picnic with us too. Please come out if you’re interested! Many hands make light work! It’s true!

Alrighty. I just wanted to let y’all know we’re gearing up (and have been for quite a while) for a fantastic season and I thought I’d show you some of the seedlings that we’ll be planting in the next couple of weeks or so. Just to warn you, these pictures aren’t very diverse. They’re mostly pictures of a number of different varieties of the same veggies (e.g., multiple varieties of tomatoes, tomatillos, peppers, eggplant, squash, brassicas more generally, etc.) – but I thought it might help to demonstrate what we’re doing out here if I bombard y’all with some pictures of everything. Plus, you’ll be able to see the crazy awesome varieties we’re planting this year (and these pictures are not really representative – there’s even more to come!).

Okay. I guess I’ll get to it then. We hope to see you Sunday. And we hope you enjoy the pictures!



baba ganoush, eggplant, moussaka

Eggplant Glorious Eggplant!


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Our eggplant varieties are growing in full force. We have about 400 plants and five varieties. We’re growing the basic Italian globes, white globes, rosa biancas and two different Japanese varieties. Most of you are probably most familiar with the classic Italian globes. These types are tasty and they are what most grocery stores offer. They are also the type that most people use when making eggplant Parmesan. However, this particular variety is also the most bitter of the ones we are growing. This is why most recipes call for salting the eggplant prior to cooking it. The other varieties we are growing are much sweeter in comparison (especially the Japanese eggplant) and do not require the salting process. If you’d like to learn more about these different types of eggplant and you’d like to take a look at some tasty recipes, please check out the I Love Eggplant! website.

Pictured below are the classic Italian globe (the larger variety) and the two types of Japanese eggplant we’re growing.

Of course, this is the white variety (sweeter than the classic globe).

And this is the rosa bianca variety.

If the I Love Eggplant! site doesn’t give you enough ideas on what to do with your eggplant, let me offer you a few more suggestions. Last week (July 26th) was Ben’s birthday. For his birthday I made chocolate zucchini cake and for dinner, moussaka. Moussaka takes quite a while to make (almost 3 hours including prep and bakind time) – but it is well worth it! Here’s a link to the recipe I used. I did not salt the eggplant. Also, I think that while the breading was tasty, I could definitely forgoe it in the future so as to cut down on the prep time. I think next time I’m just going to sprinkle bread crumbs into the mix. Finally, since we did not have ground lamb on hand, I used ground beef. While lamb is better for this recipe, the spices in the beef worked well (and since I couldn’t find all the necessary spices the recipe called for, I used a pumpkin pie spice mix we had – which also worked well). 

A much easier way to make an eggplant dish is to make the classic Baba Ganoush dish. You simply roast the eggplant, scoop it out and puree it with the other ingredients. You will need to get tahini (sesame paste) to make this dish. If you’re not familiar with it, here’s some info. Here’s a link to a particularly tasty recipe (I don’t think the parsley, cilantro or chili powder are essential – but you definitely need the rest of the ingredients).

Finally, the Japanese eggplant varieties lend themselves to easy stir fry. We like to eat them in a green coconut curry. The Italian varieties are great for grilling.

I hope I’ve been able to help y’all get the creative juices flowing. Please do submit any recipes you enjoy or any other comments regarding the recipes or info I’ve posted here.

Thanks for stopping by! And for a little fun, I’ll leave you with a couple images of some eggplant critters :).

Eggplant penguins

Eggpant chicken
basil, eggplant, recipe ideas, recipes, red onions, spaghetti, summer squash, tomatoes

Ben’s Produce Summer Spaghetti


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Ingredients
1 summer squash
1 Japanese eggplant
2 small red onions
3 tomatoes
fresh basil sprigs
1 tablespoon olive oil
8-16 ounces cooked pasta
shredded Parmesan
salt, pepper, garlic (diced)
1 pound ground beef from Smith Angus Farm

Preparation
1. Dice tomatoes. Reserve about half for garnish.
2. Chop, slice or dice remaining vegetables (with peels on).
3. Brown beef with onions and garlic (or just onions and garlic with oil if you’re not using beef).
4. Add vegetables (eggplant first); let cook until tender.
5. Toss sauce and pasta. Add salt, pepper, raw diced tomato and fresh chopped basil as garnish.

ENJOY!

bell peppers, cucumbers, eggplant, farm news, farm truck, flowers, summer squash, tomatoes, veggie mobile

time keeps on slippin slippin slippin…


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Hi folks! It’s hard to believe it’s been almost a MONTH since I last posted here. As you can tell from the title, time sure has been flying by for Ben and I. We successfully moved from 604 Sasser in Raleigh to 1000 McLemore Road in Clayton, then I went to TN to see my family, came back and we’ve been working on the farm pretty much from sun up to sun down since. Where did June go?! Well, I hope July doesn’t fly by as quickly. I’m loving the summer – even the heat – I am in NO way ready for the fall and for classes to begin.

I plan on posting some more recipes asap. I have some computer work to do in the next month, so that means I’ll be procrastinating a bit with it right here on the blog ;). Until those recipe postings though – I thought I’d share a few pictures with y’all so you can see a little bit of what we’ve been up to here at Two Trees Farm.

To the right is our new farm truck. It’s a ’93 Chevy Cheyenne. We managed to get a good deal from a very cool man named Gene. He sold us a camper shell too. I even got him to throw in a kitchen cabinet when we picked up the camper shell. Lately I’ve been discovering how much I’m getting to be more and more just like my mama – especially when it comes to finding a good deal or turning one person’s trash into my own treasure. That kitchen cabinet is gonna get fixed up and placed in our office/study.

This is the back shot of the truck. Ben and I still have most of our things in storage for the time being – but as soon as we get to unpacking Ben hopes to find a sticker he bought two years ago for his future farm truck: “I *heart* G.R.I.T.S.” (translation: I love girls raised in the south). Haha. Gotta love it! Farmer Ben from Massachusetts sportin a southern pride sticker. 😉

While we miss our neighbors on Sasser Street – Karl, Dave and Matt – and their beer garden – the farm is full of charms and good people. Our current roommates and soon to be neighbors are Beth and her two children Lucy (10 years old) and George (9 years old).Two Trees Farm (where our 1/2 acre plot is located) belong to Beth and the kids. When our lease on Sasser came up (without chance to renew – the owners are looking to sell), Beth kindly invited us to move to the trailer that is on her property. She and the kids are living there until the old farm house is finished.The farm house was Beth’s great great grandad’s – it was built in 1887. You can learn all about how Beth came to live on the farm and more at Beth’s blog (she’s a writer and stay at home mom) here. Anyway, it turned out that the farm house wasn’t finished in time, so Beth offered us a bedroom and bathroom in the trailer until she and the kids could get moved into the farm house. Of course, we jumped at the deal. When I tell people about our living situtation, a number of them feel compelled to express sympathy for us – but there’s really no need. Our schedules work such that we all tend to have our own space. When you’re living on a farm and most of your work is done outside (or in Beth’s case – in the other house painting and getting other stuff finished in there), it’s pretty hard to feel cramped. Ben and I really enjoy living with Beth, Lucy and George. We really couldn’t have better roommates – and I hope they feel the same way about us. It’s also insanely wonderful that we can open our front door and see our crops! The first day we were moved in, I walked out to the field and picked most of what we ate for dinner. Life can hardly get better. We truly are so very blessed. Sigh – okay, but moving along…and getting back to the pictures 🙂 –>

This is our new wash station. Ben and I found this tub at the Habitat for Humanity Restore for $15. We happened to have Art’s truck (Art is the farm manager of Veggie Barn – to check out their facebook page click here), which was lucky because that tub is mighty heavy. The truck bed tips, so we were able to tilt it and use a bit of gravity to our advantage. Well, I say “we”, but really, I left this particular job to the menfolk. Ben, Aaron, Derrick and a couple other guys from the house crew unloaded the tub onto the crates (which we got from Logan’s Trading Company – an awesome local garden supply store that you can learn more about here).

To the left is our room in the trailer. The window is probably Charlie’s (the dog’s) favorite thing about the house. He also loves the barn and all the rooms – including the hayloft – the farm cats (who are now out of sight quite a bit – poor kitties!), the monkey grass, the woods, the creek, the pond, and well, just about everything outside. The crazy fool loves to chase bugs and there are countless bugs out here. He is truly in dog heaven! 🙂

These are wild black eyed Susans. My cousin Thomas, who is quite the woodsman (and car mechanic and artist), told me that chanterelle mushrooms are in season when black eyed Susans are in season (they thrive off of similar weather conditions). Ben and I tried searching the woods for them but have yet to find any – but we’re convinced they’re there :).

This is a cold frame Beth is letting us use. No one’s using it now, except these pretty flowers and weeds, but we’ll be using it once the weather cools down for sure.

This is a sideways picture of Ben stretching after about 5 hours out in the field. We get up between 5 and 5:30 a.m. and then go in to eat breakfast and have some coffee sometime between 8 and 9. It’s SO nice being able to step inside and take coffee breaks. It’s also nice to sit in the shade of the trees and look at all the tasty and beautiful produce growing right in front of us.

It gets really hot out there. And when you get hot, you sweat. And when you get really hot, you really sweat – so much so that it drips into your eyes. For this reason, bandannas are necessary. Tie one around your head and you have a sweat sponge to keep it from rolling into your eyes. I posted this picture on facebook and once of our friends commented that this picture has a Marky Mark flavor. Hahahahaha! Remember Marky Mark (Mark Walhberg) and the Funky Bunch?! Anyway, you should see what kind of silliness we get into with these bandannas. They also make for good shields from the sun if you stick them in the back of your hat. Sometimes Ben rocks as mancy as 5 bandannas at a time. I’ll have to get some pictures of our 80s inspired banadanna farm fashion. Most of the bandannas came from my mama, who kept them from when my brother Matthias used to sport banadannas (he’s 14 years older than me – so he was a teenager/young adult in the 80s).

Here’s Ben putting leaves and compost down to add nutrients to the soil.

This is gomphrena. I love these flowers. Lara, one of our CSA members (and quickly becoming one of our friends), told us that you can dry the tops and replant them and they’ll flourish. I’ll have to get the specifics from her on this.

Of course, this is basil. Basil is one of my favorite herbs. I can eat it all alone and LOTS of it. But it’s also good with fresh tomatoes, olive oil, salt and pepper, and mozzarella.

These are the cucumbers. I took this picture less than a week ago and they are already much bigger than they were then. We also tied the posts more so they can really grow up well.

These are the peppers. They are also growing quickly. We’ve tied them now as well.

Here’s our solar dryer. I LOVE it! Ben and I have always hung most of our clothes – but we used doorways and lines inside the house. This thing is the premium model for us :).

Tomatoes. They are all tied up now too. They are also finally producing a bunch more. Ben has fertilized them and sprayed (organic approved – you’ll have to ask him what) for stink bugs. Stink bugs are boogers. They get on the tomatoes and suck all the juices out. We’re also beginning to see horned green tomato worms…hopefully Lucy and George will catch most of them for us. They want to catch them and keep them until they turn into moths. They’d be better off that way. If Ben & I get a hold of them, they get squished. They will eat the entire plant in no time!

Here’s another shot of the bar and our wash station.

Here’s a picture of the truck with the camper shell. Fancy aye? 😉 We are LOVIN it!

Okay!!! I think I’ve written enough to make up for the fact that it’s taken me almost a full month to update the blog. I hope I didn’t bore y’all too much. We hope to see you at market tomorrow, but if not, have a great holiday weekend!

Keep cool!
Patricia & Ben