For some crazy reason, the allure of getting up at 5:00 AM, loading stacks of berries and other produce into the van, harvesting some summer squash and blossoms at the last minute, a gentle word to Tito, driving into Portland, setting up the tent and tables, unloading the vegetables and berries, and then reversing the process after 2:00 PM, remains alive. Perhaps it is because Tito is so happy to have us home ten hours after his sad-eyed goodbye. Whatever the reason, we will be there when the Hillsdale Farmers' Market opens.
Vermont Street will be closed on Sunday after 11:00 AM as part of the Portland Sunday Parkways program. This will make parking a bit of a challenge. Eamon will try to ring the "ten o'clock bell" close to 9:30, after all of the vendors are set up.
Hillsdale is the only farmers' market we attend, so all of the fruits and vegetables are harvested for Saturday just for you. If you fail to show up or are off fresh produce for some reason, no worry, any that are left over are donated to the gleaner from Neighborhood House. We appreciate the volunteers and staff who put that program together. It gives us the pleasure of over-harvesting a bit knowing that the food will go to good use.
This newsletter goes out on a very simple and primitive system called a 56K dial-up modem. Technology from the last century, problems occur and, like the old cars of Havana, modem access no longer has reliable support. It works well, but increasingly it hiccups, sending two copies instead of one, doubling the number of missing articles you have to add. For the past five years Verizon, then Frontier, has been just six months away from providing DSL on this stretch of Spring Hill. So in six months perhaps the problem will resolve itself . . .
With that disclaimer out of the way, here is what we will have this week:
π Cherries - We will have a lot this week, and they will be the last of the season. Many Montmorency and Hungarian in lesser quantities.
Boysenberries - They are peaking this week. We may have a dribs and drabs of other caneberries.
Summer squash - Costata Romanesco, handsome and delicious.
Greens - Lettuce, leaf chard and the amaranth/orach mix.
Aromatics - As last week, dill, fenugreek and a bit tarragon.
Garlics and shallots
About eight years ago we received a call from a young couple who asked if the could grow their garlic at the farm. It was early autumn and they just moved out to Oregon and had an extensive garlic collection they needed to plant immediately. The situation was dire, so we agreed to consider their request. Farm land is either rented for cash or a share of the crop. Cash rent is the most common arrangement, but sharecropping offers some advantages. A few years ago, we agreed to a share in wheat that was grown on the farm. We earned considerably more with this arrangement, but we had to wait longer for the money. He stored the wheat for two years and the price went up nicely. The share is typically a third of the crop for the landowner.
When Josh and Sarah approached us, we were bulking up on crops for the winter market and it made sense for us to take a share of the actual crop. They would need us to do tractor work, irrigation and other odds and ends, making any sort cash arrangement difficult to calculate. We settled upon a one fifth share for us. It was generous to them, but we also benefitted because it allowed us to share in a very diverse collection of garlics. They had been featured in the New York Times food section, and we referred to them as the Famous Garlic Farmers in earlier newsletters. After four years, they found a place of their own and still grow garlic. Josh also works in the produce department of the Cedar Hills New Seasons store. So we will see him over the next few weeks while delivering the Chesters.
Somehow or another, this stinking lily bulb composed of fat storage leaves has built up a fair measure of mystique. Talking about garlic, things can get complicated pretty quickly. If you are only growing garlic, that's fine, but we have too many things swirling around to tolerate much nuance. Early on and endearingly earnest, we labelled every variety sold at the market and kept them separate for planting. The market labels lasted just a couple of weeks; they disappeared when people starting asking what variety we would recommend for fish or aioli. With our forestry and natural history backgrounds, we are inclined to think in terms of populations rather than narrowly drawn varieties. Now we select about 100 pounds of the best garlics and plant them. Eliminating the organizational demands allows us to plant more and harvest faster. The harvest took more than a week early on, and now two of us have everything dug, bundled and hanging in two days, with a help from Sylvia, Carol's sister.
There are two major types of garlic, hard neck and soft neck. The hard necks are the most flavorful but do not store for a long time. These are the bulbs we are bringing to the market now. The soft necks are less complex in their flavors but remain in good condition well into the springtime. We will sell these when the hard necks are all sold, typically starting in December. As you use our garlic, you will still see traces of the diverse collection brought to our farm by Sarah and Josh. On the other hand, the conditions and character of Ayers Creek Farm and its owners are shaping the population as well. If you consider the wonderful names of garlic varieties, they almost always indicate a region of origin. Over time, this population of garlic will be tightly linked to the soils and management conditions of Gaston, just as 'Creole Red', 'German White' or 'Georgian Crystal' are linked to their regions. Maybe it's time to call the hard neck 'Wapato Wed'.
We will see you all tomorrow,
Carol & Anthony Boutard
Ayers Creek Farm