If you load up with best of the late summer fruit - table grapes, plums, tomatoes and tomatillos - at tomorrow's Hillsdale Farmers' Market, please resist the awful refrigeration reflex. At least take a moment to think about treating these fine berries and drupes a bit more kindly. These fruits will last days, weeks, even months in colander on the counter, we also use a cooling rack. They want to be dry, and the kitchen counter is a fine habitat. The refrigerator just injures the fruit unnecessarily. We have had tomatillos last into April with no ill effects. Depending on their condition, peppers and tomatoes are good on the counter for a week or two easily. But then again, we will be coming in once a week through September, so you don't have to test things to the extreme.
That urgent issue out of the way, we will have a good selection of table grapes and plums tomorrow, as well as Will who can tell you many good stories about his life so far. We will also have the long red onions, garlics, fenugreek, favas, frikeh, popcorn, preserves and other good stuff. The exact mix of fruit will be determined by the length and extent of the rain showers that have just started.
Barley, Hordeum vulgare, is the small grain with the greatest diversity. There is a wide range of kernel colors, including white, tan, brown, blue, purple and black. There are varieties with two and six rows of kernels, and some indecisive sorts with four rows. There are varieties that have an indigestible hull adhered to the kernel, and those that thresh free of the hull, termed naked or hulless. The types that retain their hulls are typically used for brewing and animal feed, though they can be pearled which removes the hull, and parts of the aleurone and the germ as well. The presence of the hull reduces bloat in draft animals and is essential to malting process where it prevents the germinating grains from overheating. The hulless trait is controlled by a single gene and means humans can eat the whole grain. The hulless varieties are more nutritious because the whole grain is edible and retained.
In the sometimes silly race to promote "ancient grains," barley is considered too prosaic to earn a mention. However, even 2,000 or so years ago, Pliny described it in the superlative as antiquissimum frumentum, or the oldest of the cereals. That's old, folks. And, no, we are not going to claim that any of our seeds were pulled from a tomb or old pot buried somewhere. Crop seeds are a living legacy of civilization, and are generally viable for no more than a decade at best. Barley was sometimes assigned the status as a sacred grain and it is the grain Demeter holds along with a poppy capsule in the classic renditions of the goddess.
We started working with hulless barleys over 10 years ago and have offered it off and on through the decade. There is a cluster of naked barley devotees out there, people such as Will Bonsall of Industry, Maine, and Anpetu Oihankesni of Hotchkiss, Colorado, who provided much of our collection. They have varieties from around the globe, and we combed their collections for varieties with notable flavor. Keeping all the varieties separate became too much work for a farm at our scale. So last year we took all of our varieties, mixed them up and planted them together in a single plot. A sacrilege of sorts, but otherwise hulless barley culture at Ayers Creek was doomed as an erratic and meagre offering.
This week we will bring in the mix, a classic American melting pot of barley instead of humans. You will see the blue kernels from the Arabian variety, the large brown seeds of 'Dolma' that was collected in Kinnaur, India by Oihankesni, the white kernels of two Italian varieties from Bonsal, the tiny, rice-like kernels from the Korean 'Kamet-mugi' and the Japanese 'Sangatsuga'. The black kernels are from a variety of uncertain origin called 'Jet' that we acquired from Bountiful Gardens. We soak the barley overnight, refresh the water, bring it to a full boil and simmer it until until tender, about 40 minutes or so. Use barley as you would rice. Make pilafs, add it to soups, make grain and vegetable salads. It is flavorful, nutritious and pretty. That is the fine package that attracted us to the grain in the first place. And perhaps we can be forgiven for the sin of mixing the various types because it is an attractive collection.
We look forward to seeing you all tomorrow.
Carol and Anthony Boutard
Ayers Creek Farm
as well as,
Will and Jon Hunt
On loan from Italy Hill Farm