Tag Archives: tomato

End of Season

At Stonebridge Farm, the season starts with spinach and ends with . . . donuts. On-a-string, that is. The mini powdered sugar kind that provides little nutritional value; the kind I’m embarrassed to buy at the convenience store the week before Halloween. They’re not organic. They’re not whole grain. They’re full of processed sugar, but they’re the essential ingredient to our end-of-season party on the last Saturday of October every year.

This year, a snowstorm preceded our last pick, dropping 12” of heavy wet snow and broken branches everywhere. Stonebridge always has at least one mucky fall pick; this year’s waited until the very end but made the most of its procrastination. Much of the foot-high snow had melted by Saturday morning but the ground was too muddy to harvest the rootiest vegetables like carrots and beets, so we settled for pulling up leeks and turnips to give for the final share.

Luckily, John had the foresight to harvest chard before the storm and protect it in the barn in trugs of water. Weeks ago, we had harvested plentiful garlic, onions, and squashes; on that last Saturday, they round out the share. Not a bad last pick and one that will extend a few weeks in storage. We park the bikes and trailers for the last time by the barn, another harvest morning and another successful season finished together.

A shorter harvest meant less delay in donut-on-a-string. Our young farm friend built us a “donut dangler” as a school project a few years ago; it hangs in the center of the greenhouse, a long board with five clips from which threaded donuts can be dangled just above a child’s nose (and an adult’s hairline).

The kids (and later, the even more competitive adults) line up, hands behind their backs, until John gives each donut a sly swing and yells “Go!” Jumping and standing on tippy toes with tongues out and smiles flashing, the children’s determination brings laughter from parents and farm members familiar with the limits of children’s concentration.

The kids play until each one has bitten the donut off the string, sometimes with a little re-adjustment downward from John. Donut won, they carve pumpkins and wander the party with powdered sugar faces, a little Halloween “trick” from the farmers.

Now the snow’s melted, the air is softly breezy, and a second storm is on the way. Our 20th season is over, except for a final pick-up of Thanksgiving shares in two weeks. I’m still drying apples and a few tomatoes picked green and ripened in the house. I’ll make our favorite tomato tart (see recipe below) this week with some of those house-ripened fruits, our last taste of fresh tomatoes until next summer.

One season is ending; another is beginning. Stopping and starting overlap again. We’ll miss our friends’ stalwart company in the gardens, but we’ll meet again after resting—and sleeping late a few Saturday mornings.

For John, winter will bring trees to prune and wood to chop and an ending to a magnificent teaching career, leaving more time for new adventures. For me, winter will mean waiting for news of projects finished and the initiation of others. And while we work and rest in the winter cold, we’ll plan next year’s gardens and re-arrange our lives in anticipation of the 21st season to come.  

Stonebridge Tomato Tart

I make this with tomatoes picked green and ripened indoors. They’re a little less juicy so make a nice, firm tart. This tart is really rich, so will serve 4 alongside a fall salad.

Preheat Oven to 375.

Ingredients:
3/4 cup grated Gruyere cheese
6 oz Chevre or feta or any soft, crumbly cheese
1 1/2 cups unbleached flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
6 Tablespoons cold (or frozen) butter, cut in pieces.
1/2 cup very cold water
2 large or 4 medium firm, shelf-ripened tomatoes (Using gold and red tomatoes is prettier)
1/4 cup olive oil
1 teaspoon dried basil
1 teaspoon dried tarragon (or rosemary or thyme)

Grate 3/4 cup of Gruyere cheese in cuisinart. Remove and save for filling.

Make crust:
In Cuisinart, place 1 1/2 cups unbleached flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
Pulse. Place 6 Tablespoons cold (or frozen) butter, cut in pieces, into flour mix. Pulse until pea-sized. With machine running, slowly pour 1/2 cup very cold water through feed tube until the dough forms a ball. Shut off machine (you may not use the full 1/2 cup). Form into disk and chill in freezer until filling is prepared.

Slice 2 large or 4 medium firm tomatoes into 1/4 inch slices.

In small bowl, combine 1/4 cup olive oil, 1 teaspoon of dried basil, and 1 teaspoon of dried tarragon (or whatever herbs you have).

In a 10” diameter ungreased tart or quiche pan, pat dough out by hand to cover bottom and form a short (1/2 inch) crust up the side. Crimp.

Place grated Gruyere on top of crust.

Arrange tomato slices (alternating colors) in concentric circles on top of Gruyere.

Drizzle olive oil mix over top.

Cover entire tart with 6 oz crumbled Chevre or feta cheese.

Bake for 35 minutes. Let cool for a few minutes before slicing into 8 pieces. 

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In Celebration of Local Food

Finally, a cool down. After the hottest August in the last 140 years with temperatures in the high 90s for over three weeks, I walked outside at 6:30 yesterday morning to noticeably cooler air, as if a damp towel had been laid over the farm. We welcomed the cool down as we harvested for four hours, our biggest pick yet of the season—and we haven’t even started on the winter squash. Until the first frost, the garden will be burgeoning and we’ll be running to keep up with it.

Last week we participated in several activities for Local Food Week. I spoke on a “So You Want to Be a Farmer?” panel for Transition Boulder about nurturing community in CSA (I read Red, Red Barn to portray what community looks like at Stonebridge), and our hundred-year-old farm was one of four hosts for a Slow Food Bike-to-Farm Tour. Cyclists sipped our cold mint tea as John showed them around the vineyard and talked about creating a local winemaking culture on this side of the mountains, or Front Range Backyard Viticulture, as we call it.

Bird-netted and protected from raccoons with electric fencing, our vines look great and promise to be heavy enough to justify the purchase of a large crusher-destemmer for our cold-hardy grapes. John’s been teaching classes in planting, pruning, and harvesting grapes and the idea of growing varieties suited to this climate—and discovering what wine grown here tastes like—is catching people’s attention.

Every week is local food week at Stonebridge but this time of year brings its own pleasures. The fall garden is just starting out with small bok choy, turnips, and napa cabbages to pick for the share, while the summer garden is at its height with zukes, cukes, green beans, arugula, basil, dill, cilantro, parsley, chard, kale, onions, garlic, carrots, and beets.

The heirloom tomatoes are ripening fully and the peppers are gorgeous. We gave five varieties of peppers yesterday, from the sweet red skinny Jimmy Nardellos (so delicious stuffed with slivers of Manchego cheese and roasted at 395 for 20 minutes or so) to juicy Red Cheese for slicing to San Ardo Poblanos for stuffing to Hungarian Hot Wax (our favorite to spice up marinara or salsa just a bit) and the hot hots like Serranos, as well as the more prudent sweet green bells.

Even the As You Like table of “cosmetically challenged” freebie vegetables is full—but it’ll be empty by the end of the day because our members know a little scratch and dent doesn’t ruin the vegetable.

Except for yesterday when we were up and outside early for the pick, I’ve started each morning of the last week by slicing something for the dehydrator. We got our Western Slope peaches a week ago so I’ve been drying those in wedges for winter fruit. One day I dried parsley to give as part of our Thanksgiving share, but mainly I’ve been drying paste tomatoes for all our winter and spring pizzas and pastas. I grow four varieties of paste tomatoes—Opalka, Amish Paste, Flame, and Gold Paste—and we’ve come to depend on them for our off-season pantry. One of my favorite things about paring tomatoes is how excited the chickens get about tomato scraps for breakfast!

This week also brought something new to our local food preparation and cuisine: goat milk. A friend gave us some milk from their dairy and another friend shared the additional ingredients and instructions for making chevre, so we got to make a little cheese of our own this week. We used it on a wonderful bruschetta last night by layering arugula, chevre, fresh tomato slices salted and peppered, dried parsley, and a little sprinkled romano on a locally made crusty baguette and baking for 20 minutes at 400. Served with a little white wine, this was local food at its best.

In the overfilled barn yesterday, one of our members stopped to thank me for my guest editorial that appeared in several of our local papers this week against the growing of Genetically Modified crops on Boulder’s Open Space. I appreciated her gratitude because it shows that people are paying attention to the issue. John and I attended the community comment session this week and, although the vast majority of speakers listed compelling reasons to ban GMOs on Open Space, I don’t think that’s what the commissioners will decide. They’re too worried about managing weeds on county land and too near-sighted to make the necessary changes at this point. We’ll see.

For now, we’ll rejoice in the plenitude of local, organic food as we turn the corner from summer to fall and the overlap of vegetables that fills the barn with thoughts of simple meals prepared in celebration of taste.

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A Rogue Tomato and ’70s Quiche

I’m making a favorite recipe tonight, Tomato Tart, something I traditionally make with green tomatoes picked right before the first fall frost and ripened in the greenhouse. But this year the first frost was so late (Oct 27), the tomatoes had finished ripening well before, as if staying on the vine until the end of October was unnatural. I could have made it earlier with tomatoes gone red in the field but I hadn’t thought of it. No green tomatoes in the greenhouse, no tart.

Then last week John brought in a partially ripened tomato from a rogue tomato plant still growing in our greenhouse. Not in the shelf garden where we plant cherry and cluster tomatoes, but from a monstrous vine that had seeded itself in the soil floor of the greenhouse and grown up through the slats of the long table where we set out flats of starts each spring. In the greenhouse’s humidity, the vine had grown more exuberantly than it ever could outside in our dry heat; now in December tomatoes as big as our fists are slowly starting to ripen and one is red and ready for tonight’s tomato tart. Yahoo!

Made in the oversized stoneware pie plate that I routinely use for our Stonebridge Big Quiche, this tart is rich with a buttery crust and two cheeses and savory with herb-spiked olive oil drizzled over the tomato slices. I like that something delicious can be made from a tag-on, leftover vegetable that might have been disregarded after the season’s over.

But then I love anything on a crust. I grew up with my mom’s Bisquick pizza and grandmother’s pumpkin and apple pies, but the discovery of quiche when I was a sophomore in high school opened my eyes to pie crusty cuisine.

I drove my parents crazy in high school for all the usual reasons but also because I took up natural food. Even before the dangers of transfat were warned in the media, I insisted on butter instead of margarine. I would only eat whole grain bread or cook with whole wheat flour. I didn’t completely quit eating my mom’s homemade cookies, but I wouldn’t eat them frosted, or frosting on anything for that matter. I made granola cookies and unfrosted carrot cake and banana bread, a big change from my junior high daily snack of root beer floats and Ding Dongs. I also ate at least one banana every day, which earned me enough of a reputation that one friend gave me six bunches of bananas for my seventeenth birthday.

That was the spring—1976–my friend J. and I discovered quiche. A new restaurant had opened “near the college,” which was code in our small conservative town for “kinda kooky.” It was literally on the other side of the railroad tracks in a neighborhood we hadn’t even known existed. I’m not sure how J. and I heard about the place but we went looking for it one day, driving around the unfamiliar and slightly seedy side streets until we found a little hand-carved sign in front of an old, two-story house: The Harvest Restaurant.

We were seated in a booth with the requisite macramé and given simple menus listing salads, sandwiches, and something we’d never seen before and certainly didn’t know how to pronounce. The description sounded intriguing: cheese, egg, and vegetable filling on a whole wheat crust. We pointed to the dish and told the waitress we wanted that. “The quiche,” she said, undoubtedly realizing we had no idea what to call it. Yes, the quiche please.

The dish more than lived up to our expectations. To eat something with flaky crust that wasn’t just sweet seemed revolutionary to me—or European, same thing. I wouldn’t get to Europe until right after graduation but I had a sense that food was more extraordinary there than the casseroles, fried chicken, and roasts of the time. I loved the quiche, so much that I took my mother to The Harvest for mother’s day. I don’t think she was quite as impressed as I was, and probably more concerned with the neighborhood than with the food, but it was a step in forging my independent cuisine identity, and a well timed one since the restaurant closed shortly after that.

I wouldn’t have quiche again until I went to Europe. Until then, I didn’t have a recipe and I didn’t know where to look for one in those pre-epicurious days, but after I got back, I found one somewhere for an authentic “Quiche Lorraine.” That fall when I went to college, I found the Moosewood Cookbook and changed my eating forever, and two summers later I learned how to make great crusts from my former mother-in-law who got tired of making pies from all the blackberries I picked in Maine.  So now I’m making tomato tart for dinner, delicious and homegrown and still slightly Europeanish. Bon appétit!

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