We attended a GAP food safety class on May 17, 2013 at the Penn State Food Science Building in State College, Pennsylvania. We learned about potential food safety hazards, how they can occur on the farm and how to take preventative steps to control harmful microbes during this 5 hour classroom workshop. As part of our food safety curriculum, we have also received a ServSafe® certificate — nationally accredited food safety certification from the National Restaurant Association — to provide safe food to consumers.
Workshop Summary: The safest (and best) food is local food that is grown locally and sold locally direct to consumers. Most contaminated food is non-local food, commercially-grown in some far away place that enters into a vast and complex food distribution system and sold to the consumers via large supermarkets and big restaurant chains. Local farmers are more connected to their produce and community, so they are more likely to prevent problems from occurring on their farms.
Or put another way, the bean truck driver doesn’t care as much about your beans as we do. A better way to buy food is to support farmer markets that offer produce that is grown and sold locally. Be sure to ask the grower how the produce is grown and get to “know your local farmers” and your food source. We’re sure your time spent with the local farmer will be far easier and more interesting than getting acquainted with the bean truck driver. Besides, have you ever heard anyone say “know your bean truck driver”? We think not.
Would you like to have do-it-yourself local food kits available at your local Potter County Farmers Market? It’s an idea to help the busy cooks by having combinations of local foods that are the main ingredients of some great recipes. What would be in a local food kit?
Well, here’s an example of a local food kit for Garlic Roasted Potatoes. At the farmers market in a ready-to-go package, you get the following main ingredients for about $10:
- 3 pounds fingerling potatoes grown by Wooleylot Farm.
- 5 garlic bulbs grown by Wooleylot Farm
- Sprigs of parsley from one the Potter County farms that grow this herb. Parsley image shown below from Fitzgerald Family Farm.
- A recipe provided by Wooleylot Farm that serves 6 with each serving size of about two cups.
At home you provide some of your own ingredients, like the olive oil and sea salt. And then by following the recipe instructions, you create a wonderful dish using the fresh-locally grown produce.
Let us know what you think. Would this type of kit, help you as a farmer’s market customer? The thought is it would save you time and help you bring some new cooking ideas to the table. If so, we would work with our farmer market growers to come up with a few additional recipes that feature our locally-grown vegetables and products available at the market.
With our lineup of farmer market vegetables, we often get the question: What is it? Well, it’s just one of the best heirloom potatoes ever is the way we answer. Then, how to describe it? Well in some ways it’s kind of like me; old-fashioned, very productive and has a teardrop shape.
As you can see below, it stores extremely well! Here are a couple of dishes that we came up with to illustrate all of this goodness. These dishes were prepared this week using the potatoes out of our winter storage. Did we mention that it has a rich buttery flavor and fine texture? Can you ask for anything more?
Garlic Roasted Potatoes
3 pounds fingerling potatoes, well washed and scrubbed
20 garlic cloves, peeled
1/4 cup olive oil
3 tablespoons roughly chopped parsley leaves
Add sea salt to taste
- Preheat the oven to 450 degrees F.
- Add the potatoes to a large sheet tray and toss them with the garlic, olive oil, parsley and salt to taste.
- Roast for 35 minutes until golden and crisp, stirring once halfway through cooking process.
- Transfer to a serving bowl and serve.
Pommes De Terre, Barigoule (French-style French Fries)
10 fingerling potatoes, well washed and scrubbed
1 teacupful olive oil
Add sea salt and vinegar to taste
- Place potatoes in saucepan, cover with water and boil until tender, about 10 minutes.
- Drain, taking care not to break the skins.
- Put olive oil into a deep, heavy frying pan and heat.
- Put in potatoes, tossing them until browned lightly.
- Place on dish and sprinkle with salt and vinegar.
- Best if, served piping hot.
And to finish, here’s a story about this little potato. Once while at the farmer’s market, I proudly stated that these lovely fingerling potatoes are called “Swedish Peanuts” because of their nutty taste and teardrop shape. The customer replied with some apprehension that his wife was allergic to peanuts. I quickly added that they are also called “Almond Potatoes” hoping that his wife wasn’t allergic to almonds, too.
It’s early spring on the Allegheny Plateau. Spring’s farm work is to prepare the fields and sow the crops. It sure helped to plant a cover crop after the mid-summer garlic harvest last year. Our crop rotation is potatoes, alliums (garlic, shallots and onions) and curcurbits (winter and summer squash).
Here’s a look at the fields as they come out of their winter slumber. The fall-planted cover crops of Daikon radish and white mustard residue is decomposing rapidly to release its stored nutrients to increase topsoil fertility. Some of the crimson clover has over-wintered. For this field, we need only to do a shallow cultivation for seed bed preparation. Our rotation says to sow squash seeds in this field. One slide shows rows of fall-planted garlic with the squash field that will be planted later this spring in the distance.
What’s Fiery and Maple Twisted?
Hint: Yesterday’s 3-1/2 gallons of home-made “Fire on the Mountain Mustard” had a maple twist. The main ingredients of this mountain mustard were: Bishop’s Crown and Jalapeno hot peppers from Butch Davis and local honey from Fallen Leaf Farm, wheat flour, sugar, yellow prepared mustard and apple vinegar. Recipe by Fitzgerald’s Family Farm.
We added a special ingredient to the recipe; Maple Cream. Maple cream is a sweet, creamy spread made from maple syrup by Between Two Rivers Pure Maple Products of Wellsboro, Pennsylvania.
So what all went into that large kettle?
- 1 gallon of apple vinegar, Demler’s
- 5 pounds of raw sugar, Golden Barrel
- 1 gallon of prepared mustard, French’s
- 6 cups of whole wheat flour, Snavely’ Mill
- 1 quart of local honey, Fallen Leaf Farm
- 1 pint of maple cream, Between Two Rivers Pure Maple Products
- An abundance of vacuum-packed fresh frozen chili peppers
- 4 cups of water
And, how does it taste? It has a fiery sweetness with a hint of maple! Here’s some song lyrics to help better describe:
There’s a dragon with matches that’s loose on the town
Takes a whole pail of water just to cool him down.
Fire! fire on the mountain!
Almost ablaze still you don’t feel the heat
It takes all you got just to stay on the beat.
Grateful Dead – Fire On The Mountain lyrics
Around here, in Potter County, Pennsylvania, the name is “Winter Onion” due to its extreme winter hardiness. “Egyptian Walking onions”, “Walking Tree Onions”, or just plain “Walking Onions” are some of other names used to describe these very hardy perennial, multiplying, top setting onions. This variety grows to over three feet tall, and produces clusters of small bulblet on the end of its stalks in the second year of the plant’s growth. And, then something strange happens. In the summer, each plant twists and contort as they bend to set the bulblet clusters on the ground. What happens is the onion “steps” about three feet to propagate a cluster of new onions. Also, the parent bulb divides at the plant’s base to put down additional new roots.
Winter onions are fun to grow and have three edible parts. The top-sets and bottom bulbs are harvested in the summer. The flavor of these onions parts are very spicy and can be used in salads, gazpacho and soups. The bulblets can also delicious pickled. The leaves are edible as greens for salads or soups similar in taste to green scallions. And, because of the large diameter of the hollow green leaves, they can also be stuffed with rice, pork sausage and soft cheeses and baked for a truly unique dish.
Bulblets from Winter Storage
We have some bulblets remaining from winter storage and they are starting to bud. As you might have noticed, spring is running late this year, and the soils will remain quite soft for another month or so. And as a result of all of this, we potted in trays to start seedling growth for transplanting in April when the gardens can be worked. It feels good to get our hands in the soil, even though it only potting soil.
Bulblets in Trays
We planted several winter onion bulb sets last fall for a summer harvest. We prefer to plant these hardy perennials in the fall.
We find our squashes extremely delicious. And, so do a lot of pests like the squash bugs and vine borers, cucumber beetles and stink bugs. Oh yeah, there’s bacterial wilt that we don’t want, either. Wilt is caused when the pests feed on the squash and inflect the plant with bacterium. As farmers, we are ready to fight back against these pests. And, we’re using some techniques to help deal with these pests without drenching the Earth in toxic pesticides. So, what is it that we are doing instead? We are using trap crops to give us the upper-hand. And, the key to trap crops: pest attractiveness is not always related to wilt susceptibility. Trap crops are very attractive to the pests but not quick to wilt. For example, the blue Hubbard attracts the pests but resists the wilt. And how do we use this to our advantage?
Method: Plant a trap crop of Hubbards to protect the delicata, Long Island cheese and sugar dumpling squash, cucumbers or melons. We use the trap crops as a monitoring site where we know pests are sure to arrive first. And then, we use our pest-control measures to protect the trap crop plants as soon as the pests arrive.
So what are some of pest-controls that we use? First we keep all of the crops healthy with foliage sprays of liquid fish and compost teas. Then, we scout for pests. When pests arrive, we apply diatomaceous Earth and orange oil treatments on the trap crops. These are harmless to humans and the plants but dangerous to pests with waxy coatings on their exoskeleton. We are careful not to over-use it because these natural sprays are also dangerous to the bees. We prefer not to apply after crop bloom to avoid spraying the pollinating bees.
So what is the purpose of the buckwheat perimeter? We plant the attractive-flowering buckwheat to lure the pests away from the interior areas of crop growth while also attracting the pest’s natural enemies. Also, stink bugs exhibit “edge effect” behavior when moving through the landscape. In this way, the stink bugs only do damage at the borders in the trap crop outer perimeter.
- Crop rotations are used to prevent an increase in the pest population over time.
- Plant the trap crop (blue Hubbard) so that it completely encircles the main crop without any large gaps in the perimeter
- Plant the trap crop in good soil so that it grows healthy to resist the pests. Plant the trap crop at the same time as (or before) the main crop.
- Multiple trap crop rows may be needed if extreme pest pressure is expected, or along tree lines where the heaviest pest pressure usually occurs as pests colonize the fields from overwintering sites in the woods.
- Treat the perimeter plants as soon as the first pests appear and begin to feed on the trap crop. Do not wait for the pests to colonize the trap crop.
- Monitor the field weekly until bloom or harvest and be prepared to make 1 or 2 additional perimeter sprays or, if necessary, full-field applications. Repeat perimeter applications are necessary if rain washes the insecticide from the plants prematurely or if more pests are found on the trap crop prior to bloom. Full-field sprays can be applied when pest pressure is excessive in a particular season, to prevent a breach in the perimeter and main crop infestation (2 beetles/plant for squash).