Monday, July 15, 2013


Okay, we have been having a lot of fun weeding on friday afternoons, and then switching to drinking some wine and sharing snacks afterwards.  So the girls and I decided to invite everyone and share the fun.
Weeding is just the pulling type, no smoking.  You know, bindweed, purslane and such. Not noxious, but definitely obnoxious!
We start around 4 or 5, weed till 7 and then drink some wine and nibble on snacks.  Last week we had roasted garlic, crackers, some goat cheese and fruit.
Since it is Farmer Melinda's Birthday too, party favors of garlic for all working guests!
Morning Star Farm, 544 Hondo-Seco Road, Arroyo Hondo NM
See you there!!!!

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

garlic scapes

Okay, here are the garlic scapes in all their curly glory!  Cut off the tip, or seed pod and the remaining stalk can be cooked and eaten in so many ways.

Ellen took home a bucket full and made pesto, froze some and sautéed some to toss in with stir-fry veggies.  She found lots of recipes and information on freezing scapes on the internet.

We are harvesting garlic this coming Thursday, July 4th.  The two bottom leaves on the stalks of the garlic are dry and brown, indicating that the garlic is ready.  I often have folks ask if the garlic will grow bigger if they leave it in the ground longer.  The sad truth is NO!  And the quality declines.  The bulbs get discolored and sometimes get moldy too.  The stalk gets weak making it difficult to pull the garlic out of the ground, then you have to dig each bulb.  The heads also tend to break apart and then the garlic does not keep very long.

I am really looking forward to one of my favorite things to eat every year, FRESH ROASTED GARLIC.  The texture and flavor of fresh roasted garlic is something you will never forget.

Heat the oven to 400 degrees, find a small glass or ceramic baking dish that you can cover, either with a lid or with foil.  Cut the roots off the bottom so that the garlic can sit up right in the baking dish.  Trim a bit of the top off each bulb, drizzle a bit of olive oil over each bulb, sprinkle a very light bit of sea salt, cover the pan and put it in the hot oven.  Check in 30 minutes, if the garlic is really soft, it's done.  It can take up to an hour to roast the garlic.

Eat with some crusty french bread or crackers.  You can squeeze the roasted garlic out of the papery skins and add it to other recipes, like salad dressing. I eat whole heads as a side dish with whatever else I happen to be eating.

ENJOY! Farmer Melinda

Sunday, June 23, 2013

Garlic is looking really good this year in spite of the late emergence date.  Most years I see the green shoots or tips by mid-March, but this year it was April before the shoots started showing. Now we have lots of big sturdy plants with large stems which will turn into good large size bulbs.  Yummy! I can hardly wait to roast up a batch.  Fresh harvested roasted garlic is just one of the better things to eat, period!  
In the meanwhile, the garlic scapes have emerged and will be ready to eat and harvest shortly. What is a garlic scape?  It is actually a seed stalk that a top setting garlic sends up to scatter seed with.  These small seeds are called bulbils.  To grow out these bulbils into full sized garlic bulbs takes two seasons.  
The first season these bulbils will form a solid hard round bulb, the following season this single bulb will grow into separate cloves.  I don't recommend this as a way to grow garlic.  It is slow and difficult to keep the first year growth from being overcome by weeds. But it is fun to see the curling scape progress.  In my imagination I always see the scape uncurling and flinging seed to continue the life cycle of the garlic.
The good news for the home grower is that the garlic scape needs to be cut off the growing garlic as it robs energy that the garlic uses to grow a bigger bulb that also keeps or stores longer. What makes this good news is that the garlic scape is tasty to eat!  You can chop it up and use it for many things.  I like it chopped small, like in 1/2inch pieces and sauteed in place of garlic and onions in just about everything.  Like scrambled eggs with other veggies, or vegetables for eating with rice or pasta, or as a side dish for poultry and meat.
Photos of garlic scapes coming up soon!

Monday, April 15, 2013

Parsnips, spring treats!

Parsnips just dug in the field
Parsnips awaiting scrubbing and chopping

Parsnips cooking!!!

Here is one of my favorite treats of the farm harvest year.  These spring dug, overwintered Parsnips are one of the tastier things in life.  You just cannot purchase parsnips with flavor like this in a grocery store.

It takes a bit of planning, and parsnip planting time is coming right up.  I like to get seeds in the ground in late April or early May.  Parsnip seed is only viable for one season, so make sure you get seed for the 2013 season. Don't plant last years left over seed either, get new seed.  Then Parsnips take about 30 days to germinate, so patience is required.  Many home growers plant a line of radishes an inch away from the Parsnips.  Radishes mature in 30 days so the timing is usually good.

Water, weed, thin and wait.  You can mulch the parsnips in the fall, but the freezing of the soil will not damage the root and just improves the flavor.  Try it for yourself, dig a parsnip in the fall, the flavor will be a bit harsh, almost bitter.  But after a few months of freezing weather in the fall and winter, dig up another one, the flavor will be rich, sweet and irresistible!  Parsnips are easy to store, just leave them in the ground! If you have any left, you will need to dig them in the spring once they start to grow a new green top again. The texture of the root will change and get too woody to eat.  You can always leave a few to go to seed if you like to collect your own seeds.

My current favorite cooking method is just to wash, slice and slowly braise or sauté' the roots in coconut oil with a pat of butter added about 10 to 15 minutes into the process, I also sometimes add a 1/4 cup of water and put a lid over the pan for 5 minutes to soften the parsnips a bit more.  Parsnips are also great added to roasts, chicken or meat or veggies.  Shredded raw parsnips can make a great curry style coleslaw.  You can go to my web site, and click on the recipe link for more recipes.

ENJOY!  Farmer Melinda

Friday, March 22, 2013

Here is the finished pile, with me the proud author and teacher!  Notice that in El Salvador the readily available material for covering the pile was banana leaves.
Here is Rosa, watering the compost pile, note the leaves on top of the manure.

Sunday, January 6, 2013

Compost 101

Seems like it might be time to discuss this magical and mystical stuff "Compost"

I have been making and using the stuff for twenty years now, and it seems that there is a lot of mystique surrounding the making of compost. I have to wonder about that. Compost is pretty straightforward stuff. Maybe like learning to bake a good load of bread.

Let's start with a general list of ingredients. What is needed for success is a combination or mix of materials. Stuff rich in carbon, (not carharcol ), like dry plant material, leaves, straw and such. Then you need something for nitrogen, like fresh green plant materials, your kitchen scraps, coffee grounds, or manure.  What else? Water and time! The correct percentage of nitrogen to carbon is 25 to 30% nitrogen to 70 or 75% carbon.

I think the problems start when you have to guess the amounts of carbon vs nitrogen any given material contains . I try for a mix based on volume. One good tip off is the ordor level of the pile. A pile too rich in nitrogen gives off a rather putrid ordor for several weeks. A thick covering of leaves or straw can often right this problem.

Then comes the water element. In the southwest we have to drench the pile as we build it such that water pools up and really makes a muddy mess! Then we have to find a porous covering that retains moisture. I like to use carpet, old funky stuff that is being torn out and taken to the dump. In a wetter climate you might have to consider keeping water out of the pile, but microbes won't grow and live in a dry pile and without them your pile will be a flop!

Time? I allow 5 to 6 months for my pile to complete the digestion process of the microbes. In a warmer climate less time will be needed. Also if you start with smaller pieces of material the process is faster too. I think here in El Salvador a pile with manure and leaves will finish in 3 months. One farmer wants to make pile with some large stuff, banana plants, palm leaves, whole corn stalks. I guess this pile might take up to year to break down.

How do you know the pile is ready? Smell and looks. The pile will smell like rich sweet soil and large plant stems, leaves and such will be smaller, broken down.

I build piles by layering materials and watering each additional ingredient. For example, in Romero we started with a bottom layer of large dry stalky plant material, ie carbon. We watered that thoroughly. Next we spread a layer of manure, water, dry leaves, water, manure and so on. We covered the pile with a deep layer of dry leaves and then topped it off with a layer of banana leaves.

Other problems you may encounter are animal pests digging in your pile. I don't have much trouvé with this. A disturbed pile can just be reformed . If need be you will have to get creative with chicken wire, pallets and such.

I hope you are getting the idea that this a process, and one that you will certainly perfect with some trial and error. Until you find a good mix of materials to work with, I would suggest that you keep a record of what you use, the date you started the pile and what you think of the results.

Take your recycling efforts and your garden soil to the next level and build a compost pile in 2013!