Bounty

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Maybe not quite a bounty, but exciting nonetheless. Harvesting tomatoes, cucumbers, eggplants, beets, ground cherries, bok coy, kale, and swiss chard. The first few cucumbers and eggplants were quite bitter, but the latest round was great. I suspect a squash beetle or something similar killed the zucchini plant. This weekend, I planted more greens as well Brussels sprouts, more beets, and garbanzo beans.
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One of the pepper plants (lower right on the left photo) is lagging behind. Charentais melon (right) is fruiting.
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Heirloom tomatoes and cucumber line the railing.

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Farmers’ Market Tips

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It’s been a blast teaching Shop Like a Pro at a Farmers’ Market this year. I’m hosting a class this weekend, and then will take a break until autumn. If you can’t attend, I’d love your help in spreading the word on Facebook or Twitter. Use this link: http://skl.sh/KRGQ9W

At my class, I walk through the basics of local food including what’s in season, how to choose the best products (and keep them fresh when you get home), and simple recipes that anyone can prepare.

Here are some basic tips for your next trip to the market:

First thing to do is take a lap around the market to scope out the scene. Notice what’s popular, which stand has the best goods, and compare prices.

Enjoy yourself. Farmers markets are like little state fairs, so take your time if you can.

Bring your own reusable bags. Stuffing glorious fresh produce into plastic bags just feels wrong.

Try something new. Your average grocery store carries a soul-crushingly meager variety of produce. Try a purple heirloom tomato, or a pint of ground cherries. A daikon radish, or a duck breast.

Ask questions and seek advice. “How are these two eggplants different?” “How long will this last in my refrigerator?” “What do you feed the cows?” I’ve only met one produce stand worker who was standoffish. I gave him another chance the next week, and now I simply shop at a different stand.

Unless you are buying in bulk, don’t be a jerk about the price of the produce, which can sometimes be slightly higher than at your supermarket. These farmers are working harder than you can even imagine. Consider yourself lucky to have a direct pipeline to real food that supports the local economy.

If you buy only one thing, make it a dozen farm fresh eggs with those fiery-orange yolks. Trust me on this one.

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A Garden Grows in Manhattan

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The summer solstice brings blinding sun and sizzling temperatures to the city garden. Days like today require a watering in the morning and again in the evening. The scarlet runner beans were attacked by some invisible enemy, but they may recover. Cabbage worms and aphids are jerks, but a little garlic and pepper spray seems to keep them at bay. Nearly all the spring greens have been harvested, as have the first beets, fennel, peas, and some garbanzo beans. Every morning, we bring in a handful or two of ground cherries.
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Heirloom tomatoes: green zebra and Omar’s Lebanese
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Tall telephone peas and the first blossoms of eggplant
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The melon feels a bit behind schedule. Since we’re on the seventh floor, the cucumbers require hand pollination. (It’s not as dirty as it sounds.)
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View through the garbanzo beans, and view toward the young willow tree.

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Garlic Scape Pesto

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Garlic scapes, like spring itself, are fleeting. Scapes are intense, bold, and peculiar, and I like the look of them on the kitchen counter. One or two snaky strands are enough for one week of meals. If you have more on hand, try this pesto recipe.

Garlic Scape Pesto
Makes about 2 cups and costs $4

5-8 strands of scape, chopped
1/3 cup of pumpkin, pistachio or sunflower seeds
1/3 cup of basil leaves
Juice from one lemon
Salt and pepper to taste
1 cup of olive oil
Parmesan cheese (hold this if you are freezing the pesto)

Add everything except for olive oil to a food processor. Pulse until ingredients are roughly mixed. Slowly add olive oil while food processor runs and process to your desired consistency.
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Rhubarb Tart Bronx Style

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Coming at you from the Bronx, where I’ve been spending a good amount of time lately. Dinner and pastries on Arthur Avenue, art installations in old mansions, and long walks through the unrivaled Botanical Garden (photos below). And this recipe, inspired by Bronx Bees, as featured in New York City Farmer & Feast, by Emily Brooks.

Rhubarb Tart
Serves 6 and costs about $8

Bundle of rhubarb
1 cup of sugar
2 teaspoons of anise-flavored liqueur
3 eggs
1 egg yolk
3/4 cup of heavy cream (or milk if you’d like)
Dash of salt
1 pastry dough or tart crust

Wash and dice rhubarb, toss in a bowl with 1/3 cup of sugar, and refrigerate for an hour or so. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Drain rhubarb in a colander over a large skillet. Heat the juice over high heat until syrupy. Remove from heat and add the rhubarb and liqueur.

In a medium bowl, whisk eggs, additional yolk, cream, salt, and remaining sugar. Place a pastry dough or tart crust in greased pie plate, add rhubarb, and pour half of custard, wait a minute, and then add the rest.

Bake the tart at 400 degrees for 30 minutes. Cool to almost room temperature and enjoy.

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The Garden is Busting Out All Over

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June brings surprising growth, rain, hot sun, and pests. I used to think those yellowish moths were pretty little things. I’ve now learned that they like to drop off their eggs on plants like kale and broccoli. Jerks.

The bok choy and mustard greens have been completely harvested. Some chicory and lettuce remain. So far, a handful of ground cherries in their delicate paper husks. A few strawberries. Endless herbs and chives.
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Bottom three shelves: purple broccoli, beets, chard, broccoli, garbanzo beans, fennel, ground cherry, parsnip, oregano, rosemary, artichoke, broccoli, zucchini, purple broccoli, mint, tarragon, and cucumber.
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I’m in love with this artichoke plant.
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Scarlet runner beans aim to block the view of those unpalatable storefront roofs across Broadway.
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View looking north and east. Tomatoes are doing well. Pepper not so much. I think the carrots will be ready in a couple weeks.
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I marvel at this ground cherry plant. When the fruit is ready, it simply drops to the ground. As in, ground cherry.
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Oh hey there moth. I’m on to your deceitful ways.

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Radishes Expect More From You

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At a recent farmers market class, someone commented that, although radishes look appealing, the edible root usually gets relegated to the salad bowl. I used to feel the same way. Well, radishes expect more from you. And here are two simple ways to spice up the peppery orbs and tops.
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Roasted or Sauteed Radishes
Adapted from a handful of sources, including Beekman 1802 and Bon Apetit
Serves 2-4 as a side and costs about $2

2 bunches of radishes with greens (could easily decrease to 1 bunch)
1-2 tablespoons of olive oil
Dash of salt
If roasting: 1 tablespoon of butter and couple dashes of lemon juice
If sauteing: 1 tablespoon of sugar and couple dashes of cider vinegar

If roasting, preheat over to 475 degrees.
Soak radish greens in cold water, then coarsely chop and set aside. Wash and trim radishes. Heat oil in skillet over medium heat, add radishes and salt, and saute until browned, about 5 minutes.
If roasting, place skillet in oven and roast for 15-20 minutes, stirring once or twice. Remove from oven and return to burner. Add butter until browned, then lemon juice, and then radish greens. Cook for just a couple minutes and serve.
If sauteing, add sugar and vinegar to skillet for a couple minutes, and then add radishes. Cook for just a couple minutes and serve.
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East Village Puff Pastry

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it seems they were all cheated of some marvelous experience
which is not going to go wasted on me which is why I am telling you about it.

That’s the final line of one of my favorite poems by Frank O’Hara (watch him read it below). I recently took a walk through his old stomping grounds in New York’s East Village, guided by the incredible “Passing Stranger - The East Village Poetry Walk.” The audio tour weaves you through the poetry-related sites of the famous Beats and New York School poets, like O’Hara, Allen Ginsberg (that’s the fire escape of where he once lived), Jack Kerouac, Anne Waldman, and even musicians like Charlie Parker.
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The tour culminates at the Bowery Poetry Club. If you don’t live in New York, on the website, you can check out footage, scroll through photos, and hear some of the best poems ever penned.
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While the tour focuses on poetry, you’ll also notice the many community garden plots throughout the village and Alphabet City. Which brings me to a puff pastry recipe. This is definitely the time of year for greens and handfuls of herbs. Here’s a simple way to use them while they are fresh.

East Village Puff Pastry
Serves three as main dish or eight as side and costs about $5
Inspired by the Fire Island Cookbook

3/4 pound of crumbled cheese, like feta or goat
3 tablespoons of chopped chives
2-3 tablespoons of chopped basil, or other herbs
Dash of nutmeg
1 egg beaten, plus 1 egg yolk
Homemade or store-purchase puff pastry, thawed

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Combine cheese, chives, herbs, nutmeg and beaten egg in a glass bowl and set aside. Lay out pastry dough on floured surface, and stretch a bit with a rolling pin. Cut into 3-inch squares (about 14-16 of them).

Drop a heaping teaspoon of the filling in the center of each square, wet all edges of the square with chilled water. Fold over the filling to form a triangle. Seal the edges with a fork and brush each triangle with the beaten egg yolk.

Place on a baking sheet (perhaps lined with parchment paper), and bake for 20 minutes until golden brown. Serve with asparagus and a mixture of greens.
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Drop a heaping teaspoon onto each square.
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12th Street
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2nd Avenue

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Four Rhubarb Jams with a Twist

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Making your own jam enables you to move beyond the expected, like mixing rhubarb with ginger, lavender, or even balsamic vinegar. Here are four simple rhubarb preserves recipes interspersed with scenes from the heather garden in Fort Tryon Park.

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Lavender Rhubarb
6 cups of chopped rhubarb
1 cup of sugar
1/4 cup of local honey
2 tablespoons of water
1 tablespoons of lavender flowers, placed in tea infuser

Place all ingredients in kettle over medium heat, stirring occasionally for an hour or so, until it reaches your desired consistency. Discard lavender. Spoon jam into dishes and freeze, or process in boiling water bath for 10 minutes.
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Place lavender flowers in tea infuser.
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(Does it look like there’s a baby in this flower?)

Ginger Rhubarb

(Slight variation from Lavender Rhubarb)
6 cups of chopped rhubarb
1 cup of sugar
1/4 cup of local honey
2 tablespoons of water
1 tablespoons of finely ground ginger

Place all ingredients in kettle over medium heat, stirring occasionally for an hour or so, until it reaches your desired consistency. Spoon into dishes and freeze, or process in boiling water bath for 10 minutes.
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Balsamic Vanilla Rhubarb
Inspired by Delectable Musings
6 cups of chopped rhubarb
2 cups of water
2 cups of sugar
2 tablespoons of honey
Dash of vanilla extract
1/2 cup of balsamic vinegar

Place all ingredients except for balsamic vinegar in kettle over medium heat, stirring occasionally for an hour or so, until it reaches your desired consistency. Add balsamic and return to boil for five minutes more. Spoon into dishes and freeze, or process in boiling water bath for 10 minutes.
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Rhubarb Orange
Slightly adapted from Ball Home Preserving
2 oranges (nope, not local)
5 cups of finely chopped rhubarb
1 package of natural fruit pectin
3-4 cups of sugar

Using vegetable peeler, remove peel from one orange and cut into very thin slivers. Squeeze juice from both orange and add water until filling one cup. Combine orange juice, orange peel, juice, and pectin and whisk until dissolved. Bring to boil over medium-high heat, stirring frequently. Add sugar and return to boil, stirring constantly for 2-3 minutes. Remove from heat and skim off foam. Spoon into dishes and freeze, or process in boiling water bath for 10 minutes.
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Use a vegetable peeler to remove the peel from one orange.

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How My Garden Grows

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Margaret Atwood once said, “Gardening is not a rational act.” She’s right. No rational person pulls all of their tomato plants into their kitchen during a treacherous thunderstorm. No rational person tiptoes up to a broccoli plant in the dark of the night to catch the mysterious Hole-Chewing Creature.

Irrational, yes, but then there’s an uncanny moment when you see—nearly in real time—a scarlet runner bean break soil. In a perplexing world of New York minutes, there is a welcome relief in those simple, majestic moments.
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Chives
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Eggplant, broccoli, herbs, ground cherry, bok choy.
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Strawberry

Growing:
Cucumber, zucchini, garbanzo beans, fennel, Waltham broccoli, early purple sprouting broccoli, eggplant, ground cherry, early beets, golden beets, parsnip, swiss chard, strawberry, rutabaga, artichoke, cabbage, butternut squash, arugula, kale, lettuce, golden cal wonder peppers, green zebra tomato, old Italian tomato, Omar’s Lebanese tomato, chocolate stripe tomato, scarlet runner beans, Parisienne carrot, cosmic purple carrot, tall telephone peas, Charentais melon, English Ivy, morning glory and moonflower, wildflowers

Harvesting:
Bok choy, basil, chicory, chives, mint, oregano, rosemary, ruby streak mustard greens, sage, tarragon, thyme

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